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August 2, 2021

Spanish Ice Breakers for Distance Learning

If there's one thing I dread about back to school, it's ice breakers. If you feel the same way, I have THE holy grail of resources for you.   

Spanish Ice Breaker Distance Learning

My school district is starting 100% virtual remote learning this fall and one of my first thoughts when I get the news was, "How on earth am I going to ever really get to know my students?" I decided I had to come up with an engaging, interactive take on ice breakers so I can build relationships with my students even when we aren't physically together. 

My first thought was to create a Google Slides presentation filled with high-interest questions, comprehensible input, cognates, and images to support understanding. Then it occurred to me that I could integrate Pear Deck, a student participation tool that engages with series of questions within the slide presentation. 

This Spanish ice-breakers activity is going to be my saving grace on day one this year and I'm really excited about it. Plus, if you teach other languages, you could just change the questions to your TL. 
This resource prompts students to respond by dragging to their preference, drawing, multiple choice, and even short answer. Here are some sample student responses and a preview of how the slides work. 

If you're not familiar with Pear Deck, watch this quick video to see how it works. You can choose to use the free options only (you'd miss out on the draggable and drawing options), but even the free version is awesome. It's going to be key for any hybrid, synchronous, or remote learning situation, but it has been used in-person for a long type by die-hard users. It's a tech subscription I highly recommend for COVID because it has you covered in any scenario. 

If you're looking for more amazing ice breaker ideas, Spanish Mama's viral post about ice breakers for world language classrooms is SO helpful. This year, I LOVED her distance learning variations for getting to know you activities.  She just has so many good ideas and I loved her suggestions for "get to know you" activities even if students are doing remote learning from home. 

Also, in addition to the 30+ ice breaker questions I've already included, I'll be adding more slides as they occur to me to provide you as many options as possible and so you have questions that will help you get to know your students this school year.  I really help this resource helps you to have a smoother start to the school year and have fun with your students!  

August 16, 2020

World Language Syllabus Perfect for Distance Learning or Hybrid

2020 has been a hot mess for teachers, am I right? This back-to-school season has had my mind spinning.  With my district starting with distance learning, one of the things I couldn't wrap my mind around was how to create a syllabus and all of the expectations to go along with a completely known style of teaching given our remote learning scenario.

When I finally started drafting out my new syllabus, I realized that I wanted to:
  1. transition away from my infographic syllabus because I won't be distributing a piece of paper to families.
  2. create a more interactive syllabus experience. I loved the idea of using a digital notebook syllabus with the clickable tabs to move from section to section. 
  3. change my grading categories and my expectations to reflect a different style of teaching and learning. 
The result was my new distance learning syllabus, which could be easily converted for face-to-face for the remote learning expectations portions. This video shows most of it's features much better than I could describe them: 

The syllabus is available in two different themes: pink and blue. Each syllabus resource includes a choice of two different colors.

This syllabus, while editable, includes sections and ready-made content on:

  • About Me
  • Class Goals
  • Class Overview
  • Grading
  • Communication
  • Expectations
I worked hard to included proficiency-centered framing for any World Language curriculum and a standards-based grading scenario that describes the 3 modes of communication and 5Cs.

All you'll have to do is change your name, add your course info, and customize any details you want, but the whole framework and formatting is laid out for you. I even included instructions on how to share the syllabus in presentation mode so that students and parents can use the clickable interactive tabs to move from section to section. 

The graphic design, formatting, and usability to create this syllabus was seriously a labor of love and took me the better part of a weekend, but it will take you minutes to customize it for your use.

I hope it makes your back-to-school season just a little bit easier! If you're looking for another clutch, ready-to-go back-to-school activity, this ice-breaker will be perfect!

August 8, 2020

"Interpersonal" Mode Hacks for Distance Learning

I'm active on a large number of Spanish and World Language social media groups. One of the common, recurring themes I keep seeing is about how teachers will approach interpersonal mode in distance learning. There are always suggestions of how to approach it, but we all know it's not going to be the same as having those two-way exchanges in the classroom.

My students won't start school for another month and I'm already mourning the loss of speed-dating, class-wide interpersonal conversations, and watching my students crack up as they do their interpersonal speaking assessments as part of our IPAs. It's just so freaking sad! Don't worry though... I have a solution.

Yes, I know we can do breakout rooms in our Zoom, Google Hangouts, etc. and I definitely plan to do that for our twice a week synchronous lessons, but it isn't the same as actually being with people in person. P.S. if you haven't watch this amazing NECTFL video from the ACTFL 2020 Teacher of the Year, Rebecca Blouwolff, you MUST especially if you'll be doing hybrid or distance learning. She gives so many applicable instruction ideas for breakout rooms and more for synchronous instruction, that I'll be watching this video again in the weeks to come for more ideas.

What is interpersonal mode?

To be clear, usually I am extremely black and white about interpersonal communication. It has to be a two way exchange, it has to be spontaneous, and there has to be some sort of negotiation of meaning. If you're unfamiliar, see more about my ideas on interpersonal practice and assessment.

When it comes to asynchronous instruction, that whole spontaneous requirement kind of goes out the window; kids are going to prepare, which shifts what would usually be interpersonal activities into presentational mode because they're pre-planned, rehearsed, and memorized.

Unfortunately, I'm going to have to step off of my high horse this fall. I usually hate skits because I know they are actually presentational, but I'm going to have to be more flexible. I mean, if 2020 has done nothing else, it's definitely forced us to adjust, right? It's also made me more anxious, overweight, short-tempered, and lots of other things, but I digress.

What does interpersonal mode look like in 2020?

As I was saying, I'm going to have to be more flexible, which *may* mean that I will have to allow skits or conversations with yourself to suddenly be considered interpersonal tasks.  Last Spring, when schools shut down, I dabbled with having my 6th graders record skits on Flipgrid and it brought me so much joy to watch them. Here are some of the options they chose for their "interpersonal mode activities:

  • Some of my 6th graders recorded conversations with their family members, some of whom were older siblings I'd taught in years previous. 
  • Some uploaded Facetime videos talking with their with classmates. 
  • Others used stuffed animals or put different colored socks on their hands to make impromptu sock puppets. 
Their little conversations were adorable and creative and I got to see my students being silly and in their element, which was awesome considering I'd never met these students in person. I guess I forgot to mention that my school started a new quarter of kids in the middle of COVID lockdowns. Regardless, I let it slide that these conversations were prepared and rehearsed. They were speaking Spanish and that was enough for me.

What could interpersonal mode for Flipgrid?

When I saw Flipgrid's new features released in this video, I immediately knew that I just had to try out the "mirror screen" feature to simulate interpersonal mode. She does it at about 29:00 minutes, but I've made a quick demo of what it would look like here. No judgement please. I'm wearing no makeup, I haven't spoken Spanish to anyone in like 6 months, and I didn't even practice. I just went for it and didn't let myself rerecord. How's that for spontaneous?

So, what do you think of using the mirror screen option to simulate interpersonal mode. Can I work? I'd love to hear you opinions, thoughts, and suggestions in the comments below!

August 5, 2020

Mayan School Uniform Spanish Interpretive Practice

With the school year of distance learning looming, I'm working hard on digitizing all of my resources so that I can assign interactive activities to my students so I had to start with one of my absolute favorites: this Mayan School Uniforms Spanish interpretive practice.

Now, in addition to a PDF, you can assign this resource for remote learning to any LMS including (but not limited) to Google Classroom, Schoology, Canvas, Edgenuity, and more.

This Mayan School Uniforms interpretive practice is perfect for any unit on clothing (ropa), school (escuela or colegio), personal identity, or indigenous cultures. I LOVE finding amazing, rich, cultural authentic resources and then creating ACTFL-aligned interpretive activities to accompany them and build proficiency and cultural awareness. The video is stunning and super-comprehensible and the activites are perfect for novice-mid to intermediate Spanish learners.

Check out this video to learn more about it's features:

This resource contains:

  • links to the authentic resource video
  • four interpretive activities
  • rubric, which can be used for teacher, self, or peer assessment
  • a self-reflection for interpretive listening to help students focus on skills they need to improve
Even better? This resource is part of a growing bundle of interpretive activities all based on engaging interpretive activities. The bonus of growing bundles is that when you purchase today, you'll have access to all of the resources I continue add. Good deal, huh?

Looking for more fun resources that connect to these AP themes?
  • This NY Times article about Mayan soccer teams wearing traditional outfits as uniforms
  • This article about students wearing indigenous outfits as school uniforms

July 28, 2020

TPT Digital Activity Tool for Distance Learning

Last Spring, with COVID school closures, pretty much all of us probably felt a bit like first-year teachers again. The activities we are accustomed to using didn't work quite right and there weren't a ton of easy solutions to digitize print resources so students could interact with them.

The new TPT digital activity tool is going to BLOW YOUR MIND!  If you're a Google Classroom user and the TPT seller you've purchased a resource from is participating in this new initiative, you MUST watch this video. You won't believe how your favorite Teachers Pay Teachers resources are about to become even better, particularly if you will be doing remote learning or hybrid learning this fall.  Check it out:

Now, if you're not a Google Classroom user (like me), never fear. I've got you. I'm currently pretty much not sleeping at all and converting all of my TPT resources, one by one, into an interactive digital version that can be used with any LMS.  If you'd like a freebie to see what I mean, grab a copy of the freebie here.

If you ARE a Google Classroom user and you'd like to check out the new TPT digital tool, I highly recommend this highly engaging activity to start out the school year. It's musical, it's fun, and my kids LOVE it.

Questions? Comments? Please leave them in the comments, find me on social media @SraShawSpanish, or email me spanish.with.sra.shaw@gmail.com

July 17, 2020

Spanish Speaking Countries Back to School FREEBIE!

It's that time of year, friends. Even if you don't want to, especially this year, you're probably thinking about what your lessons are going to look like as you head back to school.  Great news! No matter what scenario is thrown at you, I've got a freebie for the first weeks of school that will have your students engaged whether they're physically in your classroom or doing remote learning from home.

In the first couple of weeks in Spanish 1, I always like to make sure that I cover the following intro unit concepts:
  1. Cognates/ cognados: I find that exposing students to cognates early on helps students build much-needed confidence. It's an important language learning strategy as students begin working with authentic texts in the target language. 
  2. Spanish-speaking countries/ países hispanohablantes: It's important for students to know where Spanish is spoken. It's not that I need them to memorize capitals and countries and where they are located, but they should get the gist of regions where Spanish is spoken and its prevalence.
  3. How to work with authentic resources: It's valuable for students to experience quality, appropriate authentic texts from the get-go. I want my kiddos to know that they don't have to understand every word. Instead, I want them to focus on the main idea, cognates, and most importantly, to understand that language learning doesn't need to be perfect at all. It's a process. Plus, authentic resources provide students with important cultural awareness. 
Guess what? I've put all of these important Spanish 1 beginning concepts into one awesome freebie.  Just sign up below and receive this ready-to-go resource in your inbox.


The best part is that this free resource is ready to go! You can either assign the interactive digital resource (students can drag items and type right onto the sheet) or you can print the PDF if you're face to face. It's perfect for synchronous, asynchronous, remote learning, and any situation that COVID throws at us. I'm working hard to make you're fall easier by providing you resources that are adaptive for what's sure to be an interesting back to school season.

Looking for more interpretive resources featuring #authres? Get this growing bundle, which I'll be continuing to add to for years to come. It's an amazing deal!
Spanish interpretive reading activities

May 14, 2020

Simplifying Spanish Distance Learning with GoFormative.com

I can't believe yesterday marks the eight week mark of the last day of in-person classes. On Thursday March 12, we got the news that Michigan schools would be closing and our district had one final day of classes that Friday. None of us realized that would be the last time we'd see our students that year or that COVID19 would likely change the face of education forever.

That Saturday in March, I was inspired. I'm tech savvy, I figured, this is going to be fine. I'll use the tools at my disposal to get me through a few weeks of closures. Better yet, I wanted share my distance learning technology ideas with teachers who were understandably freaking out about how to deliver instruction to their kids. I wrote this Secondary Spanish Space post about the four tools that I then felt would be best for distance learning: Google Classroom, SeeSaw, FlipGrid, and Edpuzzle.

Since that day, I've proclaimed to several of my WL amigos that I needed Google Classroom and SeeSaw to combine their forces and make a baby. They laughed, but I was serious. While these platforms worked perfectly for my needs in a brick and mortar classroom, they both left something to be desired for my now-remote learning middle schoolers.

Enter GoFormative.com. No, they're not paying me and don't even know I'm writing this post. I'm just that enthusiastic about it.  My amazing department head and current MIWLA president, Marci Harris, has been proclaiming the wonder of Formative for several years. I was actually an early adopter of it in probably 2015, but, at the time, it was clunky and glitchy. I wrote it off and didn't think about it until me amazing Spanish amiga, Laurel Landrum, convinced me to try it again. Marci is actually so happy to be right that she's taken to Twitter to brag ;)

A week into using it, I'm completely obsessed with Formative. I've decided that it is the best solution for distance learning probably for lots of content areas, but certainly for World Language. Formative encompasses so different styles of activities and assessment styles that are ideal for language acquisition competencies in a one-stop shop that can be posted to any LMS (Google Classroom, SeeSaw, Schoology, or just any website).

Here are five reasons why I think that for as long as we're doing distance or blended learning, you should consider simplifying things for yourself and your students and shift to GoFormative.com, which calls themselves just plain Formative.

1. Efficiency

Before Formative, I was making an instructions slideshow for each lesson that contained a bunch of links and posting it to Google Classroom. The slideshows were time-consuming to put together and kids shad trouble following them.  I would also post the corresponding learning activities to Google Classroom and lots of kids were having trouble navigating the slideshows and all of the different assignments in Google Classroom. Worse yet, the different assignments were cluttering the holy heck out of my GC (Google Classroom) grade book to the point that I was having trouble keeping up and deciphering activities. It was a mess.

Takeaway: With GoFormative, I can put all of the content from all of the different files/ links I was using before into one link. Just one. I post one link to Google Classroom and there is only one thing in my GC gradebook. BAM. Done. The end. It is beautiful and streamlines the whole process for me and my students.

2. Activities for All 3 Modes of Communication

If you follow me, you probably know that I'm IPA-obsessed. If you're not familiar, I'd encourage you to check out my 6 series post explaining the process or look at my thematic IPAs here. I love creating and assessing what students know using IPAs and using a variety of interpretive reading and listening activities. While this looks different with remote learning, I'm working on adapting this process and Formative is going to be key.

The variety of activities that Formative offers for interpretive reading/listening and presentational speaking/writing all within one activity is AMAZING.  Here's a video that shows what some of these options look like:

Takeaway: There are lots of tools that do these things separately, but if you watched the video above, I think you'll agree that the fact that one site can do all of these things is a WL distance-learning teacher's dream.  I love that you can use simple question formats like you could in a Google Form, but with the other types of more critical thinking type-questions, you can really gain a better understanding of what students understand and can do. I love the variety and my students have said they do too.  Adiós, Google Forms.

3. A Wide Variety of Learning Activities

I could write an entire blog post solely focused on the vast array of different types of questions and learning activities available on Formative.  Here's a menu of what is available, though there's more than what meets the eye once you start to explore and play around.
As a quick explanation, the red column is full of items that you can add as one-way content. Notice the white board option and the audio instructions. YAY! I really like to do audio instructions in addition to type ones to make things more clear and to connect better with my students. 

The blue columns are all of the types of questions you can add, and while some of them are basic (true or false, short answer, multiple choice) others are amazing, especially for World Language.  

Takeaway: YAY! A smorgasbord of activity options. Wait until you play around with it.  My favorites are "Categorize," which  I recently used to have kids sort a bunch tourist attractions into the 3 Spanish cities where they are located based on a reading. "Resequence" is amazing for CI activities, short stories, novels, etc. because they can reorder the events that occurred. "Show your work"  allows kids to draw, type, and add images and shapes onto a virtual whiteboard and for me, this part is reminiscent of my favorite aspects of SeeSaw.

4. Embed All of your Favorite Apps

I love using a bunch of different apps to keep things interesting and I don't bat an eye at using Quizizz, Quizlet, Edpuzzle, Gimkit, Kahoot, FlipGrid, SeeSaw, and a handful of others all within a couple of weeks. But get this! You can embed or link to all of these from within your Formative and the kids don't need to leave the webpage to do the activities!

Within a singular Formative, I embedded Quizlet "Learn" and "Match" activities and an EdPuzzle and both platforms tracked student progress seamlessly without students ever having to switch websites.  I can't tell you in words how ecstatic I was, but it pretty much looked like this:


Takeway: I've already had students say that they were more likely to complete their assignments in Formative because it's all in one place.  I don't know about you, but anything that increases participation and completion at this point in the year is a win.

5. Feedback

GoFormative.com was really developed as a formative assessment tool, which is primarily focused on giving feedback and allowing teachers to see who needs intervention.  You'll find that even the feedback options in Formative are varied and efficient.  You can grade on a slide scale of however many points you assign, give audio feedback, respond with emojis, an image, and more.  
My favorite part is that I can look at, respond to, and assign points to bunch of responses all at once like you see below. Seeing several responses at once allows me to see which questions are frequently missed so I can reteach.  I also love that when I see a trending correct answer from a bunch of students, I can add that answer to auto-grade to save time so that Formative will mark that answer correct for all students. 

Takeaway: Formative makes grading as detailed or as quick as you want. You can view responses by question or by student and their auto-grading is surprisingly intuitive. The variety of ways you can respond to students is awesome and I appreciate seeing the red exclamation point that alerts me that students have copied or pasted information if you're concerned about plagiarism. 


If I had to pick one tool to use in my distance learning classes it would definitely be Formative. I previously would have said SeeSaw, but I've found that for our current situation, Formative solves so many issues in one convenient spot. Plus, I'm not going to lie, but making Formatives is oddly satisfying. Feedback from students has been really positive, they're completing assignments, and several kids said they thought it was more fun. I figured, in this mess, if the kids and I are having fun and I'm removing barriers to learning, it's a victory. I should add that there's a 30 day free trial that I'm currently utilizing, but I will happily pay the subscription cost for the amount of time GoFormative.com is saving me when my trial is over. 

Questions? Thoughts? Please share in the comments section below.