Character Collages from Quiz #1

Here they are (only 16 of the 44):  warts and all

I like them because I really get an inside look into my students’ other mind-the symbolic one, the artistic one, the free one.

Remember, these students are 11 and 12 years old.

I focus on whether the student communicated “meaning”.

What I notice:  Where English and Spanish align grammatically, there are few errors. Where English and Spanish grammar differ, there are more errors–which just means they need much MORE input (not correction).

Common beginner errors which eventually disappear:

  • Henry le gusta _______.
  • la mapa
  • misspelled cognates
  • quere, queire, quire, etc. ARGGHHH!
  • article usage
  • noun/adjective/article agreement (Oh, no! Oh, no! Back to Chapter One of the textbook to drill them and kill them–oh, yeah, it doesn’t work.)
  • Antonio’s barco (NONE of the kids did this. Yup. It has disappeared!)

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When I think about how well this quiz went for the kids, I now think it may have had a great deal to do with being able to get up, go outside and do the poster activity where they got to talk, and then, come back and do something like this which stimulated very different brain activity. They were so calm and settled as they were creating these.





Todos para uno y uno para todos

Sounds a little like a pirate slogan, yes? Three Muskateerish even. Todos para uno y uno para todos. It’s what I decided to name my new review/assessment game.

“Numbered Heads Together” has been around a long time. I always do Lettered Heads Together because I like to practice the alphabet that way. I use the game often to:

  • give all students one more chance to hear the new material from the chapter in context
  • give the slower processors a pretty safe space to work out their thinking and their tongues with peer support
  • give the faster processors an opportunity to show their maximum acquisition (a nice way to say “show off”)
  • encourage them to share information instead of covet it
  • let them move around the classroom
  • get them to key in and “laser listen” to the material
  • provide the comprehensible input in a format that makes them WANT to find interest
  • assess output to see how they’re doing

After hearing Alfie Kohn speak the other night, I decided to change the rules of the game a bit. I have always set up the game in a cooperative/competitive format:  Teams discuss and come up with an answer. I call a lettered head. The first one who pops up gets to answer–wins or loses the point for their team. There is a winning team and, of course, there are losing teams.

After listening to Alfie talk about the dangers of “academic competition” in school, I really rethought this game. Now, it’s “all for one and one for all”. The whole class is working for points for the class–and there still get to be teams. It worked great and was a huge hit with the kids and with me. Big time fun, engagement, focus on meaning, focus on success, fight the fear. All good. No “team” is smarter or better than any other team. No “team” is lesser, dumber, etc. than any other team. I thought they might think it was lame since they are very competitive, sporty kids. I was wrong. Doing it this way took off a layer of worry for them.

Read on:

  1. I choose four names out of the box for each team.
  2. The teams gather in different areas of the room. I say: “Equipo 1 aquí, por favor. Equipo 2, aquí, etc.” When they get really good at organizing themselves, after a few times of playing the game, I let them come up with an “appropriate” Spanish name for their team. For instance, this time we had Los Fatales (silly name based on one kid who ALWAYS answers the question, ¿Cómo estás?, with “Fatal”, Los Cállates, Los Azules, Los Habladores Cabezones, etc. Dumb stuff, fun stuff. I help them out or this takes forever.
  3. I assign each team member a letter: a, b, c, d “Fulano, eres A. Sutano, eres B., etc. Todos los A’s, levanten la mano, por favor. Los B’s, etc.”
  4. I ask the question*. I speak SLOWLY (can’t impress upon you enough the necessity to speak slowly in all activities).
  5. Each team physically huddles together to discuss the answer. I say: “Júntense. Arrímense. (with motions)”
  6. I give the groups time to discuss the question, come up with the answer. Each group member must feel confident that they have an answer (they will need it for the next step). Then I repeat the question to the class.
  7. I choose a letter. For instance:  B
  8. All the B’s run to the center of the room away from their teams, huddle up with the new group, and tell each other what their original team believes is the correct answer. Each one weighs in. Then, they either agree because they all have the same answer or they negotiate a better answer among themselves. I love watching that part.
  9. When they are ready, I choose one of their tickets. That person answers the question.
  10. If they answer correctly, their team gets the point which goes immediately goes toward the class score. If they get it wrong, no point.
  11. If anyone speaks English (smart alec remarks, criticisms, whatever) during the “answering part”, profe gets a point (that happened a couple of times in one class).
  12. Before we began, we did one practice round with a silly question in English (since I had changed the rules). The question was: ¿Quién es Joe Biden? I just walked them through the format slowly. It was easy.

At the end I asked them:

  1. how well they had understood me?
  2. how well they had remembered the new vocabulary?
  3. how well they had remembered the details of the plot?
  4. how well they thought they had contributed to the activity?

They give me 0-5 fingers to answer the above questions:  0 – lowest to 5 – highest

Lots of fives on all questions. The cheers at the end of the game were loud and enthusiastic. Many yelled out, “¡Todos para uno y uno para todos!” Alfie was right.

*I used the Comprehension Questions (reworded) and Discussion Questions in the Treasure Chest which accompany Piratas.

Capítulo 2 – Una Pistola especial

Una Pistola especial

Chapter Two is a bit long for beginners. Slogging through the reading and “meaning making” (translating) is sometimes onerous for me, the teacher, too. I get nervous that I may bore them, go too long, lose their attention, etc. So, I broke the chapter up into three chunks and did it on three separate days.

It worked pretty well. After we finished, I played the book on cd that comes with the Treasure Chest. It is very fast (normal speech speed), but the kids all say that it is much easier to understand because they have gone through the first reading and translating. I notice that there are very few kids who are taking their eyes off the text in this class. It may just be that they are better readers, in general, than students I’ve had in the past. When I asked for the comprehension check (five fingers), I got three to five. All reported that they easily understood the gist. Many reported understanding in a more detailed way.

After, we finished the second reading, I put the “event order” activity from the Treasure Chest up on Elmo. There are fifteen events on it. Instead of having the kids order the events, I put three different color dots on the page.

  • Azul – al principio
  • Rojo – en medio
  • Verde – al final

As a class, we read each item on the list, starting at the top (which is out of order).  We decided, more or less, in which part of the chapter the event occurred, and marked the item with a colored dot instead of a number. Because we had read the chapter in three parts, this was perhaps somewhat easier than if we’d read it all at one time.

The next day, today, I gave them the sheet with the events on it to number in correct order. They also did the character comparison Venn diagram which included comparing “a friend” with Carlos and Felipe. I asked them to finish the “event ordering” first and then move to  the Venn activity.

When I saw that everyone had finished, I chose groups of two or three to get together and compare answers. If they found differences, they were to circle them. Then, they had to go back and find proof in the book to defend their choices.

Things I noticed:

  • One girl said to me: “This is really hard. When you go back to find the proof, you have to figure out where to look in the chapter or you’re going to have to read the whole chapter again!” Me: “How might you make that easier for yourself?” Other student in the group: “We know if it happened at the beginning, middle, or end, so we don’t have to read the whole thing. We just have to think about where it might be and read before and after.” (Hmmm. I love being useless.)
  • They were seriously enjoying “proving” each other wrong.

After they had finished (those who finished early went on to work on the Venn diagram), I read each item individually with the answer from the kid’s paper who was nearest to me. Each time I read an item, the students were to give a thumb up in agreement or a thumb down in disagreement. I waited to see that each person had made the signal and we looked around. When there was disagreement, I chose someone to give the proof from the book. It worked great!

Why I liked it:

  • No one was “checked out” during correction time. Thumbs up, thumbs down keeps them physically involved.
  • When they read the brief passages that held the “proof”, they read beautifully in Spanish–gorgeous accents and intonation (proud Spanish teacher am I).
  • The plot action of Capítulo Dos got solidified in their brains.
  • New vocabulary was repeated over and over in logical context–it’s getting in their brains!!!

They worked a bit more on the Venn and class ended. We’ll find out how their friends match up with Carlos and Felipe tomorrow.

Tomorrow, we will also play a “numbered-heads together” question game about things that happened in Chapter Two. (Basically, it is “intermediate circling of new vocabulary” in a game context–one more attempt at making the content and structures compelling enough for them to pay attention to–we’ll see how it goes.)

Se bajan del barco y llegan a la costa en canoas. Después, caminan 50 kilómetros a Puerto del Príncipe.


Capítulo Dos – Kids Get Hooked In

Carta náutica del Caribe

In Chapter Two, the action really gets going. Antonio, a couple of important shipmates (Felipe and Carlos), and Raquel get together to make “the secret plan”. The plan involves lying, breaking the law, and getting rich. Sounds good, huh? We’ll see. I won’t tell you the plan because you really need to buy this book so you can enjoy every plot twist and turn!

In Chapter Two, we find out more and more about the characters–why they do what they do, how they treat people, what’s important to them, etc. This kind of stuff may be the best part of the book for me. The characters are complex and imperfect. Mira doesn’t explicitly state these things. They come out in the characters’ actions. Students begin to identify with the characters, be disgusted by them, find them useless, etc. Now, students have AUTHENTIC reasons to use adjectives to describe the characters. Descriptors start to really matter as students defend the acts or gasp in horror at the things the characters do or say. Way better than “describing myself and the members of my family” on workbook pages. Way better.

ASIDE:  This part makes me cry. My last year’s kids are in seventh grade–one of the “most hooked-into Spanish” groups of kids I’ve ever had. The teacher, who has them now, told me they don’t know anything. When I asked her what she meant, she said, “They don’t know things like adjective agreement.” I disagreed and said that, of course, they do. She agreed, adding, “Well, yes, but they don’t do it correctly in speech.” Restraining my urge to scream very loudly, I reminded her in a neutral voice (she may not actually know this), that “adjective agreement” is very late acquired in Spanish and that no reasonable teacher of beginning students would expect them to be able to do that. She agreed again and said, “Well, I’m just following what other schools are doing. I have to prepare them for the tests they’ll take to go to high school.” I asked whether she’d noticed how well they understood, spoke, read, and wrote Spanish. She said that she had, but that she had to start at the beginning of the textbook because they have to learn that stuff. I truly felt sick. I did some deep breathing, prayed a little, and will stand firm in my knowledge that I am doing the right thing. I no longer feel defensive, just very sad.

In Chapter Two, the quartet (see above) visit the big mercado, dividing up along gender lines to look for things they want:

  • Antonio – una pistola
  • Felipe (the first mate) – un telescopio
  • Raquel – zapatos

Oh, me, oh, my! Wonder of wonders! Antonio finds the pistol he desires (and more). It’s not for sale. However, Antonio is not deterred. Being of an arrogant and superior-feeling nature, he piles enough money on the table to change the seller’s mind. (Motivation/Character lead to logical action). I won’t give away what happens next. I will say that at the end of the chapter one of my students commented, “Wow! Is every chapter going to end with a cliff hanger?” Hmm. Maybe. They’re hooked. More on what we did later.

Post Quiz #1 Thoughts

Novia esperando a su marinero - El malecón en Campeche, México

Section I:  49/50 kids aced this listening comprehension section.

That tells me:

  • they understood the Spanish I spoke (new vocabulary/structures)
  • they knew what happened in Capítulo 1

Section II:  See rubric post on Differentiation Rubric for Vocabulary/Structures (click in column to the right)

In order to qualify for the “advanced-level” structures part of the quiz, a student had to ace that section on regular quiz. I did have a couple of “sleepers”–kids I hadn’t expected to do as well as they did. I love those surprises. It kind of surprised them, too.

Section III: Comprehension Quiz from the Treasure Chest – Easy peasy. Very few errors.

I forgot to mention the five “inferential thinking” questions that I used from the Treasure Chest about Raquel. Found out who my concrete sixth-grade thinkers were!

Section IV:  Personalized Reading Section – Posters on bulletin board outside – ungraded

I loved this. Once again, as soon as  we personalize “anything” in a language class, it:

  1. engages-gets their attention
  2. becomes meaningful–yes, it’s all about me, me, and me
  3. likely gets remembered because of that “connection” with the self

It also made them feel really smart for some reason. I put the posters up on the whiteboard the next day. Here are just a couple of examples of the discussion in the target language (Spanish) the next day. You can imagine the possibilities if you check out the original test post.

“So, in Piratas del Caribe, Raquel has a boyfriend. According to this, no one has a boyfriend in our class. Interesting. Is that true or do you think people are afraid to say it publicly? Do you think that there are people in our class who have MORE than one boyfriend/girlfriend and that is why they didn’t sign?”

“Raquel’s father won’t permit her to go to Spain with her boyfriend. The fathers of Bob, Fran, Sally, and Deshaun won’t let them go to Spain with their boyfriends/girlfriends either. Does your parent let you go to the movies? Does your parent let you drive a car? Does your parent let you read books and drink coffee at Starbucks?” (Slightly silly. They are only 12-years-old.)

Section V:  Character Collage

The “character collage” was truly just one more sneaky ruse to get them to focus on the text (the notes they took from the book about each character) and to make some meaning of it. I graded these collages liberally–looking for major qualities of the character expressed through symbols and words. It’s just a quiz, not a thesis.

Oops. Still have to bring some of those home to scan–maybe mañana!

FINAL THOUGHT:  The new vocab/structures are truly falling out of their mouths after so much repetition. Mission (on the way to being) accomplished.

THE SPECIAL CHAIR – La Silla Especial

Four legs on the floor. Wooden seat. A back. It’s a chair, just a chair. Is that so?

I asked my fifth graders to give me their thoughts on “the chair”:

Antonia and others:

“It’s cool. It’s different than any other chair in the room. It’s higher. You can swing your legs and they don’t touch the ground. When you sit in it, you’re higher than everybody else. You can see everything. You feel empowered. It’s the chair the teacher sits on sometimes, so it’s kind of prohibited or something.”


“When you are on the chair, it is a safe environment. You can be whoever you want to be. It feels natural that it’s in Spanish. You just think about making the story better. Other people add to the story when you’re up there. It’s like a circle. You have to listen and then you think about how to make the story better. I don’t have to think how to say it. I just think about how to make the story better.”

My thoughts on the chair:

• How do I keep all of this 11-year-old energy contained?

• How do I keep the kids’ focused on the language and the story (board and teacher)?

• How do I keep from boring the faster processors or losing the slower ones?

• How do I keep from losing control of “everything”?

I had always known that having young children come to the front of the room to stand while I asked questions (circling) and helped the class weave the story/mini-story/PQA could be a disaster in the making: the fidgeting, the fiddling with stuff on the chalk tray, the turning around, the touching each other, the kicking the wall, the goofy behavior of all kinds. Yikes! So, I have always hauled a chair or two from behind their desks to the front of the room for them to sit on during the process. It was always a pain, and most of the other students couldn’t see the kids anyway.

However, it kept me from losing my mind and having to redirect behavior every three seconds. The kids in the front stayed still, got up to act only when directed to do so, and returned to home base after each change of location in the story. The rest of the class focused more easily since the target (actor/actress) wasn’t moving all the time.

When my friend, Beth, gave up teaching to live a life of sanity and happiness outside the classroom, she left me her teacher chair. It was really a stool with a chair back. It was tall and kind of cool looking.

It changed my life. 😉

For each class I have some sort of small container with their class number on it. Inside each container lives a small binder clip and a ticket with the name of each student written on the back.

Each time we do a story, act out reading, or do a parallel story based on a reading, I choose a kid’s ticket out of the box (sometimes more than one). It is truly random. I ask the child if they would like to take part. It is not mandatory.

Rarely, does a child refuse. It’s only a matter of time before they will “kill” to get picked out of that box. I still marvel. They come to the chair while I put their now used ticket into the binder clip. They are now “a clippie” until everyone else gets a chance to do something in class. Keeps it fair. This is important to them.

Having the kid sit in a “high” chair means that when I stand next to her/him and talk, we are almost at eye-level–a small, but very meaningful detail when communicating with another human being.

The chair has rules, of course–basic classroom courtesy and the “special” rules.

•  No dissing of the person in the chair, not ever, no way, no how.

•  You do not have to tell the truth while sitting in the chair. It’s up to you.

•  People may disagree with you, but they may not change your mind. Only you do that.

•  You have the last word and then Profe has the last word after that.

•  You must follow the rules or risk being replaced by the next lucky person in the class box.

If you think they follow the rules just because the rules are explicitly stated, you would be mistaken. We practice them and practice them and then, practice them again. Much modeling and much “replay” happen when someone makes a mistake–much elation and praise when they follow the rules. Emotional SAFETY for my students is my #1 concern. When students feel safe, they can take in the meaning of language. Worry and anxiety not only affect language “ingestion”, they greatly affect language “production.” “If it can’t get in, it can’t come out!”

Please read more of the students’ reflections about the chair. I got a beautiful peek into what their experience in Spanish class has been like. They think it’s the chair! They are sold. I am going to miss them so much. I hope you can connect the dots from these remarks and try to create a little of this kind of magic with your stories, pictures, songs, chairs, or whatever! If you are teaching with compelling comprehensible input, you likely already are.

My students were very pleased to know that I would include their thoughts here.

Colin: “All of the attention is on you.” (Me: Is that always a good thing?) “YES.”

Omar: “When you go up there (on the chair), you wonder what’s going to happen. It’s exciting when it’s like that–like a mystery.”

Benny: “Going on the chair is an incentive. We want to get picked. We start thinking about the things we want to add on to the story–which makes us want to know more words in Spanish. Going in the chair inspires you to want to know more.”

Karson: “We learn so much Spanish in the stories that we don’t think about it. It just comes out.”

Ellie: “We don’t have the chair in any other class. It reminds us of when we were little and when we got to do “make believe”.”

Jeannie: “You don’t have to tell the truth when you are sitting the chair if you don’t want to; and that is really fun. People don’t really argue with you and make you stay in reality. I like that.”

Anna: “After class, I can’t remember if we were speaking Spanish or English. I am not aware. It’s weird, but cool. I just “know” what we talked about.”

Alex: “When you sit in it, it turns into a magical, wonderful chair.”

Henk: “The spotlight is on you when you sit in it.”

Jack: “Sometimes you get a little nervous, but it’s ok. It’s much easier to be on the chair if the class is behind you (rooting for you).”

Gloria: “You never have to do it if you don’t want to. You always tell us what things mean.”

Cameron: “When you’re on the chair, it makes you feel powerful. I like the acting the best.”

Byron: “You get to be in charge when you’re on the chair. There should only be ONE special chair.”

Nicole: “When you get to contribute to the story personally, with your own ideas, putting yourself in the story, you remember it.

It’s fun to share a bit of yourself (fantasy or real) with other kids in the class when you’re on the chair.”

Griffin: “I enjoy the experience of sitting in the chair and making “new worlds” that the class helps you create.”

Sam D: “I think the chair is important, but I think there’s something else that is more important–the teacher–because you make it all work out; you help us make the story good; you ask the questions; you repeat the things so much that we feel like we know stuff.” (I reminded him that none of this can happen without the students’ cooperation and willingness to play the game. Without them, there IS no story.)

Sam P: “Even though the story stuff we make up is crazy, we can use the things we learn to talk about other regular stuff. (gave examples)”

Sam got extra points for his reflections. (I was sitting in the chair when I wrote the part about the extra points. He, he.) Jody


Una silla en la finca, Havana, Cuba



Differentiation in a Foreign Language Class (How is that for a boring title?)

Differentiation is mostly what my boss talks about (on most days). Of course, differentiation is a very old sheep, wearing a new fancy-colored wool coat now instead of the old wool-colored wool coat she used to wear. What’s really new is that all most teachers at my school are expected to make differentiation a priority in their classrooms. We must show evidence that it is occurring, and that by differentiating, we are meeting more of the needs of more students.

In the little lonely vacuum that is my classroom, I sit by myself and concoct stuff, on a daily basis, hoping always to do a better job of teaching and meeting needs of my 130 students. Here’s some stuff I’ve been thinking about (specifically as it relates to acquiring language through reading the short novels). You will likely notice that the bulleted items are mostly “teacher will do” items NOT “student will do” items. Paradigm shift from most FL classrooms. That, of course, doesn’t mean that students sit around and do nothing. However, they are not responsible for differentiating instruction and assessment. I am.

Am I using a variety of instructional accommodations (hate this word, too), to enhance the acquisition experience for all students? Am I meeting my students “where they are” in their own acquisition journey and providing them with the supports needed to help them extend that acquisition? (I have not used content, process, and product jargon too much here. I feel it obfuscates more than illuminates.)

  • providing visual cues (writing the structures on the board with English translation/drawings/physical objects/pictures)
  • attaching physical gestures to structures/vocabulary
  • provide reading material that is or can be made compelling to the students (great story, personalize, parallel stories, etc.)
  • summarizing text knowledge (in first language and in target language)
  • providing variety repeated readings (reading alone, reading while listening, reading and translating, etc.)
  • targeting vocabulary/structures (high-frequency structures in the book)
  • help students to create an individualized word library (flashcards on their metal rings)
  • paraphrasing students’ responses during discussions
  • pointing out cognates
  • linking the content to their personal experiences-PQA (personalized questions and answers)
  • using tiered questioning/assignments/assessments based upon the students’ level of readiness (yes/no, either/or, who/what/where/when/why, on up the taxonomy)
  • providing choice in assessment (how they show me what they know-answering orally, drawing, writing, acting, traditional comprehension assessments)
  • permitting social negotiation-time to talk to each other/to me about the meaning of what they are reading
  • using facial expression, voice dynamics, hand and body gestures as I read aloud be an effective communicator of language
  • give students time and space to grapple with the reading quietly and on their own (knowing the text is within proper reading range for them) in addition to the teacher reading to them as they follow along in the text

I know there are probably a ton of things I am missing, but I just wanted to get it down on “paper”. I think of it all as sort of a “template filter”. I must sufficiently train myself to do these things automatically as I plan and teach. TPRS and differentiation are really a match made in heaven with a few tweaks. This stuff works for all kids in all subject areas. I am so glad I teach foreign language this way. In addition to becoming Spanish speakers, I really believe my students improve overall academically because of the kind of instruction they receive. It just makes sense.

Just musing. As I was finishing this, I remembered Susie’s administrator’s checklist which probably has all of this and more on it. Well, it was good to just sit down and pound it out of my brain to see what I really think and do.

Please feel free to add, subtract, illuminate me, or not. I teach alone and really like the idea of talking to others in my field (who use tprs) about these things.

Differentiation Rubric for Vocabulary/Structures

Well, here it is. It really made me analyze the kinds of errors my students made and where that puts them developmentally.

Things I noticed (predictable):

  • Vocabulary and Structures in context were EASY for almost all of them. 47/50 students had excellent accuracy.
  • Verb meaning was EASY for almost all of them. 45/50 students had very good accuracy.
  • Consistently recognizing when and who is “doing the action” was challenging for many of them. They need many more reps and probably need to be older (than 11 and 12) do this kind of task well–even though it is meaning based. I am asking them to do an analytic task that is probably beyond many of their abilities in first language. In many ways, this is an awareness exercise for them–to start noticing that it really does matter (while you are reading) that you know whether something already happened, is happening, or is going to happen and who is/was responsible for the action. My lower kids are “chunkers”. They are just looking for general meaning. They are not thinking about the subtleties of language.
  • Some students scored very much to the left side of the graph–and really appreciated the challenge of more advanced level figuring out (taking the advanced-level section on the quiz). Their parents also like to know that “I know” that their child is capable of these kinds of tasks.

Here was the kicker. I didn’t grade the students. I marked the area (1/3) of each box which most closely matched what I gleaned from looking at their errors and their correct answers. Yes, there is an A, B, C or lower above the categories–that was just a ballpark notion for them.

What I told them:

  • They will not receive a grade on structures/vocab until we are at least half-way through Piratas. What I expect now is to see gradual movement to the left over the next few months.
  • I cannot, in good conscience, grade them when we are just beginning
  • They are still responsible for the information on Vocab List #1 for Chapter #1.
  • We will add on new vocabulary/structures as we go through the chapters. Having taught this book twice before, I know that the vocabulary and structures are repeated an enormous number of times throughout the book, making their gradual acquisition much more likely.
  • They will never be responsible for vocabulary and structures until we have finished a chapter and have worked on them sufficiently to make sure most students experience success.
  • We will have many unannounced pop quizzes.

There was lots of head bobbing up and down. A few of my more reflective students commented that they thought this was very fair. We’ll see how it goes.

Today, as we were reading Chapter 2, I noticed much keener attention to words. Connection? We’ll see.

Piratas Quiz #1

I gave a pop quiz. OK, it was really a pop test.

Section I:  Aural Comprehension – 10 T/F questions from Mira’s Treasure Chest

Section II:  Vocab/Structures Section – 25 words or verb structures to translate from Spanish to English – I had the kids turn these in immediately after finishing them. I did a quick correct. If the student missed more than 2 or 3, I didn’t correct any more. If they only missed a few, they qualified for the Advanced Challenge section – 15 more verbs in different tenses (present, imperfect, preterite). I did not score this section in the traditional sense. I made up a rubric that I will share in the next post.

Section III:  Reading Comprehension – 15 multiple choice/fill-in Spanish, covering the main points of the chapter – from Mira’s Treasure Chest

Section IV:  Personalized Reading – I made three charts on big chart paper, one for each main character: Raquel, Henry Morgan, and Antonio Medina. I wrote  six “I” statements on each chart (in bold marker) from each character’s point of view:

Raquel:                                                                                                                 Yo:

  1. Soy rebelde. (I am a rebel/rebellious.)
  2. Mi familia me importa. (My family is important to me.)
  3. Tengo un novio. (I have a boyfriend.)
  4. A mi me gustan las aventuras y la acción. (I like adventure and action.)
  5. Quiero ir a España. (I want to go to Spain.)
  6. Mi papá no me permite ir a España. (My father won’t let me go to Spain.)

Henry Morgan:                                                                                                   Yo:

  1. Soy talentoso/a. (I am talented.)
  2. La gente me tiene terror. (People are terrified of me.)
  3. Soy agresivo/a. (I am agressive.)
  4. Quiero más dinero. (I want more money.)
  5. Soy inglés. (I am English.)
  6. A mi me gusta el mar. (I like the sea. To me the sea is pleasing.)

Antonio Medina                                                                                                Yo:

  1. Soy arrogante. (I am arrogant.)
  2. Pienso que soy más inteligente que otras personas. (I think I am smarter than other people.)
  3. Soy español. (I am Spanish.)
  4. Tengo mucha experiencia en la navegación. (I have lots of navigation experience.)
  5. A mi me importa mucho el dinero. (Money is very important to me.)
  6. Tengo una novia. (I have a girlfriend.)

I pinned the charts to the bulletin board outside my door.  As the students finished Section III and turned it in, the went outside in the hall where they read each item and decided whether or not they shared that characteristic with the character. Then, they wrote their initials next to the statements with which they agreed. They really liked this activity. There was much chatter and laughter during the task. It provided a good physical break during the test. I didn’t tell them, but, of course, this section was not graded. I walked out several times to watch them. It was a kick to see them so personally engaged with the text. I suppose you could say that there was a lot of “negotiation of meaning” among the kids in English. Yes, they read the items in Spanish. Then, there was much discussion about their personal experiences or points of view. During the discussions, much meaning was clarified—but not all.

On the items “Soy español” and “Soy inglés.” we ended up talking the next day about what those really mean (not that you speak the language). Interesting.

Section V:  When they came in from the hallway, they chose a picture of one of the main characters (copied 3×4 approx) and a 9×12 piece of white construction paper. Their job was to make an artistic interpretation with symbols and words/phrases in Spanish to show their knowledge of the character. They took them home to finish, but got started in class. They could use their notes for ideas (reading, once again!)

I will take some pictures of these and post them later. Pretty cool.

I will discuss how I believe this quiz differentiated assessment in some ways. Want to post this, so I will now–even though I’m really not finished.

I Was Bad.

I rarely do games with my kids. Deep inside, I see games as time wasters, almost void of CI,  and a way for me to avoid the effort of real CI teaching. Since the kids don’t have to think very much and the very vocal, high acquirers believe they will win, the student clamor was very loud to “play a game”. I gave in. We played Around the World with the vocabulary and structures on their Capítulo Uno sheet. Many of the kids were in heaven. The quiet slower ones were probably not. Interestingly enough, one of my quietest kids slashed a sword swath of word smartness across the class that left a few people bleeding–figuratively speaking. He was amazing–really knew his stuff. His status in the class rose along with a fragile social self concept, at least for a little while.

I still think games are time wasters, but I got a break from planning and executing fascinating, differentiated lessons for 15 minutes.