Monday, December 28, 2015

What Secondary Teachers Learned in 2015

Happy (almost) New Year! I'm participating in a Linky with secondary teachers to share lessons learned in 2015 and resolutions for 2016! I'm sharing two fresh ideas I tried out in my classroom in 2015 and a resolution I have for 2016.  Then check out the links at the bottom of this post for other ideas from a variety of secondary teachers!

What the Best.png

1.  Something New I Tried in 2015

I'm not in the classroom anymore, but last school year I assigned all homework online. I had previously done a mix of online and paper homework, but last year I went to 100% online. The school I was at used Edline, which is an online program that allowed me to create assignments online for students to access on a given date. There were some pros and cons to this new system:

Pros:


  • When students submitted their homework, the assignment was automatically graded and saved in my online grade book, saving me hours of paperwork. I never had to grade homework!
  • Students got instant feedback and saw their grade as soon as they pressed "submit".

Cons:


  • It's a hassle to assign written (typed) assignments. If I wrote that the correct answer was “Me lo da” and a student typed in “Me lo da.”, it was marked wrong because of the period. Or if a student misspelled “ciencias” as “ciensias”, it was marked wrong. The computer program doesn’t give half credit. I would have to go back through after everyone submitted the homework to give points to students who included punctuation or couldn’t type accents (áéíóúñ) on their computer, and this became time-consuming. 
  • I started making multiple-choice assignments to deal with the hassle of typed assignments, but this isn't always the best format for a homework assignment. 
  • There is no way to know if a student's older cousin in college did the homework for them. There isn't any handwriting you can check or any other way to check for cheating.
  • Every single student has to have online access. The school I was at had a library open before, during, and after school, so “my computer broke” wasn’t a valid excuse not to have the homework done. 
Overall, I would recommend trying out assigning homework online if your school has a program that allows for it, and see how it works for you and your classroom.

2.  New (to me) Classroom Technology

The dashboard in Evernote
Evernote! Evernote is a great app for taking notes that you can download to your phone, tablet, or computer. And it's FREE. Students can type text to take notes, take pictures, label those pictures so they are easily searchable to find later, draw, record audio, make lists, set a reminder, and students can create separate notebooks so that their Spanish and chemistry notes don't get mixed up. They can also share their notes with each other, so students that are absent can get the notes from a friend instantly. Evernote has you create an account (again, for free), which means a student can take notes on his tablet in class and then access those notes from his phone or computer later. If you circle or underline or star something on the board that is super duper important, students can do the same thing in their notes in Evernote by drawing on the picture they take or in the notes they type. The labeling function is especially awesome because they can take a picture of a slide I made with all the irregular preterite verb endings, label it "irregular preterite verb endings" and then when they search for it later, the picture they are looking for comes right up. It's far more efficient than simply snapping a picture with the camera on their phone and then swiping through all their selfies to find the picture they are looking for when they need their notes. Trust me, they have far too many selfies to swipe through. Evernote basically does everything you can do on paper - all digitally.

I ran through a short tutorial with my students and showed them all the features it has to encourage them to download it. One note of caution for making a tutorial for students: apps are laid out differently on iPhones than they are on Androids than they are on Microsoft phones. Beware of this. You can take all the screenshots you want and put together the most amazing tutorial, but only the students with all the same type of phone as you will be able to follow your tutorial. Find a friend with the other phone type and have them download the app and then take the same screenshots so all your students can follow along.

Can I get up on my Technology-Is-Awesome-And-Should-Be-Embraced Soapbox for a second? Okay, thanks. I feel that it is important to teach our students how to take good notes and acquire good study skills with technology. Because honestly, how many college students in 5 years are going to be taking notes with a pen and paper? I just finished my Masters degree in May of 2015 and I took about 5 pages of notes in one notebook over the course of 3 years and I have countless Word docs named by class and date. If I had to buy a book then I did, but I have hundreds of articles as PDFs on my computer. Students of this generation need to learn how technology can work for them and how to be good students with the newest apps because that's really what applies to their lives. They are going to be sitting in their college classes taking notes on their phones, tablets, and laptops. This should be embraced.  ::Steps down from soapbox::

3.  Goal for 2016

When Common Core first came onto the scene I had so many professional development meetings about how it was going to be implemented in English classes, in Math classes, in elementary schools, in high schools... I taught Spanish. I wanted to stand up and yell "YOU CAN'T MAKE ME LEARN THIS!" Instead, I sat quietly and ignored everything they ever tried to teach me in those meetings because absolutely none of that nonsense applied to me. And now I have a job writing curriculum that has to be aligned to Common Core. I just know it's karma laughing at me. This is what I get for ignoring all those meetings. My New Year's Resolution for 2016 is to learn everything there is to know about Common Core as it relates to ELA. I'd love to hear about any materials you have or know of to help align curriculum to Common Core ELA and literacy standards! Hahaha... this is 90% a New Year's Resolution and 10% a plea for help.

Be sure to check out the great ideas from these other teachers!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Holidays Ideas in the Spanish Classroom

'Twas the week before Winter Break, when all through the schools
Every student was stirring, and breaking all the rules...

That's how that poem goes, right?! The countdown to Winter Break has begun!

Here are some ideas to keep your Spanish classes of all levels continuing to learn new Spanish vocabulary, and allow them some creativity in the days leading up to Winter Break.

Scavenger Hunt

I love this activity. It's easy to prep and students get to get up out of their seats, so it's engaging and a great review activity. The teacher has to hang up the half-sheets around the room in a random order. Students walk around the room and look at the clipart clue on any half-sheet they want to start with, find the vocabulary word hanging around the room, write it down on their handout, walk over to the vocabulary word and look at the next clipart clue, and eventually the last one will lead back to the first. Students practice 34 Christmas, Hanukkah, and winter-themed Spanish vocabulary words.

Three Kings Day {El Día de los Reyes} Webquest

This activity is public school-safe! I try to avoid anything that can be seen as too religious in public schools. It can be like poking a sleeping bear. It seems totally fine, right until the bear wakes up and you find yourself in a meeting with the principal and a gang of angry parents. Has this happened to anyone else?

This webquest gives students three websites to read about how Christmas and Dia de los Reyes are celebrated in Puerto Rico. So while, yes, the holidays do have an (obvious) religious background, these are not emphasized. It focuses more on how the holidays are celebrated, rather than why.

Verb Conjugations Coloring Activity

I also really love coloring activities. I've blogged about how awesome they are HERE. There is a verb in each part of the elf and students have to color based on which subject pronoun the verb matches. Students can do this with present tense, future tense, or preterite tense verbs, so they get to practice with whichever tense they are familiar with. And coloring activities are so calming - every teacher's best friend!

Bingo {Lotería}, Memory, and I Have Who Has

All three games use the same 34 Christmas, Hanukkah, and winter-themed vocabulary words from the Scavenger Hunt activity. The Bingo game has 35 different bingo cards, so students don't all get bingo at the same time.  These games will all keep students engaged and learning new Spanish vocabulary in those last few (crazy) days leading up to Winter Break.

All of these activities are available individually in my store, or bundled together HERE.

I hope you find these activity ideas to be helpful!  What else do you like to do in your Spanish classes right before Winter Break?

Friday, December 4, 2015

Listening Activities for Lower Level Spanish Classes

I like to include listening activities in my Spanish classes as much as I can. It can be seriously challenging to find good listening activities for lower level students, though. Textbooks only have so many (good) listening comprehension activities, and it can be tricky to find recordings of Spanish speakers who speak SLOWLY and CLEARLY. Here are two great websites that I've found and used in my Spanish 1 and 2 classes:

1.  Quia
There are listening activities for Level 1 HERE and for Level 2 HERE. Click "Start now>>" and you will see 10 multiple choice listening activities. Each time you reload the page, it will give you new activities. There are probably 30 listening activities that Quia randomly picks and loads on the webpage. I like to go through and listen to all the activities and record the ones I want to use in class. I used Audacity to record them, which is a free program you can download on your Mac or PC. It's super easy to use, and then you can save the recordings to your computer and use them year after year. You can use the multiple choice questions and answers Quia provides for each listening, or you can create your own!

2.  123TeachMe
There are listening activities for Novice Low HERE. There are 39 "groups", and each has two audio recordings.  Again, I just go through and listen to a bunch of them and record the ones I want to use in class.  These recordings show up in the same order every time you load the page though, so you can pull up the website in class and play the recording(s) you want.  The website includes a question for each recording, so you can use that one or create your own!

I hope these ideas have helped you include more listening activities with native speakers in your lower level classes!  Where else do you get good listening activities?  I'd love to hear other suggestions!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Cyber Smile Tpt Sale!

Smile!  There is a Cyber Smile Sale on TeachersPayTeachers from Monday, November 30th through Tuesday, December 1st!  I don't even want to tell you how much clipart is on my Wishlist, but I'm seriously excited for this sale!


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Thanksgiving Activities in the Spanish Classroom

Thanksgiving isn't exactly a Hispanic Holiday, but it can be tricky to figure out what to do that Wednesday (or sometimes Tuesday also) before Thanksgiving. Many students will be out of town, so you don't want to teach something new. But every student you wish was going to be out of town will absolutely be there. And they will be extra excited for a 4-day weekend and family time and the holidays and pumpkin pie and oh lord who knows what else.

I use that Wednesday before Thanksgiving to teach Thanksgiving-related vocabulary. It's easy so no one has to think too hard, students who are absent don't miss anything, and it keeps students in an academic (not chaotic) mindset. Every year students seem to think they're going to get "free time" for the entire class period. Hahahahaha... NEVER GONNA HAPPEN, KIDS! Student free time = crazy teacher. No thanks.

What I do the day before a break depends on the group of students. Some groups of students need to walk in and see the same routines in place as any other day. I hand out a Do Now (Bell Ringer, drill, etc) and we go over it and I teach a lesson on powerpoint with Thanksgiving-related vocabulary and then we do a variety of activities with that vocabulary.  Some written, some games, some in groups, some independent.

Other groups of students can handle a break from the routine and quietly find their seats without a Do Now projected to the screen and we can go through the powerpoint and learn new Spanish words and then just play games with them the rest of the class period.
"I Have Who Has" (or "Yo Tengo Quien Tiene") can be a fun whole-class activity to review vocabulary.  Each student gets a card that says "Yo tengo" and a picture of a Thanksgiving-related vocabulary item.  Then under that it says "¿Quién tiene" and names another vocabulary word. Any student can start by reading their question, then the student who has that vocabulary word responds and reads their question, and the game is over when it loops back to the first student.
I love scavenger hunts because students get up out of their seats and walk all around the room. They see a picture for the vocabulary word (or a description in Spanish for upper-level classes) and they have to write the vocabulary word, find it around the room, walk over to it, see or read the next clue, and continue until the last clue leads back to the first vocabulary word. I have blogged about how to set up a scavenger hunt activity HERE.
Memory is also a great partner game because students will play quietly (doesn't every teacher enjoy some peace and quiet?) while also reviewing vocabulary. And they already know the rules, so it's super easy to set up and get everyone started.

And, one of my all-time favorite types of activities, a good coloring activity also maintains a low level of murmur in the classroom while students reinforce Spanish concepts. I cannot tell you how much I love coloring activities. I have blogged about incorporating coloring into the high school classroom HERE. Instead of Thanksgiving-related vocabulary, I made turkeys with conjugated verbs in them and students have to color each part of the turkey based on the subject pronoun of the verb. I have them in the present, preterite, and future tenses so students of all levels can color in turkeys. Then you can bet I staple them up on a bulletin board to display all the many pretty turkeys. Even high school students want to see their pretty turkeys displayed for all classes to admire.
I sometimes give upper-level classes a writing assignment - ¿por qué estás agradecido?. They have to write a paragraph about what they are thankful for. We brainstorm ideas as a class, write a sentence or two together, and then I allow students to finish independently. You can bet I staple their paragraphs up on a bulletin board with the pretty verb Turkeys.
Have you ever had an administrator walk into your room and look at student papers you have posted to a bulletin board and see that the date is from 3 months ago? And then they give you a look of disappointment and ask you to change the papers and keep it "relevant". Ugh. Do you want me to teach or do you want me to play with bulletin boards?? Teacher Confession: I do NOT like making bulletin boards or covering them or even thinking about them. There are so many things to do as a teacher and fooling around with decorating a bulletin board is so far down my list of priorities. And then I figured out how to make my bulletin boards work for me. Word walls! They aren't just for elementary school! I type up the vocabulary words for the current unit for each of my classes (if I have 1 or 2 preps - or more if I have ginormous bulletin boards) and add the clipart I use for each vocabulary word, print, laminate, and post to the bulletin board! And voila! A reference to help students out (so long as I'm not giving a vocabulary quiz!) and I can leave it up for weeks. No administrator can be upset about how my Word Wall isn't current.
I have a bundle in my store that includes the turkey verb coloring activity, the estoy agradecido writing activity, Thanksgiving I Have Who Has, Thanksgiving Memory, a Thanksgiving mini-lesson with a powerpoint, vocabulary sheet, and two writing activities, Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunts, the Thanksgiving Word Wall, and a lesson plan explaining everything. It is available HERE. It allows for differentiation and a variety of activities for Spanish classes of all levels!

What activities do you like to do the day before Thanksgiving to keep students engaged?

Sunday, November 8, 2015

How and Why You Should Seek Collaboration

Teaching can be a very solitary profession. You spend all day with children and teenagers and have limited adult interaction. Lunch time goes by in a flash and sometimes it doubles as a planning period. During your real planning period you are alone in your room or running the halls trying to get 10 million things done as quickly and efficiently as possible before you have to teach again next period. It's (alarmingly) easy to get to school in the morning before school starts, do the best you can teaching all day, go home after school is over, and not get to know many of your coworkers beyond their first names.

If you don't know what I'm talking about because your school encourages collaboration among its teachers and provides time regularly during the school day for teachers to get together and talk about lessons, behavior management, and whatever else crosses their teacher minds, then by all means stop reading right now and go back to your lesson planning.  Also, never leave that school.  Ever.  It's a unicorn.

WHAT is collaboration

When I talk about collaborating with other teachers, I'm including many activities.  I'm including observing other teachers because it will lead to a conversation with that teacher about why he or she did X and said Y and how effective that was in making student A do B and say C. I'm including conversations at lunch time or after school (or before school if you are a morning person - I am not) about how to teach definite articles because they are so boring. I'm including conversations about how Johnny never ever stops talking and how to get him to be quiet for 2 consecutive minutes so I can get a word in edgewise and get through my lesson for once. But not Bitch Fest conversations.  We all know what those are and sometimes they can be great to get our feelings out, but those are excluded in this definition of collaboration.

WHY you should find time for collaboration

Collaborating with other teachers will make you a better teacher.  Going and observing other teachers during my planning period was one of the best things I ever did. It made me a better teacher to see how student X acted up in another teacher's class and see how that teacher responded and how he or she redirected the student's behavior. I had a class clown student a few years ago and I went and observed his math class and he walked into math class the same as he did into my class - like he owned the room and it was his comedy hour. The teacher immediately put on a serious face and calmly told him to walk out and walk back in properly. The student frowned, but knew he had been caught being far too foolish and did as he was told. He walked back in completely calmly, sat down, and his whole demeanor had changed from being ready to tell jokes for 40 minutes, to ready to get his math work done. It was amazing to see. If this teacher had simply said to me "I make him walk back out and walk back in when he walks into my classroom foolishly" I wouldn't have imagined it would be successful. It was helpful to see how the teacher gave him those directions (how serious but calm he was), and how the student reacted to fully grasp its effectiveness. It's much more impactful to see it in person.

Observing other teachers also gave me ideas for other ways to collect papers, to grade homework, to start class... all sorts of routines that I had in place in my classroom, but could be made more efficient.

I took notes, sometimes on paper and sometimes just in my head, of things the teacher did or said that I wanted to ask him or her about. I made a point to meet with him or her for a couple minutes after school or the next day some time to ask all my many questions so I could become a better teacher When you took out your seating chart, why did everyone suddenly become silent? What were you doing or what did they think you were doing? Why did you make those two students switch seats? How do you grade homework? Did you pass out a study guide for their quiz tomorrow? Does anyone ever come to the extra help you offer after school? Do you actually grade their exit tickets? I could go on. And on.

After observing a few teachers a couple times, I found myself saying phrases they frequently said to redirect student behavior, and incorporating more of their routines into my classroom. Observing great teachers started to make me great in the areas that I was lacking!

HOW you should find time for collaboration

I know I just went on and on about how teachers don't have time in their schedules for collaboration. Take 10 minutes out of your planning period once a week and go observe another teacher. Think about which 10 minutes are the hardest in your classroom - is it the first 10 minutes? Transitions in the middle of class? How students get ready to leave class?

Talk to anyone you would like to observe beforehand and ask if they are okay with you coming and observing them. Explain that you are looking to get some fresh ideas and/or improve your classroom management if they look hesitant. They will probably welcome you into their classroom with open arms.

Students will ask you why you are there. I like to tell them I'm brushing up on my (insert subject area here). This is believable enough and they won't ask any more questions after that.

Find time for collaboration after school. If I knew I was going to be after school for an hour grading, then I would invite one of my (teacher) friends down the hall to come grade papers in my room with me or I would go to her room. We could chat a little, have some adult conversation time, and also be productive. And occasionally say "you won't believe what this kid wrote for number 4".

WHO you should collaborate with

Find teachers with similar personalities and similar teaching styles to yours. If you are loud and high energy (that would be me), then it may not be helpful to observe the teacher who barely talks above a whisper and silences students by blinking his eyes at them just once because they fear certain death. It's amazing to watch how obedient these teachers have trained their students to be, but not helpful. Whispering and blinking will not silence your students.

Find teachers of all subject areas. I learned a lot from observing math teachers, science teachers, history teachers, and Spanish teachers. Everyone has to handle behavior issues and classroom management techniques will be helpful to see from a teacher of any subject area.

Find someone (or hopefully several someones) who you can bounce ideas off of for how to teach upcoming topics. These teachers have to be in your subject area. You have to teach definite articles at some point and maybe one of the other Spanish teachers has a cool trick to make it engaging and help students understand it quickly. And you can share your cool trick for how you make del memorable (maybe some day I'll share my trick for teaching del). If you are the only Spanish teacher in your building, then reach out to teachers at other schools in your district with similar students. I used to meet face to face once a month with another teacher at a school down the street from mine when I was the only Spanish teacher in my building and it was SO helpful! I also used to email back and forth with her about 8 times a day. I'm not sure how we had so much time for that many emails but I'm not exaggerating.  Eight times a day.

What experiences do you have collaborating with other teachers or observing them? How has that helped make you a better teacher? Share your experiences!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Maestros de Español Fall/Winter Blog Hop


Spanish Teacher Sale Alert! A bunch of the top Spanish sellers on TpT have gotten together and we are having a sale on 4 items in our stores and many of us are also offering a giveaway! You can search #fallwinterspanishsale on TeachersPayTeachers.com and all the sale items will come up. Sale runs November 1-4. Stock up on fall and winter items!  

Those of us with blogs are also taking part in this Blog Hop, so at the bottom of my blog post you will find links for the other Spanish sellers that are participating! Show everyone some love and hop on over to their blogs!

Fall/Winter Tips & Activities


Planning is honestly one of my most favorite activities. I love planning vacations, lessons, and anything else that needs to be planned. #nerdalert

When I sit down to plan, I start with a unit in mind, as opposed to a lesson that will only last one period, because I need to know where I'm going. It's like getting in the car and driving without any destination. Why would you do that? Who has that kind of money to spend on gas? When planning a unit, I first consider my objectives for what students should be able to do. What should they be able to talk about? What should they be able to understand and respond to? What specific vocabulary and grammar should they know? I like to make a list of all the vocabulary, phrases, and grammar topics I want students to be learn. It's usually several pages in Word single-spaced.

These 3 Word docs are gems from my second year of teaching
Then once I have my Master List of Vocabulary and Grammar Topics, I group everything. For example, for a clothing unit, I group all the clothing items together. I group all the ways you can describe clothing together. I group all the names of stores together. And I list all the verbs I want to teach (for a clothing unit these might be llevar, quedar, parecer, costar, etc).

Then I put my Master List into some sort of chronological order and I start matching vocabulary with grammar topics. I teach vocabulary words in context, so they need to have a grammar topic (old or new) to be given a context!

This is from my second year of teaching, before I truly mastered color coding!
Finally, I open up a blank calendar in Word (or a year's worth if I'm really good) and I start putting groups of vocabulary and grammar onto the calendar, one day at a time. Those will be the lessons for each individual day. For a clothing unit, I start by teaching clothing vocabulary with the verb llevar, 10-14 words at a time. I broke up all the vocabulary over two days, plus a third day with accessories vocabulary. If you squint at the picture above, I started this clothing unit on March 18th way back in 2009 (why do I still have these calendars from my second year of teaching?). Then I teach colors vocabulary, and on March 25th I put colors and clothing vocab together. Students should have been able to state what color clothing items they were wearing. Then I teach students how to describe how clothing items fit with the verb quedar. And then we move on to numbers with costar so we can state how much clothing items cost - first with numbers they already know (0-100), then with new vocabulary 100-1,000,000. And I just keep chugging along, plugging all my vocabulary and grammar requirements into the calendar in the way that makes the most logical sense.

I was always given the chapter and unit tests either by my department chair or my school system, to ensure uniformity across teachers. I never had to sit down and create a big period-long test, so I create my Master Lists by combing through the test so I knew everything students had to know and exactly what context they had to know it in. If you don't have tests handed to you, then I suggest creating a unit test before sitting down and planning each day's lesson. Or a skit. Or whatever culminating assessment you plan on using for students to demonstrate what they did (or didn't) learn. It matters how you teach students the vocabulary and grammar and how they have to demonstrate their understanding and those two hows should align with each other.

Once I have the big picture and I know everything the unit will include, I get down to the nitty-gritty and plan each day's individual lesson. For my first couple years of teaching I wrote out the objective (in a Word doc for that day's lesson - I <3 Microsoft Word) and brainstormed listening, speaking, reading, and writing activities that would help my students achieve that objective, but after a few years I would just start creating the exit ticket, then the powerpoint lesson (I also <3 Microsoft Powerpoint), then the classwork, and finally the bell ringer.

The calendar above is from May 2015. I clearly became a master of color coding!

Planning out the whole unit (deciding what vocab and grammar to teach, and in what order) honestly only takes an hour or two. It's the creation of each day's lessons that is time-consuming. I use the calendars in Microsoft Word to keep track of what I'm teaching each day, what has and hasn't been done in terms of preparing the lesson, which days I assign homework, which days there is a quiz, which days there is no school or a half-day or a dress down (avoid important things like quizzes on a dress down day if at all possible) or any other reason for shortened periods (no need to plan a 50-minute lesson when you're only going to have a 35-minute class!).

I am allergic to paper plan books because I can't copy/paste or delete or move things around as easily as I can digitally. The first school I worked at gave everyone a paper plan book like they didn't know what computers were, so I used mine as a mouse pad. It made an excellent mouse pad.

How do you like to plan? What have you found to be most helpful in the planning process?

Fall/Winter On Sale Products


I don't have many fall- or winter-themed holiday products in my store, so I found my 4 best-selling products in early November of 2014 and I put those products on sale with a 20% discount for this blog hop! The sale runs November 1-4 and you can search teacherspayteacher.com for everyone's sale items with the hashtag #fallwinterspanishsale. My sale items are:


The Alphabet Unit is actually my all-time best-selling product! It doesn't surprise me that it's still a top-seller in November. It is designed for a Spanish 1 class and teaches the alphabet over 5 days (for 50-minute periods). I use a song to teach the alphabet, so a youtube link is included, as well as bell ringers, a vocabulary sheet, classwork assignments, listening scrips, exit tickets, and lesson plans for the first two days. The classwork assignments include listening, speaking, and writing activities. The next three days are for a project where students create an alphabet book with vocabulary for all 30 letters of the Spanish alphabet. Students will be able to spell their names in Spanish, as well as vocabulary words, and they will get practice with sound discrimination. Everything is editable!

It surprises me that the -AR Verbs with Adverbs of Frequency Lesson sells well in November! I didn't teach that until March or April! Lots of teachers must teach verb conjugation in Spanish 1 early in the year or review it in Spanish 2 with adverbs of frequency around this time. This lesson is meant to be a review of regular -AR verb conjugation and adverbs of frequency - students should already be familiar with both, but not together. The lesson includes a bell ringer, powerpoint, classwork, an exit ticket and a lesson plan for a 50-minute class period! The powerpoint teaches ¿qué haces todos los días?, ¿qué haces los fines de semana? and 5 other adverbs of frequency. The classwork includes listening, speaking, and writing activities. Everything is editable.

The Definite Articles Lesson also makes sense that it sells well at the beginning of the year. It teaches what types of nouns commonly fall into the categories of el, la, los, and las, and also teaches common irregular nouns (la mano, el problema, etc). The lesson includes a bell ringer activity, powerpoint, classwork, exit ticket, and a lesson plan for a 50-minute period. All documents are editable!

The Future Tense Bundle also surprises me for selling so well in November! I never taught the future tense until the third quarter probably. This bundle includes a lesson on regular verbs (for a 50-minute period), a lesson on irregular verbs, a homework assignment, and a quiz. Both lessons include a bell ringer, a powerpoint that teaches the verb forms, a notes page for students, a classwork with 2-3 pages of writing activities, an exit ticket, and a lesson plan. Everything is editable.

Fall/Winter Giveaway

I'm also including a giveaway for this blog hop.  Yes, for those of you keeping track, that is TWO blog hops and TWO giveaways in less than 10 days for me and my little blog!  This giveaway is for a $25 gift card to TpT and you can enter either by following my facebook page, following my Instagram, or by commenting on this blog post!

I'd love to hear what planning tips you have and if you use anything better than Microsoft Word calendars and a lot of color coding!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Check out some of the other Spanish blogs participating in this Blog Hop!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Trick or Treat! {A fun blog hop!}

I am participating in the Trick or Treat blog hop hosted by The Classroom Game Nook Blog! It runs from October 24-31 and there are more than 50 blogs participating! Whoa! We are all blogging about a "trick" or tip we use in our classroom, "treating" all our readers to a freebie, AND participating in a giveaway! This is my first giveaway so I'm kind of excited. There is a link at the bottom of this post to take you to the next blog post in the hop. See how many blogs you can "hop" over to!  
I'm not in the classroom anymore, but I taught both middle and high school Spanish. I always tried to incorporate a variety of activities and not do the same types of activities day after day. If students see that they are going to do the same fill-in-the-blank or matching or whatever type of activity AGAIN, the same activity that they did yesterday, the day before that, and the last 6 school days before that, then they quickly become disengaged and turn to creating chaos. Chaos is my worst enemy.

I liked to incorporate an activity into my lessons that would let students get up out of their seats not only to let them get out their restless energy, but also to keep things interesting and keep their interest in Spanish grammar. It turns out not everyone thinks conjugating verbs is quite as fun as I think it is.

One activity I did frequently I called "scavenger hunts". It's fabulous because it can be adapted for any subject and any grade level. I saw a 6th grade science teacher do it with his classes and he got the idea from a math teacher. I really do mean it's great for ANY grade level and ANY subject. And just about anything that gets students up out of their seats is automatically engaging for them.

Scavenger Hunt stem-changing Spanish verbs
How to Prepare a Scavenger Hunt Activity:
  1. Come up with a list of 10 (or 20 or 30 or however many) questions and answers. I usually do "subject pronoun/verb" and the conjugated verb as the answer like "yo/nadar" and "nado". A math teacher might do "2+2" and the answer "4". An English teacher might do "a metaphor using like or as" and "simile". You get the idea.
  2. I cut 5 sheets of paper in half (for 10 questions), giving me 10 half-sheets. I write or type answer #1 in large letters (it needs to be legible from across the room) on the first half-sheet and at the bottom I write question #2 in small letters (should only be readable standing right in front of it). And on the second half-sheet I write answer #2 in large letters and question #3 in small letters. And on the third I write answer #3 and question #4. And the last sheet will have the last answer and question #1 at the bottom. The questions loop, so the last one leads you back to the first.
  3. Tape these half-sheets to the wall around the room at eye level in a random order. You want students to have to look for the answer.
  4. Students get a handout with as many lines as half-sheets that you prepared. Students get up and start at any half-sheet closest to them. The last one will lead them back to the first, so it doesn't matter where they start in the loop. They read the question at the bottom of the half-sheet in front of them, write the answer on their paper, find the answer around the room, walk over to it, read the next question, write the answer, find it, walk over to it, and repeat until they have completed the loop.  
This activity gets students up out of their seats, gets their blood flowing back to their legs since they basically sit all day (at least in middle and high school!), and it makes that boring matching activity engaging and interesting. Sometimes I spice it up and include wrong answers and under the wrong answer I write "try again" instead of the next question so students know they made a mistake. It's a great activity to review and students get to use their energy in a positive academic way and not for evil chaos-creating.

The freebie I'm offering is (of course!) a scavenger hunt! It is for present tense stem-changing verbs and is available in my store and also HERE. It includes 25 verbs, and both an easy and a hard version. The easy version only has correct answers and the hard version includes a wrong answer alternative for each of the 25 verbs with "try again" at the bottom instead of the next prompt so students know they made a mistake. A Student Handout and Teacher's Guide are also included.

It will only be free until (and including) October 31. It is normally priced at $4. I have 16 different versions of these Scavenger Hunts with a variety of verb tenses. If you don't teach Spanish, then check it out and see how you can modify the activity for your subject and grade level!

I'm offering a similar activity in my giveaway - but this time it's a game. It's Dominoes for Spanish 1! I chose this product of all the products in my store because it's also easy to modify to fit any subject and grade level. There are 7 topics in my store - Present Tense -AR verbs, Present Tense -ER & -IR verbs, Numbers 1-100, Adjectives, Affirmative Commands, Reflexive Verbs, and Stem-Changing Verbs. Each topic includes 40 Dominoes. Each Dominoes game also includes a document with the Rules for how to play, and the giveaway Dominoes set will include a blank template for teachers to make their own dominoes if they teach a different subject. This activity takes a bit of prep, but students will have a lot of fun playing a game, while you watch them review material. It's like sneaking vegetables into a dish your children love and they don't even realize they're eating vegetables! *evil teacher laugh*

Spanish 1 Dominoes game with adjectives
A math teacher could have students match numbers to their word form (2 and two). Or match decimals to their percent (.3 and 30%). A science teacher could have students match pictures of parts of the microscope with their names. An English teacher could have students match short definitions of the parts of speech with their names ("person, place, or thing" and "noun"). A Social Studies teacher could have students match the state capitals with their states. There are endless variations for how to incorporate Dominoes into the classroom and students won't even realize they are learning and reviewing! #teacherwin

Thanks for stopping by! Feel free to comment below and let me know how the scavenger hunt activity goes in your classroom! Click on the image below to "trick or treat" over to the next blog for more tips and freebies!  


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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

NYSAFLT Conference

NYSAFLT stands for New York State Association of Foreign Language Teachers. I'm attending on October 30-31 with Sherry from The World Language Café! If you are also attending, come to our booth and say hi! This will be my first teacher conference at a booth, so I'm kind of stoked to see how it goes and get the conference exhibitor experience!

Sherry and I will be handing out freebies from our stores, as well as from many other top Spanish and French sellers on Tpt!  We will also have a raffle - the winner gets paid products from each seller emailed to them for free!

Sellers included on the freebie handout and in the raffle:
-Fun for Spanish Teachers
-Island Teacher
-La Profe Plotts
-La Profesora Frida
-Lectura Para Niños
-M&M Bilingual
-Mundo de Pepita
-Miss Señorita (me!)
-Sol Azúcar
-Spanish Plans
-Sra Cruz
-Sue Summers
-The World Language Café (Sherry!)

Hope to see you at the conference!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Ten on the Tenth {October}

I'm on a roll participating in linkies! I'm following Rachael's lead over on The Classroom Game Nook and participating in her linky with 10 pictures on the 10th of October.

Baby vomit!!! Aaaaaah! Eeeeewwwwwww! One of my friends is the auntie of the cutest baby on this earth and I can't resist holding her when I see her, but she looooooooves to vomit on people. I like her better from a distance. Close enough that I can pinch her cheeks but far enough that I don't get vomited on.

Bier International! It's Manhattan's version of a Beer Garden (read: lots of beer, zero garden).

I grew up in the country, where the carnival goes from one small podunk town out in the boonies to another podunk town somewhere else in the boonies all summer. In the Bronx they shut the street down for a half mile and put a ferris wheel in the middle of the street. Whatever works, I guess.

I'm going to a conference at the end of October and I'll be wearing this button! I just ordered it online a few days ago :)

My brother is getting married next weekend and this is the dress I decided on. Yes, this is my messy bedroom.

Chicken gyros for dinner! So delicious.

My cousin got married this past September and gave these out! 2015 has been the summer and fall of weddings in my family.

I updated one of my products! Spanish 3 Warm-ups now has 130 instead of 55!

The view of Manhattan from Roosevelt Island. Roosevelt Island is a teeny little island between Manhattan and Queens. You can make out the Chrystler Building and the Empire state building on the right, and you can see the new World Trade Tower all the way in lower Manhattan.  

Take some plain yogurt and add a squeeze of honey, a handful of walnuts, and a sprinkling of blueberries! This is my favorite breakfast. And lunch. And snack. Nom nom nom.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Five Facts about Me!

I'm participating in Nikki from Teaching Autism's 5 facts linky! This seems like a fun opportunity to reveal some info about myself!

1.  I live in the Bronx in New York City, but I am not from New York. New Yorkers take one look at me and ask me where I'm from. They instinctively know somehow that I'm not from around these parts. I tell people in New York that I'm from Maryland. I tell people in Maryland that I'm from New Jersey. I tell people in New Jersey that I'm from Maryland but I live in New York. Complicated, right? I lived in New Jersey until I was 12, then moved to Maryland. I lived there until I was 28. I've been in New York for 3 years now! I speak like I'm from New Jersey though! You can take the girl out of South Jersey, but you can't take the South Jersey out of the girl.

2.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE traveling!!! I went to Greece and Italy for 16 days this past summer. You can read all about that trip (and be jealous of how amazing it was) HERE. I also went to San Francisco for the first time this summer! I had been to Italy before (3rd time!) but that was my first time in Greece. It's the 16th country I've visited! I'm going to Machu Picchu in March and I'm DELIRIOUSLY excited! Is it March yet???

3.  Yup, you read that right. I do not have a television. I watch lots of tv though on Hulu and I have Netflix and HBO go. So I still keep up with Empire!

4.  I've had guinea pigs since I was about 5. They are so adorable! And easy to take care of. That's an important quality in a pet. My current piggie's name is Honey because her coat is the color of honey. She's hard to take a decent picture of though because she is the scardiest scardy pig on the planet. Scaredy is totally a word. It's a synonym with "afraid of everything". Now you know.

5.  I cannot stop eating hummus. I make my own because otherwise I'd be spending $20/week just on hummus and I cannot afford to live like that. Making my own hummus also means I get to play with different flavors not available in stores. Chipotle flavor is really good and I swear I was making it before it showed up in stores!

So there are 5 fun facts about me! Who else is addicted to hummus?

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Coloring Activities in the High School Classroom

Coloring is the best thing ever.

High school students like to pretend they are too cool for coloring activities, but that is a straight-up lie. Middle school students love coloring as well, but will also pretend they are "too old for coloring".

When I talk about coloring activities in the high school and middle school Spanish classroom, I don't mean coloring pictures of Dora and staying in the lines. I mean activities with colored pencils (or markers or crayons) that support that day's objective for the Spanish lesson.  Or honestly a lesson of any subject.

Coloring Activities in the HIgh School Classroom

Ideas for how to incorporate coloring activities in the high school (or middle school) Spanish classroom:

1.  During a unit on Color Vocabulary. This one is obvious. I teach colors right after clothing vocabulary. I pass out a handout to students with outlines of clothing items and I pass out my colored pencils. I use this as a listening activity - I say "La camiseta es roja" and students have to find the camiseta on their handout and color it red. I wait 30 seconds or so and then I pick another clothing item on their handout and state that it is a different color. They hear several sentences in Spanish and they have to process that information and color the correct clothing item the correct color. This activity is included in THIS LESSON.

This listening activity could be modified for any vocabulary! Make a handout of the outlines of school supplies (body parts, food items, or items in the house would also work great) and tell students what color to color each item ("El lápiz es azul"). They have to listen to the words and understand the new vocabulary to follow your directions. Or make it a partner activity - each student tells their partner (in Spanish!) what color 4 items are on their paper and their partner has to color in the correct items in the correct color. Students love to boss each other around and play teacher and this way they get both speaking and listening practice!

2.  Teaching present tense conjugation in Spanish 1 (or Spanish 2 review). When students takes notes on present tense verb conjugation, have them color the endings each a different color on their notes. If you can color-code your presentation of the material (on powerpoint or however you present the lesson) keep the colors the same as how you want the students to color their notes. Have the entire class color the yo form of the verb on their notes blue, and the  form red, etc. Then when you are walking around the class and you see a student who is completing his classwork incorrectly or is simply lost, you can say "This verb should be in the blue form".

If you choose to color-code the verbs when you introduce them, you have to keep the colors the same for the rest of the year. If the yo form starts out blue, it cannot ever switch to green or students will get confused.

3.  Reviewing the 89 verb tenses students are required to know in upper levels. Okay, maybe it's not 89 tenses, but it sure does feel like that sometimes doesn't it? Last year I taught a Spanish 2 Honors class and by the end of the year my students knew the present, preterite, imperfect, present progressive, past progressive, future, future progressive, conditional, conditional progressive, present perfect, pluperfect, and present subjunctive. Oh, and affirmative and negative commands. But I digress... instead of passing out a handout to students with pictures of vocabulary words, pass out verbs in various tenses. Think like a Wordle, but with Spanish verbs in as many tenses as you want to review. Tell the class to color all the imperfect verbs purple, all the preterite verbs green, all the future tense verbs yellow, etc. Students have to identify the tense of each verb and decide which color it should be.

Spanish clothing vocabulary and Spanish verb tenses coloring activities

The stages of coloring in a high school classroom:

Stage 1:  Excitement. Students see the colored pencil boxes stacked on my desk. "Are we coloring today?!" There is hope in their voices. This stage lasts only for as long as it takes students to walk into the classroom.

Stage 2:  Everyone complains. Their attitudes turn sour very fast. "We're too old for coloring!" Teenagers don't want to seem uncool in the eyes of their peers because they like coloring so they pretend to hate it, but they really are just pretending. They love coloring. This stage lasts between when students get settled in class and right up until the colored pencils are passed out.

Stage 3:  Selfishness. I pass the colored pencils out and no one wants to share. "Those are my colored pencils! Give me my purple back!" There is yelling and stealing of colored pencils from neighbors. This stage lasts no more than 2 minutes.

Stage 4:  Silence. Coloring is a calming activity and even the most disruptive students are silently coloring. I sit back and smile. This stage lasts the duration of the coloring activity minus the first two angry minutes.

Stage 5:  Happiness. Students quietly share their work and comment politely on neighbors' work. Students share colored pencils and I quietly grade papers in the back of the room.

I'll say it again.  Coloring is the best thing ever.  Don't let stages 2 or 3 discourage you from breaking out the colored pencils every once in a while.

If an administrator walks into your room, you want it to be during Stages 4 or 5. He or she may be initially surprised to see students coloring in a high school classroom, but that's only because your colleagues haven't caught on yet to the wonders of coloring activities. And once that administrator sees that literally every single student in your class is engaged in the activity (even That Student or Those Students who act out in every teacher's class) and students are using their Spanish skills in a creative way, he or she will be impressed with you!

You may be wondering where I get my colored pencils from. I do not rob the art teacher once a month for a class-set of colored pencils. No art teacher would support that for an entire school year, let alone year after year. I bought 20 boxes from classroomdirect.com. This blog post is in no way designed to be an advertisement for them. They have the cheapest colored pencils of high sufficient quality that I have found. They last for years, so however much I spent on 20 boxes 3 years ago was worth it because I still have all 20 of those boxes and all the colored pencils are still in good shape. It's the sharpeners that die. Colored pencils and electric pencil sharpeners are not friends and I do not have a solution for the fact that colored pencils kill electric pencil sharpeners (the expensive ones!) at an alarming rate. Be advised of that.

As amazing as coloring activities are (they truly are amazing), coloring cannot be an every day activity.  It needs to be a special activity, at least in high school.  It can be good for the day before a break, or once every few weeks as a way to break up all that vocabulary or grammar you want students to master.

What coloring activities do you do in your Spanish classroom?

Saturday, September 26, 2015

What's in my Teaching Bag?

This post was featured on the TpT blog!

If you are reading this blog post in hopes of seeing a designer bag you may want to buy yourself, prepare to be disappointed. My bag (on the far right of the picture below) is a book bag from Target. Yup. It's gray with neon yellow lining. Not pictured is the masking tape a student drew a Nike symbol onto and taped around the shoulder part of one strap. He was trying to help me out.  


Syllabus. Poking out of my bag is a syllabus from one of my grad classes. My teaching bag doubles as my grad school bag. I'm not only That Teacher who walks in the building wearing a book bag, I'm also That Grad Student who walks through Midtown Manhattan with the same stylish book bag.

Ice pack. Then there is a really old ice pack. I'm not sure why it's yellowed. I assume that has something to do with how old it is. One of the perks of being a teacher is the free health care. I took a hard fall on my knee last winter and my knee bruised and blew up to the size of a grapefruit so I went to the nurse the next day and she gave me an ice pack and took good care of my knee. For free!

Plastic bag. You never know when you need a plastic bag!

Post-its. I use post-its for everything. Lists of things I need to do, what classwork assignments need to be uploaded to my class website, what parents need to be emailed or called, what needs to be copied, what has already been copied, which days and classes each pile of copies is for... everything.

Ibuprofen. The only thing worse than cramps is having to teach while those cramps are trying to destroy me. Ibuprofen snips that problem in the bud!

Hair ties. I usually keep these around my wrist, but just in case I do leave the house without one, I have one in my bag.

More stickers than any normal high school teacher should have. You wouldn't think high school students would like stickers. They LOVE stickers! I teach Spanish, so they all have Spanish phrases on them. I buy them online. I put them on all tests and quizzes with an 85% or better. Occasionally I forget to put a sticker on a high grade and students lose their minds and demand two stickers. Even high school students love stickers!

Pens and pencils. There are mostly pencils pictured here. I save the pencils for students who don't have one in class and I will give them one. Sometimes. Not always. The pens are only for me!

Scissors. You never know when you need to cut something.

Lipstick. I only wear lipstick when parents come around for Back to School Night, Conferences, or whatever. I keep it in my bag because I wear it so seldomly that I don't want to forget it. I look a lot younger than I am and I don't want parents to think their 16 year old son is being taught by a 19 year old girl, so lipstick somehow makes me feel older and womanly and teacherly and like I know what I'm doing. It's probably all in my head but it gives me confidence with parents.

Chapstick. I would die without chapstick. I have one in every purse I own, in my bathroom, in my desk... If I was sent to a deserted island and I could only bring one thing with me I would bring chapstick.

Keys on a lanyard. I wear a University of Maryland lanyard. Go Terps! I keep my classroom keys on it and I wear it around my neck so that I never ever EVER lose my keys. Ever.

Car keys. I keep these tucked into a small pocket of my book bag. I don't think students would ever go through my book bag, but I honestly wouldn't put anything past them, so I keep my car keys in the same small pocket as tampons. No teenage boy will touch anything in the same pocket as a tampon.

Sharpies. Any time I prepare an activity with manipulatives or I write something I want students to see from the back of the room, I write in sharpie. I have at least a couple in my desk, in my book bag, and at home.

Paper clips. I don't carry a stapler around with me at all times because it's far too bulky, but paper clips do the same job as a stapler and are so small! I have them hanging on my lanyard so they are always with me.

Cough drops. While the nurse's free health care is a perk to teaching, she isn't always available when I'm available and so I keep cough drops in my bag just in case. I can easily send a student to her during the period to fetch me an ice pack, but she won't send cough drops with a student.

What must-have items do you keep on hand in your teaching bag? Check out what these other teachers keep in their bags!
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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Ask & Switch - A Speaking Activity

It's so important to get your Spanish students actually speaking the language.  I like to tell my Spanish 1 students within the first week of school that no one ever says "Wow, you write Spanish really well."  They say "Wow, you speak Spanish really well."  And students need lots of speaking practice!

One of the speaking activities I like to incorporate into my lessons is Ask & Switch.  At least that's what I call it.  Maybe you already know it by a different name!

Here's how Ask & Switch works:
-Each student gets an index card with a question on one side and a prompt for an answer on the other.
-Students get up out of their seats and walk around the room.  They approach a partner and ask their partner the question on their index card.
-They show their partner the answer prompt and their partner answers the question.
-The partner asks his or her question and the first student responds.
-The two students then switch cards and go find a new partner.

I allow about 3-4 minutes for students to do this activity.

Ask & Switch is great because students get practice both asking and answering questions, and they are guaranteed to ask and answer a variety of questions.  It is also easy (I almost never have to explain the directions more than once), and as long as there is a short time limit, students are engaged in the activity.  They will really be speaking Spanish!


Ask & Switch telephone numbers speaking activity
A couple notes of caution:
As a teacher, you have to have a high tolerance for volume in your classroom.  Every single student in your class will be talking at the same time, and they will also be out of their seats walking around the room.  I've had other teachers and administrators walk into my room when students were in the middle of this activity and they looked mortified, like they thought students were just walking around wildly and I was just sitting there watching them create chaos.  I've also had students see the principal walk in the room in the middle of the activity and immediately sit down like they were about to be in trouble for being out of their seats.  That made me laugh.

Sometimes students think "you may get up and walk around the room" means "you may run around and push other students".  The first few times I do this activity with a class, I explain my expectations for their behavior very thoroughly.  Students who choose to run, push, yell, or just generally take their silliness too far have to sit for the rest of the activity.  No one wants to be That Kid.  These students will pout, feel left out of the activity (FOMO is so serious with teenagers), and are very unlikely to act out during future Ask & Switch activities.

Also, there is a bit of prep involved with this activity.  I have been known to hastily grab a stack of 35  index cards during my planning period and write scrawl questions on one side and answers on the other.  And then after running through the activity with 3 or 4 classes, the index cards all look like they've been run over with a truck and I toss them out, only to start over from scratch the next year.

If you actually take the time to type up the questions and answers, tape them to the index cards, and then laminate them, they will last year after year.  Then you can simply pull them out of your drawer on the day you need them and you're good to go!

Ask & Switch speaking activity
Tip:  I print onto 2"x4" shipping labels and slap them onto 3"x5" index cards.  It's pretty genius if I do say so myself.

I have a freebie set of Ask & Switch cards in my Tpt store with Ir & Places vocab HERE if you want to try the activity out and see how it goes in your classroom!  I sell Ask & Switch sets on a variety of vocabulary and grammar topics and I have Spanish 1, Spanish 2, and Spanish 3 bundles available HERE, HERE, and HERE.  I also sell a hard good version for each topic if you hate prepping activities (frantically during your planning period like me) and would prefer the laminated cards be mailed to you!

Try it out and let me know how it goes!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Letting Students Choose Their Seats

My 7th grade Social Studies teacher let us choose our seats.  On the very first day of school!  It was something I had never been allowed to do before and it was incredibly exciting.  We could all sit with our friends!  And then two weeks later, after she figured out who everyone was friends with, she assigned our seats and no one sat near any of their friends for the rest of the entire year.  She was a smart lady.  Much smarter than any of us because we did NOT see that coming.

I let students choose their seats.  And unlike my brilliant 7th grade Social Studies teacher, I don't give students assigned seats later in the year.  I don't ever assign their seats.  Don't tell any of my previous Department Chairs or Principals.

And I know you are thinking "you don't do WHAT?!"  I don't assign seats.  Yeah.  Let me explain.

Let students choose their own seats, seating chart
I have several reasons for this:
1.  It's easier than assigning seats and fighting with students about where their seat is (or isn't).
2.  I maintain the right to revoke the seating choice of any student at any time for any reason.
3.  It works for me.

Reason #1:  It's easier.
When I used to assign seats, there were always those students who would challenge my seating choices.  Sometimes openly, but usually passively.  They would walk in the classroom and sit in the seat three seats over.  Or across the room.  Or anywhere but the seat I had their name in on my seating chart.  They would just sit down like they thought I wouldn't notice.  And I would say "Monica, can you move to your seat please?" and Monica would argue.  She would list all her infinite reasons why her assigned seat was not nearly as good as the seat she was currently in.  "But I won't talk in this seat."  "But I can focus better in this seat."  And while all her reasons may or may not have been legitimate, she knew all the right things a teacher wanted to hear.  And precious class minutes were lost to Monica's objections about seating.  And then Victor's objections about seating.  And Asia's.  And twelve other students'.

I got tired of fighting about it.  I got tired of losing precious class time over something petty.

Reason #2:  I will move you.
Giving up control of the seating chart is not giving up control of the classroom.  Rule #2 goes hand-in-hand with Rule #1 and both must exist in the classroom in order to make students choosing their seats work.  When Monica sits in a seat of her choosing, and that seat happens to be next to her best friend, I tell Monica that she will sit in a seat of my choosing if she cannot pay attention to the lesson and complete her work.  That seat is always right up front.  I don't know why students always hate to sit in the front row.  I must have terrible breath.

If it is the beginning of the school year and expectations are still being established, I tell Monica, and really the whole class, that if she cannot pay attention in class and complete her work, then she will move up front (or to another seat of my choosing that I point out in that moment).  I say it calmly, evenly, and like I really mean it.  And I do.

And then I move on.  But the instant Monica's behavior is disruptive or off-task, all I have to do is point to the seat I have chosen for her and she must get up and move to her new seat that she will sit in until she proves she knows how to act in my classroom.

If it is the middle or end of the school year and expectations have already been established, then Monica has probably definitely already seen me move students who cannot handle sitting in the seat of their choice.  I will remind her quietly that she is to pay attention and complete her work, and I point out the seat she will sit in if she cannot meet these expectations.

Reason #3:  It works for me.
It really does.  If students know that they will absolutely lose the privilege of sitting where they want (99% of the time it's next to their friends), they will be more mindful about their behavior.  They don't want the shame of being That Kid who has to be moved when everyone else can sit wherever they want.  They don't want to lose the privilege that everyone else has and if they know for sure that you are completely serious and will absolutely move them the minute they are disruptive, they will avoid losing this privilege.  This is especially effective with the class clowns.

I don't have to fight with students about where they sit so I am happy.  Students get to sit where they want, so they are happy.  Students have to behave themselves to keep the privilege of choosing their seating, so I am even happier.  #winning

I should note I have had success with students choosing their own seats in 7th grade classes through seniors.  It may or may not be successful in an elementary classroom.

Have you ever given students the choice of sitting wherever they want?  Share your horror or success stories!