3 Fictional Characters


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I came across this idea on Mis clases locas by the fabulous Allison Weinhold.  I sincerely hope that my blog can be half as helpful as Allison’s blog has been to me.

Do you remember the three fictional characters posts on Twitter and Instagram?  I don’t know if many students participated, but it was really popular among my peers–and my mother’s.  Last semester, I was looking for a review of ser (to be) in Spanish I, and Allison’s post gave me a great idea.

For this project, students had to create a collage of the three fictional characters that they felt best described their personality.  I said it could any character (cartoon, TV, movie, book, or whatever).  They uploaded the collage of their characters, without their name, to Google classroom.

The next day, students wrote the names of their characters and where they were from on a piece of paper.  Next, they changed the characters’ names to subject pronouns in Spanish (another element of this unit).  Then they wrote positive and negative ser sentences.

Example (my collage is above)

  • Belle–Beauty and the Beast
    • Ella
    • Ella es inteligente.
    • Ella no es perezosa.
  • Marie–The Aristocats
    • Ella
    • Marie es bonita.
    • Marie no es simpática.
  • Katniss–The Hunger Games
    • Ella
    • Katniss es trabajadora.
    • Katniss no es rubia.

Next was by far the most fun part of the activity.  I projected someone’s collage, and students wrote a sentence about each of the characters.  One sentence had to be negative (to practice the placement of “no” in the sentences).  Then they guessed who the collage belonged to.  It was so much fun, and kids were so engaged.  They even wanted to keep doing the activity instead of videoing into the weekend!

Student examples:

Aprendizaje.  This activity was a blast.  It could be done for review of ser or as “a get to know you” activity.  I was shocked at how much I learned about my students from their character selections.  Next time, I will have them include the name of the character and the character’s movie/TV show/book in the collage because some of them had relatively unknown characters.  I will definitely continue doing this activity in Spanish I and might include it as a start of the semester review for II and III.  I also think this activity could be incorporated into other aspects of Spanish.

Do you do something similar?  Would this be a hit with your classes?


Procedures: Binder Organization

For first few posts of Me llamo Profe Hess, I will be describing procedures in my Spanish classes.  When I first began teaching (only 4 years ago), I read tons of blogs explaining the importance of establishing procedures at the beginning of the year or semester.  However, I couldn’t figure out how to accomplish this.  I will be sharing some successful procedures that I use in my Spanish classes.  To see the first entry on the Pledge of Allegiance, click here.


The next procedure is near and dear to my heart–binder organization.  I know this is a matter of personal preference, but I cannot stand the sight of students wadding up paper and shoving it in backpacks never to be seen again.  Therefore, I created, borrowed, and modified a binder organizational system that works for me and my students.  The Spanish binder, or carpeta as I call it, has been through many versions; however, this version is here to stay–I think.

The Binder.  I require students to have a binder exclusively for Spanish class.  I expect them to keep up with all handouts and even retain them from year to year.  I also keep an exact copy (buen ejemplo, pictured above) of a student binder for each of my classes.  Students use a 1 or 1.5 inch binder, and I keep a supply of extras–most of which have been donated from local businesses.  I like for students to have a binder with a front and back outside pocket, so they can store La Promesa and Fast Finisher pages (this will be discussed later).  The binder has 3 tab dividers–one for each section.

Units.  This is where the bulk of the information for Spanish classes is stored.  I divide my curriculum into units.  Normally, there are 4 units per semester, so a unit lasts a little more than a month.  The first page of a unit is a unit sheet.  I print them on colored paper, so students can find the right unit quickly.  The unit sheet functions as the table of contents.  On the front, students list Puedo (I can) statements that correlate to our daily objectives.  On the back, students list the trabajos (assignments) in the order that they are given out.

The unit section is where all of the trabajos, like vocabulary lists, grammar notes, writing activities, are stored.  Trabajos are numbered and should be kept in number order.  I have found that this simple numbering system helps even the most disorganized student keep things together.  This is important because I never make extra copies of anything.  Also, I require that students keep up with all trabajos because if it’s important enough for me to create and print it, they should at least not lose it.  Additionally, I give binder quizzes (post coming later in the series) at the end of each unit.

Para empezar.  The next section of the binder is the para empezar (Bellringer) section.  Every day there is a para empezar projected.  Students work on this when they enter the classroom, we say La promesa, they sit and finish the para empezar, and we check the answers.  Most of the time the para empezar is a review question, but I’ve been known to just ask how was your weekend or something.  I’ve found that the consistency is the most important thing. Students know that they will have one every day, and they are expected to be in their seats working when the bell rings.  I also randomly check for a particular day’s para empezar and count it as a grade to make sure students are completing them.


RWT.  The next section is for RWTs (Real World Tarea).  I found this idea on the Creative Language Class and modified it to be what I wanted.  RWT will have it’s own post later in this series.


Optional Section–Previous Spanish.  For my Spanish II and III classes, I require strongly advise that students keep notes from earlier Spanish classes.  This way they can reference notes if they need it.  I encourage students to use this section if there is something they don’t quite remember.  Some of my students have 1 or 2 years between Spanish I and II–we’re working on this, but it’s hard as a department of one.

What’s your organizational system?  Do you have similar requirements?


Procedures: Video into the Weekend

For first few posts of Me llamo Profe Hess, I will be describing procedures in my Spanish classes.  When I first began teaching (only 4 years ago), I read tons of blogs explaining the importance of establishing procedures at the beginning of the year or semester.  However, I couldn’t figure out how to accomplish this.  I will be sharing some successful procedures that I use in my Spanish classes.  To see previous entries, click here.

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Videoing into the weekend is something I stole from my high school AP US History teacher, Mrs. Wilson.  After a taxing week taking notes, she set aside the last 20 or so minutes of class on Friday to Video into the Weekend.  Normally, this was watching a documentary about the time period we were discussing.  I’m sure she realized because she is brilliant, but Videoing into the Weekend was something I looked forward to every week.

I adapted this for my Spanish classes, and every Friday we watch a movie or documentary for the last 20 minutes or so.  Let’s be honest–everyone’s brain is fried by Friday at the end of class.  I know that I am ready for the weekend, and the students are too!  So I opt to not fight the fight of squeezing one more thing in before the weekend.  We Video instead.

Before you jump to conclusions about me being one of those foreign language teachers that only shows movies, this is only 20 minutes a week.

Depending on the class, I show either travel documentaries about Spanish-speaking countries or animated movies dubbed in Spanish.  Anthony Bourdain is my favorite travel show.  I do send home this permission form at the beginning of the year for parents to approve.  He’s so funny, and the kids love it.  There is some occasional cursing and dirty jokes, but the usefulness outweighs that in my opinion.

If Anthony Bourdain isn’t an option or I’m not feeling it, I will show an animated movie dubbed in Spanish with English subtitles.  I know this is sometimes frowned upon, but again it’s only 20 minutes.  I like to show movies that the kids have seen, so they know the storyline already.  Finding Nemo, Zootopia, and The Emperor’s New Groove–or whatever Netflix has–are some of my favorites.  If nothing else, the kids are hearing Spanish being spoken by native speakers and seeing the word association.

While I don’t recommend this as an exclusive form of langauge teaching, I think that showing movies has it’s place.  Videoing into the Weekend has evolved in my Spanish III class.  Now on Fridays, we watch an authentic movie from a Spanish-speaking country that goes with the theme of the novel that we’re reading in class.  Look for more posts about Spanish III and novels in the future!

Do you Video into the Weekend? What do you think about it?


Procedures: La promesa de lealtad

For first few posts of Me llamo Profe Hess, I will be describing procedures in my Spanish classes.  When I first began teaching (only 4 years ago), I read tons of blogs explaining the importance of establishing procedures at the beginning of the year or semester.  However, I couldn’t figure out how to accomplish this.  I will be sharing some successful procedures that I use in my Spanish classes.

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Fittingly, the first installment in this series is the first thing that we do every day in Spanish classes–say the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish.

Every morning we say the Pledge as a school over the intercom.  Last year, I had a Spanish III class 1st block, and I thought why not make this daily event more applicable to Spanish class?  So, I found this awesome coloring sheet from Spanish Playground, and we started saying the Pledge in Spanish along with the announcements.

At the end of the semester, I have students complete a reflection questionnaire about their experience in Spanish, and almost all of the Spanish III students recommended that I start saying La promesa in every class.  They explained how having something in Spanish memorized and reciting it every day helped with their confidence in speaking.  I agreed with them, and the following semester all of my classes (Spanish I, II, and III) started saying La promesa.

At the start of the semester, I print off the coloring page for everyone.  Usually the second day of the semester, we go over how to say each of the words.  I know there are a couple of versions of the pledge, but I like Spanish Playground’s because A) the coloring sheet–high schoolers love to color; B) the translation matches word for word, so it’s easy to see that Yo=I; C) there are examples of difficult sounds in Spanish (bajo, justica, que), and we get lots of practice with those sounds.  We practice it a couple of times then they color it.  I tell them to keep it in the front of their binder, so they can use it.

From that day on after the bell rings for each block, a selected student counts (uno, dos, tres), and we all face the flag and say La promesa.  Most students have it memorized within a week or two.  At the beginning they don’t believe it, but I’ve had students that haven’t had Spanish in 3 semesters still be able to say La promesa.

Aprendizaje.  I love saying La promesa in Spanish–even though I end up saying it 4 times a day.  I think the repetition helps students feel more comfortable using Spanish.  Also, it brings up interesting ideas like the US not having an official language and how many languages are spoken in the USA.  It also is a great way to start the class and get students focused on Spanish.

Is this something you do in your classroom?  Do you think you might try saying La promesa de lealtad?



What Do You Teach?

Inevitably, the first question I get when I say that I’m a teacher is Oh, what do you teach? My answer depends on how much—or little—I want to chat with the person. I can say that I’m a high school teacher.  This conversation normally continues on with remarks about how young I look and questions like if I ever get mistaken for a student.

Occasionally I will say that I teach high school Spanish. That brings another curious glance. In rural East Tennessee, speaking Spanish is quite a rarity. If the person seems particularly engaged, I might launch into the story of how I met my husband studying abroad in Chile or a funny anecdote from my class.

However, I know that you’re here because you’re an educator—probably a foreign language teacher—and you care about not only what I teach, but also how I teach it.

For you, I’ll elaborate on what I teach.

I teach high school Spanish I, II, and III. My classes are a mix of all grade levels (9th-12th). We are on a block schedule, so I have students for 85 minutes for half a year. In Tennessee, students are required to complete two semesters of a foreign language.

I teach in a tiny high school in rural Loudon County. It is a PreK through 12th grade school all in one building. There are approximately 220 students in the high school and about 14 high school teachers. Needless to say, I am a foreign language department of one.

Three years ago, I was hired as a student teacher to be the Spanish teacher of my school.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I never had a student teaching experience.  Talk about trial by fire.  I’ve never been one to do things as expected, so the first thing I did was banish all the dated textbooks and workbooks to the supply closet.  From the first moment, I knew that I wanted to make everything that my students used.  Little did I realize what a daunting task that would be.  However, I wouldn’t change it for anything.

I’ve had the creative freedom to pick and choose and design my curriculum, but I haven’t done it completely on my own.  I would be absolutely lost without the amazing Spanish educators that share their amazing brains with the Internet.  (I’m sure there will be a post soon about this).  Through this blog, I hope to give back to the #SpanishTribe community like so many others have done for me.

I’m no spoken word poet like Taylor Mali (seriously—this is my anthem for those bad days), but now you know a little bit about what I teach. The rest of the blog will be exploring the ever-important how of teaching a foreign language. From Teacher of the Year-worthy lessons to major flops, I plan to share it all with you.  I am by no means and expert; however, I’m glad that you’re here to experience the journey with me!