La Vampirata

I must admit that before I bought this book, I had misunderstood the title. I was expecting a more fanciful story about a vampire rat. I am not sure why exactly, since the cover clearly shows a pirate ship. But, be that as it may, I was still really excited to get my hands on another Mira Canion book. I’ve got class sets of several of her other books and know her writing is always top notch in my opinion. This book was no exception. From sword play to bullying, this book had a lot of reality in it while still being fiction. Be warned though, this book has quite the cliff hanger ending. If you like your stories wrapped up in a nice little box then you may wish to choose another of her books, as the ending here is wide open. This story is 53 pages long, written in the past tense and has 240 unique words. It does have a lot of illustrations, but not enough for me to say it is ideal for a first-year student. While the topics are hefty and do include a level of implied violence, no one is seriously injured during any of the conflicts, so I would give this to my fifth graders as an option in their library. Since I change my books out every quarter, I would probably not add this one into the rotation until third or fourth quarter, just to make sure they have become experienced enough readers to handle the higher word count.

La Vampirata begins in the time (and location) of the Salem Witch Trials. This is not an ideal time to be very pale skinned with jet black hair, but Sarah is and the whole community ostracizes her. She is looking for any way out of her situation when she comes to possess a mystical emerald and a story about a magical place where it comes from. She decides to hop the first ship out of Salem to seek out adventure and to learn the truth of the emerald. Unfortunately, her choices lead her to more danger as she finds herself on a pirate ship filled with dangerous pirates in search of the very same emerald that she is hiding. How long can she keep her secret? How long before the crew turns on her just like her old community had? Will she ever get where she is going? The only way to know is to read it!

Honestly, I’m not sure my students, even after three years with me, will have the stamina for a book of this length. They are still quite young, and prefer much more pictures still. But, I’m still thrilled to have it, and plan on keeping it in my rotation of books to read during our FVR time. I will just keep it tucked away, putting it out for the last quarter for my oldest students, in hopes that someone is just chomping at the bit for a great pirate story.

EdCamp CI VA coming soon

EdCampCIVa is back for it’s fourth year, and better than ever! I am so excited to attend for my third time. This year will be a little different from the past three years because it is now a(n optionally) two-day event. On Tuesday, June 23 there will be a paid training from Elevate Consulting. This $75 day is quite a deal for a day of culturally responsive teaching methods that is designed for novice and advanced CI teachers. Plus, if you plan on going to their three-day training in DC the following week, they will apply a $50 credit to that registration for attending this event!

Whether or not you attend on Tuesday, put Wednesday on your calendar now! This is a completely free event that you do not want to miss. If you have never been to EDCamp before, it’s an unconference. There is no preapproved session list, only a preset time schedule. When we meet in the morning, attendees can write down what they are willing to present on (if anything) and what they are most interested in learning about. Once all have had a chance to add their thoughts, the sessions are designed right there matching the available presenters to the needs of the other participants. Plus, space is provided for people to go and have more private conversations with colleagues who have more specific conversations. The Latin teachers really took ownership of that last year, and said they really loved having a place to just be, while still popping in and out of other sessions. It’s really that relaxed, while still being high quality training.

For more information please go to: EDCampCIVa’s website to learn about what they do and why they do it. And remember go here to sign up for one or both days of this year’s event. I hope to see you there!

La Heroína Improbable

I must say, I believe that Faith Laux has hit it out of the park with (what I believe is) her first novel. This book is hilarious. I find it hard to believe that she manages to tell such a compelling story based on farting, using 155 unique words in 11 chapters. I think every single one of my students would enjoy this story, if they take the time to read it. From terrorizing teachers and the school heartthrob to pesky siblings and gigantic farts, this book really has something for everyone.

This story revolves around Anabel, beginning on her 13th birthday. In the span of a few days, she conquers many of the trials and tribulations of teenage life including cruel teachers, being embarrassed, and her first crush. Oh yeah, and farting. There is a lot, a lot, a lot of farting in this book. I do believe it introduces every possible fart expression. At least, I can’t think of a way to talk about someone farting that doesn’t appear in these 60 pages.

As is my custom with previewing books, my first read was done while reading it aloud to my husband in English. It’s a litmus test that I use when deciding whether or not the book is simple enough for my students. If I can’t read the whole thing easily with a natural cadence to my speech rate then it is probably not ideal for my beginning readers, if I can read most of it then it’s a sure bet for fifth grade, and if I can spontaneously translate it in the first read without any trouble at all then it goes to my earliest readers – unless it is disqualified by subject matter. Perhaps this says more about my fluency than it does about the book, and I am open to suggestions on better screening methods, but it is not my only filter, so I try to learn from my read-aloud experience as I make my decision. This is relevant because there was one moment (near the end of the book) where what was being said was so outlandish that I didn’t trust my translation and had to re-read it just to be sure. That indicates to me that perhaps it will not be ideal for my third graders, and I will save it for fourth and fifth grades. I believe that my third graders could read it, but I would rather give it to students with a smidge more confidence than those first-year-of-Spanish babies tend to have at their age.

Content-wise, I love that it deals with crushes without going into kissing. I really, really don’t like giving my elementary students books with kissing. Everyone is different in what they find to be appropriate or not for their students, and that’s just one of my lines. I don’t like many insults and I don’t like any kissing. These kids see so much PDA in their digital life that I’d rather keep it out of their Spanish life. Again, that’s me and my opinions. As for insults – there are several, and some are quite inventive, but they do not dissuade me from thinking this book will be okay for my fourth and fifth grade students. Partially because they do have a fairly complex grammatical structure, which means only devoted novice readers are going to understand the depth of what is being said, and partially because it does fit well into the caricature (at least, I hope it’s a caricature, and not based on a person the author is actually acquainted with!) of the speaker.

Ultimately, if it isn’t obvious enough, I give La Heroína Improbable two thumbs up! While most ideal for middle school, I believe this book will be approved by readers of all ages. Farts really are universally funny. I hope you love it as much as I did.

Brandon Brown Quiere Un Perro

It is time to talk about my husband’s favorite novice Spanish reader. He has read a few of the books that I’ve brought into our home, but it did him laugh out loud. Boasting 105 unique words in it’s 69 pages and 10 chapters, Brandon Brown Quiere un Perro is a real winner! In his words, “I like how this book has high word frequency, they show you a word and then use it a bunch of times in the next few pages. This lets you learn it.”

This book is written by Carol Gaab; and is part of a series of books that begin with a 7 year-old Brandon in Brandon Brown Dice la Verdad. Best of all, the Brandon Brown series is published in several different languages. At I also found it in German, Italian, French, Latin, and Chinese. I am certain that I’ve seen it in English, too, I just can’t figure out where.

I love that this story is written about a nine-year-old, because half my students are nine themselves. That makes this book more relatable to them than many of the other novice readers. (Side note: isn’t it a constant struggle to find that perfect balance of age and language-level appropriate books!?) Back to the story at hand, this is the age-old tale of what a kid would do to have a dog. I think everyone can relate to asking your parents for a pet of your own, but that crazy Brandon just never can let things be. His shenanigans in this story do not disappoint and are engaging enough to keep a grown man groaning and laughing at his outlandish choices. I know that I would have imagined making the same choices Brandon does as a young girl, but I never would have actually done it! Good thing too, because it doesn’t exactly go well for Brandon. I don’t want to spoil the story, so suffice it to say, he misses the mark a bit on the whole dog-ownership thing.

I’ve read four of the Brandon Brown books, but don’t own Brandon Brown Hace Trampa yet, and can say that they maintain a consistent level of interest and simplicity across the whole series. Carol Gaab certainly has a gift for telling stories that readers of all ages can be intrigued by, while avoiding complex structures or other linguistic barriers to beginning students. Any selections of higher-than-novice words or word chunks are translated in footnotes at the bottom of the page where they are first seen, which is a rare occurrence. I feel that their rarity shows Gaab’s deft hand at recognizing when simplifying language would betray the integrity of the story (at best) and disenfranchise the reader (at worst). Her experience shines through her words and builds the comfort and desire to persevere that all beginning students need when learning to read.

Another big boost for this beginning reader is the illustrations throughout the book. I took about two minutes to flip through and count them. There are (plus or minus one) 65. I’ll remind you that this book only has 69 pages. There are several pages with two illustrations, but even more with just one. Basically, you can open this book to any page and see between one and three different illustrations. There are just enough to let you follow the story, even if you struggle with the language, while not giving all of it away. This is not a graphic novel, it is a very meticulously illustrated reader, to be clear. Plus, I like the style of plain black line drawings that are so generously scattered through this book. I love how they convey the story in the simplest form while not being distracting or overly informative. Again, I feel like this is a shining example of how Gaab understands and meets the needs of her ideal target audience.

My only question would be: how does that all important 14-year-old Spanish student respond to such simple graphics? Even the cover is a very simple drawing, albeit in color. I’m not sure whether or not those finicky tweens and teens would flock to this book based on the cover. If you can speak to this, please leave a comment below! I’d love to know your thoughts! Thank goodness for me, my kids are his age, and will pick it up for one simple reason: they also want their own dog.

PD Book: For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood…

For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Y’all Too was written by Christopher Emdin in 2016. I learned about it over the summer of 2019, when I saw he was enlisted to speak at ACTFL. I immediately purchased his book and set to reading it. I just finished. This book is equal parts graduate-level study of pedagogy and its relation to urban education, and true tales from an urban teacher. As I much prefer fiction to non, I did proceed very slowly through this book. There are lots of good points for reflection, so I tended to only read five to ten pages at a time, then reflect and go back for another round. That makes 200-page books last a very long time.

My very favorite parts were the stories from his personal teaching experiences. He told a lot of stories that sounded so familiar, and I was surprised that he and I could have shared such similar experiences. Although, I have to admit that I finally understood (on page 197) why I was failing to connect with so many of his ideas. This is because he spoke explicitly about working with middle school, high school, and college teachers and students. No wonder I didn’t think many of his ideas would work with my kids, they are based on reflection and cognitive evaluation that six-year-olds typically cannot express sufficiently. He also gives a lot of ideas that build off special groups that meet afterschool. That is quite hard to manage when you are a traveling teacher and there is no such thing as an activity bus.  So, with that bias spoken, let me share with you what I loved and why I think this is a valuable book for teachers of older students. (I’m not saying it lacks value for elementary teachers, it will just take a bit of effort to reimagine what these ideas look like with a younger group. My experience shows that there is a much wider gap in the reflective abilities of a seven-year-old and a 12-year-old than between a 12-year-old and a 22-year-old, most of which revolves around the ability to put feelings into words.)

I have to share with you my absolute favorite quote from the book, which falls on the very last page (206): “The kind of teacher you will become is directly related to the kind of teacher you associate with.” He goes on to talk about misery actively recruiting company, which I imagine all of us have seen and/or participated in at some point. But I see it in a different way, if you actively seek to push your fellow teachers to seek out the best tools for your trade and they follow you, then they will push you to do the same. He even shares stories throughout the book that expresses how he had the same experience. When we open our minds to see the potential of what things can be, then we create a safe place for those around us to do the same. I believe this is true for our coworkers as well as our students. I always tell my older students (who I test all my newest ideas on) when we are trying something new and what I hope to gain from it. If I am nervous, then I tell them what I worry might go wrong, in doing so I believe I have avoided those endings all together. When they know that I’m not always super confident about trying new things, then they know they don’t have to be either. But we still try them. And then we reflect, and then we improve (or forget) whatever it was. Either way, through our trial we have created a safer space for risk taking, and I venture that nothing is riskier in a classroom than speaking with new words about new things.

My second favorite quote (found on page 112) speaks about a potential reason for students who behave in ways that the teacher may not appreciate. He is speaking about how intelligence is perceived, and how the behavior of begin smart is commonly aligned with the behavior of the white middle-class. Thus, it can be difficult to be viewed as intelligent for students who are not well versed in those behaviors. In his words: “Rather than preform smartness, they deliberately act out an exaggerated version of what the teacher has chosen not to recognize.” I find these words so powerful, because even the youngest students do this. If a teacher fails to acknowledge a student and his/her way of knowing then they disengage, and their disengagement results in our inability to push them into a deeper understanding of the content and the world. By recognizing our own inability to know all the ways of knowing the world, we are opening up space to learn the world of the students we don’t understand.

Emdin also gives ideas for how to open the classroom to these students, who he calls neoindigenous. First, he recommends call and response, as seen in many black churches. He tells stories of watching black preachers and how they use the tone of their voice and their words to ask the congregation to follow them through the sermon, to get their permission to move forward, to build energy, and to dissipate energy. These calls and responses can easily be built into any subject, and in languages can include calls that already exist in the culture of the language (classroom teachers I teach with use, with good effect “shark bait/bruhaha” and everyone knows “class class/yes yes”). In Spanish, I have opened class with ¿Qué te pasa calabaza? / Nada Nada limonada, as a way to transition from wherever the students were before I walked in the room to being ready for Spanish. Ironically, I stopped doing this because I made it a student job, and my student would do it up to five times before sitting down and that just wasn’t what I had imagined… oops. This is a procedure I’ll be bringing back now…

He also highly believes in cogenerative dialogues, which is roughly creating a focus group for your classroom. Some students are invited to help join you in your reflective process. These students learn to reflect on the teaching practices in the classroom and help the teacher improve upon them. They can even be asked to teach lessons, after being instructed privately on the subject and presenting a well-built lesson plan. Once a cogenerative dialogue group is built, he recommends swapping out members for others in class, so that all who are interested can have an opportunity to improve their learning experience. As a spin off of cogenerative dialogues, he suggests cosmo duos, which are pairs of students who are encouraged to share with each other their triumphs and struggles in class, and then work together to celebrate or improve the situations.

His bottom line is easily understood as being invest in the students and they will invest in you. Meet them where they are, and they will show you what their reality is. You must understand their reality, or be visibly open to learning, before you can reach your fullest potential as an educator of students.

Late notice: Free PD Alert!

Apparently, I am as behind on reading my email as I am in reaching my goals for this website. But there is still time to join the Ditch Summit this year! Go to to join in and get access to tons of PD videos. In addition to ten new videos for the 2019 summit, you also get access to all of the previous summit videos! I’ve seen them, and there are so many great videos to watch. Best of all, you get a certificate for an hour of PD for every video you watch. There are also Flipgrid conversations you can participate in, and downloadable notes that I love to use to follow along with the videos. It’s much handier to have the notes there so I can personalize them, rather than having to write everything out myself.

So, go now! Time is limited! Enjoy ten new videos all about managing teacher stress (the topic of the year) which is quite appropriate for this time of year. Enjoy!

A Natural Approach To The Year

The best way to begin this post is to note that Tina Hargaden has released a book called Stepping Stones: Year One And Beyond (available at which is a bit different. It includes modifications and revisions to teaching methods which she has formulated since the release of A Natural Approach To The Year (available in print with the title Year One at I have not read the new book, so this reflection is based on this original book. Now, on with my review:

While many of my readings have influenced me teaching, I believe that none have affected me more than A Natural Approach To The Year by Tina Hargaden and Ben Slavic. I’ll qualify that, slightly, by saying I am very glad that I had first read The Big Book Of CI (available at by Ben Slavic. ANATTY, as a simpler moniker, has many references to the activities and approaches that are described much more thoroughly in The Big Book Of CI. However, I do believe that ANATTY includes descriptions that are clear enough for someone to understand regardless of whether or not they’ve even heard of The Big Book Of CI. As a book about teaching methods, I adore how it is written in the first person. It includes such a familiar vernacular that it reads more like a conversation than reference book. This made the book, for me, much more enjoyable to consume.

This book is presented as a curriculum that walks you through day one to the last day by using instructional cycles and repeating activities. It is designed for middle and high school, which typically have longer classes than my 30 minutes, so I do have to modify the recommended class structures. That being said, so much of the content has kind of an a-la-carte feel to it so it isn’t challenging to make the classes work. It is very motivational and is a great beginner’s guide to switching from following a textbook to personalizing your classes 100%. For me, it was the perfect way to move from being glued to the set curriculum, as I was two years ago, to being willing to find the activities that my kids love and stuffing as much Spanish into those activities as possible. While it may not be a book that really supports teachers who has been full on non-targeted CI for multiple years, it is a perfect entry point for anyone who is looking to love teaching languages again. This is my second year using it as the inspiration behind how I plan my classes. It has led me to be more flexible, and helped me stretch my own knowledge of Spanish by letting our class discussions go where the students took them, instead of where the vocabulary list confined them.

The most beneficial part of this book for me is the way classroom management is presented. There is so much intention and such a strong rationale to how class rapport is built. I often find myself in discussions with other teachers where I bring up my favorite points from the book. There is a well written mantra (but I will not repeat it here as I do not have permission and do think it is worth getting it from the source) that I have copied out onto a small paper which I keep with me most of the time. I have it mostly memorized at this point and it has helped me through several tough class sessions. It basically reminds you that the best teacher you can be is directly related to how calm you are during heated moments. It reminds you that some moments call for nothing more than calm body language and slow breathing. It talks a lot about breathing. I had no idea how frequently I need to remind myself to breathe. If I learned nothing else from this book, I would still consider my life drastically improved by these reminders. Or, perhaps they are not reminders? Perhaps this was truly the first time that someone found words that rendered classroom management into a tangible reality for me, instead of a “you’ll know when you have arrived” level of nebulous concept.

Student Jobs To The Rescue

Student jobs save my sanity especially during the end of the semester where, even in elementary school, schedules are affected by testing and holiday related activities. Let me tell you one reason why:

              My classes all start exactly the same way. I’m lucky that all of my classes are technically beginner level, so it even looks almost exactly the same in every room too. (Although, it would be similar in many ways for an advanced class.) First, my calendar kid stands up and reviews the day, date, and weather. They have tons of manipulatives to help scaffold the process for them. I closely monitory (or model, depending on the class) the proceedings for the first four or five weeks, after that I hand over the reins entirely to this part of class. Now, in December, they are all running smoothly without my need to do much more than direct the class to pay attention to the calendar kid. It does feel, many times, as if I don’t even need to be in the room for this portion of class. And today, I wasn’t!

              Due to testing, my 45-minute class had to trade with a 30-minute class. I had worried all day how I was going to shrink down my class but came to no real conclusions. I need not ever have worried, I should have known these kids would have my back. I walked in and couldn’t even put down my things before the calendar kid was by my side. He informed me that they had also been concerned about the time, so all of the students who had any of our opening routine jobs had already done everything they needed. Moreover, they had done all of this at the original time! They really like to be the first thing that happens in their class every morning, I guess.

In this case, I have four students who open this class. My calendar kid is a strong leader, so he rotates through assistants by training them in his job then firing them and hiring someone new. I never know who will be standing with him, or how he manages this. I don’t ask because I trust (with good reason) that he is fulfilling his role as a teacher in the class to his best ability. He, and his trusty assistant makes sure that we review the day, date, and weather. Next, we have P.O.W and W.O.W. kids. Their job is more about Spanish being fun than anything else, but fun is important! These kids have a phrase (p.o.w. such as ‘that’s gross!’) or a word (w.o.w. – generally an action like dances, eats, runs, etc.) that they present to the class in the most appropriate theatrical manner they can manage, which is then repeated by the rest of the class. It’s a nice, low-stress way to transition into my goal of a Spanish-only class. Plus, the kids who really need some spotlight time get it, while setting the class up for success!

I got this approach from Tina Hargaden (who has a book on this subject at and Brett Chonko (find him at I have a bunch of other jobs that I use, but I keep them very flexible and based 100% around what I need at the moment. My HR manager and trainer are my most important, because they keep track of who is doing what job and how the jobs are done. They are really the heart and brains behind my classroom management, and I function much better with them, than I ever did without them.

I didn’t mean to leave, but I’m back!

I’m back from my unplanned hiatus! I fell victim to the busy school season, then couldn’t motivate myself to write, because it had been so long since I had written. But, after attending ACTFL I realized how important it is to keep record of everything I’m doing. More than that, it’s important to spread the message that all language teachers can follow me down this road. It might not be easy, but it’s worth it. Today I am going to recount as many personal interactions as I can remember from the conference. In future posts (which will be forthcoming!) I will continue describing what we do in class, and why we do it.

First: I met Carrie Toth (from and she is amazing! Not only is she a published author and curriculum specialist at Señor Wooly (, she is also an incredible Spanish teacher. I bought two of her books, and got them autographed(!), to add to my personal reading library. My largest take-aways from interacting with her include:

  • Bring joy to your teaching, whatever you are doing (a constant and repetitive theme among the ACTFL elites that I got to meet).
  • Always look to drive understanding just a little bit deeper. Look for ways to make the content richer.
  • Don’t do the same thing every time, sneak in small differences, change up activities, create something different for different units. (For me this is a struggle. My kids crave routine and predictability, but they could probably tolerate me having just a few more tricks in my toolbelt.)
  • Base your class on student success, specifically build in pathways to acquisition for every student and make them clear.

Second is Allison Litten (from who is such a pleasure to be around. Her enthusiasm and energy are so contagious! She teaches a lot of the same types of classes that I do, but I feel like she does it with so much more finesse! She bases a lot of her teaching around stories (another common theme for teaching our littlest learners), which inspires me to focus on teaching with more stories. She is also a master of making short films teaching gold! We also talked about proper assessment, and how to communicate growth to parents. Now I really fully believe, beyond the inconvenience of averaging weeks of numbers to come up with a letter, that the standard report card is simply not the right way to show parents that their student is learning. Language acquisition just doesn’t work like that.

Third is Annabelle Williamson (from who embodies positivity and happiness. She had a long, rough day before I met her, and she was still the most positive person at the table. I can only imagine how nice it must be to be the student of a teacher who is so determined to be the happiest, kindest person she can be. I definitely felt better about my hectic schedule after hearing about hers. She has such a great outlook and is so nice to be around. No doubt my biggest take-away from her was that students want to learn from someone who they want to be around. I need to work harder to be the kind of teacher my students would want to be around. Even when I’m tired, even when I’ve had a rough day, even when things just aren’t going my way. I don’t know how she learned to be so resilient, but I will be actively looking for ways to be more like her in my daily life.

This segment ends with Jason Fritze (who seems to not have a website), in all rights a true guru of elementary language acquisition. He so generously spoke with me and my counterpart in my division (the only person who teaches all the same classes/levels/schedule as I do) for nearly an hour. We discussed a plethora of topics during that time. The most outstanding of which was proper assessment of students, as guided by the ACTFL Can-Do Statements. We agreed that these statements are not always ideal for younger learners, as they need to be broad enough to include more cognitively demanding tasks. (An example of that is describing events in the past, recent past, near future and future. This simply isn’t developmentally appropriate for many students under ten years of age.) He suggested that we need to investigate the European model to guide our creation of a Spanish specific report card for parents. This was highly reflective of the recommendations that Allison Litten had during my time with her as well. We also discussed the times and frequencies of class meetings that best enable our students to acquire new language. He reiterated that we are incredibly lucky to work for a division which works hard to allow us to meet those basic requirements of time and frequency in all our programs. It is the core difference that can be seen when comparing a division which wants an elementary program in name only, and a division (like mine!) which really truly attempts to give all students the most valuable opportunities it can.

All in all, ACTFL was even more amazing than I had thought it would be. And, once I figure out how to manage it, I will update this with my selfies with so many super cool people. Additionally, I made and strengthened so many connections with others in Virginia, including fellow elementary teachers in Arlington, who extended an open invitation to go see them do what they do whenever I can. It is so amazing to feel so supported, even by complete strangers. I never imagined that I would be brave enough to ask someone if I could go into their classroom (which is a couple hundred miles from mine), that they would say yes, or that I would consider it. I amazed myself with how much stronger I have become since transitioning to teaching with Comprehensible Input as my main teaching goal, it’s working out in ways I could have never predicted. Now, stay tuned, pictures will be forthcoming and so will more posts!

Raffle & Genius Hour

This is the final activity write-up for Wooly Week 2019, go read that post to find out what other amazing activities we tried in our class over the past two weeks.

Okay, so as far as techniques or activities ideas, this isn’t exactly in line with my normal posts. However, it’s value in engagement is (in my opinion) worth it’s place here. Neither of these things should be used frequently, and honestly I doubt I could be convinced to do them more than once per year. I am really glad I did them, so here’s how you can do it too:

Wooly Week Raffle

One part of Wooly Week is the teacher raffle. All of the prizes are a super, geeky kind of cool that students can’t win and probably wouldn’t want anyway. Things like PD conferences, kids just don’t get how this prize is amazing. So, I built a raffle out of things they would want, and posted in their rooms how to earn tickets and what the prizes would be if they won. To earn tickets students had to participate happily in class to earn up to 9 tickets (one per day), or they could participate in genius hour activities which I will describe after the prizes. Now, I went ahead and asked my principal if she would give me money to buy one shirt for a grand prize, and one sheet of stickers for each of my classes as a class level prize. She agreed, which was amazing, but I would not have spent my own money on this. I try to do as much as I can without spending money. I also came up with some other prizes of my own, and alternate ideas if the stickers and shirt hadn’t panned out:

  • Teacher for the day: This prize allows the recipient to take over class for one day (any day) and has the ability to redirect class to any Spanish related task they want. I do expect that we will be doing something on laptops on the Sr. Wooly site, but that’s fine. When I give them complete control of the class (I’m not, just to be clear, they have to still be working in Spanish) they are immediately invested in what we are doing for the day. Somehow they have stumbled upon all of the power in the room (they haven’t, but they think they have) and 99% of the time they will use their power for good (in my experience). This only costs me my desire to micromanage, which is a proclivity that I’ve been trying to let go of anyway. I have not required advance notice, but you certainly could add fine print. I’m fine reworking my lesson plans after the fact.
  • One Free A: In my room this prize works for any written graded task. I do so many graded activities that no single task will skew their grade if they have real problems, so I’ll totally let that go. Test, quiz, classwork, they get one, whichever one they want.
  • Other ideas I had: Opt out pass, which would allow a student to not to what we are doing as a class one day, but instead can just sit out and read anything from my library. Gimme a game pass, which would leave me in charge of the class, but I’d have to scrap everything and do a game instead whatever I’d had planned. And, of course, I had considered just giving multiple copies of these awards.

Genius Hour

Wooly also came out with six genius hour projects as a way to earn raffle tickets for teachers. Many of them were not good options for me, like making videos, it’s doable but not in any way I could come up with in my elementary groups. What we did do was the baking challenge, where students decorated sugar cookies during class. The cookies came from one student who got tickets for them, but everyone was invited to bring icing in exchange for tickets as well. This was just fun, that’s all.

The other activity we took part in was Flat Billy. I provided students with a copy of Billy and they got a ticket for every picture they took of him out and around our town. The specific prompt was “take me anywhere that makes the Noke a special place.” Then they needed to email me the picture. This was my favorite thing, because I then compiled the pictures into a powerpoint and wrote a story about all the people and places Billy saw during his visit.

When it was time to pull winners, I pulled all of my students into the same room, to pull all the prizes together. Before we did that, I read to them their story of Billy. It was magical, even the classroom teachers sat in the back of the room completely captivated by the story! This was my sign that it was comprehensibly written too. And the kids loved seeing who had taken Billy to what places, and seeing their own pictures included in the story. I’ll be printing this to add to our classroom library for sure!! Next year, when Wooly Week returns, if there is not a flat challenge then I will make my own. It won’t be Billy, because we’ve done him now, but someone else will invade the Noke and we’ll have another story about our awesome city and my fabulous kiddos.