09 June 2014

Healthy Habits Unit: Spanish I

This summer, I want to establish some healthy habits, for me and my own kiddos. My plan is to  twofold: menus and exercise plans. I want to start making weekly menus to do a better job incorporating the neglected food groups and start cooking at home more. The idea is to model healthy meal planning (and make myself actually do it) while giving the picky little boogers input so maybe they'll eat. Likewise, I want them to help me choose--and stick to--a simple exercise routine that will keep us all moving every day no matter the weather.
And if it's something my two-year-old and six-year-old can do, it's something my novices can do!

Building on an idea I had for my defunct Governor's Teacher Network application to incorporate things like dates, numbers, commands, and cross-curricular real-life application, I'd like to spend the 6 weeks after Genius Hour establishing on doing basically what I plan on doing with my blood-related babies this summer: setting menus and exercise routines.

Activity and Food Journals
I pretty much know where the kids who live in my house are starting as far as their diet and exercise, but for my school babies, they need to establish a baseline, and so do I. I'm considering getting a bunch of tiny dollar store notebooks (they're so cute) for students to track themselves there, but we might just do little stapled booklets with a template that includes food types (e.g. carbohidratos, grasas, frutas, verduras, proteína) and minutes of activity (or, say, steps taken if they have a cool app like me) to begin with for them to track what they eat and do normally. Then we might use online calculators to establish appropriate calorie intake for the day. After establishing baselines and goals, we'll probably add calorie counts (maybe work a little magic with the math and science teachers to help out there).

Activity and Food Goals
The goals will NOT, repeat NOT be about how much students weigh or body measurements of any sort. The goals will have to do with increasing activity and desirable foods and decreasing undesirable foods. Basically everyone would set one Activity Goal and one Food Goal each week.

Activity Goals could be either increased time or steps, or simply trying different types of exercises (e.g. zumba, yoga, walking, lifting). I'll conveniently have assorted TL authentic videos, and we could take some time to have them explore some TL pins for exercises they would like to try. Maybe we could even arrange some TL demos from local YMCA reps!

Food Goals--I want to steer away from "diet" because of the weight it carries in our culture at least, though it would make for a fascinating discussion with community partners--would relate either to calorie counts which make me a little nervous so I'll do some checking) or, perhaps more importantly, food type monitoring,  ie fewer fats or sugars or more fruits and vegetables. They might even pin some new dishes (in the TL) they want to try to help meet those goals, maybe 1 each week.

Class Partners
I'd like for them to have partners in the class and beyond with whom they discuss weekly goals: reflect on what they accomplished ("have") for the week in their journals,  what more they still need, what they want to change, and how they feel about their progress before sharing advice on what to try next. I could even set up some conversation cards and an interpersonal playbook with encouraging responses for such discussions!

Community Partners
The tricky part is the community aspect, but it's probably also the most essential for keeping kids accountable 1) for their language usage and 2) for their healthy habits themselves. I would really love to do this with local kids who speak Spanish, perhaps through the local ELL classes as we did with cooking, but I know their time is at a premium. We could also partner up with the local YMCA again, but the percentage of Spanish speakers there was not high. We could maybe plan a special program for local Spanish-speaking families, but that would mean neglecting the regular interpersonal accountability factor. Alternatively, I may just end up falling back on my Argentina amiga or seeking new online buddies in other parts of the country or world to meet with virtually to discuss progress, which, actually might be even more of a thrill for my kiddos than local connections.

08 June 2014

Film and Literature Reading List

This year, my English challenge was Creative Writing. Next year: Film and Literature. Not that I wouldn't have liked a chance to tweak Creative Writing further, but dang is it cool to have a principal who supports my experimentation habit.

Here's what I've got to do:
This course explores the complex relationship between film and literature. Selected novels, short stories and plays are studied in relation to film versions of the same works to gain an understanding of the possibilities and problems involved in the transposition to film. Students will examine plot, setting, characterization, narration, theme, performance, and dramatic structure and learn the terminology of film analysis. The course requires extensive reading and writing in addition to viewing films and participating in discussions. 

Now this particular group (several of which are my special babies I have had every single semester since I started here) has already had a Film Appreciation college course, so I believe I'll be able to fill in most of the film terminology we need by activating ye olde prior knowledge, and that frees me to explore literary machinations a little more thoroughly. It does mean, too, that some of the classics are off the table, though.

So I've been doing a lot of film/literature brainstorming, and I've come up with a few units and accompanying discussions/writing assignments that I'm kind of excited about, if I do say so myself.

The Princess Bride: Characterization
This is the first book I read after the movie that left me feeling still totally fulfilled by both. Naturally, Goldman, who penned both novel and screenplay, had more room to go in depth with character backstory and motivation in the novel, so I feel that's where the most significant comparison and contrast can be made. Plus who doesn't have a favorite character after they watch The Princess Bride?
Choose a character and compare their portrayal in the movie to their portrayal in the book. Include the actor's choices, specific dialogue from both, the character's backstory, a scene that is included in just the movie or in both, and a scene that is only in the book. Explain which portrayal you find more effective and why.

A Raisin in the Sun: Plot, Theme
It so happens that we have a class set of this one already, and actually, I purchased my own class set years ago, too: it's a MUST--a secret-of-life type play in my humble opinion. The weird part is, Poitier or no, I have yet to see a film version that captured the depth and breadth of Hansberry's interpretation of The American Dream for me. In fact, I was not in the least impressed when my 7th grade teacher showed us back in the day, so maybe my young ones can help me capture why. Perhaps we'll even watch the Glover version too.
A Raisin in the Sun embodies a variety of life goals that could all be considered crucial elements of The American Dream. Which dreams did you find the most relatable, and how did elements of the movie (e.g actor portrayals, cinematography) affect your ability to identify with that dream? Using events from the play and parallels from real life (your own, those of friends or family, or historical examples), explain how you are able to connect with that dream personally. Elaborate with your personal response and opinions about the quality and nature of each dream. 

Shakespeare adaptation choice: Setting (& Plot)
One of the coolest things about Shakespeare adaptations in film is the sheer variety, and who am I to presume to pick which should be viewed? Of course we have paperback copies of 12 different plays, and any of them can be had, say, on the iPads I've got coming my way, for free online. And so I'd like to set up a bit of a jigsaw activity, wherein students choose the play they'll focus on and then choose the adaptation. Several students could (and maybe should?) choose the same play, as long as they choose different adaptations to view on their own time (some of which will require parent permission or alternate selections). Closer to roll-out time, I'll try to compile a list of what's up on Netflix or Hulu at the moment and perhaps build my own little library for checkout, amassing as many as I can reasonably afford from these lists:

Explain at least five specific elements within the movie adaptation that depart from Shakespeare's productions, why you think the director chose to make those changes, and how you feel they impacted the play's representation, for better or worse. Consider especially choices relating to setting (was it updated or relocated? how? why?) and plot structure (what scenes were cut or added and why?)

If we have time around Halloween, I'd like to spend a little time on something spooky. Since they already covered Frankenstein in their film class, that pretty much leaves Stephen King and Dracula--which is free online. With Dracula, so many depictions are R, but I can pick out some choice clips from Nosferatu, Bram Stoker's Dracula, and Shadow of the Vampire, perhaps, and maybe they could write about which is scariest.

Jigsaw sci-fi fantasy series
I think we may wrap up with a sort of group project, wherein students choose one of the following series:

  • Harry Potter
  • Twilight
  • Lord of the Rings*
  • Chronicles of Narnia
  • Hunger Games*?
  • Percy Jackson?
They can have as many in their group as there are movies in the series (so maybe not Hunger Games & Percy Jackson, which only have 2?), and everyone in the group will watch ALL of the movies in the series, but then each student will choose a different book from the series to read. THEN they would have to come together to discuss what worked and what didn't in their respective movies/books, what was better, worse, or inexplicable. I'm not sure exactly how long I want to spend on this, but mainlining a series of movies could be quite a time-consuming process, but surely we could find ample material for discussing all of the requisite elements within a series. I think ultimately what I'd want them to produce is their own outtakes, scenes (or even lines) they felt should have been included to make the series complete, perhaps with "actor commentary" or titles indicating references to the designated film/literary elements.

I'm thinking I may need one other unit, and I'm not sure where I want to go with it, though I'd love to do something with non-fiction. I had originally been thinking Mean Girls with Queen Bees and Wannabes, but the book is so undeniably geared toward parents that I think my seniors would have a hard time connecting with it. I considered Schindler's List, but there's a big ol' R in the way, plus a heaping helping of Holocaust in previous classes. We have Blind Side and Rocket Boys in stock at school, but I think a handful of that class checked those out for independent reading already. I've had Fast Food Nation suggested, but I hear the movie stinks. Right now I'm leaning toward In the Time of the Butterflies (what can I say? I'm a Spanglish teacher), though I'd really like to find something nonfiction that moviemakers transformed into a gripping narrative. I've even considered Il Postino with some Neruda poetry (again, Spanglish teacher, and sucker for Neruda), but I think it would be lost on my special babies. I may even just do a fairy tale comparison unit with Disney cartoons, who knows? I have a little time to ponder.

Final:Short story conversion
Depending on how time and the non-fiction piece work out, I'd really like my kiddos to do some adapting of their own. The course description calls for short stories (and maybe we could watch one of my faves, The Shawshank Redemption, as an example), so maybe they could group up and bring a short story of their choice to life. Of course the finished product would be more than the recorded film itself, as it would have to include discussion and explanation of characterization, plot, theme, and setting choices, perhaps in a group blog leading up to the recording.

Just for fun, here are some titles other titles I considered:
The Road*
Lesson before Dying
The Color Purple
O Brother,  Where Art Thou
Ender's Game
Doctor Zhivago
Jurassic Park
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

01 June 2014

Summer Spanish with Google Communities

Some of my students will go over a whole year between Spanish classes. But with Google Communities, it doesn't have to be a whole year without Spanish. In fact, we can start planning for our victory for next year's Language Festival, maybe even schedule some meetups for conversation and café or to explore local eateries or tianguis.

Plus to sweeten the deal, they can build up some credit before the spring semester even starts!

We will definitely have the "personalized syllabus" next year, but it will definitely be whittled down to one overarching goal per grading period (for my own sanity) and uniform due dates for the tasks to accomplish each goal (at least 4 tasks per goal). That being said, I see no reason why my Spanish I kids--who won't become my Spanish II kids for a whole semester plus a summer--can't get started right now. What's more, I don't see why it can't help students work toward a common goal, say the language festival from which they're so keen to bring home hardware.

So I set up separate discussions for the different festival events, and I invited everyone from this year's Spanish I class to join (plus I'll be sending out a schoolwide invitation for interested parties). Now for each one of these activities that they complete between now and second semester, when I see them again, that will be one less task they have to complete during the spring semester, or one banked "quiz" grade! I don't think repeating any activities will be permitted, but if they play their cards right, they still could have basically no homework come Spanish II! But get this: they'll still be reaping the rewards of independent practice AND decreasing their downtime from the language!

Anyway, here are some ideas I had that I thought could be useful to help us put on The Most Awesome Performance of All Time next April.


  • Post a comment (2-3 sentences) in Spanish on this year's performance with at least one compliment and one critique.
  • Post a music video in Spanish of a song we could perform with 2-3 sentences in Spanish about what you like about the video and how you think it would work.
  • Listen to at least 3 videos suggested by other people and comment with 10 words in Spanish you think you hear in the song and what you think the song is about in general.
  • Listen to a video that's posted and describe in Spanish what you envision the group wearing and props they might use and how.
  • Listen to a video that's posted and explain in Spanish the pros and cons of presenting the song for the festival.
  • Listen to at least 10 songs posted and post a separate ranking from 1-10 (1 being the best choice) of your preferences with a brief explanation in Spanish for each with the reason for its ranking
  • Find and post a link to the lyrics for a posted video with a list of at least 10 key words (and their meanings in English) that the group would need to understand the song.
  • Create and post a playlist of at least 5 possible songs in a genre you think would appeal to the class.

  • Choose a country you think we should focus on for our skit and give at least four reasons in Spanish why that country is a good choice for a skit.
  • Choose a theme or message you think we should focus on for our skit and give at least four reasons in Spanish why that theme is a good choice for a skit.
  • Write 10 lines of dialogue between two characters that show a cultural misunderstanding based on differences between our culture and a specific Spanish-speaking culture or differences between two Spanish-speaking cultures.
  • Create a list of characters that would make an interesting skit: name and describe them briefly in Spanish.
Cultural Bee
This group didn't actually participate in the cultural bee before, but I thought research for that event could also prepare for cool skit topics.
  • Choose one Spanish-speaking country and list its national leaders (presidents/kings/prime ministers) for the last 50 years as well as the years they were in power--link to your source(s).
  • Choose one Spanish-speaking country and post a map of the country with a list of major cities (capital first), bodies of water, and mountains and/or ranges in Spanish.
  • Choose one famous author from a Spanish-speaking country and name five of his/her most famous works, describing briefly in Spanish what each is about--link to your source(s).
  • Choose one famous artist from a Spanish-speaking country and post at least five of his/her most famous pieces along with their titles in Spanish--link to your sources.
  • Choose one Spanish-speaking country and create and post a playlist of videos or songs of at least 5 popular musical styles from that country.
  • List the top 10 soccer or baseball players or Olympians from Spanish-speaking countries, either of all-time or in the world, including their country of origin, teams they have played for, and championships they've won.
  • Create and post a playlist of music videos of the top 10 Spanish-speaking artists in a genre or Spanish-speaking country of your choice.
  • Create and post a playlist of at least 5 clips from different popular telenovelas from different Spanish-speaking countries.
There are a few kids I think would get a kick out of meeting up just to practice their conversation, either with each other or with locals in the language--maybe even some international Skype buddies! This wouldn't necessarily directly lead to trophies of any sort, but it could be a worthwhile enrichment if we could arrange it. And who knows? Maybe we'll come up with something that would make some good dialogue or a good skit scenario!