Starting at the End

If you are a language teacher, then you know the best night of the week is Thursday evening. This is when some of the best world language teachers come together to collaborative and improve themselves as educators. You don’t even need approval from administration to attend and pay a costly registration fee. This weekly conference Proficiency Based Programis taking place on twitter, using the hashtag #langchat. A recent topic had some great discussion in regards to tips for starting a proficiency based program.
I personally started working towards a proficiency based classroom a few years ago after years of being very comfortable teaching grammar and watching my students memorize verb charts, and singing songs to remember grammar rules. But I don’t want my students to have to stop mid-sentence to sing a song to remember whether to use por or para. From reading tweets and blogs from my fellow colleagues, I decided I needed to make changes in my own classroom to help my students be able to communicate in the language.

For me, the process has been going on the past few years. Every year I learn more and am able to implement better practices into my classroom. My first start was to use more language in the classroom. An important step was letting students know my expectations for their understanding in class.
“Be Comfortable speaking the language. If you can’t do it, your students certainly can’t. -@SrtaJohnson”A key change in my class was to ditch the focus on grammar and focus on the communication. For this, I “started at the end” by deciding what the goal of each unit start at the end backward designwas. Once I came up with these objectives, I could “work to the beginning” and start planning what input my students need and what activities I could plan to help them achieve those objectives. @MmeFarabaugh “Planning Proficiency-based assessments that align with the goals you set for students. And creating instruction after that.”As a teacher, I aim to give my students as much input as possible before I ask them to produce something. I want to make the topic engaging and appeal to my students’ interest. The characters in the textbook certainly were not going to get my students excited about the language. But talking about the game between Barcelona and Real Madrid did. (See: Connecting Vocabulary to our Students)The teacher should aim to get rid of traditional textbooks and move to comprehensible input. -@Mr_Fernietextbooks are written to sell, not to teach

Another change I wanted to make was to have my students’ ability reflected in their grades. In the past I’ve seen students who can’t even respond to a simple question leave class with an A and students who just don’t do anything outside of class leave with low grades. I decided to focus my grades on the students’ proficiency. That means

@SenoraWienhold- “get rid of anything that does not allow students to show what they KNOW” “Ditch fill-in-the-blank, conjugate this, check box grammar stuff.”

I had to make a big change in my tests. No longer would fill in the blanks or verb conjugations punish students for errors in spelling. If the purpose of our class is to communicate I had to assess students ability to communicate and not whether they could memorize a box. (See: Ditching the Verb Chart)

Here’s some of our earlier posts about our venture toward a more proficiency based classroom.:
Communication Rubric : assessing student production, and giving students a goal to work towards when communicating.
Proficiency Based Exam: How to create a proficiency based exam using your unit’s objectives.
What students had to say about taking a proficiency based exam.
Authentic Input versus Grammar Drills: If a student can conjugate the verb “to eat” in 3 tenses, does that mean they can order food in a restaurant in the target language?

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If you don’t have a dropbox by now, you are missing out. This is essential for any teacher who does work at home. I remember the days of working on something at home, putting it on a travel drive (USB stick) and taking it to school to continue working on it or printingdropbox. Of course, that only worked if you didn’t forget it!
Thankfully, life has been much easier the past few years with dropbox. And the best part: it’s free! I install the dropbox program on my computer and it creates a folder which stores all my documents. I can create a document at home, save it in the dropbox folder and access the same document anywhere by signing into the website or having the program installed on my work computer.

Also, I installed drop box on my smartphone and I use the app to upload pictures from my phone to my folder so I can easily access it on a PC.

Start with 2 GBs or get an extra 500MB by signing up with my link. So what are you waiting for? Make your life easier!

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Resources: Day of the Dead and Halloween

It’s October, and if you’re a Spanish teacher that means getting ready for Halloween and the Day of the Dead. We’ve compiled some of the best resources around to give you a one stop shop for great teaching materials.


We’ve recently added 2 products featuring excerpts from a Colombian magazine. The first one talks about Hollywood stars such as Justin Beiber and Lady Gaga’s experiences with ghosts. The second one features teen asking questions about their fears with responses from the magazine. Each features questions so you can use print them and use them in your classes right away.

Spanish Halloween Activity      Phobias
Miedos Fobias Preview Continue reading

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Macanudo Comics

We’ve written numerous times about using comic strips in your foreign language class. It is such a great authentic resource for students to read in context and the text is short enough that you can use it at even beginning levels. Our favorite authentic comic strip, is Macanudo by Liniers, an Argentina strip that is extremely original and creative. Read our previous post about Macanudo and how to use comics in your class.
If you are looking for comics for specific topics, check out our resource page.

Today we bring you 14 examples of this talent.
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Top Secret Posts

We usually see quite a lot of traffic to our blog, most brought from sources such as Pinterest or google searches.

HowSpanish Teacher Blogever, we wanted to highlight some of the posts that have not seem substantial hits, that you may have missed! Today we bring you our Top 5 “Hidden Gems” posts that may be worth taking a look at. And if you enjoy the post, please share it on pinterest, facebook, or twitter so that others may benefit and it doesn’t remain so hidden. Check out our “secret” posts.

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Top 10 Spanish Blog Posts

You’ve seen the bottom 5 blog posts (6-10) that we’ve ever written and today we unveil the Top 5! These posts have received the most page visits since we started the blog over 6 years ago.

Emergency Spanish Sub Plans5. Spanish Sub Plans
We all need a backup plan. We get sick. Our children get sick. Something comes up. But we are prepared with this emergency sub lesson plans for our Spanish class.


Spanish Verb Charts4. Graphic Organizers
If you’re looking for a way to organize students, check out some of these graphic organizers. Besides the traditional verb chart, using an outline of a hand to write the forms and explains who they reflect is a great way to help students.

Projects for Spanish Class3. Spanish Projects
This post highlights 7 Ready-to-Use projects for the Spanish 1 classroom. These projects can be used as assessments during or at the end of the chapter. Save your time for the important stuff and let us do your planning. Includes our popular product, Facebook Profile Project.

Spanish Communication Activities2. Spanish Speaking Activities
The whole point of learning a foreign language is to be able to communicate. Our students need to be practicing speaking as often in possible in Spanish classes, so we’ve prepared 8 ready to use activities that help your students practice communicating.

And now…. the most visited post on goes to…..

Family Tree Lesson Plans for Spanish 11. Family Tree
For some reason, “family tree” is the most searched term that brings visitors to our site, especially the Simpsons family tree and the family tree of Modern Family. If you teach la familia in a traditional manner, enjoy our free árbol geneological

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Spanish Plans Top 10 6-10

It has been awhile since an update. International travel and lack of internet are my main excuses. In the meanwhile I wanted to highlight some of our top blog posts as determined by page visits. We’ve taken our top ten posts EVER and today present posts 6-10. Stay tuned for posts 5 through 1!

Dia de los Muertos Lesson10. Looking for resources to use to celebrate Day of the Dead? Check out this post with links to a video, and an article in Spanish to use in your class as the perfect lesson. Continue reading

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Authentic Instagrams

We are always looking for authentic resources to use in our lessons. Right now, instagram is the social media of choice for students. We found an instagram full of authentic quotes that pertain to students, especially regarding school. What a great way for kids to read authentic texts and be engaged.


Ways Instagram could be incorporated in foreign language class: Continue reading

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History through soccer

It’s here! The 2014 World Cup kicks off today! And while we will be glued to the TV during all 64 games, there are some interesting shows that showcase the history of South America through the context of soccer.

Produced by ESPN, these shows are now available on netflix.

The Two EscobarsThe Two Escobars focuses on two figures in Colombia who happen to share a last name. Andrés Escobar, a soccer star for the National team, was killed after scoring an own goal in the 1994 World Cup.
The other Escobar, Pablo, was a powerful figure in Colombia’s drug cartel era. And during his time in “prison”, which happened to be his own mansion, he would arrange for soccer teams to come and play at his estate.


30 for 30 soccer storiesThe 30 for 30: Soccer Stories has 8 episodes, but the most interesting regarding South American history is called The Opposition. After a military coup in 1973, Augusto Pinochet ruled Chile by stomping out any opposition. Intertwined in this story is how the Chilean national soccer team qualified for the World Cup when the Soviet Union refused to play in Santiago’s National Stadium, which was used as a torture camp for political prisoners. Continue reading

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Spanish Superhero ProjectHere’s a fun activity to culminate at the end of the year or to begin the year with a review. (See also, Animal Unit) Have your students create they very own Superhero. They can describe the superhero in the target language. Students can even create their own trading card and write in the following information:

Nombre:Captain Mexico Trading Card
Nombre verdadero:
Descripción Física:

Buy our ready to use unit that comes with a list of essential superhero vocabulary plus a template for the trading card.

With superhero movies being a big hit (such as Avengers, and X-Men) especially among boys, use that interest to connect with your kids and get them excited about coming to class.

Other ideas to incorporate superheroes in class: Continue reading

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