“Le da” game

Last summer at NTPRS Leslie Davison introduced  a game called the “le da” game. Brilliant! It is so simple and has tons of potential to go wherever you need it to go. The basic idea is to create a mini-situation and have the class vote on the outcome.

1) Introduce a character (student actor) and establish something they want. I use my props and give them a few options. You could have them want a certain animal, food, piece of clothing or maybe a little brother. The sky is the limit.

2) Create a backstory. This can be long or short depending on time and comprehension level of your students. Why do they want it? How many do they want? What color? What size? Does it talk? What does it say? ETC.

3) Introduce the character that has the thing they want. You could also create a backstory here too.

4) DIALOGUE: Now have the first character see the thing they want and have them BEG for it, or maybe they are really cool in asking for it to hide their desperation. Go back and forth between the characters. Narrate the whole thing using the vocabulary you are reviewing. (cries, yells, throws, falls on the floor, is angry, is sad, is frustrated, laughs etc.)

5) NOW THE FUN PART- The class votes on if the 2nd character gives the item to the 1st character or does something else. (For example, does the 2nd character eat the 25.3 blue pancakes, or does she give them to 1st character?) I stop and ask every person in the room (observers, student workers, teacher aides included). When I ask, I repeat the options with one hand doing each motion. (¿Le da o come?) The kids say the word back to me, or they can just do the motion (which I repeat back to them). If I come to a student who looks unsure, I repeat back the actions and may translate into English quickly, but I don’t usually have to do that unless a student comes in late or for some reason just came in the door. (I secretly love those situations because then I have a reason to go back and summarize the whole thing again, and the other students are so eager for their classmate to understand the importance of the vote.)

** I don’t really direct them to, but my actors always react to the voting. Then, I might narrate their reactions. (está triste, está enojado, está muy contento, etc.)

6) Now that everyone has voted. I can either just have the characters do the action, OR I may tally the votes with the class. How many said  “le da”? How many people voted? (Write it on the board and subtract.)

7) FINALLY, I narrate the most voted on action and narrate the emotions and reactions of the characters.

You are done..or maybe you can extend the activity to a related story next class time … or you have students complete an “after story” activity. The beauty of this “game” is it can be as complex or as simple as you or your students need it to be. In the picture above you can see a drawing by one of my kindergarten students. I had them draw the story again as I dictated each square.

NTPRS – Top Take aways (4-5) Technology that is worth it!

In a previous post I mentioned some of the most important things I learned at NTPRS in Chicago this summer. I mentioned TIME, PROPS, and PQA treasure hunts.  In this post I wanted to highlight some very simple technology tricks that I saw at NTPRS.

I love technology. I love making videos and presentations. I love new gadgets, and new websites, …BUT that being said

I have made the mistake in the past of letting the process of creating a product overshadow demonstrating the content. 

I had grand plans for my students to use technology for a project, but spent twice the time teaching the technology and the content got left behind. I am all for teaching technology skills, but if the content isn’t there first then the technology becomes a distraction not a demonstration. At the end of the day if a pencil and some paper does the trick… then why bother?

(climbs off soapbox)

So I was excited to pick up some SIMPLE technology tricks that ACTUALLY enhance my student’s learning. Most of these come from the Elementary Workshop with Leslie Davison.

NÚMERO CUATRO- PHOTOS capturing the moment

Take photos of your stories! (better yet, let the students do it for you)

Blog images.002

It has been a simple addition to my storytelling that has had a HUGE impact. First, you have a student take pictures as you tell the story. That student is now engaged in the story in a whole different way because they are held accountant (by their peers) to have told the story in pictures. My students beg for this responsibility. Second, you have photos of that class story which is so powerful for retells, partner tells, writing and speaking activities, listening quizzes and review.

The story you told in class now has a physical presence instead of just a memory in your student’s mind.

My students know and come into class asking the next time I see them to see all the photos. They can’t wait to see themselves. So I retell the story on a powerpoint on the screen, and  then they get their own copy to put in their folder. I even put some of the photos up in my room to remind us of the important vocabulary. Has it every been a distraction? Of course, what hasn’t been a distraction or a disruption in your classroom, (…talking to you pencil sharpener) but any good tool is worth taking the time to establish rules and expectations. It has breathed life into the stories for my students.

Does anyone use pictures too, and have a cool activity to go with them??


My school has iPads. When we got the iPads, I was super pumped and excited. Then I started thinking about how to use them. What can my students DO with them? Well at NTPRS I got a very simple answer.

Let the students video their stories.

I really felt dumb for not thinking of this one. There is a camera feature that allows someone to film with very little setup. So far I have used them for three different assignments where students use the iPad camera.

1. Speaking assessments- I used to pull my students into the hall for individual speaking assessments with me. It took me 2 days of class time to complete. (Ain’t nobody got time for that!)

So… now with the iPads, I have my students take a comic strip or picture or some other prompt and send them off into nature to find a quiet spot to record. I give them 10-15 minutes to come back with a video. No pencil, no paper, no books.. nothing but the prompt and an iPad. I walk around and monitor my kids to make sure their technology is working and for accountability. 15 minutes later and I have completed my class speaking assignments. Can they look up words on an online/app dictionary?…yeah probably, but I am asking for a story so if they are looking up a word then they might be able to look up one or two but they still have to put it into context. To me, it wasn’t an issue worth worrying about.

**An unexpected advantage was some of my students chose to walk around holding the iPad as they were telling the story. The physical activity helped them focus and let go of some of their nervous energy.

2. Group stories- This can be retelling a story or creating a new story with familiar vocabulary. Students get together to write a story or retell. They assign jobs to each group member (cameraman, actor, narrator etc..) Then they film. This can take a class period or two depending on the complexity of the content, but the best part is the next day when everyone wants to see their video and their friends’ videos. REPETITIONS!! (Also a great project for parents to see what their kids are doing in class)

3. Vocabulary images- This activity uses the camera on the iPad to take pictures instead of video. Have students take pictures of different vocabulary. I am going to use this in a few weeks to have students take pictures using their location prepositions. Above, under, beside etc…Then throw the pictures into a presentations and/or print them out for a personalized vocabulary reference.

What have you done with your iPads or other technology that was simple but effective??

NTPRS – Top Take aways (1-3)

So now that is it almost OCTOBER!! ¡AY! I am finally sitting down to write out what I learned at NTPRS this summer in Chicago. Here are the first 3 things. In no particular order because I can’t begin to rank the importance of each thing.

Número UNO- TIME

I teach Kindergarten through 8th grade. That is 9 classes. I see my students when they are 6 years old until they turn 14. It is definitely an advantage compared to other schools. However I have let that fool me into to thinking I have lots of TIME with them. (Thanks Jason Fritze!) I see my K-6th grades twice a week. That’s 8 times a month for 45 minutes.That’s 6 hours…a month.

I see my students for 2.5 days per school year.

WHAT?? ¡Qué ridículo! When I really thought about it, I realized I was wasting so much time. I was taking a whole 9 weeks to build up to a story. A story. Why was I waiting to move forward with the things I know help us learn language. What was I thinking? I needed a push (kick in the pants) to reevaluate the whats and whys of my curriculum.

How much TIME do you have with your students? Do the math and leave a comment.

Número DOS- Props

I consider myself pretty outgoing. I love a performance. However my storytelling was starting to be a chore, a burden, and worst of all BORING. Step one- PQA, Step Two- Story, Step Three- Read. Rinse and Repeat. All it took was one story from Leslie Davison to realize the potential of a story with PROPS.

PROPS are good. PROPS in a students’ hands are AWESOME!!

For example-  I was helping a teacher get a chair down from her closet and noticed these dusty fabric bags. BAM! 3 fabric bags full of stuffed sea animals including 15 red fish and 1 black fish. So when a student told me “Quiero un pez”… Boy, was I ready for him. I had 1st graders enraptured with every word I said for 15 minutes circling “tiene” “quiere” just by having a mysterious bag of fish that got passed out to different students except of course the one student who wanted one. Oh props, where have you been all my life?

Número TRES- PQA leads to story

OK, don’t you hate when you realize that you know something is good practice, but you forgot about it and haven’t been doing it. I am confessing right now that PQA was a chore. It was the necessary evil of my day. Until I realized…

PQA is a treasure hunt.

I was hunting for the story. PQA was not the separate activity to the story, it was the backstory. It was my sales pitch to investors… my students, to create a story that meant something to them. Bryce Hedstrom, Ben Slavic and countless others have been making this point for years. Why didn’t I listen before?? The inside jokes and references to all that we discussed are PRICELESS to my students. You can’t force it, and you can’t plan it. You have to let it happen and trust that it will. Does that mean every story is a home run? No, just like every treasure hunt doesn’t end with gold. But when you find it…man, it is sweet victory.

NTPRS- Star Struck!!!

Attending the NTPRS conference this year in Chicago was the fulfillment of a 6 year wish. I have been reading and listening to all these presenters for years, and suddenly here I am surrounded by my heroes. These people taught me how to teach! And they are willing to talk to me and help me!

I mean…I was in the elevator with BLAINE RAY. I shared a taxi with JASON FRIZTE! I shared ideas with CAROL GAAB, and ate lunch surrounded by countless others that fill my inbox with their blogs and my bookcase with their writing. I GOT A PICTURE WITH SEÑOR WOOLY!!!

This will now be framed, and it will be in a place of honor next to Billy...Billy la Bufanda.

This will now be framed, and it will be in a place of honor next to Billy…Billy la Bufanda.

Am I dropping names? HECK YEAH I AM!! For one of the first times in my professional life I got to “talk shop” for a whole week with everyone I met. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

OK so now I am going to calm down and actually process what these celebrities taught me this week. I will try to share what I learned, and what I saw. This conference taught me so much, and one of those things was to continue to develop a PLN (Personal Learning Network). So Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and countless blogs become your encouragement and your classroom. This job is hard enough, why isolate yourself?