IB Language B Internal Assessment Practice


I am new to the IB world this year and jumped in with SL Spanish.  (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, look here).   One of the areas where students need much practice is with picture descriptions for the internal assessment. In the real thing, the students describe a picture and then have a conversation with the teacher about it. The process involves a 10 minute recording. With 80+ students, it is notpossible to practice this regularly with each individual. So I decided to use something old school in a more effective way. Here’s how my students practice using role play.

  1. I partner students on our language lab (this could also be done face-to-face).
  2. I have the students decide who will be the “student”  or the “teacher” first.
  3. I put a picture on my screen (could be physical copies if need be) and give them 5 minutes to take notes.  The “student” takes notes to be able to present for 3.5-4 minutes over the picture/topic.  The “teacher” writes questions to engage with the student for 5-6 minutes.
  4. After the time is up, the student begins the presentation (I record this on my lab, students could record on the voice memo app on their phones).  I keep a stop watch up and when 3.5-4 minutes arrives, the teacher interrupts and begins a conversation with the student.
  5. After the conversation time is over, I have the students use the appropriate IB rubric to peer assess.  I play the recording back and the student self-assesses while the teacher peer-assesses.  Once the recording is over, they discuss where they would put the student on the rubric.
  6. Then they switch roles and we begin again with a new picture.

This activity takes an entire class period, but is worth doing every other week or so.  I am conducting my orals the week after spring break and am confident my students are prepared!

The Detention Queen Abdicates


Every year, I average 10 detentions the first week of school.   Almost all are after a private warning of, “I need you to stop talking or you’ll get a detention” when students test just how true to my word I am.  See this post for a more detailed explanation and my true feelings about detentions.  As a level 2 and 3 teacher, I always have some students for 2 years.  On the second day, my second-year-students asked me, “How many detentions have you given out already Mrs. Barber?”

This year, I have not even discussed consequences with my classes.  Not once.  We spent the entire first week setting the tone and team building.  We jumped into curriculum week 2, and I have not given many independent activities.  During the couple we’ve had, I have not had to warn anyone to stop talking.  Everyone did what was expected of them.  Every. Single. Student.  However, I have had to give out 3 detentions due to inappropriate language that I just could not ignore (students, do not say bad words when a teacher is nearby!!!!)

I had to have a substitute on Friday so that I could proctor credit by exam for native and heritage Spanish speakers at my school.  Normally, before I have a sub, I go over my expectations and warn them that if the sub writes a name down, that student will get a detention.  This time, I changed my speech.  In every class, I told the truth.  I said my sub is my good friend and a mentor to me, she knows Spanish, and she’s super-excited to spend the day with my students because she knows many of them from other sub jobs, and she automatically loves my students because she loves me.  I did not mention anything negative whatsoever.  I kept it positive and got the best sub report of my entire career.   At lunch on Friday, she told me that she kept asking the classes if they were always this wonderful–my morning classes are on-level.  At the end of the day, she said there were not enough words to compliment how perfect the day was.  I cannot wait to tell my classes tomorrow!  I cannot wait to brag on them!

I tried something new this year, and it worked.  I know that some teachers thought I was crazy to “waste” an entire week when we have so little time to get in all of the curriculum.  I’m a realist who maintains her ideals.  I know the value of having my students on my side.  I did what was necessary to make that happen.  We will catch up curriculum-wise.  Setting the tone is crucial and not something that can easily be altered if not begun properly.  I want to look back on this year as my favorite.  I want that every year, and this year may give all my other favorite years a run for their money :).

So, I guess the Detention Queen has to pass the title on to someone else.  I’m prepared to give them out if I need to, but I know that people give you what you expect.  I took a week to show my students how important they are to me and that I genuinely care about them.  Additionally, I have held them to high standards as students and people, and so far, every day has been a wonderful blessing.

I hope and pray that all my teacher friends near and far are having as much fun as we are in my classes this year!

The Four Corners of Collaboration

Today we began content, and I was worried.  Why?  Well, we spent an entire week on team building and setting the tone, and it was a lot of fun.  Last week is a tough act to follow.  All weekend, I thought about my plan for level 3.  Part of the day would involve a a vocabulary brainstorm that I’ve done various ways in the past.  I wanted a way in which I could make it engaging for every single person in the room.  So we did Four Corners*!

There are different ways to do this activity, but here’s how I did it.  I told my students to choose (and move to) a corner of the room.  Naturally, the groupings were uneven so I did “nose-goes**” and sent people to different groups to balance things out.  Next, I gave each group a different category on a medium-sized piece of butcher paper and set a timer for 5 minutes.  In their groups, students brainstormed as many words as they could that fit the category.  Students could use phones to look up unknown words.  After 5 minutes, students rotated to a new corner where they had 3 minutes to read the the list and add words not already brainstormed.  After each group visited each corner, everyone returned to their seats and we processed the activity by discussing which categories were easier and which were harder.  We then segued into what they thought the new unit was going to be about.  They seemed intrigued, and they did not hide the fact that they were having fun.

At the end of every class period I heard students saying, “Spanish goes by so quickly.”  I agree.  My days are flying by because we are having so much fun every period of everyday.  I hope that is everyone’s experience right now!

*I learned of the activity Four Corners at the AVID Summer Institute last summer.

**Nose-goes: when someone says, “Nose goes,” the last person to touch his/her nose must do whatever it is that no one is willing to do voluntarily.

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: