Tuesday, August 21, 2012


at Two Writing Teachers!
The school year has started!  Today we had the "first teacher day": quotation marks because I've been in and out of school for weeks, as I know many of you have!

For me, today was an exciting and crazy whirlwind of a day: new building, new position, new age level, new colleagues... My head is spinning.  

A few recurring thoughts from the day:
  • High schools are BIG.  Really big!
  • What was it I wanted to ask?
  • Oh, I met that person earlier... (Insert their name OR what they teach, but never both!
  • Umm, ok... need to find out what that is...
  • Oh dear, I need to add that to my never-ending to-do list!
This was my brain today...
As overwhelming as everything is at this point, I've found some really nice people to latch onto for help.  I discovered I know a few more people in this building than I thought I would.  And everyone keeps telling me how excited they are to have me and how they love my smile, which makes me feel like they're hugging me with words.

I think it will be a good year.  (Everyone keeps telling me this too, which is kind of nice but also somewhat unnerving, as if they're convincing themselves and me.  But that's not necessarily a bad thing; at least they are trying to be positive!)

Friday, August 17, 2012

El acueducto (viaje, p.3)

at Latinaish.com

 El segundo día de nuestro  viaje a España, fuimos a Segovia.  Lo he visitado cuatro veces, y me parece más encantador cada vez.  Y cada vez, el acueducto me impresiona como si lo no hubiera visto nunca.

El acueducto.  De repente el autobús (de la nueva estación RENFE, muy conveniente) giró a la izquierda y alcanzamos a verlo, justo allí, cuesta arriba.  Ancho y alto, con el cielo tan azul a fondo de sus arcos perfectos.  Dos mil años de historia.  Me saltaron lagrimitas porque de veras, Esposo y yo estuvimos aquí.  Juntos.  En medio de mi pueblo favorito de todo España, ¡de todo el mundo! Segovia, al otro lado del mundo que nuestro hogar, pero siempre tan cerquita en mi corazón.
¡la primera foto que saqué... lo siento que no es muy buena, pero estuve tan emocionada!
Casi corrimos a su base.  - ¡Lo podemos tocar! - exclamó Esposo con reverencia.  Me reí de él... pero lo tocamos.  Y me puso piel de gallina.  Dos mil años antes, los romanos tocaron esos bloques mientras levantaban el acueducto.  ¡Y ahora los estuvimos tocando nosotros! 

- Podría gastar todo el día sacando fotos del acueducto desde distintos puntos de vista - le dije después de más de una hora caminando de un lado de acueducto a otro.
Sé que la leyenda cuenta que el diablo se lo levantó, pero ¡me parece más bien un trabajo de ángeles!
Casi no es posible creer que los romanos construyeran algo así hace dos mil años.
¡Nuestro punto de vista desde la mesa a la hora de comer!
¡y cenamos con una vista bonita también!
Me parece más bonito cada vez que lo veo.
No queríamos partirnos nunca de este sitio tan bello... pero tomamos el último tren a Madrid. ¡Hasta luego, acueducto!  (Sí, regresamos un día de estos...)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Still a New Teacher

at Two Writing Teachers!
Earlier this summer, I ran across a book on the floor of the computer room: Letters to a New Teacher.  Someone gave it to me before my first year of teaching, and being a new teacher, I promptly shoved it aside in the midst of my new-teacher-frenzy.  It got thrown in a box when we moved to our current house, and there it sat until taking up residence on the floor as Husband works on unpacking the remaining boxes.  (No, we did NOT just move, and no, I will not admit how long we've been in this house...)

image: Amazon.com
Because it was summer and I "had time", I started flipping through pages, expecting it to be cheesy.  An hour later, I was wishing Jim Burke could be MY mentor!*  Through Jim's deep reflections on his teaching, it was obvious that he truly lives the life of a reader and writer all the time.  (His letters are filled with bits of poems and experiences from his writing life, as well as from his classroom!)  He is the kind of educator I want to be: passionate about student learning, caring about students' lives, and continually reflective.

Joy, the first-year teacher, was asking all of the deepest questions I still wrestle with after five years of teaching!  Not to mention the fact that they're both English teachers, and I really will be a new English teacher this year in my new ELL position.  The authentic, heartfelt dialogue between the two (while the book is made mostly of Jim's letters, Joy's questions and a few of her letters are sprinkled throughout) was inspiring, poignant, and encouraging.  I think Husband had to go pick up dinner as I fell into Joy and Jim's world!  After all, it is my world...

As I read, the book really made me reflect on my own teaching life: how far I've come, yet how I still feel Joy's questions every day; how needy I still am of a mentor like Jim.  Maybe I will find one this year in my new school?

Of course, really I'm lucky because I have LOTS of mentors: all of you, my slicing friends!  Over the past year, you have inspired me, encouraged me, and made me feel as if I'm not alone... sometimes without even knowing it!  You couldn't come into my room, observe my classes or talk to me.  But your words spoke to me.  Your ideas called me to stretch myself. Your comments gave me advice or encouragement or just touched a place in my heart that had been yearning for someone to understand.

And it's largely because of all of you that I've finally committed to an idea that's been rattling around in my head for a while: I joined Twitter!  Right when I joined, I got a big rush of enthusiasm because I could follow so many of my slicing friends!  (In fact, Diana sent me a direct message right away, which I didn't even know how to do but it was really fun!)  Posting my first tweet still brought the same sweaty hands and heavy stomach that I had when I wrote my first blog post... but excitement quickly took over because I already "knew" people.

I've only been on for a few days, but I can already see that it's a lot like the slicing community (except waaaay bigger and, um, scarier!): full of enthusiastic, positive teachers who love to share ideas!  Several people (they must be the Lindas of Twitter!) reached out to me and helped me find hashtags to follow, which really made me feel welcome.  It's still kind of overwhelming (which is why I had put off joining...) but it's also invigorating.  Oddly, it's comforting too, because I know that when I need help, I now have a TON of experienced, knowledgeable mentors to ask!

While I still hope to find a mentor in my new building, it's nice to know that I won't be lost if no "Jim" appears.  After all, I now have two communities full of them!

* Now that I'm on Twitter, I'm following Jim (@englishcomp), which I think is so cool!  Over just the past few days, he's posted several tweets that are as inspiring as the content of his letters in the book!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

artsy info-gaps!

As you know if you read my blog regularly, info-gaps are some my favorite activities because students have a real purpose for communication.  I'd like to share a type of info-gap activity that's often a student favorite as well: drawing info-gaps.  I fell in love with them when I read about an activity called "Dress the Bear" in Curtain & Dahlberg's (2003) fantastic book, Languages and Children, Making the Match. (One of the few grad school textbooks that I seriously enjoyed reading!)

Ever since, I've adapted the activity several times to suit my students and courses.  In my versions for 6th and 7th grade Spanish, the students performed 3 basic steps:
  1. Draw and color something (2 different examples below).  (Be sure to emphasize that their creation is a SECRET or they will get sooooo excited they'll announce what they're drawing and ruin part 3!)
  2. Write sentences to describe what you created. (I found that my beginning learners needed this support to prepare themselves for the communicative part.  Moreover, this was a great chance for me to circulate and help students who were struggling with the grammar constructions.)
  3. Pair up for communication! Take turns reading your sentences to your partner and listening to theirs.  As you listen, draw & color what they describe.
Here are a couple of the handouts that my students used for these activities. 
  • 7th grade clothing & colors unit: "Dress Brutus"! Even students who weren't OSU fans LOVED "giving Brutus a makeover", converting Brutus to their team's colors (ugh...), making a girlfriend for Brutus, etc!  (Sorry, I didn't think to scan any actual student work, but these were usually hilarious!)
They drew a new outfit on the left Brutus, then drew their partner's description on the right-hand one.
  •  6th grade animals & colors unit: "Wacky animals!"  My students LOVED any activity where they got to color animals crazy colors, including this one!
For this one, students designed their animals on the front and then used the blank back of the handout to draw their partner's animals.

I'll admit that I had my students do so many info-gap activities that they'd get tired of some of the simpler types.  (However, they would still rate them as activities they LEARNED the most from in post-unit surveys!)  Nevertheless, the creative element in these artistic ones has always generated high enthusiasm, even though they came later in the trimester.

If you're struggling to get your students excited about speaking in the target language, try an activity like this!  You'll be astonished as the energy level in your room skyrockets (in the TL)!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Blended Learning

Yesterday I presented at the Central Ohio Technology Summit for the second year.  It was an awesome day of learning, as always!  I love sharing with other teachers (and learning from them!), and the enthusiasm at COTS is invigorating every year.  Moreover, the low-key, supportive atmosphere of this conference really builds my confidence that I can share worthwhile ideas effectively!  (Much like the positive community of bloggers I've found here!)

This year I presented about Blended Learning, and while the sessions weren't as packed as my sessions last year (about using SMARTboards in truly interactive ways), I still had quite a few attendees.  More importantly, they gave me very positive feedback about how much they learned, and that's the most important thing!

Here's my presentation, which highlights the digital components I include in my Moodle classes for my students. (Most can be applied to other systems if you don't have Moodle!):

mobius strip photo credit: bored-now via photo pin cc

If you have any questions or want to know more about any of the content from my presentation, just leave a comment!  :-)

Friday, August 10, 2012

la comida española (viaje, p.2)

at Latinaish.com
¡tantos jamones!
La semana pasada, escribí un poquito de nuestro viaje a España.  Durante las semanas que vienen, escribiré sobre otros aspectos del viaje.  Hoy me gustaría enseñarles un elemento distinto del país: la comida.

Si soy honesta, no me encanta la comida tradicional española.  No me gusta el jamón, entonces no aprecio los famosos jamones serranos / ibéricos. ¡Y hay jamones de todos lados en España!  No quiero que los mariscos tengan sus ojos, pieles, escalas, alas, piernas, y huesos... como si todavía estuvieran vivos en mi plato. 
¿Os apetecen?

No me encanta el sabor fuerte de la paella ni las carnes misteriosas mezcladas en ella.  Y después de pocos días, estoy harta del uso entusiasto del aceite de oliva. 

¡tanto aceite de oliva en el supermercado!
 Pero cada viaje, pruebo las comidas tradicionales... y a veces me sorprenden.  He comido un sándwich de calamares riquísimo en Madrid, aunque no como calamares nunca en los EEUU.  Cada viaje, como un bocadillo de jamón, aunque no sea mi comida favorita.

Además, sí hay algunas comidas españolas que me encantan.  Hasta echo de menos estas comidas cuando he estado en los EEUU por mucho tiempo sin ellas.  Sueño con oler, sentir, y saborearlas.  Aquí están mis favoritas, al estilo "Top Ten":

8. la sangría: Pues, usualmente no me gusta el alcohol, pero he probado unas sangrías en España que puedo tolerar, y hasta disfrutar.  Bebimos una sangría bien rica en Botín, el restaurante más antiguo del mundo.

 7. el pollo asado: ¡Me encanta el pollo!  y los asados de Castilla-León son deliciosos.
¡Comí un pollo asado riquísimo en Botín!

un Doner Kebap en Segovia
6. los "Doner Kebap" (Pues, no son españoles, ¡pero sí hay muchos en España!)  Son muy parecidos a los "gyros" griegos, pero el pan es un poco distinto. Para mi, los "Doner Kebap" son los burritos Chipotle de Europa.  Son baratos, grandes, y muy sabrosos.  ¿Acaso los tendremos aquí en EEUU un día de estos?

una ración de patatas gratis en Toledo
5. las tapas: Mis tapas favoritas son la tortilla española y el queso manchego, pero un costumbre encantador de España es el de traer una ración de tapas gratis con la cena o una tapa gratis con la bebida.  Ha desaparecido en las ciudades grandes como Madrid, pero todavía permanece en muchos restaurantes de los pueblos más pequeños y en ciertas regiones.  ¡Que sorpresa más agradable cuando, de repente, aparece el camarero con algo apetecible para picar mientras esperamos la comida!
queso manchego y jamón serrano o ibérico en Madrid
4. los pimientos rellenos: Ojalá que se sirvieran los pimientos rellenos en toda España, en vez de usualmente en el sur.  ¡Pediría unos pimientos rellenos con cada cena si fueran disponibles!
unos pimientos rellenos deliciosos en Toledo
3. los helados de los puestos heladeros: Cuando vivía en Madrid, la señal clara del verano fue la llegada de los puestos heladeros.  Aunque los Magnum sí son disponibles en los EEUU por fin, hay muchos helados más que también están riquísimos, y echo de menos los puestitos con colores brillantes.
¡los puestos de Frigo son mis favoritos!
2. los churros con chocolate: mmmmmmmm.  ¡el postre (y merienda, y desayuno...) más rico de todo el mundo!  Imaginad: ¡una taza del chocolate más rico, espeso, y sabroso que jámas habéis probado... y con unas largas ramas de masa para poder mojarlas en el chocolate!  (Bueno, ahora tengo ganas de salivar...)
churros con chocolate en la churrería San Gines... ¡fuimos cuatro veces!
¡mi favorita!
 1. Fanta Naranja: Siempre cuando estoy en España, pido Fanta Naranja para beber en cada restaurante.  No es la Fanta Naranja de los EEUU, que es sencillamente un refresco de sabor naranja, como Orange Crush.  ¡La Fanta Naranja de España es distinta!  En España, tiene 8% jugo de naranja y entonces es más natural y cremosa.  Y casi siempre se sirve con un pedazo de naranja en el vaso... ¡encantadora!  Además, este viaje un camarero nos enseñó que también hay Fanta Naranja Sin Gas, que es muy sabroso también.

¿Tenéis comidas favoritas de vuestros viajes?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Magical summer moments

at Two Writing Teachers!
Hello slicing friends!  I've missed you, although I had a wonderful break!  My brain is very tired from our district's voluntary summer PD today, so I thought I'd share a few highlights of the time I spent away from you the past month:
  • Husband and I traveled to Spain, a trip I planned as a fifth-anniversary present for us.  It was AWESOME and I'll be sharing more about it for the next few Fridays for Spanish Fridays. While there, I journaled each day in my Spanish travel journal. (the same one I had with me when I lived there!)  I also got in some just-for-fun reading in the planes, trains, and parks!  Best of all, I lived with joy the whole time.
  • A few days after we got back, my mom and I went out to Arizona to visit relatives for a few days.  My oldest cousin's family is shipping out to Turkey for two years (her husband is a JAG) and it was really special to spend some time with them before they left.
  • Husband and I celebrated our anniversary this past Saturday.  The trip was my present to him, but he got me a present that was just as thoughtful and personal: a spiral notebook of the emails we wrote back and forth to each other while I was studying abroad in Spain.  We were dating at the time, and he wrote me an email every day with a different snippet of a love song in the subject line.  For the present, he compiled and formatted them all (to and from) into this notebook:
a powerful reminder of how writing connected us from faraway
  • We performed with the Alumni Band at the State Fair and then got to become little kids again.  (Doesn't the fair make everyone into a kid?)  We petted all the animals, dangled our feet on the skyride, and ate waaaaaay too much junk food.  (Including fried Buckeyes -- yummy!)
  • I've been loving following the incredible moments of triumph, courage, and community in the Olympics.  For me, these 2012 Olympics are even more special because I met my New Zealand pen pal in the 1992 Olympic pen pal program... and we are still writing (and now emailing and Facebooking) 20 years later!  (I am planning a slice or two on this special connection soon!)
I know a lot of you took breaks as well, so I hope you had as many adventures, special moments, and relaxing times as I did! 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Doce días de encanto (p.1)

at Latinaish.com
Durante el mes de julio, fui a España con mi esposo por dos semanas.  Yo no había   visitado este país tan querido desde 2005, cuando estudiaba allí por un semestre.  Mi esposo no había estado fuera de los Estados Unidos nunca.  ¡Claro que tuvimos un viaje divertido y lleno de aventuras, que nos ha dejado con muchísimos recuerdos lindos!

Por unas semanas, quiero utilizar los "Spanish Fridays" para compartir algunos de estos recuerdos.  Si no hais estado en España (¡mirad, que empecé de utilizar el "vosotros" de nuevo!), es un país que vale la pena visitar muchas veces.  ¡Qué lo disfrutéis!

Nos quedamos en Madrid por 12 días, con viajes por tren a otros pueblos varios días.  (Vivía en Madrid cuando era estudiante y me encanta esta ciudad y todo el centro de España.)  Un día de estos, viajaremos más allá, al sur (también me encanta Sevilla) y al norte, pero ¡hay tantas cosas interesantes allí mismo en el centro!

Bueno, pues... me encanta Madrid porque:

¡Hay una historia riquísima...
La Plaza Mayor, mi sitio favorito
... mezclada con la modernidad.
las torres cerca de Chamartín, vistas desde nuestra habitación
Hay arte y arquitectura impresionante ...
El Palacio Real, visto desde el Templo de Debod
... y cultura viva.
fuimos a un tablao flamenco de Cardamomo: ¡increíble!
Para moverse, ¡es fácil utilizar el transporte público!  Metro, autobús, Cercanías... ¡tan cómodo!
tren del metro moderno, de la línea 10
Pero lo que me encanta más de todo es el estilo de vida.
remando en el Retiro... ¡que descanso!
¡Mi Madrid: emocionante y tranquila, pero siempre encantadora!