Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Presidential Campaign as Compelling Input and Contrast of Cultures

In Spanish 4 class we talked about election day. We discussed both major candidates engaging in VERY respectful conversation using previously acquired vocabulary as well as new words introduced in the context of such conversation, with visuals shown on a PowerPoint. Then I talked about the election process in México and shared pictures of my own voter ID (mandatory to be able to vote over there). They had a bit too much fun laughing at the picture of their -then- 19 year old teacher! They learned that after voting, Mexicans have to ink their thumb to prevent electoral fraud. We compared and contrasted both electoral processes, as well as other details like the difference in amount of years that a president serves here in the US (4, with the possibility of reelection) vs in Mexico (one term of 6 years, no reelection allowed). To finalize the lesson, students grabbed a ballot and did cast their vote, which included a recommendation for their candidate of choice on what to do to be a good president. Of course, as shown in the pictures we had to ink or thumbs!! Do you want to know the results??? Donald Trump won! Out of 25 total students, 15 went for Mr. Trump, 7 for Mrs. Clinton, 2 for me as a write-in (haha!) and one undecided. My students made me proud in different ways: 1) They used only Spanish, 2) their level of engagement was amazing, and 3) they conducted themselves with the respect that is much needed in our world. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Ready to Start a New School Year? Remember What Matters Most!

Sometimes we don't take seriously the impact that little details make in our students. Showing genuine care and interest in their lives beyond our classroom matters! I just received this from one of my students who will move to another district. I am humbled by his letter, and my heart is melting. Just what I needed today, as the nervousness of the upcoming start of the school year begins... when I invariably seem question all my work... am I doing things right? Does it even matter? This sweet boy just answered that for me. 
Dear Mrs. Yedinak,
I'm not sure if you have heard, but I must report that I will not be attending Ripon High School this year. I thought, though, that I would contact you about how great it was to have you as a teacher. I learned a great amount from you, and you always seemed to show a genuine interest and concern for my well being. From all of the talks while passing in the hall to the amazing coffee that you so generously gave me, you showed me that you were an incredible friend as well an outstanding teacher of Spanish. I will be attending XXX School for my Senior year due to the fact that my father is moving us closer to his workplace. I will, though, think about all of the important lessons that you have taught me of both Spanish and life.
P.s. I've kept the empty bag of coffee that you gave me to remind me of the great time that I had in your class.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Making Direct & Indirect Object Pronouns Comprehensible

This may not be ground-breaking (pretty sure many of you do it!) but I tried this only the last month of classes with my groups... my level one students showed a remarkable improvement in their writings and through reading with direct and indirect object pronouns. As I read aloud while they followed along, I would make an 'unnatural' pause and point at a student. For example: "El hombre quería llamarrrLA" emphasizing the "LA" while pointing at a girl in class. Then I would proceed with "pop-up grammar" "What is "la"? What is the "r" in "llamar", so what does "llamarla" mean? And if I wanted to say "he wanted to call ME"? what would I say instead of "LA"? and so on... The pop-up grammar was lightened as we continued the novel. This pause in my reading gave students a second to "digest" and better understand the grammar in the novel, and their writing improved remarkably, making my level one students more capable of applying indirect and direct object pronouns attached and detached to the verb in a much more spontaneous way! I don't know why I didn't do this sooner! Definitely an A-HA moment for me! Do you have any other ideas to help with this topic?

Monday, August 31, 2015


Tomorrow we begin the school year, and I am extremely nervous as usual around this time.  A week or two before the start of a school year I begin having bad dreams of students misbehaving, or of me being unprepared, or not getting the control needed for a successful class.  Also during this time it is when I doubt everything I do, and the ability that I have to deliver and get results... but today, I had a call from the mom of one of the 8th grade students that I had last year.  She wanted to meet me for lunch, and we did.  She told me how impressed she was with the ability and enthusiasm that her son was still showing for the class, and how he continuously looked for opportunities to keep learning and applying his Spanish out of the classroom.  He had asked me to lend him a reader for the summer, and I did give him two.  She was very impressed that he actually read both!  And every time they went some place during summer break he found signs in Spanish, which he would translate for her.  She got a present for his birthday, and the box read "es peligroso usar esta caja como juguete"... and he translated for her.  She told me amazed: "how is it that he knows all of these words?? When I studied languages in school all we did in first level was learning alphabet, colors, numbers, some greetings and random vocabulary!"  But what totally made my day was when she said that he, during Freshman orientation, pointed at the Spanish AP teacher and said "that is the lady who will be my AP teacher"... and later, he added that he was going to minor/major in Spanish in college because "that will give me a very strong advantage..."  WOW! Then I felt that everything clicked in place.  I am doing things right! If I get to influence the mind of an 8th grader (now Freshman) to the point of making him realize how powerful being bilingual is, and that he actually CAN DO IT this early in his life, is priceless to me.  This is the taste of success, in my humble opinion.  This is what is all about! And as I continue to scramble to find my comfort zone into the CI world, with all of its ups and downs, learning and unlearning as a teacher, I realize that as long as I continue to see the light that this particular case has shown me, I will not yield... I am not going back.  These students deserve the best teacher that they can have, and I will fight every day to deliver.  I strongly encourage you to see the four short videos I'm sharing here.  Each of them are about 2 minutes long, and you will see the kid I am talking about, as he was telling me (without previous notice from me) the story of Piratas. It was supposed to be 2-3 minutes per student, but he just insisted to continue! I did jump in to develop some conversation with him, so it proves that he was not just "parroting" the plot. I'M READY FOR A NEW YEAR! Have a GREAT ONE YOURSELF!!CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE VIDEOS

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Student Output Without Stress!

Last week I introduced clothing items and "she puts/put on..." using the commercial Vaseline Spray and Go.  I described what the girl in the commercial was doing, Movie Talk style.  I went back and forth using both tenses, and doing a lot of comprehension checks.  I did first the one about the dress, contrasting "she puts on her dress" (se pone el vestido) and "pone las manos en el piso", "pone la crema en el piso", to contrast the reflexive and present indicative form. The second commercial that I showed was the one with the skirt, sweater and shoes.  I tried to incorporate personalized questions and answers (PQA) as much as possible, to compare and contrast what students and the girl in the commercial were wearing. I emphasized the way she puts her shoes on, (with one jump). I challenged students to try and put their shoes on that same way, and I tired to do it myself as they were narrating... that was fun!
I continued to compare the SE PONE against PONE, with lots of comprehension checks.  The last commercial that I showed was the one that included more clothing items: jeans, sweater, blouse, shoes.  I narrated it again, pausing and trying to develop conversation with my students.  We gave the girl a name, and also went on describing the room, and bathroom.
Finally, I played it again without pausing as I narrated it once more.  Then, I instructed students to work with a partner and take turns to narrate the commercial twice.  After they practiced, I took volunteers to give it a shot in front of the class. I was THRILLED to see the reaction!  They had so much fun practicing first, and the amount of volunteers to try in front of everybody was much higher than I thought!  Almost every student wanted to try!  I wasn't expecting this to be a home-run, since output is usually something that intimidates most students. The challenge was high, because this girl puts on jeans, sweater, hat, shoes and leaves so quickly that it is almost impossible to narrate every single detail.  However, many students could do it all, and what I found fascinating was to observe that they were so focused on the message, that they were not paying attention to the language itself... I don't know if I am expressing this clearly, but after hearing that phrase in many workshops I finally understood what it means... The whole group was engaged and so focused on the many MANY repetitions that we got, that even the giggling of the "se puso" went away much faster than I had observed in previous years with other groups...  Tomorrow I will continue "milking" this commercial using the activity I created in a Power Point:

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Yes, Reading...

As I mentioned before, this is my first year in a new school and I am very lucky to have all of my colleagues excited and determined to transition from traditional teaching to CI / TPRS.  It has been a very hectic but fun school year so far, and I am pleased to see the other teachers very happy with the results that they have gotten so far.  Our superintendent, principal and school board are so excited with our program, that allowed us to sell all of our textbooks to get funds and buy short novels to structure our courses!  Ah, we also got a grant and added district funds to go (yes, the four of us!) to Washington this coming summer for NTPRS15!  I am VERY lucky.
Anyway, with everything that the transition entitles, we have been successful in implementing the change, and have dedicated pretty much all of the first semester to TPRS and Movie Talks.  Finally, we got our first order: "Brandon Brown quiere un perro" by Carol Gaab.  
Before we began reading the novel, students' speed-writes had been successful as far as showing fluency development.  However, I had about 90 percent of students misspelling "quiere" (wants).  Only a few students did it correctly.  We began the novel this past Monday and on Wednesday, after reading two chapters, I had them write a summary, speed-write style (7 minutes, without use of notes or any kind of help). In the past, I had students read this novel after the second week of school... this is the first time that I take so long to do it.   I knew that reading improves spelling and polishes language, I knew it... but I had not proven it so dramatically to myself until now.  The process (as we say in México) completely "flipped the tortilla!" Out of my group of 35-8th grade students only FIVE misspelled QUIERE! Unbelievable.  Somehow, I thought that the improvement would be a bit more gradually...  Also worth to mention, it was not a coincidence that the students that didn't improve spelling of that word were the ones that I had to remind every few minutes to "please, read along!".  The fact is that after almost a semester of CI, all of my students can understand the book without a problem, that is why they were not feeling the need to read along to follow the plot.  As I explained to them, reading this book will reinforce what they have learned, enhance their listening skills, help them ACQUIRE some new vocabulary, polish their sentence structure, SPELLING and grammar in general.  I am thrilled to have the budget that we got thanks to the selling of our textbooks, and we are in the process of getting all of our novels for this year.  In our order so far are "Robo en la noche", (by Kristi Placido), "Piratas del Caribe y el mapa secreto", "El Nuevo Houdini", "Felipe Alou", "Esperanza", "Vida y muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha" and "La hija del sastre", all can be found at 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

"Present & Past Tenses: Another Attempt"

After ten years of teaching for the same school, I moved to a different one this year. I am very happy with the change and my only struggle at this point is to adjust from teaching three blocks of 85 minutes to five periods of 50.  I am still trying to figure out how to use TPRS and CI without rushing, and to provide the right amoun of repetitions within that limited time frame. However, things are going great and I am extremely optimistic. I have more collaboration than I ever had, which makes me very happy.
This year I have set-up two professional goals for myself:
1) Do A LOT of Conversation with the actors (to practice other verb forms), and
2) To introduce past tenses right away, from the beginning levels.

For the first goal, I found it is easier to say as I point to the answer: "class, if I say" George, quieres tacos?"what am I asking?" (students answer). "Great! Now, if George responds "sí, quiero tacos ", what is he answering?" (class responds). "Great! Now, let's do it!" And then I proceed to directly ask the actor. Yes, it is pure modeling! This reduces the actor's anxiety, which ultimately made ME uncomfortable and anxious as well ... so in the past I tried to avoid this interaction as much as possible.  Before, I just pointed at the answers for the actor to see, and gave him the answers orally if needed. But modeling WITH THE ENTIRE GROUP'S PARTICIPATION made a gigantic difference. It is going smoother!
For my goal # 2 I got a great idea (again!) when I read Cynthia Hitz's post about  Class Stories Folders . I Decided to adopt her strategy and so far I have 3 stories for each class. When we are creating stories in class I use both, present and past tenses using CI with lots of comprehension checks and pop-up grammar. However, it gets messy and in an effort to alleviate That, today I decided to type both versions (present and past tenses) underlining the target structures for each. It is very Important to keep a limited amount of target structures, as usual. You can see an example below.  I am hoping this will help students make connections quicker, and better organize their thoughts. I cannot wait for that "natural order of acquisition" to take place. What are your strategies to mix tenses in class?