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Teacher Resources

Vocabulary Learning Units for Language Learners

Learning vocabulary is one of the pillars of language learning.  It is a constant challenge for students to learn and remember new vocabulary in the target language.  I constantly tell my students that they need repeated exposure to the words in order to remember them and add them to their “useable” vocabulary.  Obviously, I help my students get this repeated exposure in my class.

First, I present my vocabulary in themed units.  This helps the students have a point of reference.  I make sure to point out any cognates or close cognates with the words and I share any tricks I use to remember the words myself.  (At this point, I don’t have to rely on these “tricks” to remember most of the vocabulary, but it helps my students start to figure out their own vocabulary tricks.

Flashcards

I start the vocabulary units with flashcards.  I try to use pictures that are clear representations of the words, or pictures that will stick in their memory (cute or silly animals help).  I encourage my older students to create their own flashcards with their own images.

I use the flashcards whenever I review the words with the students.  This gets the image and the word linked in their memory.  I teach the students various ways they can practice with the vocabulary cards.  Flashcards are always in the learning center for the students to use.  (Also, a side benefit is that it can be a confidence boost when the student sees a whole stack of words that he or she knows!)

Memory Matching Games

One of the reviews I like to use with my students is memory matching games.  I can make a printable version of these by simply printing two sets of flashcards.  I also make a digital version that we can play online or on the interactive whiteboard using Powerpoint.  Rather than students competing against each other, I set it as a class challenge to find all of the matches.  The students are engaged and help each other as they search for the matches.  Since I use numbers on the square, the students are also practicing their numbers in the target language.

I Have, Who Has

This is another great review game that students love to participate in.  It is a bit challenging to use this online, but it can be done by sending each student a “card” in a private chat.  I will say this game is much less prep work in person.  This card has the students repeating the target vocabulary over and over.  The students are engaged and have fun as they work through the cycle.

Vocabulary Worksheets

I use a variety of worksheets with my students to practice vocabulary depending on their needs.  I have simple handwriting worksheets in both print and cursive.  I have matching sheets as well as “draw the picture” sheets.

When the students are beginning to use the vocabulary, I will start working with the students with fill-in-the-blank sheets that use the vocabulary in different sentence structures.  For example, maybe we have been talking about the sun (sol) in our summer unit.  I might have an exercise that has a fill-in-the-blank about the sun being the closest star to Earth.  This helps the students use the vocabulary in different contexts than just the original theme we were studying.

Riddles

My students love when we do the vocabulary riddles.  After we have been working with the words for a bit, I will use these riddles as another practice.  I will give the students clues in the target language that will help them discover the answer which is one of the vocabulary words.  These riddles are helpful because the clues are in a natural context and often there are new words they learn in the clues that are directly related.  These are great vocabulary boosters!

If I want to extend the riddles experience, I ask my students to create their own riddles.  Then they can present them to a partner, their small group, or the whole class depending on the time I have available for the activity.

Make sure to check out this post where I discuss putting together the riddles and how I use them in class.

Would You Rather?

This is one of the favorite activities in my classroom.  I try to have one with every vocabulary theme so that we can pull them out as we need an extra activity.  These questions use the vocabulary words and I expect students to use the vocabulary we have been studying.  This article discusses several ways that I use the Would You Rather games in my classroom.

Assessment Tools

There are several digital assessment tools that are helpful for checking the students’ vocabulary adquisition.  Many of my vocabulary units on Teachers Pay Teachers include either an Easel assessment that is accessible through TPT itself or a Boom Cards assessment.  There are other possible assessments, but these are self-checking and do not require me to conduct them.

When looking at vocabulary acquisition, I am more concerned that the student is making progress than exactly what percentage he/she is getting correct.  My ultimate goal with vocabulary is that the student can use it naturally in conversation so I do not place the emphasis on simply “knowing” the word.  I keep pushing the words that we have learned and I constantly review the words in the previous units.

Conclusion

Vocabulary is a very important part of learning a language.  It should be something that is constantly being expanded upon.  I hope this post has given you some ideas on how you can review vocabulary in your classroom.  I do have some vocabulary units available on Teachers Pay Teachers to help you get started.  I have a variety of activities for several themes of vocabulary and I am constantly creating more vocabulary products.  If there is a particular unit or activity that you need, feel free to contact me.  I’d love to help you help your students!

Categories
Online ESL Teaching Teacher Resources

Using Reward Stars in Your Classroom

Giving star rewards is something that has caught on with online ESL classes and distance learning.  There are multiple ways of using these reward stars in your classroom.  I’m going to give you several tips and tricks for using our reward stars.  I have seen these successfully used with teachers from many different online ESL platforms including VIPKid, Magic Ears, PalFish, GoGoKid, and more.

Before we start, I suggest that you cut out the individual stars.  You might decide how you would like to store them.  I store mine in ziplock bags separated by theme.

If you are using them in a regular classroom, I highly suggest that you laminate them.  If you are using them in an online classroom, I find that laminating them will often cause a glare in the camera.  They could potentially not hold up as long (but you are welcome to print my products as often as you like after purchase).

One way to use the reward stars is to attach them to a clothespin either with glue or tape.  Then you can simply clip the stars to a string you hang in your online classroom.  I have even seen teachers clip them to their headphone cord.

I like to have the reward stars attached to something so I can show the whole star to my students.  I attach them to a pencil, a skewer stick, a chopstick, a straw, or a popsicle stick (whatever I can get cheap).  Then I can store the stars I am using in a coffee mug.

I also really like to use my stars with magnets attached.  Here I used magnetic “dots” glued to the back of the star.

I do not have a larger magnetic background (great idea, but I can’t attach anything big to the walls of my house).  I use a dollar store cookie pan to hold my awards and I display it in my background during class.

In-Person Classroom Use

The idea of the stars is to give a visible award to a student who is doing well.  I have also used these in my classroom in public school when I have a class award that we are working toward.  I can use the themed stars to track their progress.  I could use the different stars for different guided reading groups.  For in-person classroom use, I laminate the stars and usually use the magnet backing.

You could also use them like brag tags by punching a hole in them and adding them to your brag tag rings.  You might print them on paper and make them into larger stickers.

What else can I do with reward stars?

I love to use reward stars to extend learning in my online ESL classes.  Depending on the student’s ability, I can ask about the pictures.  I can ask about colors, types of animals, clothing, etc.  Don’t neglect the opportunity to count the stars as well.  Using these rewards as a natural extension of the language is a wonderful use and engages the students in “real” conversation.  At the end, make sure to ask what star is their favorite and why.

Reward stars are a very versatile tool that you can use in your classroom whether online or in person.  I enjoy making the different sets and use them personally in my own classes.  You can see the sets of reward stars we have available on Teachers Pay Teachers.

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Teacher Resources

Riddles in Your Classroom: Tips and Tricks

I have several riddles products available for sale on Teachers Pay Teachers.  Riddles in the classroom are a great way to review vocabulary and get the students talking.  You can use the version created for Google Slides to project them to your whole class for group instruction, or you can use the printable versions.

I like to use the printable version as a self-checking literacy center.  The riddles are aligned so the questions/clues are on the left side of the page and the answer is on the right side of the page.  Cut them first into strips horizontally.

Then fold them.

Finally, secure them together with double-sided tape or glue.  If you are going to laminate them (which I highly recommend), it won’t make much difference as it just needs to hold together through the machine.  If you are not laminating, you may want to be more liberal with your adhesive.

Again, I highly recommend that you laminate these if you are using them in learning centers as they can be cleaned better and hold up to little hands better.  Since I teach online, I can just use my printed cards with just a little tape as I am the only one holding them.

These riddles are an excellent review for vocabulary and keep the students engaged.  It also teaches more vocabulary that is being used in the clues.  My students love solving these riddles in my online immersion classes and I can easily vary the levels of support I offer.

Some ways to vary support:

  • students read the clues
  • teacher reads the clues
  • have the students explain the clues
  • help define words the students don’t know
  • offer more clues to help identify the answer
  • repeat the clue in a different way
  • act out the clues when possible (use TPR)
  • let the student answer in the native language and ask partners/classmates for help remembering the target language word

I can also add more difficulty to the activity by mixing several sets of riddles together.  As an extension, I give the students a word and have them make up their own riddles.  Of course, this can easily become a writing extension as well.

My students love solving these riddles and ask to do this activity repeatedly.  I hope that you try these with your students as well to reinforce the vocabulary.  I’m sure that you will enjoy using these riddles in your classroom.

Here are some of our Riddle products available:

Adivinanzas del Verano

Categories
Language Learning Teacher Resources

Attending an Educational Conference: Getting the Most Out of Your Experience

I just finished attending a virtual educational conference this last week.  There were so many amazing speakers that poured out their knowledge to the attendees.  However, by the end of the week, my brain was swimming!  The best word to describe how I felt was overwhelmed.

Preparing for the Conference

One of my hobbies is working with planners, so before the conference, I used my planner supplies to create a “binder” for the week’s materials.  As I listened to the speakers, I printed their handouts, took my notes, and added them to my binder.

After the Educational Conference

I had spent a lot of extra time at the conference, so I took several days after the conference to catch up on my other work.  Now, I’m ready to dive into digesting what I learned.  I created these conference notes sheets.  They give me space to jot down the main takeaways and then I made a space to put in my action steps.

Conference Notes Handout

After I had these notes done, I put them into my Trello.  Some are on my general to-do list, and some are put into future to-do lists.  There are some of these things that I am not going to be tackling right now, but I may be ready in a couple of months.

If you would like a free copy of my educational conference notes, you can download them here:  Conference Notes

As you can see these were made for the Teachers Pay Teachers Forward 2021 conference, but you can use these for any conference you might be attending.

If you are a bilingual teacher, we have a great educational conference coming up at the end of July.  The Bilingual Educators Virtual Summit will be July 26-30….and guess who is presenting?  I will be offering a presentation on Engaging Your Students with Online Platforms in Your Classroom.  I hope you will join us (and you can use your conference notes for this too!)

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Teacher Resources

How to Use Powerpoint Matching Games with Students

This article will help you see how to play the Powerpoint Matching Games in my Teacher’s Pay Teachers Store with your students.  These games are great for either distance learning or in-person classes.  I personally use them in my online classes with my students.

First and most important:  You MUST be in PRESENTATION mode for these to work!  You also must use these in Powerpoint.  The animations will NOT convert to Google Slides or Keynote.

The biggest issue I have found is when my students click off of the boxes (on the background).  That will cause the slide to advance, so you will need to go back to the previous slide (I usually hit the back arrow key).

Here is a video that shows the game on screen.  Let me know if you have any questions, I hope you enjoy using these with your students.

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Teacher Resources

10 Ways to Use Would You Rather? in Your Classroom

One of the activities that I have found that always excited my students is the game Would You Rather?  I use this game often in my classes both in-person and online and have created several versions available on Teachers Pay Teachers.  In this article, I will share ten different ways you can use Would You Rather questions in your classroom.  These activities can be adapted for use with elementary students, high school language learners, or even adult students.  This fun activity can be a great attention-grabber for students of all ages.

My Would You Rather activities on Teachers Pay Teachers are available as Google Slides Activities or a printable version which includes poster size and task-card sized questions.  I also have them available in English and Spanish. I have several different bundles available as well.

1. Getting to Know You Activity

This is a great activity to get students talking.  I often use these questions during my first class to get the students laughing and comfortable talking with me and each other.  If it is a brand-new class, I will find some of the silliest, grossest, or craziest questions possible!

2.  Morning Warm-Up

Would You Rather questions are a great way to start the day.  There are several ways that you can accomplish this.  You can project a question and have the students respond on paper or let them discuss it with a partner.  You could have a question listed on chart paper and let students write their response on a sticky note and place it on the chart.

3.  Brain Break or Early Finisher Activity

If the class has finished a strenuous project or piece of learning, this is a great time to pull out a fun would you rather question.  This could also be an option for students who finish their work early.

4.  Compare and Contrast

This game provides a natural conversation that can lead to compare and contrast.  You can record the students’ answers and/or reasoning and even fill in the information on a Venn Diagram.  This is a great way to get them comfortable with using compare and contrast skills in a variety of situations.

5.  Graphing Activity

Make this activity into graphing practice by tallying up the number of votes for each choice and creating a graph.  You can make bar graphs or even pie charts with the data collected.

6.  Persuasive Speech

Use these questions as a starter for a short persuasive speech.  Teach students to give reasons for choosing the answer they did.

7.  Opinion Writing

Besides speaking about their choices, students may also write about their choices.  This is a great activity to get students used to writing and explaining their reasoning behind their choices.

 

8.  Learning Centers

Print the cards on cardstock and laminate them for a durable learning center.  You could include a writing sheet for students to record their answers or this can be a verbal activity.

9.  Divide the Class

If you need to divide the class for a particular activity and having equal sides is not a major concern, you can use a would you rather question to separate the class.

10.  Conversation Practice in Another Language

This is my personal favorite since I teach bilingual students.  Use the would you rather questions as fun conversation practice with students of any age.  For the students who are just beginning, they can simply choose one of the options.  The more advanced students can explain their choices in the target language.  These are a great time-filler for online ESL teachers if you are struggling to find a conversation started with your students.

You can see what our latest Would You Rather products are by clicking on this link:  My Bilingual Life Would You Rather Products

Categories
Spanish Lessons Teacher Resources

Chistes para Niños – Jokes for Kids in Spanish

Get ready for April Fool’s Day with these jokes for kids in Spanish.  Jokes are a bit difficult in a new language.  See if you can understand these.

Categories
Language Learning Teacher Resources

6 Components of Language Learning

Today I wanted to talk to you about the parts of learning a language.  So many people come up to me and say I want to learn Spanish or I want to learn English and that’s a wonderful goal.  But there’s a lot involved with learning a language.  So I wanted to talk to you today about the different parts of language.  In general,  there are six parts of language:  vocabulary, grammar, reading, writing, conversation, and culture.   

 

First of all, is vocabulary,  Vocabulary is the words.  When you start learning a language,  the first things that you’re going to learn are some vocabulary words. In all honesty, there’s not really an easy way to do this other than memorization.  There are lots of tools that you can use.  There are some great apps that help with that. Duolingo is a wonderful app to help you learn some vocabulary.  Flashcards are really good.  I have a lot of different kinds of flashcards available on my Teachers Pay Teachers store.   You can make your own flashcards.  I made a notebook for myself, but the point being is you’re going to have to learn a lot of words.  In the beginning, they’re not really going to make sense you’re just going to have to memorize them.   Also, different jobs or different hobbies have different jargon.  Jargon is the words specific to that hobby or that job.  For example,  when I was breeding horses there were a lot of words that I used specifically when working with the horses that I might not use in other places.  I’ll be honest, I’m not very familiar with a lot of the jargon used in sports. Another tool that you can use to learn these words is google.  One of my best friends is google translate,  If there’s a word that I don’t know especially like in a sport that I’m not familiar with, I  can usually look it up and find a good translation.  

 

The next part of language is grammar. Grammar is how you put the sentences together.  It’s how you use those words to make a sentence and it’s also the patterns of language.  For example,  this is when you get into the conjugation of verbs and using the correct pronouns and the direct the direct and indirect objects. With all of these grammar things, you learn the patterns.  When you are going to learn a new language, the good thing is that you already speak a language. You can use that language to help you identify the patterns and sometimes it’s a good thing to notice what is a different pattern than your native language.  For example in English the works for all definite articles in Spanish you have el, la, los, or las.  You can check out my article on this subject:  Definite and Indefinite Articles in Spanish.  That’s quite different.  When you notice that something’s different in a language that means that maybe you need to spend a little bit more time focusing on it.  

 

I’m going to put reading and writing together in this case because reading and writing in another language is very similar to reading and writing in your native language.  You can have a perfectly good conversation and not know how to read or write.  Reading and writing have to do with the phonemes, knowing what sounds letters make, and putting those together to make words.  Maybe that is not your goal.  Maybe you don’t need to be able to read a language.   Maybe you just need to be able to have a conversation.  You choose your own goals.  However, I  do suggest that you learn some reading and writing.  I will say,  especially if you’re going to learn Spanish,  reading in Spanish is very easy because the vowels always have the same sound.  It’s much easier to learn to read in Spanish than it is in English.  So if you’re already reading English, then Spanish will be very easy for you.  I personally do better when I can see a word written. I can remember it better.  Reading and writing can also be a good tool for you to memorize these new words that you’re learning.

 

Another part of the language is conversation.  Conversation is both listening and speaking.  Usually, when you learn a language you can understand it a lot better than you can speak to start out.  If you notice,  that’s how a baby learns.  At first, the baby is listening and they might respond with a very simple answer.  That’s kind of how it works when you’re learning a new language. You may understand the question but you may not be able to elaborate on your answer.  You might be able to only get out si or no.  Just think of it as the natural progression.  It’s very normal for you to understand but not be able to speak.  I know when I was learning Italian, I can understand quite a bit of Italian but I still cannot quite get my thoughts out the way I’d like to.   i still sound like a child when I’m speaking Italian.  My vocabulary is not very big.   You’ll also see that same progression in reading and writing.  You can usually read before you can learn to write,  The input is usually quicker than the output.  Don’t get frustrated if you feel like you can’t speak or you can’t write your new language very well yet,  It will come. Keep practicing!

 

The last part of language that I want to talk about is the culture.  You cannot learn a language and completely ignore where the language is coming from.  Granted, here in the United States there are people of many cultures that live here. They kind of share the culture but realize that Spanish actually comes from other places, other countries that maybe have different traditions or beliefs or ways of life than we do.  Another thing that you need to take note of about culture is that this that one thing may be called different things in different places.  Different words may 

all mean the same thing,  It pretty much depends on where you’re living or what audience you’re speaking with to know which one to use.   

 

The next time that you find yourself saying I want to learn Spanish  which is a wonderful goal by the way) think a little bit more about what it is specifically that you want to learn.  Do you need to learn some vocabulary? Are you just getting started? Are you ready to start putting it together and learn some grammar? Do you really want to be able to talk to someone and learn some conversation?  Do you love to read and want to be able to do that in another language?  Think a little bit more specifically about what your goal is and just pay attention and focus by breaking down the different parts of the language.  It will help you be able to focus on one specific area and as you gain proficiency in that area you can expand to the others. 

Categories
Language Learning Teacher Resources

Tips for Learning a Language

Check out this video with some tips to learn a language.

Categories
Online ESL Teaching Teacher Resources

New Flashcards on TPT Store!

I have a whole new selection of flashcards available on my Teachers Pay Teachers Store!  I created these cards from a necessity for my ESL classes at VIPKID.  I had bought some cards at the Target Dollar Spot, but they weren’t quite what I wanted.  So, I made my own.  They were perfect to use in my bilingual classroom as well.

I made cards for shapes, numbers, and colors and they are available in English, Spanish, or a bilingual bundle.  Several more sets are in the making, keep watching my store for more updates.

These flash cards are great to use if your student got through the material early and you need to review vocabulary or even teach new words.  You can easily cover up the word on the bottom for a quiz style review.  The cards are larger in size so they show up well on the screen or can be seen across the classroom.  They are also great for learning centers.