Where do I start? Throwing out the grammar-based instruction.

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Wow! I just returned from OFLA15 and my brain is on overload. This is the first Foreign Language conference I have ever attended and now I know what I have been missing.  I can’t believe I have been teaching for 11 years and this was my first conference.

Of those 11 years, 9 1/2 of those years were spent teaching Spanish the way I was taught in school.  I was a grammar based, textbook using, worksheet packet giver kind of teacher.  I was extremely strict in wanting the grammar perfect, the spelling just right with correct accent marks and all.  The keyword here is WAS! A year and a half ago that all changed. I realized that many of my students were awesome with grammar and random vocab, but they really couldn’t say anything or carry on a decent conversation.  I realized the same thing happened to me in high school and I was great with grammar and spelling, but learning how to speak came about outside of Spanish class. I had become friends with some local Spanish speakers and really learned how to speak by talking to them and practicing (and making a lot of mistakes).  If I wanted my students to speak Spanish, I realized I had to change everything I had been doing because teaching them grammar wasn’t teaching them how to speak.

The first thing I did was try to find resources to help make the necessary changes. I was the only language teacher in my high school at the time, so there was no one there to reach out to.  Then I discovered other teachers on Twitter.  I had Twitter for a while, but really never used it.  I found teachers who have amazing blogs and who willingly share their hard work so other teachers like me have a place to start.  I have never participated, but I stalk #langchat every Thursday and Saturday for all of the amazing ideas and conversations that take place.  Without the help I have found on Twitter and from the many amazing blogs I keep up with, making this change would never be possible.  I am so excited and a bit overwhelmed with all of the new ideas.  I threw out the textbook last year and have slowly started making changes, I have a long way to go, but moving forward even slowly is better than being stuck in the way I used to teach.

I am so interested in TPRS / CI instruction and I hope to attend more training to be able to incorporate it into my classroom better. I have read so much about it and talked with teachers who use it, but have never had the chance to see it in use.  I am a visual learner and no matter how much I read about it, I need to see it being used in a classroom, so I hope to be able to do that soon and attend a TPRS / CI workshop or training.

If you are a teacher like me who feels stuck in a rut with your teaching and want to change, but you don’t know where to start, the first thing you need to do is find these people on Twitter:

  • Carrie Toth (@senoraCMT)
  • Carol Gaab (@CarolGaab)
  • Allison Wienhold (@SraWienhold)
  • Mike Peto (@mike_peto)
  • Martina Bex (@MartinaBex)
  • Dustin Williamson (@dwphotoski)
  • Sara-E. Cottrell (@SECottrell)
  • Bethanie Drew (@lovemysummer)
  • Kara Jacobs (@karacjacobs)
  • Laura Sexton (@SraSpanglish)
  • Sharon Birch (@sraslb)
  • Amy Lenord (@alenord)
  • Kristy Placido (@placido)
  • Kara Parker (@viajando_kj)

I’m sure there are so many more and some I have missed, but their blogs and information have made such a difference in being able to make this change.  I am so excited for a new school year to start so I can keep pushing forward and trying new things.  It’s great to feel so excited for a new school year when we haven’t even reached summer break yet.

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Life after El Internado

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school symbolSo I’m becoming an addict to TV shows from Spain. It all started almost 4 years ago when I happened upon a show online called El Internado. I was hooked after the first episode. After watching a few episodes I started thinking of ways I could use the show with my students.  I was ready to use the show with my students but then the links I used online to watch the show were no longer working. I found some other ways to watch, but it had Greek subtitles which annoyed me for some reason. I decided to purchase the DVDs from Spain. I was able to find all 7 seasons. I was lucky to find this show early on because now it is quite difficult to find all the seasons on DVD.  I now use El Internado starting in Spanish 3 and continue in AP. My students absolutely love it and beg to watch it. They will work hard on anything we do in class just to earn some watch time.

I love that they are so interested in watching it. When I first started learning Spanish I would seek out shows to watch and music to listen to so that I could learn more. This was a much more difficult task being a teenager in the 90’s. I only had access to Univision and bought or borrowed CD’s from friends that had the lyrics printed in the CD insert.

My students have so many ways to access authentic resources and I love that they choose to do so on their own. One of my students tweeted me over Christmas break to let me know she discovered a Spanish show called Velvet on Netflix and had started watching it. A few other students have started watching Gran Hotel on Netflix as one of their student choice homework assignments.

I was so sad after finishing El Internado because I no longer had a great Spanish language show to look forward to. Well my sadness is over. The network that carried El Internado,  Antena3, has an amazing website. They have a video player called Atresplayer. You can sign up for a free account and access some of their other great shows online or even on a mobile device with the Atresplayer app.

My new obsession on Antena3 is “Sin Identidad.” A woman finds out a week before her 27th birthday that she was adopted under illegal circumstances.  As she digs for more information someone wants to shut her up. It’s great so far.

For those who are also big El Internado fans, particularly fans of Yon González (Ivan), he is in Gran Hotel which is available on Antena3 and Netflix.  He is also in a new show that looks great called Bajo Sospecha on Antena3, but it’s not available online yet. I believe it’s just in it’s first season and will probably be available once the season finishes.

For those who are big Marcos (Martiño Rivas) fans, he has a couple of good movies. The most recent one is “Por un Puñado de Besos” which is based on the book “Un Poco de Abril, Algo de Mayo, Todo Septiembre,” which I read this past summer. He also stars in a comedy called “3 Bodas de Más.” I purchased both of the DVDs from Amazon Spain for about $20 each including shipping.

If you are interested in some of the other characters,  “Velvet” on Netflix stars the actress who played Elsa and “El Barco” on Antena3 stars the actress who portrayed Julia and a couple of other people from El Internado.

If you get a chance, check these shows out and let me know what you think.

Happy TV watching!

New Year!

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Wow, it’s 2015. I created this blog in 2014, but never got around to actually start writing. My plan for the new year is to actually use my blog. I mostly want to reflect upon my teaching so that I can become a better and more effective teacher. My first goal is to hold myself accountable to stay in the target language more. My Spanish 2 students had a horrible experience with an online Spanish 1 program and came into Spanish 2 unprepared.  I have given in too much and not used primarily Spanish in class when speaking and explaining. I really want to start using Comprehensible Input. Therefore another goal will be to start learning more about using CI in the classroom.  I am also very interested in using TPRS and want to find books & stories that will best fit my student’s interest.  There are so many great teachers I follow on Twitter that successfully use these techniques and I hope I can learn a lot from them. Here’s to a new year and new teaching goals.