Double Object Pronouns — YUCK!

ImageI’m not exactly sure where I got this idea, it may not be original but it is SO great that I have to share it.  I’m not terribly creative on my own, but I can take other peoples ideas and make them work in my classroom so I imagine that it is a combination of ideas from a number of resources.  

I really dislike teaching indirect and direct object pronouns and have really quit reviewing them specifically in my upper-level classes for the most part and instead we read novels and discuss them anytime they come up in songs and other authentic materials I use in class.  

I just began a chapter on the future that includes the introduction of using the two types of object pronouns together and was looking over my plans from last year and found this message on introduction day’s plans: 


So, apparently I was impressed enough with the outcome to leave myself a message-which I don’t do as often as I should!

First we have already spent a day using the song “I Love You” by Juan Cirerol to review IOPs and DOPs in another period so they understand the difference and have it more freshly in their memories. To start, I tell the students that they are leaving this world (moving to Mars or by death or whatever other reason they want to come up with) and can’t take anything with them.  They then write down their 5 most prized possessions (that they must be able to say in Spanish), but they cannot be people.  

On the board I write: ¿A quién le darás _________? and choose 1 student to give me one of the items from their list with which I finish the question: ¿A quién le darás el guante de beísbol?  Then have them tell me who they would leave this item to and write it out like this:

Kyle se lo dará a Casey.

This is followed by 1 minute for them to discuss what the sentence is stating and what the colored parts represent.  They don’t have any trouble with the DOP usually, but the “se” really throws them off.  “It’s reflexive.”  “Are you sure that’s right, Profe?”, etc.  So I bait them a little.  Well, is there a reflexive verb in that sentence? –No.–  Then some of them will try to say it matches the “to whom” (the indirect object) and so I mess with them.  “I’m pretty sure “se” was not in your notes for IOP, so how would you explain that.  They either get worked up, throw out ridiculous answers, or figure out that for some reason it is still the IOP just in a different form.  

At this point I tell them the IOP idea-folks are right and tell them to say out loud to their partner how it would be if I used “le” instead of the “se.”  Immediately they comment on how difficult it is to say and we have a discussion about romance languages and why these changes happen.  Then I have them say it out loud as it should be with the “se lo” and they agree that it flows so much better.

To follow up, I have them write my question with each of their 5 items and answer the question describing to whom they would leave it using their newly discovered understanding of double pronoun usage.  I will spend another day or two working with them on personal and authentic text examples to ensure that they understand how it all goes together.  What I love about this is that it is completely discovery learning.  The kids figure out the how and why and I simply mediate (and at times for those that “just want the answer,” aggravate) the conversation, subtly leading them to land in the right spot.  

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Work Unit

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but to keep myself from trying to some elaborate first post back, I’m just going to jump in with something I used recently.

My textbook combines preparing for work and serving in the community which I find a bit awkward.  Plus with my 4th year students, I’m kind of piecing together units based on the needs they have for topic review and the new concepts they haven’t had.  I put together a unit about finding and getting jobs and being professional (particularly appropriate for seniors).  We reviewed future tense and present/past perfect tenses.  I also wanted to be sure that I included some really practical things that could be useful for them.  Yesterday we had discussion in Spanish about having a professional web presence.  Today we focused on interviews.  I found this great video that is easy to understand giving tips from a psychologist in Ecuador for giving a good interview.  My 4th years understood the gist of most of the advice that he gave without any prompts, cloze activities, etc.  I just had them write down some of the tips he gave on a piece of scratch paper and we talked about them.

If you need more scaffolding for your kids, you could give them list of the tips that he gives and have them put it in the order that he says them. Obviously you could transcribe the audio, but that always takes me longer than I wanted to spend on this activity in class.  

We followed it up with them writing some interview questions and then I went to Career Builder’s Spanish site and found a post with 10 common questions. The students discussed them with a partner as I asked them (listening and speaking practice!).

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What are you doing?

So it has been WAY to long since I’ve posted anything here.  Partly because it has been a C-R-A-Z-Y year for me for reason yet to be fully identified and partly because after a while I felt I needed to come back with something great; a re-introduction to the blogosphere, if you will.  I’m done feeling that way and had to share quickly an activity I did with my Spanish 1 classes for present progressive.

To introduce the present progressive I pulled a few videos from the Wallace & Grommit to make it a bit more exciting than talking about what chore mom is doing in the kitchen and sister is doing in the bathroom, etc.  As with many things I do, I am indebted to @SECottrell for the idea of using these simple, and hilarious videos for description practice, etc.

Starting out, they did have the phrase “¿Qué estás haciendo?” as a vocab word/phrase as a base to begin and I put this up on the board and discussed before we began.

We first watched this one and I stopped it as I felt there were things happening that we knew vocabulary.  I modeled the grammar on the board, underlining the estar and the       -ando or -iendo ending with a different colored marker.  For example:

Grommit está preparando el pan tostado.  

Wallace está durmiendo.

I did about 7 or so of these then asked the students, “¿Qué están haciendo?” and had them tell me.  Many of them were figuring out the pattern without any discussion about it.

Afterwards, as I often do, I gave them about a minute to discuss the patterns of the underlined words and parts of words.  I wanted to make sure that everyone was seeing the -ar ending v. -er/-ir ending differences.

I pulled up another W & G video, stopping it when I felt they could talk about what Wallace, Grommit, or the robot (in this particular episode) are doing in that moment.  They worked with their partner to come up with an example and then we shared a few examples out.  Some students preferred to write it down as well.  Most students had it figured out within the first or second if they hadn’t already gotten there.

I didn’t do this due to time, but wish that I had translated that to asking them what they are doing right now and having a few share.  I will start class that way tomorrow with our tocatimbre cards (bellringer for those non-Spanish-speaking readers).

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Song for Ojala and Past Subjunctive

I happened upon the song Ojala Pudiera Borrarte by Maná on Pandora while I was doing planning last week.  It has some great examples of ojala used with past subjunctive in some distinct ways.  Also lots of occurrences of por and para, too for some review!  I checked out the official video and it looks very school friendly.

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The Ultimate Speaking Activity

Walking through the rain forest in Costa Rica!

A couple of weeks ago I returned from a great trip to Costa Rica with 16 students from my high school.  This was my second trip with students and was definitely a bit more relaxed than my first!  Three years ago I took 12 students to Spain after 2 years teaching…needless to say I was a basket case.  This trip was much more enjoyable for me.

I use a travel company to organize my trips for me and I absolutely love them!  Interact Travel Inc. is a company based out of Green Bay, WI started 30+ years ago by a former Spanish teacher.  They are very helpful, accommodating & the 6-member staff personally visit all of the hotels and homestay families.  One of the greatest things about Interact is that they offer homestay opportunities in all of their locations that most travel companies don’t.  I want to take my students abroad so they can & have to use the language and a homestay is the most practical way to do this on a short-term trip.

In Costa Rica the students stayed in pairs with a family and must communicate their basic needs to their “moms” and “dads” there without my help.  It is so fun to watch them go with the families the first day scared and then to come back the next day excited about what they could understand and then on the last day being very sad that they have to leave the new family they spent their evenings with for several days.  This along with all of those opportunities to watch students order food and pay for souvenirs in Spanish is so rewarding.  A few things that I recall from the first trip that I took and more added after this trip that are helpful to remember and do before going and while there.

  1. Practice: I arrange for the students opportunities to practice the simple conversations they will need to have while with their homestays or doing basic tourist things (ordering food, asking cost, etc.).  Neglecting practice puts more pressure on me to help them out and they feel even more insecure about their speaking.
  2. Details: The more I tell your students and their parents before the trip, the better.  This year I learned to stay up on current events in that country before the trip and be prepared to answer parents questions about differences in culture. (If you heard about the U.S. student killed in Costa Rica while on a school trip, you can understand.  This happened fewer than 10 days before our trip there.)
  3. Safety: This seems obvious but I stress to students and parents the safest things the students can do is follow my instructions as their teacher or those of a guide.  My mantra is: If you don’t follow the guidelines that we as adults give you, then we absolutely can’t guarantee your safety.
  4. Plan:  It is helpful as a teacher to have ideas for additional activities my students can do in case there is extra time to kill.  In Spain, we elected not to take a company-arranged extra excursion and so had almost an entire day in Toledo where we had already had two afternoons of free time.  I talked with our guide about options and I was able to arrange, on my own, a bus ride to Consuegra to check out the Don Quixote windmills.  I’ve taken the students on a ride on the subway or to a local department store, etc.  Interact offers ideas for guided adventures like scavenger hunts for students to do in different places.
  5. Explain: Tell students why you have restrictions on them.  If they understand why they are more likely to follow your lead.
  6. Relax: I always allow my students and myself some freedom.  I familiarize myself with my surroundings and give students the freedom to do some things on their own or without me when it is safe.  In Toledo, we set meeting times and let the kids roam around the old city, take pictures, and do shopping on their own.  Never in groups of fewer than three.  I set reasonable limits but unless I am forced by them, I leave some slack in the leash.  It is necessary to have a little time for myself when traveling with students…to breathe and enjoy the view (plus it makes them speak without my back-up too).
  7. Use it: I don’t have a lot of opportunities to converse with native-speakers the rest of the year so this is my time!  I try to speak as much as I can and inquire about words I don’t understand and that are unique to the country I’m visiting.  As most of us know, being able to tell stories about your experiences abroad engages kids in class.  My take away in Costa Rica: They don’t use “De nada.” much in response to “gracias,” but rather “mucho gusto.”  AWESOME!  Huge hurdle for me to get over but after the first 3-4 days I finally got there.  It will be cool to tell my upper-level kids about next year.

It is a most rewarding experience and I have so appreciated the support of my school board and administrators in allowing my to provide the opportunity to students.  It’s unfortunate that not all schools see the experience as one worth investing in for their students and teachers.   My only hope is that this isn’t my last trip with the students!  I’m trying to talk my hubby into Spain for next summer!

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Grading My Course on a Rubric – Part 2

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about reformatting the expectations for my Spanish 4 class which you can read about here.  I wanted to follow-up by sharing some reflections.


Students were able to determine, in large part, what they wanted their grade to be based on what amount/degree of work they would like to do.  As I read Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink as part of my summer reading, I am further convinced that my students, particularly the older students, need a great freedom in deciding how they demonstrate their knowledge.  Through this rubric they have a great deal of autonomy which Pink argues is one of the greatest motivators.  They know up front that they will need to demonstrate their ability to apply the learning we do through a variety of modes, writing (blogs), speaking (speaking points), culture (projects & fluency), and listening (participation).  I give them options for mediums, but they determine the way in which they go about demonstrating those things by writing and speaking about whatever they would like, in a variety of formats, the majority of which being done ON THEIR OWN TIME!  The down side to all of this is that unless you have a very precise recording procedure in process, it can at times be difficult to keep track of everything.


As teachers, we frequently carry the bulk of responsibility, whether we want to or not, of how well students do in completing the work.  With this, students know up front what they need to do to attain their desired grade and so I feel relieved of a great deal of that pressure.  I handed out paper copies of the rubric and posted an electronic one so that there was no excuse for them not know what was expected of them.  I had one senior who decided not to complete any of his assessments for the semester, I emailed home a couple of times to let them know his situation but in the end he knew what was expected and so my administration was supportive of giving a zero.  There was no mystery and plenty of time and choice so the consequences were clear and easy to hand down and defend.  It also made clear the assignments were important to the course.


I’ve eluded to the choice and freedom I felt the rubric gave.  I found it particularly beneficial (and this was how I explained it) for my students taking several A.P. classes.  It allowed some of them to make decisions about what work needed the most attention without being penalized.  Some might argue that I’m letting them off the hook and it’s not a realistic standard, my rebuttal goes back to the motivation piece and teaching students to prioritize appropriately.  They are still doing all of the work in-class, it is just the outside of class work that they are arranging so that it works into their schedule.  I know that I always prioritize my lesson planning!  Some make poor choices and learn that their are consequences.  For those serious students, they are able to get the most out of the assignments they DO complete for me.  For others, the topic doesn’t appeal to them as much as another and so they have the freedom to elect not to do it.  Again, they are still doing all of the in-class work.


As the teacher, this is the down side.  It can be a bit overwhelming to try to keep track of all of this.  I am still working through the best way to do this, I have something that is working okay but would love to go digital with it.  For me at this point, the freedom it gives students and me is worth the inconvenience of having to spend a bit more time/effort keeping records.  Here is the recording sheet that I used last year, it will have some additions based on the new rubric (linked below) for next year.


Clear expectations are huge for students.  The more they know up front, the more effectively they function…at least in my experience.  I know there’s research I could find and quote on this:)  In addition to the semester rubric, this year I will be giving the students a syllabus that briefly describes each unit’s project/essay options so they can make more informed decisions about what they do and don’t do.


Over the summer I have made a few changes to the rubric.  I will be using some ideas of borrowed from @alenord for grading speaking on a simple 0-5 scale based on what students provide as content of their speaking.   Also, for my 4th year students I will be using an idea for outside exposure given by @SECottrell in her blog.   I wanted my students to be more accountable for what they told me in their speaking points, telling me they’re hanging out with their friends and they hung out with their friends doesn’t quite show the diversity I’m looking for.  I plan to have them use their speaking point time twice per unit to be graded.  They will be able to choose from several topics that change each unit for that speaking point and they will choose when during the unit they do the graded speaking. If they don’t select a time on their own, they will be called up in the last two work days of the unit to do them at my choosing.

I will set aside several work days for the students each unit to work at whatever they need.  It’s a lot of work outside of structured class time for the students and I don’t want them to be completely discouraged or overwhelmed without any time in class to work. Last More than half said they preferred this style because of the freedom, most of the rest said they didn’t care…typical seniors!

Here is my updated version for my level 4 students for next year.  I’d love thoughts and feedback!

Photo by tim geers

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Project-Based Learning

After the project-based learning #langchat I’m posting just a couple of examples of rubrics I use for some projects.

Here is one I used for an art unit: Art Review

Another for a health/fitness unit: Plan Saludable

I have others for movie trailers, relationship radio shows, natural disaster journals, etc. If you’re interested I’d be glad to share those.

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