2014 - Island Teacher

The Peru Post...and giving back!

This is a post that I have been intending to write for a long time. The problem is there is SO much that I could include, it's hard to narrow it down. There's my personal connection with Peru, the planning process of taking 23 people to another country, months of school fundraisers, putting together the service projects in which we participated, exploring Lima, Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and, of course, Machu Picchu. For this post, I'm going to focus in on service projects, with a little bit of background info. Hold on to your seats...I'll try to be brief. ;)

Background: I, obviously, studied Spanish in college. I studied abroad in Spain and did some internship work in Mexico, but, my Senior year of college (in 2002), was when my connection with Peru began. Peru just kept popping up (more so than other Spanish speaking countries) in conversation, guest speakers in classes, random ads that I would see. It actually became a joke with my roommates that someday I was going to Peru. About half way through that year of school, I began the process of applying with a non-profit organization, Food for the Hungry, to go to work in Peru for a year after graduation. Well, about a month later, I met a guy...I'm sure you know where this is going. I've now been happily married to said guy for almost 11 years. Where is he from? Peru. Some say coincidence, fate, destiny....I say God...but, no matter what your take on it is...it is weird for sure! I didn't go to Peru that next year, but have been many times since. A portion of my heart is in Peru and helping those living in poverty there is an important part of my life.  

Every year the middle and high school students at the school where I teach go on overseas trips. When my principal first asked if I would consider leading a trip that would incorporate more service opportunities, I (crazily) agreed. :) This, being my first time leading an out of the country trip, I decided that it would make the most sense for us to go to Peru. I had (have) connections there to help set up projects and the opportunity for students to go to Machu Picchu was definitely a plus. Thus, a year of planning and fundraising began. In the end, a group of 23 students and parents went along on the trip. It was an amazing time for all! Growing up in the Cayman Islands (which is very unlike some other Caribbean islands), many of my students had never seen extreme poverty. It was a very eye-opening experience. I'll detail some of our projects in photos below:

A group shot! 

Students had raised money to purchase a wheelchair for Junior, the boy above. He previously had no way to be transported around. We got to deliver the wheelchair.

We made blankets....lots of blanks....200 in all to deliver to a community outside of Lima.

Students carrying blankets on their backs to the place where children had gathered to receive the blankets. We had to hike as our bus could not drive any further up the mountain.

I'm not sure what I was saying to this little guy, but I do remember that the experience was pretty emotional. Over 200 children had gathered for blankets and waited several hours for us to arrive because our blanket making was taking longer than expected. 

Happy with her new blanket!

Community outside of Lima.

One of the families that we specifically went to help was Jhonny's family. In short, Jhonny is a Peruvian boy who was born with multiple disabilities. His family lost their home in a rockslide several years ago. Fundraising took place several years ago to build Jhonny and his family a new home. This is the new home. We were helping seal some cracks in the roof and do some clean up around the house.

Working on the roof of Jhonny's house.

Making a new friend inside Jhonny's house.

Outside Jhonny's house.

Recently, Jhonny's father, who works in construction, had an accident at work. He has been unable to work. This has been an extreme hardship for the family as he is the financial provider and there is a lot of need. They already live with so little, but are the most humble, appreciative family you could ever imagine. I have decided to help. 

Some Teachers PayTeachers sellers, organized by Nitty Gritty Science, are donating a portion of their sales this Sunday, December 14th, to a specific charity or cause. I will be sending 100% of my earnings on this day to help Jhonny's family. I am so excited to give back this holiday season! Pick up a Spanish resource or 2 and join me in supporting this family on Sunday. You can see more about the story of Jhonny's family by going HERE.


5 Spanish Infographics for the holiday season!

I'm always on the lookout for cool infographics to share in my Spanish classes. Infographics are pretty much just like the name implies. They are visual representations of information about a particular topic. I generally find these on Pinterest. We are trying to push through these last 8 days of school before Christmas break and I plan to add in some of the infographics to infuse some target language reading. 


Teaching across the USA...and Beyond!

I'm super excited to link up today with Lucy S for a fun topic about teaching across the USA...and beyond! Teacher bloggers are linking up and sharing where they teach and the best thing about teaching there. I can't wait to read all the responses! Here's mine:

I love, love, love that I get to be a part of such a diverse school. Our teaching staff is made up of teachers from America, Canada, Cayman, and Britain. The student population gets even more fun. I'm afraid to list as I know I'll leave something out, but, just to use my daughter's first grade class as an example, there are students whose families are from the US, Canada, Cuba, Cayman, Colombia, France and Honduras. The population of the island is only about 50,000 people. There are currently people from 109 different countries living here. It is truly awesome to live and teach in such a melting pot of cultures. 

Besides the diversity, you absolutely can't beat the weather! Being from Georgia, I remember going out on winter mornings and starting the car for it to warm up or scraping ice from the windshield before school. None of that craziness here! You have to be able to handle the heat though. This time of year we get a nice breeze, but June-August is H.O.T.  Of course, there is hurricane season, June-November, but since we've been here (now 3 hurricane seasons), we've had very little threat of bad weather. There is some rain, but it generally doesn't last long. With the nice, warm weather year round, it means that you get to spend more time doing things like this. :)

What's the best thing about where you teach? Head on over to this post and link up or comment below.

Vocabulary Activity Idea, New INB Resource and a SALE!!

While my amigos y familia in the US celebrated Thanksgiving this past week, I carried on with school as usual. It was a good week though! We've had cooler than usual weather...75 degrees, lol...for the past few days. My mom is visiting from Georgia, so while she's been lounging in tank tops and shorts, I've preferred jeans and cardigans. :)

This week in la clase de español, students used their current vocabulary list (-AR verbs), and created a picture or graphic. The only requirement was that they had to include all of their words somewhere within the picture. Here's one that really represents the island!

One of my middle school Spanish classes is studying gender of nouns and articles, so I made some new resources for our interactive notebooks. There are a couple of foldable pamphlets with notes and practice, as well as several other foldables with articles and a practice shutter fold book. You can check out the set here! It will be 50% off in my TpT store until tomorrow night. :) 

The big news of the day is that TpT is having a Cyber Sale on Monday and Tuesday, 12/1-12/2! I'll be discounting my entire store 20%, so combined with TpT's code, you'll be able to save 28%! This is a great time to stock up! 

Thanks Room 213 for the sale graphic! Happy shopping everyone! :)


Teaching Tips for the Verb Gustar

Today I wanted to fill you in on how I teach the verb GUSTAR but, first, a real life message. ;) 
Teaching Tips for the Spanish Verb Gustar

I feel like I've reached THAT point. You know the point I'm talking about, right? The one where you're just trying to make it until the next break? For me that next break is Christmas (4 weeks and counting!). I'm sure I'm not alone in my feelings because it seems the same thoughts are shared often in the staff room at break and lunch each day. I think this is combined with the fact that this upcoming week is just a normal week. I'll go to work this Thursday (Thanksgiving) and teach on just like an average day. While it has gotten easier since this is our third Thanksgiving in Grand Cayman, it's still tough because, as an American, Thanksgiving is BIG. It's difficult not to be surrounded by lots of family on this day. We have amazing friends though and still put on a big get together with the traditional meal. This year, our friends that are hosting are even DVRing the Macy's parade, so we can all watch as we eat our Thanksgiving dinner after work on Thursday. :)


Engaging young language learners

As I've mentioned before, I'm currently teaching at a private school where I teach quite a wide range of classes including several elementary Spanish classes. Even though I did spend my first 2 years out of college teaching elementary school Spanish, I spent the next 7 years teaching high school Spanish. I definitely considered older students to be more in my "comfort" zone if that makes sense?? At my current school I do a bit of switching back and forth between grade levels and now that I am also mom to a 1st grader, I've really enjoyed getting to work with these younger language learners again. In my opinion, one of the cool things about teaching a second language is the ability to use similar ideas across grade levels especially in the beginning levels of language learning. Singing, movement, role playing, basic reading books in the target language, culture crafts, etc. could all fit with a 2nd grade class, as well as a 9th grade class!


El Día de los Muertos Weekend Sale!

I've had a super, relaxing week on fall break this week from school. What better way to end a great week than with a SALE in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store? I'm teaming up with my amiga, La Profe Plotts for a Día de los Muertos weekend sale! We are both offering 20% products in our TpT stores this Saturday and Sunday, November 1-2. 

Check out some of La Profe Plotts' Pesca Games. She has them in a variety of topics for both vocabulary and grammar.

I've recently added some Character Cards to my store which come with many ideas and resources for activities and games. These cards give basic information about 32 different imaginary characters and are great for practicing a variety of language skills.

The Día de los Muertos clip art can be found at PoppyDreamz Digital Art.

Create an Adjective Person!

This past week we wrapped up a unit on los adjetivos descriptivos. One of the activities that my students enjoyed was creating "Cómo soy yo?" people. I had gotten an idea from Pinterest and then set out to make some templates and adapt it to Spanish. Students had to choose Spanish adjectives which they felt best described them, add them to the body of a "person" and then attach the body parts. Even though we haven't done body parts vocabulary yet, they were then pre-exposed to words like "la cabeza", "los brazos", etc., so this served a dual purpose. They then added color to their people and they are now added to a classroom bulletin board. These also will also fold up well, so we saved a page in our interactive notebooks for them to be added after they are on the bulletin board for awhile. Here are some pictures of this quick mini-project!

The templates for this activity are available in my TpT store Here!

Save some sanity part 2....Organize your week!

In part 2 of Save some sanity...otherwise known as "why did it take me so many years to figure this out?", I want to share my favorite tip for keeping your week organized. This became a necessity for me when I started teaching at my current school because I teach different grades and classes on different days and had to constantly refer to my schedule to see what was happening next. Then my plastic drawers came into the picture! I'm sure you've seen this idea floating around, but it is truly fabulous! 

I found these cute labels on TpT back before I knew how to make my own stuff like that (I should totally remake them in Spanish!) and added them to the front of the drawers. I've seen many pictures where people have the last drawer labeled "next week", which works great too, but then my next week would be all jumbled up. I use the last drawer to hold my interactive notebooking supplies. Since I have small classes, my glue sticks and scissors fit nicely there. After a day of the week passes, I'll begin adding to the drawer for the next week as I plan and gather materials.  Anything needed for that particular day goes into the drawer. This could be handouts, task cards, other games, graded papers to return, etc. Then, when a class comes in, I just access the drawer and all is well! Some sanity has been saved! Happy Saturday!

Save some sanity...Organize your resources!

I thrive on organization (or at least attempting organization). I am a list maker. Post-it notes with endless lists that I can check-off are my friends. I like to have a plan for everything! So why did it take me 11 years to figure out a better system to organize my files?? Your guess is as good as mine. Previously, I had labeled paper file folders and shoved them into filing cabinets. Disclaimer: This post is in no way knocking paper files folders and filing cabinets...mine were just so unorganized. ;) Sometimes I would end up with 3-4 folders all stating something like "-AR verbs present". Before we moved to Grand Cayman, I had taught at different schools in Georgia and Florida, so I had units corresponding with various textbooks as well. It was a mess. I'm not sure how I managed finding anything...ever. I think because resources were tucked into a file cabinet that I could easily close that I didn't think about it as much. As teachers, we know time is lacking, so file organization just wasn't a priority. When we moved, I packed up those SAME paper files into plastic bins and they came flying across the Caribbean with me where I put them into the SAME metal filing cabinets here.  Ok, now I'll be really honest and show you a sample of what this all looked like before so that you can visualize the madness...

In order to get this under control, the first thing I did was begin to purge files. I mean, let's be honest. If I hadn't used a resource since 2004, chances are I'm not going to miss it if I just chunk it. So I threw away a LOT of stuff. I find myself constantly looking online or making my own resources (especially since I'm taking an interactive notebook approach this year), so for me, there's no need to save everything I've ever thought about using. I was a bit of hoarder and why I allowed everything to come with me on a move to another country is beyond me. I began the process last school year of moving everything to 3-ring binders. Each binder has a broad category on the outside and tabs on the inside to separate categories. It's a work in progress and I work on it as I have time by pulling a paper file out of the file cabinet, throwing away what I no longer use/need and adding the papers to the correct category or creating a new category. 

 I have found that I am now more easily able to find a resource by pulling the correct binder and looking at the tabs. One check off my post-it note list in my quest for more organization. ;) What about you...how do you organize your files?


Celebrating el Día de los Muertos

It's coming soon! One holiday that I look forward to teaching about every year is Día de los Muertos. I like helping my students knock out the stereotype that it's just another version of Halloween. Today I was happy to have to opportunity to jump over and guest blog at Language Teachers' Cafe. Here I share some ideas that I've come across online for incorporating Day of the Dead into your lessons at the end of the month. 

I was thinking ahead about the holiday this year and wanted to make some new resources of my own for students to include in their interactive notebooks. While I was busy creating back in July, my 6 year old wanted in on the action too! What was the result? I now have Día de los Muertos Christmas ornaments that I can proudly display in a couple of months...thanks AG! ;)
Head over to Language Teachers' Cafe to see my 5 ways to Celebrate el Día de los Muertos in your classroom.

The Día de los Muertos clip art can be found at PoppyDreamz Digital Art.

Creatively Teaching Spanish Speaking Countries and Capitals

I often find that for whatever reason I tend to breeze through the topic of Spanish speaking countries and capitals. This year I pre-tested student knowledge of the topic by giving them a blank map and asking them to write in as many Spanish speaking countries, along with the capital, in the correct location on the map. Let's just say that the results were LESS. THAN. STELLAR. I find that when students are asked where in the world Spanish is spoken I get the standard responses of "Spain!" or "Mexico!" and, because I'm now in the Cayman Islands, "Honduras!" and "Cuba!" are popular choices as well. While they may be able to spout off a few countries that speak Spanish, can they locate them on a map? Can they tell the capital city? If your students are like mine...probably not. Because of this, I was determined to dedicate a bit more time to this topic this year in order to really help my students get a better grasp of geography before we dive in to studying individual countries and culture. 

Here are some of things we are doing for this unit of study:

1. Map Labeling- I always start with showing a PowerPoint which highlights each country on a map. As each county is highlighted, I have students fill in their maps with the country name and capital. This year, since we are using interactive notebooks, they have a page in their notebooks dedicated to this map. 

2. Creating acronyms- After we label maps, we come up with acronyms to remember the order of the countries on the map. This year our acronym for remembering Mexico and Central America is:

For South America, we are using:

We couldn't leave out the other countries, even though this doesn't help with the map labeling:

You can check out these posters HERE!

3. Next, we add foldables to our interactive notebooks. I created a set of interactive notebook activities to help students categorize the geographic regions of the countries and to learn capitals. You can check those out HERE if you'd like. 

4. Students use their interactive notebook foldables to quiz themselves and each other. We also practice with a whole class game like "Yo Tengo...¿Quién tiene?" Countries and Capitals.  

5. I show the countries and capital rap. It drives students crazy, but I think they secretly love it! ;) It's all over YouTube, here is one link.

6. To assess this unit, I re-test students using a blank map and they are able to see that their knowledge has (hopefully!) greatly improved!

How to you teach countries and capitals?


A Weekend of Awesome Part 2...GIVEAWAY!!

Another part of my of Weekend of Awesome was finding out that I was going to have a download of one of my free resources featured in the weekly Teachers Pay Teachers newsletter. Now this may not seem like anything that awesome, but amigos, this was a BIG deal for me! I had been submitting a product every week that I remembered for about 5 months or so. Each week the TpT staff chooses 10 freebies to go into the weekly newsletter which goes out on Sunday. I, honestly, have no idea how many submissions they receive each week, but I was super honored to be chosen. I'm also very thankful that my amiga, La Profe Plotts, gave me the heads up that I was going to have a featured product. This allowed me to spend most of Saturday working on sprucing up my store for the day. Here's the shot I had to take when the newsletter email rolled into my phone inbox!

If you want to pick up my free La Familia Questions worksheet, you can find it in my store, HERE. Now, because of my super, awesome, fabulous weekend, I have decided to host my first giveaway!

The winner will win both a $10 TpT gift certificate AND $10 worth of their choice of products from my store. :) The giveaway will run until October 9th. Enter below for a chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A Weekend of Awesome Part 1...FREE e-Books!

I didn't get around to linking up for the Sunday Scoop this past weekend because I was just on excitement overload for various reasons. Actually there was so much awesomeness going on in my world this past weekend that I'm even going to break it into 2 blog posts! :) 

One of the awesome pieces of news is that I recently had the opportunity to collaborate with some amazing 6-12 teachers in putting together some e-Books! These books were posted over the weekend on Teachers Pay Teachers, and, honestly, they rock!! I was super excited to contribute a couple of pages...here they are! Check me out in the humanities e-Book or you can click HERE to go my free pages which are posted in my store!

A huge thank you to Brain Waves Instruction, Literary Sherri, and Getting Nerdy with Mel and Gerdy for compiling these! Each e-Book profiles SECONDARY teacher-authors and shares print-and-teach resources from 25 TpT stores in each e-Book.  The e-Books center around ELA, Math & Science, and Humanities (Social Studies, Art, Foreign Language, and more ELA).  In them you'll find a 'meet' page completed by each seller that includes responses to 5 prompts.  You'll get to learn a bit about each seller like their favorite book or things that make them happy.  Then, each seller provided you with a 1-page resource that you can use in your classroom tomorrow.  These e-Books are filled with awesome teachers, little insights into each sellers' life, and resources that are easy to implement in your classroom.  They're pretty amazing.  

See the links below and download each free e-Book. You'll get a chance to meet and teach resources from these teacher-authors:


¿Qué hora es? Teaching Time with Spanish Interactive Notebooks

This past week we began studying time. We started out with a PowerPoint on time and students took notes in their interactive notebooks.

Then we got started on our time foldables for our interactive notebooks. It gets a bit messy, but they are pretty good about cleaning up without being reminded. I do desk checks before they can be dismissed because there are, of course, those students who just shove scraps of paper into their desks. :)

For this time unit, I created 2 different types of notebook foldables, a set for time vocabulary and then a set of flipable clocks where students drew on the hands and then added the times underneath. They can use all of these as study tools to prepare for the quiz.

 I was also super excited to use a new time task card set, but ran out of time, so that will wait for next week. Tonight though, as I was writing this blog post from my kitchen counter, I looked outside and saw a beautiful sunset...I just had to share! Happy Friday all! Enjoy the weekend! 

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