Fun LOTE Homework

Before I share my idea, I feel it necessary to mention that I teach a performance-based curriculum, guided by the ACTFL guidelines for languages other than English. All of our assessments are performance-based graded on a rubric.

Recently, we had our first interpersonal speaking exam of this school year in my Spanish 3 classes. In order to receive the maximum credit in the task completion portion of the rubric, the students must maintain the conversation by asking personalized questions and by making appropriate comments. After listening to our first assessment, I learned that my students are still struggling to ask personalized question and that they need some help with making comments beyond, “How great!” and “How fun!”

I was looking for something fun and engaging when inspiration struck. I told my students to watch a TV show (if their parents allowed–if not, the alternative is to read a book or about a real person) and during each commercial break to think of or write one comment they would say to one of the characters and one question they would like to ask the character.

I’m not going to lie, the students were a little flabbergasted by my idea and many chuckled to themselves when I explained what I wanted. Nevertheless, I could see how intriguing the idea was in their eyes. Students can bring in the questions/comments, write them on the board and we can critique them together and add our own commentary. I’m excited to see how it goes!

First Day Fun

On the first day of school, I try to avoid covering policies and procedures in my classes.  Why?  Well, to be honest, students get that from every teacher in every class on the first day.  If they are in my first period, they might have an interest but 2nd-7th periods have zero interest in hearing me babble on about rules, grading, and how great our year is going to be.  In LOTE, we dare to be different and think outside the box!

I have heard some teachers who start the first day with a story or a children’s book filled with cognates so that kids can see that they already know a lot of words (this works especially well in level 1), others who play the name game, some who have students make name cards and introduce themselves in the target language.  I also loved the idea of creating a PowerPoint about my lifestyle to go with an introduction to me and my class.  Like many of my students, I get stage fright when I have to be center stage.  On the first day, I am too nervous myself to put on a show (later on, usually by day 2, I get over it and am wiling to make the biggest fool of my self whenever it makes the environment for engaging).  I am visual, so the name cards would probably help me but the name game does nothing for me since I’m not an auditory learner.

So what do I do?  Well, first I hand out the calendar and we have our first Tapa del Día.  But after, I do a mingling activity I call Lotería Social–or “Social Bingo.”  I create a 4×4 bingo card with a question or topic in each box.  Students must roam around the room, asking each other questions to find someone different who answers “yes” to each box’s criteria.  I model it by asking a random kid a question I think they will answer “no” to.  Then I explain (in the TL of course) that I must now ask a different question.  I ask until the student says “yes.”  I next ask for their name and demonstrate writing it on my paper.  The students then get some time to complete the activity–and I participate too.  After several minutes, we regroup and I ask who they had on their papers for each box.  It’s a lot of fun to see who said “yes” to which question.  The greatest feature of this activity is that it’s easy to adapt to different levels (from level 2 and up).  For level 2, I used sports, movies, activities, books, etc and the kids usually fashioned questions about whether or not the person likes, plays, participates, reads, etc the item in each box.  For level 3, I make it all in the past–former teachers, did you see __ movie?, did you read___?, etc.

Lotería Social is only one of the activities I do on the first day.  Throughout the entire class period, I work on setting the tone for the year, something I will get more into on another post soon.

How do YOU warmup your class?

I know that every teacher has his or her bell-ringer or warmup, usually to keep the students focused, engaged, and quiet, while the teacher takes roll.  I too looked for something and here’s what I do:

First, the name: Tapa del Día.  If you don’t know what tapas are in Spanish culture, click HERE.

Every day when the students enter the classroom, I have a PowerPoint slide on the screen with the date in Spanish, a Spanish idiom (the tapa), and “anuncios” for any upcoming events such as a test or meet-the-teacher night for parents.  The students write the Spanish phrase on their calendar (which is my way of encouraging them to pay attention to what’s coming up).  I then allow them to guess what they think the phrase means and many times, they can figure out a direct translation.  What’s fun is that most of the idioms do not mean anything obvious to the students when directly translated.  This is because each language has its own idioms.  I then tell them our English equivalent and make it into a life lesson.  Sometimes I have to look up the English explanation for the English equivalent because it’s not one to which I’ve already been exposed.  For example…

Antes que te cases mira lo que haces.
Literally means: Before you marry look what you are doing.
The English equivalent is: Look before you leap. From HERE

This leads into a brief discussion (can be done in English but better in Spanish) about weighing options and putting a lot of thought into big decisions.  My students especially love the ones where I share an embarrassing story.  Even if it’s done in Spanish and is providing them an opportunity for comprehensible input, they enjoy it.

I have enough for every single day of the school year.  So how did I get this list?  Google!  I googled “Spanish Idioms” and here’s what I GOT.  This can be useful for teachers of ANY language.

So… What do YOU do to warmup your class?

Those who can, teach LOTE!


My name is Laura-Jane Barber and I am a Spanish teacher in North Texas looking to create a professional network.  I am looking for people with awesome ideas that I can use in my classroom and will gladly share my own great ideas.  Collaboration leads to the best ideas in my experience.

What do you need to know about me?… I have wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember–my mom said it was almost as soon as I knew what one was. When I was a little older, I fell in love with Spanish while trying to teach myself from one of my young aunt’s junior high Spanish books. I still have it somewhere.  It was between Spanish and my other love, history.  Spanish won out because it can easily combine both!

My thoughts on teaching?…  I love interacting with high school students and am always eager to try new and fun ideas in class. If I’m bored, I know my students are too and try to mix up as often as possible. I also believe that I am more than just a Spanish teacher. I strive to help shape my students into better human beings through every opportunity that arises in the classroom.  I’ll dedicate a post to this soon.

Some words and phrases that describe my teaching style:
-target language teaching
-discovery learning
-PACE lessons
-comprehensible input
-maximize student engagement
-facilitating learning

I also have a love of blogging, though I never considered having one that relates to my job until I attended an amazing presentation by Silvia Tolisano on Thursday. She presented at my beginning of the school year professional learning day and demonstrated some of the cool things online that we can use to better engage students.  The students we have today are not the students we were.  They communicate and learn in different ways than we have/do.  We have to keep up or become irrelevant.  She also stressed the importance of having a professional network.  I loved every second of it and now am on the journey to create my own professional network.

So here I am.  Let’s see how it goes :).

%d bloggers like this: