I thought it would be important to do a quick post about TPRS because this is the way I teach, and have taught for the past nine years.  I was so lucky to have an incredible cooperating teacher and some great college professors that were advocates of using the TPRS method to teaching a new language rather than the very grammar-based approach to teaching a language.

Chris Kennedy, @cultureofyes a Superintendent at a school in Vancouver wrote a blog post about sitting in on a TPRS lesson a couple days ago.  He is not even a language teacher and realized the effectiveness of this method of teaching.  I am writing this quick post before bed because of his blog post.

Read more here at my favorite TPRS website, it has ALL you need to understand why it works and all the resources you need to get you started or interested : TPRS


We all smile in the same LANGUAGE

This post is inspired by the amazing Technology Director at my school, Virginia Glass. I sometimes refer to her as Mrs. Claus because she is the one who provides me with the technological toys, the knowledge and inspiration to use them. She has the ideas and then I get to put them into play. And when I say PLAY, I really mean PLAY! We recently started meeting after school some days for “play dates” so that we can figure out all these incredible 21st century tools we are fortunate enough to possess.

The video above is what I want my next Skype call to look like. Ginni told me to watch it. She said it reminded her of a quote that I have in the end of each of my emails, “We all smile in the same language.” Our world is becoming so connected in so many ways. I love it. My 6th graders talked to teacher Greta Sandler in Argentina on Skype. She was “in” our classroom. When my students are out for a day, we Skype them into our classroom so they don’t miss a thing. We can read what each other have experienced in our daily lives and connect and empathize and discuss online. I am so optimistic that I am hoping technology can bring us to a place of compassion and understanding. Once we make these connections with so many places around the world with Skype, Twitter, Face Book, Wikis, Blogs or which ever social network you are using…maybe, just maybe we can reach that place of peace that so many people have been hoping for. Maybe these connections can help us reach a place of love and non-judgment. What do you all think? I know, I am the eternal optimist. My husband thinks I am naive. 🙂 I LOVE this new world or network where “being here is being there.” Maybe this change won’t happen in my lifetime, but I can hope, right? I can hope that understanding each other’s worlds and lives can help us get there?

MOVIEs in Spanish class!

My 6th-8th grade students earn Spanish Euros toward class parties. Each class has a bank and they earn them daily. They have the opportunity to earn sixty per day based on the six pillars of Character Counts. They earn ten for each pillar. They need to earn 1500 to EARN a party. Today being Friday, each class (by chance) 🙂 had earned a class party. During las fiestas, my students eat lots of junk (they volunteer to bring things) and we watch DVDs in Spanish with English subtitles. They love it and I think they impress themselves with the amount of Spanish they actually do understand as they watch. Of course they do not understand all the words, but they surprise me and themselves with what they know. I am so proud of them!

It is amazing what a movie can make my students do! They are so focused on the movie in Spanish (minus my darling 8th graders who are just so social they can’t focus on much else but one another), my students hardly know I am tricking them. They think they are having a party, but I am really engaging them and forcing them into immersing themselves into the language I want them to produce daily. Ha! 🙂 My 6th graders watched Diary of a Wimpy Kid in Spanish with English subtitles, my first 7th grade class watched Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, my 8th graders watched Night at the Museum, Battle of the Smithsonian and my final 7th grade class watched Alvin and the Chipmunks. They were all so engaged as they watched. It was a great day. Junk food and movies they love…Who wouldn’t be happy? It was a great Friday.

And one last thing about movies…and this story is just to make you laugh at me. My sweet 1st graders had a substitute last week. She did not speak Spanish so she read them One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss in English. They were supposed to watch an animated video of the book in Spanish after the book. Well, they ran out of time and the substitute told them MAYBE they would watch the movie the next time. Well, they did not have Spanish class for another week and OH BOY…six and seven year old children NEVER forget if you tell them they are going to watch a MOVIE!

Well, it was a VHS tape that I never use (only substitutes ever use it) and as soon as they walked in, they all wanted to watch it! SO I put the VHS tape in. I could not get it to play. I took it out and put it back in, pressed lots of buttons…and it would not play. I had copied the VHS tape to a DVD years ago so I tried that…it was a NO GO too! Seriously, I spent about 20 minutes of the 30 minute class trying to get it to work! I finally gave the VHS tape one last try because my little ones were begging, I pressed REWIND and heard that familiar whirring sound that I was accostomed to as a child! Oh my gosh! All I had to do was rewind…AND I THINK I UNDERSTAND TECHNOLOGY!? Teachers at my school sometimes come to me for help and I couldn’t work a VHS tape! Sad! But the little kiddies were happy when it played (the majority of them had never seen a VHS tape before!) Movies! A winner with all age groups and learning styles!

The Power of a Teacher

My principal Debbie Barnes gave us all an activity to do one day at a staff meeting about 4 year ago. She gave us a piece of paper with a question, What do you remember about your best/favorite teacher? Describe your favorite/best teacher. Or something like that…

I made the list and was enamored with it, recognizing its importance, and hung it in a place where I see it each day (by my computer) so that I can be reminded that it is my job first and foremost, before I teach Spanish, I must make my students feel the way my favorite teacher made me feel. They need to feel good, safe, smart, comfortable, special and loved to name just a few.

In that same staff meeting, she gave us this quote from Haim G. Ginott

Most important quote for me to see EVERY DAY!

This quote has been so important in my teaching career. I cannot really express its importance in words. When I think about how much power a teacher really has, it is mind-boggling! I use this quote every day to help my students feel the same way my favorite teacher(s) (there were more than one) made me feel each day as I was around them.

Oh no! Gotta Go!

If you have never read books by Susan Middleton Elya you are missing out! Her books are so great and my 2nd grade students absolutely adore them and keep asking me to read them more!

Two of their favorites are Oh no! Gotta GO! and Oh no! Gotta Go #2!.

All of her books are so great! She is not a native Spanish-speaker, but writes in English with rhyming Spanish words! Both books above are about a little girl with a baño emergency. They love them! I just do not have time to read ALL of her LIBROS with my 2nd graders. I wrote her an email in hopes that she might Skype with me and my 2nd graders so that they can ask questions and express their love and adoration for her books! One of my students, who I call Guillermo was even so inspired that he decided to write his VERY OWN libro (book). Here it is! Click to open or download!

Guillermo’s Sequel to Oh No. Gotta Go!


Skype in the classroom with students who are at home sick!

For the past two days I’ve had two different 7th grade girls absent from my last period Spanish class because they were sick. They were so responsible that they emailed me in the morning to tell me they were sick, but wanted to know what they were missing so they could get their work done. On Monday, the one student and I were instant messaging back and forth on Skype most of the day. I asked her if she was feeling up to it, we could Skype her into class and she could participate. She was so excited (and so was I) so we called her, placed my laptop at her desk where she usually sits, talked to her as if she were really with us, brought her around the classroom as we met with different partners practicing vocabulary words and even played a fly swatter game on the dry erase board with her on the computer. She even had her own fly swatter in hand during the game, was raising her hand to ask questions, and all the while had her dog resting at her side. It was so fun!!! The students loved it and so did I.

We loved it so much that we repeated it all today with another student who had been up all night coughing so her mom had her stay home. We called her. We read in our books with her and translated a story. She worked with a partner as we completed exercises in our books, and at the end of class, we said adios and she did not miss a thing! Skype is so awesome and so are my darling students who truly WANT to BE in class with us and are sorry to miss a day! What a great place I work in! What wonderful little minds I get to sculpt in a new language five days a week!

Middle School

I guess Middle School is called Middle School for a reason. You are in the middle of the the enthusiastic, excited Elementary School students and the hardcore, more serious, counts for something High School. You are in the middle. You are a little off like that typical “middle child”. You are not first or last. You are in the middle. You are kind of stuck between two worlds and SOMETIMES a little difficult. My Middle School students are great for the most part. I do not work at a “normal” school. Most of my Middle School students actually value their education and really want to learn. They enjoy being here at school and really work hard. But then they get to 8th grade…..

My 8th graders almost ALWAYS act as if they do not want to participate in anything that I offer to them. When I do try hard to prepare a lesson that I think they will be into, they don’t like it (or pretend not to) and I am disillusioned. Then I prepare a lesson that I think they will totally hate because it involved grammar or something “boring”, and they are participating and so into it! I am left confused. So I have learned to roll with the punches with them and accept most behavior or any thing they offer with a grain of salt. They are middle school students and very confused most of the time. 🙂

On Friday I told them that we were going to start BLOGGING in Spanish and they each were going to have their VERY OWN blogs to post things to and write all in Spanish to share pictures and videos and all kinds of things for themselves and other to comment on…..they HATED the idea and moaned and groaned. I even told them that it was not for a grade and they still hated the idea.

I came to school yesterday (Monday) and they walked in with their computers….ready to start blogging! WHAT? They were excited (well, some were). They seemed disappointed when I told them we were going to start another day because we first had to learn some good “netiquette”. They were disappointed and I was confused. 🙂

SO there are some of my thoughts on Middle School. It is a difficult place to be SOME TIMES!

Here I am!

There are days when I feel like I have the best job in the world and then, like every one else, there are days when I feel the exact opposite. Today was one of those days when I felt like my job could not get any better. It began with letting the 1st-4th graders into the school building and supervising them inside the hallway doors (too cold to stand outside) until the bell rang. Just watching them interact with one another gets my day started off right! They are so full of energy and goodness. They are so eager to be at school and around each other. They teach me so much in just their very simple being-ness. Their smiles and innocence. Their playfulness and willingness. They are just simply being and that becomes more difficult for us adults if you think too much like I do sometimes. They are my constant reminder to just be. I am so lucky.

I teach Kindergarten through 8th grade and get to spend time each day with children ranging from ages five to fourteen. They all have so much to offer and so much to teach me.

The other day one of my second graders (who is not like one of my rock star students who loves learning…yes I have those type of kids) said, “Señora B, are we going to learn any new words today?” I told him no and he seemed so disappointed. I was surprised because he doesn’t usually seem like he is that engrossed in Spanish class. I told him I was going to read them one of my favorite books today SkippyJon Jones because we are learning the words, book, write and read in Spanish. He raised his hand AGAIN with such excitement saying, “Señora B, you said we weren’t going to learn any new words today.” I told him, I know. He raised his hand again and was so pumped telling me, “But you just taught us a new word!!!” I said, “What? I did?” He was overjoyed to tell me that I had just taught them the word for FAVORITE in Spanish. I asked, “Well, when?” He said, “Just now, you just taught it to us.” And then he perfectly pronounced the word “favorito” in Spanish.

I had told them in Spanish the name of “mi libro favorito” and he was so excited to learn that word favorito. It was so great to see him so pumped about a new Spanish word, but it caught me off guard because I had not intentionally taught my twenty-two second graders any thing at all. They are just little sponges and so excited to learn any thing that I offer up to them!

This is why I teach! This is why I am here! This is why I am writing this blog to express my appreciation, my gratitude and my constant bewilderment and enjoyment in this world where I exist to teach and learn from others (big and small) along the way!