Why students use google translate and what teachers can do

What to do when students use google translateDuring the quarantine, I’ve seen a lot of teachers complaining about students submitting work in which they’ve used Google Translate. The problem is not new for language teachers, but without being able to have all writing done in the classroom during distance learning, the problem is now more relevant than ever. So,  why do students use translators and what can we do about it?

Why students use translators?

  • Laziness: they don’t want to think about what they’ve learned and what they already know how to say in the target language. They just want to get the assignment done and translators have the answers they are looking for.
  • Frustration: Students want to be able to express themselves with the same language ability as they are accustomed to in their native language.  Students are likely thinking about how to answer the question in their native language and are translating word by word and when they come across a word (or sentences) they don’t know, they look it up.
  • Relevance/Compliance: Students aren’t concerned about language acquisition and are just wanting to get a good grade. They want to please their teacher and think that the answer is more important than the method. They may not even be interested in learning the language are just required to take the class to get credit.


What can we do about it?

Certainly, these methods are not going to solve the issue for every student. There will always be some students that

  • Do writing in class: Well, this doesn’t apply during remote learning but it is always best to have written work done during class time. This way you can monitor students and help them out when they get stuck. When students ask me how to say something, I can try to help them think of a simpler way to say it (circumlocution) or just provide the word for them if it is necessary.
  • Focus on Input: Especially for beginner level classes, try to limit the amount of output you are asking for and instead make sure you are giving students a flood of language input. Just like you can’t get water out of a dry sponge, you can’t get language out of a student who hasn’t acquired it yet.
  • Cultivate a culture of mistakes and realistic expectations: Let your students know that you don’t expect them to be perfect. Make sure you have given them ample input on a particular topic before you ask them to give output on it. Ensure they have seen the words/phrases/structures in many repetitions so that it becomes part of their own language and they can use it properly. I also tell my students that I want to know what they can do with the language they have and not what a computer knows.
  • Cultivate an environment of learning over grades: Make sure students know that you value the process of their journey of language acquisition. What you provide feedback on and what you grade shows students your priority. Some of us have requirements to meet, but LESS grading and more focus on interactions in the language may help here.
  • Circumlocution and Guided Lessons: Having a lesson about how to circumlocute and how to properly use a website like WordReference may discourage online translator use.
  • Honor Contract: Make it part of your class honor code. Give them clear expectations at the beginning of the year and have them sign a contract if needed and how you will proceed if translators of used. When would it be appropriate for them to use it and when would it not be. If you follow the above suggestions, this will hopefully be a moot point.


How do you deal with translators in your class? Write a comment below.


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Google Classroom Tips

Some teacher tips for using Google Classroom during “Remote learning”

Tip Number 1:
Need to see if students are reading your posts? Use the “Question” feature under the “classwork” menu and type up any instructions students need for that day’s assignment. Choose a multiple choice question and include the options “Yes, I’ve read today’s assignment and understand” or “I have questions and will be e-mailing you” or even ask something like “How are you today? Good / Been better”. You could even put a curricular question. The idea is that by just clicking one of the two options, the assignment is “turned in”.  If you just post an announcement in your stream there is no way to know who’s viewed it. And if you post an assignment, kids must click that “turn in button” which they sometimes forget to do.
Google Classroom Ask a Question


Tip number 2:
To see how many students have completed an assignment throughout the week, use the “To-Do” tab and see a running list of all assignments and all classes.

Google Class to do view

For a PDF of these instructions: Google Classroom Tips


One thing you can do is schedule posts to be published for a class at a certain time. However, unlike when you publish a post immediate, you can not select it to publish to more than 1 class. So if you want to schedule the same post to go out to each of your classes, you would have to enter it individually for each class. If you post it live, you are able to have that post publish to each class. This is something I’ve been requesting for years. It would be such an easy fix for Google. There DO NOT have a contact email, but you CAN use the request field. One the bottom left corner of your screen click on the question mark.
Screen Shot 2020-04-04 at 6.57.30 PM
Click the “Report issue or request feature”. You are welcome to paste the following message:
We want an option to be able to select multiple classes to publish a “scheduled post”.



What tricks have helped you in Google Classroom? Leave us a note in the comments and share your tip with fellow educators who may be novice users with this platform.



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Rally Re-order

The following is a guest post that I invited Rich Madel to write after he mentioned this activity on twitter.

All world language teachers focused on providing rich, compelling, and comprehensible input to their students know the struggle: How can we mask the repetition of the same information, vocabulary, and structures in such a way that it seems novel and interesting and our students feel authentically compelled to engage with making meaning of the input?

We all know the value of repetition of vocabulary and structures embedded in strategies such as PQA (personalized questions and answers), TPRS, Movie Talk, and more. Today, leveled readers are written with this very focus in mind, often telling a compelling story by recycling little more than the same 150 words (in the case of some novice-level readers).

Telling the story is only one opportunity for input, however. What we do before the story and what we do after are critical opportunities to provide quality interactions with target language vocabulary and structures. One such strategy often used as a post-storytelling activity is for students to place scrambled events in their appropriate chronological order.

Working to order scrambled events from a story is a time-tested task that serves a dual purpose: it reinforces key moments from the plot that aides in comprehension and creates an opportunity for the teacher to repeat and reuse communicatively-embedded input. But let’s be honest, it’s not always the most exciting.

To that end, I present an event reorder challenge that takes the activity we all know and love and injects it with steroids. The end result is a whole class challenge that is exciting, promotes collaboration and communication, and vastly increases the repetition of the key events. Let’s call it, Rally Reorder! Below are the steps to prepare and conduct the activity. Continue reading

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CI during MMM

What I love about March Music Madness is that students get a peek into what music is popular in other parts of the world. It’s a way to connect our students to the language. Who doesn’t love music? When you have students start singing a song in class or telling you how they listen to the songs at home, you know it’s doing its magic.

As Dustin Williamson says: “Quite honestly, MMM is more about having fun, listening to music, being exposed to different genres and making March better in my classroom.”

I look for music that is A) Current (from the previous year only), B) Popular and not obscure and C) appropriate. This year our bracket has 25 artists, 7 women, 9 countries and over 2.3 billion hits on YouTube. It also includes different genres including Bachata, Pop, Urbana, y Regional Mexicano.

Providing Comprehensible Input during March Music MadnessStudents don’t need to understand the lyrics of the whole song to enjoy it. How many of us listen to English music and get the lyrics wrong or don’t understand everything? The music is the hook so don’t worry if the song is not 100% comprehensible. However, you can go over certain high-frequency parts of the song to introduce new words or point out a word they know in a new context but most of the language that we use in class is to describe the song, opinions of it, talk about how many votes it has and which song they think will win.

The language we use to TALK ABOUT the songs and talk about the voting process is just as important as listening to the songs themselves.

Use the target language to talk about where the artist is from. Have them write the song title down- spell it for them. Talk about how many views it has on YouTube- practice numbers. Give opinions – is it better or worse than another song? Does a student agree or disagree with their peer’s opinion?

I give them a handout and have them rate the songs. A couple different options are included in our MMM Lesson Packet:

Also, don’t forget a site like LyricsTraining.com which you can use the show the official video with lyrics by using the “karaoke” option to show lyrics with an official video. We have links to all of the songs here.

You can also use the site to create digital cloze activities and selecting which words that students have to type in. We have an easy to follow tutorial here.

At the end, I like to take key phrases from several of the songs and put it together as a story at the end so they are getting more INPUT and repetition of the phrases in another context. In 2019 I used Martina Bex’s Un Año/Jennifer Bilby story and added in other phrases from songs from my bracket.



Also: It is the last week to get your picks in for our teacher contest. Enter your picks of which song you think will win each round. Teachers with the most points/correct picks at the end of the tournament will win prizes, including up to $50 in prizes for our top winner. Enter your picks here.

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Don’t Miss Your Chance

With March Music Madness less than 1 month away, we’d like to remind teachers of a few things.

  • The bracket is available to print. You can also start playing the songs from the playlist as students enter the class or if they are working during class time. Don’t mention that the songs are part of next month’s tournament. Just let them beat slowly creep into their heads. If they are like me, it takes a few listens to a song before I start to like it.
  • Join our collaborative group on Facebook. We are currently at 400 teachers ready to share tips, resources, and more. If you are part of the group already, please invite your colleagues to the group.
  • Our lesson plan is on sale. And there is no better time than TpT’s site-wide sale to save (Tuesday and Wednesday) to take advantage. While there is no purchase necessary to participate in the tournament, we’ve spent dozens of hours getting things ready and this product offers some really cool strategies that you can use with any song (and we’ve got 8 ready to use ones too!)
  • If you are wondering what this is all about, check out our Frequently Asked Questions page to learn more about our Mania Musical de Marzo.

Start Filling out those Brackets

We will again be sponsoring and hosting a contest for teachers with some great prizes. All you need to do is to submit your bracket predictions on this form. Prizes will be awarded for the most points and most correct predictions. Only teachers are eligible to participate in this form, [we have a form that you can use with students in our TpT Product] Continue reading

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March Music 2020

There are some teachers who like to plan months in advance. I am not one of those teachers, but I do know what I will be doing come March. My classes will be engaged in our 7th annual music competition. Our competition takes 16 songs that have been released since last year (current music!) and students vote on their favorite song to advance to the next round.

We have set up our March Music Madness 2020 headquarters (the same place where voting will take place) at www.SpanishPlans.org/mmm20

In the meantime, we have set up the “SpanishPlans March Music Madness” Facebook Group for teachers to collaborate, ask questions, and get the sneak peek of this year’s songs!
We’ve already released 5 songs from this year’s bracket (barring any changes), so join the group now and invite your colleagues to the group! We have many special perks planned for this group that you won’t want to miss out on!

If you don’t join, we will eventually post the bracket and all other necessary information here on the blog so you can listen along come March.


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Frase Secreta: Spanish Passwords

With a new year upon us, now is the perfect time to start a new routine in your classroom. I know most teachers are familiar with the work of Harry Wong, but how many of us apply those practices every day despite their incredible benefits? Let’s take a look at the reasons for implementing a “greeting” system into your class:

  1. We acknowledge and honor a student’s presence.
  2. We model proper social behavior in welcoming someone’s arrival.
  3. It establishes a positive classroom climate in which students feel a sense of connection and belonging.
  4. It establishes a positive relationship between teacher and student.
  5. Research* has shown it increases student engagement in class.
  6. Research* has shown it decreases disruptive behavior.

and if these reasons aren’t enough for you, let’s look at the benefits in a world language classroom who can go a step further and implement a “password” or “secret phrase” where students must respond with a special phrase of the week. The curriculum benefits are:

Continue reading

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Teaching Graphic Novel Billy y las Botas

With the release of a new graphic novel by the Señor Wooly company, we wanted to give you some ideas on how you can teach with a graphic novel. If you are not ready or don’t have the funds to purchase a class set, don’t worry… graphic novels are a great addition to your FVR classroom library that students will be motivated to read on their own. However, if you have a class set you can also use it as a little unit. So here are some tips on teaching the graphic novel “Billy y Las Botas”:

Continue reading

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In the past, we’ve used our Passport Template to include stamp-able pages in the Passport Template and Stampspassport. There are many applications for using this: marking off I-Can-Statements, marking off completion of certain tasks or units of study. Personally, in my classroom, I use them as students finish reading novels about Hispanic culture. Recently, we re-designed some of our stamps and one of our customers and fellow Spanish teacher shared with us a template she uses with her stamp set.

You can download the one page template for free here which has a space for every Spanish-Speaking countries (image on left)  See how it looks filled up with our stamps (on right).

Passport Page BlankPassport Page Stamped Filled Out Continue reading

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Graphic Novel Winners

With over 400 entries, we are pleased to announce the winners of our Graphic Novel Raffle: Melanie M, Zack D, and Elizabeth D. Winners have been emailed.

Melanie was our grand prize winner and will be receiving 2 Graphic novels straight from Colombia (Toy Story 4 and Coco), 2 Senor Wooly Graphic Novels (La Casa de la Dentista and Me Llamo Victor) as well as an Avengers comic book in Spanish.

If you didn’t win, don’t worry, we have more raffles and giveaways planned for this month, so stay tuned! (INCLUDING AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST)

But for those who are interested in Graphic Novels, you can download a 10 page preview of the Toy Story 4 Graphic Novel (link below)

You can also check out these graphic novels of popular tales on Amazon (although the quantities are limited, so if you are interested, I’d suggest moving fast on the purchase):

  1. Cenicienta: La Novela Gráfica
  2. Hansel y Greta
  3. La Bella y la Bestia
  4. Rumpelstiltskin
  5. Caperucita RojaOther illustrated books that I have in my FVR and are super funny and comprehensible:
  6. Darth Vader y su Princesa
  7. Darth Vader e hijoThe Fly Guy series and Mo Willem books also feature high-frequency words with accompanying illustrations to aid comprehension.

On this product page, click “leer un fragmento” for a free 10 page preview.

ANOTHER CHANCE TO WIN: Continue reading

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