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Developing oral fluency through songs in Spanish

One day a friend of mine told me: "Hey, Antonio! You are always happy, always humming or singing a song with a smile on your face. I want to thank you because your happiness is contagious"
Sometime later I remembered this conversation when I was planning on starting to incorporate songs in my classes and gave me the last push I needed to make it happen (thanks Jose)
This is one really important point in incorporating songs in our classes. They are contagious, they just stick in our minds for days and make us sign or hum them without even noticing it.
A mother told me one day, "I knew my kid was learning Spanish because he was humming My way for weeks when he got home"
I was shocked! Not just me, but more people experience this feeling with music! 
Definitely, this is an insuperable tool for learning languages and in addition to that it gives us more things like being happy (not to be discarded).
What else can we learn from a song? Oh, yes! Culture!
This particular song "Se me olvidó que te olvidé" was written originally by a Mexican popular singer and songwriter Lolita de la Colina which bring up to the table Spanish speaking countries, their culture, their literature, their music, folklore...
but also, this jazz-flamenco version by Bebo & Cigala gives us the opportunity to talk about cultural contacts and exchanges through music and the consequences in real-life. 
Following the inter-disciplinary approach possibilities are endless.

"Interdisciplinary knowledge: don't blame Nature on our Universities and schools syllabus." 

Jorge Wagensberg.
With this particular song, we worked also vocabulary, reflective verbs and time basically through a worksheet in the back of the lyrics.

Remember! If you don't play the guitar you can always play the song in your computer, CD-player or any type of player you use!

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Learning Spanish through music: using Youtube

Music is a powerful tool of expression. Language is too. 
We can get to know more about a culture through their music, rhythm...
We can use music to improve on our listening skills, gain vocabulary... 
Many interesting angles can be discussed about the benefits of using music to learn a language, activities...
To start the ball rolling you can do a simple activity: just listen to the music, enjoy the melodies, without doing anything else. Yes, nothing else needs to be done in this first step. Do not stress out, no rush, just listen the music through the playlist.
If you want to go a bit further you can listen songs and read the subtitles.
You can also write down the title and the author's song and do research on them. Then, do a mini-presentation to your class or friends.

1. Listen to the song
2. Read the subtitles while listening to the song
3. Do research on the song, author and music style.
4. Compare styles, music and author's from your country with these ones. You can use the Venn Diagram for this.
5. Present to your class/friends your findings.

Remember: Music positively affects language accent, memory and grammar as well as mood, enjoyment and motivation.
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Learn Spanish online: Hola mundo, Hello World

Esta página está diseñada para practicar las cuatro destrezas de la lengua; hablar, escuchar, leer y escribir. Al maestro de escuela que enseña español como segunda lengua le encantará esta página. La organización de esta página incluye lecciones que se enseñan en las clases de español como segunda lengua. 
Lecciones desde el comienzo con el alfabeto y sus sonidos hasta los países. Tiene una gran recopilación de vocabulario según cada lección y cada palabra tiene su dibujo correspondiente para los que aprenden visualmente. También tiene diálogos, juegos, canciones, tarjetas de vocabulario. Tiene actividades para conjugar los verbos con sus imágenes. 
Podrás encontrar una amplia variedad de actividades que hacen que los estudiantes disfruten y a la misma vez aprendan sin sentirse presionados aprendiendo una segunda lengua a través de un método más tradicional centrado en la grámatica. Los estudiantes pueden grabar sus voces para oír su pronunciación y poder obtener el sonido más cercano que puedan producir. El programa de Hola-mundo.com-Hello-world.com, tiene niveles en sus materiales, inicial, intermedio y avanzado. Hay una subscripción para poder utilizar toda la base de datos, pero hay suficientes lecciones y actividades que se pueden usar gratis. Está página es un sistema que es fácil de usar y muy efectivo. 
La página está enfocada principalmente a la escuela primara, pero es muy utilizable para los niveles iniciales en la secundaria también.

Fuente: http://www.hello-world.com/Spanish/lesson.php
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Tips for language acquisition: Do it in Spanish!

Usually when you travel a bit like we do throughout the world you meet a lot of people speaking several languages and almost a hundred percent of the times, among the most fluent speakers you find you'll find people doing things in the language they are studying or they want to speak.
This is a real-life example that happens to me frequently when we travel, this one happened in Morocco. I don't speak Arabic and neither do anyone in my family. So, we are in Morocco and we meet a guy that start speaking to us in Spanish (really fluently) 
We always take our time with these people because of our lack of Arabic language knowledge and our desire to get to know people from the country and our uncountable doubts & questions. In the end, we always get to ask to the person how he/she speaks such a good Spanish. And almost every time their answer is the same one: I learnt it watching the Spanish channel on TV.
These examples always made me wonder about the reality of these methods, but empirically talking it's obvious. We have to admit that works. 
So far I haven't done any research on this field. ButI can tell you than my experience is telling me that the continuous exposure you can get through these strategies is more than enough to recommend it. 
Today is really easy to consume Media in the target language and get an on-going exposure throughout your day. Typical examples: read/listen the news through national channels/newspapers of those countries, listen music in the target language...examples are endless!
But my best adivce is to be open-minded, if you extrapolate this concept you can find interesting benefits. Don't just think in Media, anything you like, try to do it in Spanish, you'll see the difference.

Keep it simple: if you like it, do it in Spanish!

This is a great article in The New York Times about language acquisition & inmersion/exposure if you want to read more about this topic. 

Also, inmersion learners benefit cognitively, exhibiting greater non-verbal problem-solving abilities and more flexible thinking (Met, 1998)

  • Met, M. (Ed.). (1998). Critical issues in early second language learning. New York: Scott Foresman—Addison Wesley.
  • Center for Applied Linguistics

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Make sure they get enough sleep

This is a constant advice from teachers/schools to parents and if you are not getting this from your school you should be ;) 
We need to consider education from a wider angle and from a more cross-curricular perspective.
Also, is worth it to say that to get enough sleep for a person is important, and particularly for students and also, not just before testing but always.

It is proven that sleep increases our capacity for remembering things. There is an interesting case when Ms. Diekelmann conducted an experiment about the relation between memory and odors. The conclusion was that people remember a 15% more when they get exposed to odors while sleeping than when they are awake. [Diekelmann].
Also Ms. Gómez says Sleep is essential for extending learning to new examples [Gómez]
It also works to avoid the too many times situation lived by almost everyone: you are in the middle of testing and, suddenly and no clue why, you just go in blank. No matter how hard you try to remember something you just knew better a minute or a day ago. We can find some scientific information to explain the opposite case in Ms. Diekelmann study: "Even when we have to do a lot of different things at the same time, sleep ensures that our intentions come to mind spontaneously once we encounter the appropriate situation to execute the intention" [ScienceDaily]

To sum up and keep the idea simple: make sure your kids get enough sleep and they don't stay awake late playing video games or even studying.
There is a lot of research out there proving that sleep is crucial for memory (and more things).

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.”  Plutarch

Further reading:

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Learn Spanish online: Primera Escuela

La página está llena de actividades infantiles y educación preescolar. Las actividades están elaboradas para niños de entre cinco y ocho años, pero pueden adaptarse a un grado de mayor complejidad. 
Podemos encontrar desde el alfabeto en inglés y en español, hasta manualidades, rompecabezas, cuentos y fábulas, música y rimas. Tiene una amplia selección de temas educativos, incluyendo actividades para días de fiesta, animales y una gran variedad de dibujos para colorear o utilizar en diferentes proyectos. Muchos de los ejercicios son imprimibles, los ejercicios para caligrafía funcionan muy bien para el trazo de letras y la adquisición de vocabulario.
La sección de música me parece especialmente interesante para aplicarla a la enseñanza de lenguas con los niveles iniciales.

Visita su página web en www.primeraescuela.com

Muchas veces es más interesante de lo que parece adaptar actividades de primaria para secundaria. Lo descubrí cuándo uno de mis alumnos me dijo que la secundaria era muy aburrida comparada con la primaria. ¡Algo de razón tenía!

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Sound like a native

Yes, it's have been proven that interaction is essential for learning foreign languages. 
Yes, if your teacher is a native speaker can be your best option for interacting.
But, what happens when your teacher is not there or is not a native speaker?
You might want to use other tools like this one below to keep improving on your pronunciation (also calls phonetics for some people)

One of the main points of this site is that you have available a native speaker 24 hours a day just for you and it also comes with pictures and explanations (in Spanish) to help you out with tongue's position.

It can look too technical but it really comes in handy to grasp difficult sounds.

One of the best things is that this great tool is at no charge, thanks to Iowa University.

Just as an informal practice or for a formative activity you can try something like this:
- choose a sound you are having difficulties with [ll, y, ñ...]
- practice that sound for an evening using this tool, choose 4 words to practice
- present 4 words containing that sound to your classmates and then to your teacher (ask him/her for feedback)

Remember, practice makes perfect!

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Learning Spanish through music

One day I was talking with a friend and I mentioned I play the guitar. She saw it, she made the connection: 
- why don't you play the guitar in your classes? your students will love it. 
- Ummm... I've never thought about it.
One month later I was playing the guitar, my students were singing in Spanish and the result was amazingly unexpected for me. They got it fast. Way faster than me (it usually happens ;)
Their intonation, pronunciation and fluency were improved magically and we were having fun during classes. Whoa! I had to start doing some research on it right away! 

Here they are some of my findings:
It's so true that language acquisition depends on interaction [more when we are not in an immersion context]. And in my case the main source of interaction my students have available is their teacher. Also, even if we haven't noticed, there is a melody in our speech when we are teaching. We use so many different features like repetition, expansions, preference for simplified vocabulary, change in voice volume and modification of intonational contours.  These melodies become a scaffold for language learning. 
Exaggerated melodic contours found in adult-directed-to-infant-speech are considered to be parental intuitive behavior to guide their babies musical beginnings [Papousek 1996], but they are also seen as a species-specific learning guidance towards language [Feu and Piñero 1996, Wemke and Mende 2009]. 
An example of this is in the movie My Fair Lady when Professor Higgins distorts the rhythmic articulation of the following utterance: "The rain in Spain falls mainly in the plain", and it is just at this precise moment when his student, Eliza Doolittle, starts reproducing language properly.

The same idea applies for our students singing and listening songs in Spanish acquiring authentic phonics through real native speakers.

On top of that I would add the contribution we are making to our students happiness and motivation.

But also remember that carrots & sticks are so last century. Let your students participate in class choices. You'll see the difference!

Further reading:
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Brief Unit Planner: a visual approach to curriculum mapping

This is one of my Units for my Spanish B SL Course. I am a visual learner that's why I try my best to put all my documents in a way I can see everything at a glance.
As plain as I can. The simple, the better. This ideas can help us out a lot.
One of the main objectives is to have a full unit in just one page. 
If you do Curriculum mapping [and if you don't you should consider it, be a thinker]it's really convenient to synthesize your planning and your ideas to be able to analyze all important information without extra effort. Time is money ;)
One of the best things is to compare your reflections from one year to another. You'll be able to grasp if your classes are evolving or not, the progress you are making as a professional and the direction your teaching is taking.

Remember: to stay positive will help you perform better (around 40% better than average)

This template is based on some similar ones found on Mr. Pak Liam's blog. Take a minute to visit his blog, it's amazing how many things this gentleman get accomplished within just a school year!
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Ideas gráficas: Resolver problemas

La resolución de problemas es un pilar en la educación actual. Preparar a nuestros alumnos para que sean capaces de resolver los problemas que se les plantearán en el futuro es crucial. Dotarlos de las herramientas necesarias para enfrentarse a la incertidumbre aplicando el pensamiento crítico. 

Podemos invitar a nuestros estudiantes a reflexionar sobre imágenes y/o citas inspiradoras como ésta. Además, podemos utilizar esta actividad para desarrollar habilidades descriptivas. Algunas estructuras que pueden usar para describir la imagen son:

- En esta imagen podemos ver...
- En la foto / fotografía se aprecia...
- La ilustración nos muestra...
- En la imagen se puede ver...
- Se trata de una imagen...

Si quieres ver más posters con frases para pensar pincha aquí.

Recuerda: normalmente las personas retienen un 75% de lo que aprenden de manera visual.

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Taking ownership of your learning: "Glosario" a GLAD strategy

Independence and self-knowledge are two important concepts nowadays. With this strategy we help our students to internalize these two key concepts. 
Using buzz words, we are working with Meta-cognition, but what does it really mean? To make it more understandable; we can define it as "thinking about thinking", which helps our students to take ownership of their learning process.

This activity is originally called "Cognitive Content Dictionary" and it's a part of GLAD (I personally designate it as "Glosario" because I teach Spanish and it's the more natural term I found) and contributes to :

- involve our students in Meta-cognition
- build vocabulary
- comprehend more the language

  1. Teacher selects a word or words from unit vocabulary.
  2. Students predict meaning of selected word/words.
  3. Teacher provide final meaning.
  4. Students write and sketch something that will help them remember the meaning.
  5. Students use the word in a sentence.
  6. This activity can be done with a whole class, in teams and individually.
A possible Follow-up: 

Signal word
  1. One essential vocabulary word is selected each day as the signal word.
  2. A synonym or short definition phrase is used each time the word is said.
  3. A signal (a physical movement) is given that will help the students remember the meaning of the word.
  4. Each time the class changes activities the signal word, synonym and gesture are used to signal the end of one activity and the beginning of another.

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Los 10 mandamientos según Bertrand Russell

Seguro qué no estoy totalmente en lo cierto, por esa razón publico este artículo invitando al personal a reflexionar sobre estos 10 puntos que propuso Russell.

Los 10 mandamientos en educación según Bertrand Russell:

1. No te sientas absolutamente seguro de nada.
2. No pienses que vale la pena actuar ocultando pruebas, pues con toda seguridad éstas saldrán a la luz.

3. Nunca te desanimes pensando que no vas a tener éxito. Nunca intentes oponerte al raciocinio, porque seguramente lo conseguirás.

4. Cuando te encuentres con alguna oposición, incluso si viene de tu esposo o de tus hijos, esfuérzate por vencerla con argumentos y no con autoridad, pues la victoria que depende de la autoridad es irreal e ilusoria. 

5. No tengas respeto por la autoridad de otros, pues siempre se encuentran autoridades enfrentadas.

6. No uses la fuerza para reprimir opiniones que consideres perniciosas, pues si lo haces las opiniones te reprimirán a ti.

7. No temas ser excéntrico en tus opiniones, pues todas las opiniones aceptadas ahora alguna vez fueron excéntricas.

8. Disfruta más con la discrepancia inteligente que con la aceptación pasiva, pues si valoras la inteligencia como se debe, lo primero implica una más profunda aceptación que lo segundo.

9. Sé escrupuloso con la verdad, incluso si la verdad es incómoda, pues es más incómoda cuando tratas de ocultarla.

10. No sientas envidia de la felicidad de aquellos que viven en el paraíso de los necios, pues sólo un necio pensará que eso es la felicidad.

Utiliza esta lista como punto de referencia para una posterior reflexión. Busca los puntos fuertes y débiles e intenta encontrar ejemplos concretos en tu vida real que te ayuden a interiorizar estos conceptos.
¿Quieres saber más? Consulta la biografía de Bertrand Rusell en Wikipedia en español y en inglés.


El Malpensante
Recuerdos de Pandora
Póster de Bertrand Russell

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QuizUp: Learning while having fun

One of my very best students (Thanks Valentina;) told me a few days ago that there is available a great new App for learning Spanish [is not new, they just included Spanish] QuizUp.

It's a Trivia game but with some interesting features:

1. If you are fluent in English or a native speaker and want to learn some Spanish playing Trivia is a perfect fit.
2. If nor English neither Spanish are your native languages but you are learning them this App is great because it provides interesting categories like grammar, finish the sayings, Thesaurus... all in English and up to 457 topics.
3. You can sign up or connect QuizUp to your facebook and play with your friends, challenge them or just take a sneak peek to their rankings...
4. Using this App for learning some Spanish you might get impress by the amount and the variety of people speaking or learning Spanish in the world. [just playing with random players in 5 minutes I got people from Turkey, US, Rumania and Germany]
5. If you don't want to be find out by your friends you can also use it on Privacy Mode [Go to settings]

If you want to learn some Spanish through QuizUp, first select Educational and then Spanish, as simple as that!

Click here to get it from Google Play

Remember this: "If you like something it becomes easier"
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Describing people creatively in Spanish: Este soy yo

This is another activity to keep building vocabulary and fluency on our students with descriptions (A or Emergent Communicators). This image was built with tagul  which is an incredible tool to develop their creativity at the same time they learn some Spanish. 
How do we do this?
1.- Write down a 20 words list that describes you (in Spanish...) [I scaffold my students with Power Points, class practice, modeling keywords, collaborative work...]
2.- Your teacher checks the list and gives you feedback
3.- You make changes (if needed)
4.- Log in (or sign up) to your Tagul
5.- Copy and paste your list
6.- Customize the shape
7.- Do not forget to include your name (Red color + big size)
8.- Print it and use it ;)

The follow-ups for this activity are infinite but one that I really do love is to start the class asking random students [I pull sticks with their names] ¿Cómo eres? ¿Cómo te sientes? It is a great activity to review Ser & Estar and self-description at the same time.

Challenge yourself a bit taking this little quiz about describing people:

Check your answers here ;)

Resources for learning descriptions in Spanish:

As a facilitator don't forget the importance of revisiting your strategies. It is also a great tool to give your students feedback in real time.





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