Episode 41: 4 Activities for Springtime Engagement!

brain breaks podcast springtime Apr 12, 2023

Hello from Florida! I wanted to give you some ideas this week to boost engagement since Springtime can always feel challenging!

Here are the various resources and links I mentioned during this podcast:

Claudia Elliott's podcast on Gallery Walk
Songkran Cultural Mini Unit in Spanish French and English
Running Dictation Blog
It's Art video of students playing
It's Art Resource on TPT
Sarah Breckley Move it! Brain Break Blog! (inspiration for Es arte!)
Original Blog on Easter Egg Hunt reading activity
Spring Time Scavenger Hunt Blog with videos of students playing
Spring Time Scavenger Hunt Spanish Resource
Spring Time Scavenger Hunt French Resource
Spring Time Scavenger Hunt English Resource

Connect with me!

My Blog

My YouTube

My Instagram

My Website



Welcome to Teaching la vida loca, a podcast for World Language Teachers seeking inspiration, unapologetic authenticity and guidance in centering joy, and facilitating language acquisition for the people who matter most our students. I'm your host, Annabelle. Most people call me la maestra loca. And I'm an educator just like you and inspiring teachers is what I do. Episode 41 Can you believe it? 41 episodes. I think that's so cool. Every time I have to say a higher number it gets me really excited. Welcome to episode 41 of teaching la vida loca. I am recording this from my parents living room in Florida. They live in Orlando will actually just outside of Orlando in a community called reunion Florida. And I'm here taking care of my mom. She just finished her third round of chemo. So, I'm supporting, cooking, driving to appointments, getting dad to work, so that she's not alone while he goes to work to be Mickey's security guard, as he tells my kids, which is just adorable. So yeah, things are a little bit different for me right now, adjusting to the role of caregiver and not being mommy right now. And yeah, very grateful for Paul for taking care of the kids so that I can be here and support my parents.

It’s Spring!

When I was thinking about what I wanted to record this podcast on, I didn't have to think very long. One of the things I always ask myself is like, what feels hard right now for me? And what are teachers in? My PLC la familia loca, what are they saying feels hard right now. And right now, it's spring. So, it's engagement in general, teachers and students are ready for summer, we're wanting to all the admin is talking about like, finishing strong. And mostly we're just like, or just finishing. At this point, you've done the work of getting your students to the point that they're, they're going to be at, and I like to focus more on reviewing everything and not introducing a whole bunch of new but just letting everything kind of soak and simmer and just doing lots more reading activities and honestly, activities that bring some novelty to class. So that they're engaged in a different way. Because if we're doing the same things we've done all year, that engagement feels even harder to drag out of them, right. So, these are four activities that you can bring to your classroom, to inject more engagement, and definitely novelty.

Change Your Scenery  

And the first is actually just a recommendation. I'll give you an activity with it. But the first is just change your scenery. Change your scenery, what do I mean by that? I mean, take your class outside of your class, where can you go in your school that will be a totally different scene, like, not in your classroom? Can you go outside? Because that's my number one recommendation? Do you have an outdoor space that you can use at your school? Do you have a gym that isn't used all the time? Could you go to the cafeteria? Could you go to the library? Could you go into the hallway, right? There's lots of different ways to move from your space into another. My favorite and the one I'm lacking most right now is outdoor space. Every school I've ever worked at until this one, there have been loads of outdoor areas to be able to use to set up different activities, reading activities, just movement things to get students out of my space and into a new one, which automatically is like Wait, what are we doing what, what's going on? And automatically increases their engagement just because they're like what is happening? I'm now at my new school where I've shifted down to teaching elementary. There are outdoor spaces, but they are used at all points of the day because we are a K through a pre-K excuse me through five school. And those little pre-K and kindergartener students have two recesses. So, at any given point in the day, there's groups out there and me taking a class of 22 out is I haven't found a way to do it yet. Maybe I need to I continue to think about how I can be creative because being outside for classes are my favorite.

Gallery Walk 

Okay, let me talk to you about a few things you can do outside. The first is a gallery walk. Now, my dear friend, Claudia put out a podcast recently on gallery walks. And I haven't listened to it myself yet, but I already know I can recommend it, because I love all her podcasts. So, I'll link to it. I'm not going to talk about what a gallery walk is very much. But I'll tell you how you can set this one up. Let's say that you just did a clip chat, or a story and you had kids up acting, or that's unlikely at this time of the year, usually over it. Or maybe you did reading about a festival or a cultural thing. And you have different images for it, what you need to do is find images that would go with different pieces of texts. So, you can write out text on a sheet for your student, type it out. And then next to each block of text, write a blank line, a small blank line where they could write a letter or a number on it, then you grab your images that link to the different texts. And each image needs to be labeled with a number or a letter. You go outside or go into that other space and hang up all those images alongside a fence. So for example, if I was talking about Songkran Syncron is a festival in Thailand, that begins on the 13th of April, I made a resource for it, it's on TPT if you're interested in checking it out, but basically it's a giant celebration of Thai New Year, and everybody goes around running around dousing each other with water throwing buckets of water at each other, they buy squirt guns, it's just three days of water madness, and it's so cool. So, let's say I hang up images of this all along a fence or an outdoor maybe the banisters or something like that, or windows have used school windows before. And then I have students grab their clipboards and, on their clipboard, they have the text all the reading, right? What they're going to do is they're going to walk along, and you can have them work in partners, you can have them work individually, they can choose, remember elements of choice are really important for buy in and engagement. They walk along and they look for the images. And each image has a letter and number on it. So, let's say image one is of a person in a temple, pouring water onto a statue of Buddha, the feet of the statue, they're going to then read on their paper for the target language chunk, it might be, depending on your level, it might be a little paragraph, it might be just one or two sentences. If you have more novice students, they're going to look for the chunk of text that matches the picture they're looking at. Now, once they've paired all the images, you need to be prepared to have an extension activity for them. There are options for this, the reason that extension is so important is because you want everybody to be able to finish this initial activity, right. So, if they don't have some sort of extension to keep them busy, then your students who are slower readers or slower processors are going to feel the pressure of OH MY GOD, everybody's already done. But if you have an extension activity, and everybody's still working, it's going to feel less, I guess pressuring to the students who need more time to finish the initial gallery walk activity.

Different Ways 

So, you can do this in a couple different ways. You can just tell them on the initial gallery walk page to sequence those chunks. For example, if you know that you told a story or a cultural thing in a specific order, say okay, now think back to how we learned that. What did I tell you about first, what did you learn second, what did you learn third, and then they're going to just sequence those reading chunks. If it's a gallery walk with a clip chat or a senor Willie video or something like that, I make the students sit far away from where they were hung up so that they're actually reading the text to sequence it. Another way you can do it is on the back. You can already have this prepared. You can have four boxes, blank boxes with lines underneath. And then the students have to choose four sentences from the previous page, write those sentences on the lines and then illustrate them in the box. Some sort of extension activity that has them focused, that has them still working, that allows everybody else to finish the initial activity. And then you can group together in a giant circle and review your answers, you don't have to go inside, there's no need to go inside, sit down, review your answers, and enjoy the outdoor air. You know that shift can be a really, really beneficial thing for just the classroom culture and community and for your mental state and definitely the kids too.

Running Dictation  

So, another activity to do while you're out there is a running dictation. The nice thing about running dictation is it can be set up exactly like your gallery walk. Now traditional running dictation is you hang up sentences, you have one person with a clipboard on one side of that area where you're running. And then the other person sprints to look at a sentence, they read the sentence, they sprint back to their partner, they tell them that sentence, and then that person listens to the sentence and writes it down. So, you have all four modes, right? You have a person reading, speaking, the other person is listening and writing. And then they trade off whenever you say cumbia, or switch or whatever you're gonna say, that's a traditional running dictation. And that's how you one way you might do it, I prefer one that has them reading more. And this allows me to play running dictations with my novices, who wouldn't be able to do that other one. So, in in a different running dictation, what I do is I have students running to look at those same pictures, right from that gallery walk activity, you could do a running dictation instead. And they look at the picture and then they come back to their partner. And then they describe what they just saw in English to their neighbor, because remember, the purpose of the activity that I wanted to focus on was reading. So, them describing a picture in English is more doable for my novice students, and safer, and it's ensuring that the student listening is hearing the correct input. It's not like they're going to be butchering Spanish and not understanding their neighbor or critiquing their neighbor or saying, I don't even understand what you're saying, like I don't want any of that. So, they're explaining what they saw in the picture, it's a person who's riding in the back of a truck, and he's throwing a bucket of water on somebody's head that's walking by. And now that student is looking at their paper and reading the different texts looking for the one that best explains what that student was just describing, while that other student runs back to the picture. And then they realize, I forgot to tell them a letter or because just like a gallery walk, the running dictation paper has lines next to every paragraph or next every couple of sentences, so that the student can write the letter or the number of the picture next to it. And that's what always happens, like the student goes to explain what they saw in the picture. And then they realize they didn't actually look at the letter. So, the student will be like, I found the text, their partner will say I'll find the text, what's the letter and they're like, oh, I forgot to look so then they have to run back. It's great. And that's when you say switch when they're halfway back to the picture. So funny. Reading extension activities or extension activities that are important for that too because you're gonna have fast partners who literally sprint through the whole thing, you're gonna have people who walk so having an extension is important there too. You can again have them sequence, you can have them do something on the back of the paper, whatever you want to do.

Es Arte  

Okay, I'm gonna give you another one. Are you ready? Es arte is something that I put out in my, in November. I emailed my email list with this activity, and I made it free for the first 24 hours to anybody in my email list who opened the email and downloaded it. It is now not free, but it is available on my TPT. Es arte means it's art, and it's an activity that I renamed but I learned from Sarah Breckley. I think Sarah called it move, move it brain break or something like that. She did it as a brain break. I use it as a whole full-fledged activity. So basically, what you can do, and you don't need my resource for this at all. What you do is you put up a slideshow of various images. It could be images from perhaps you've been reading one of Senor Willie's graphic novels recently or students have in their Willie accounts, or perhaps you are using the images from the Songkran festival unit that you just did. You just grabbed different images. They could even just be really cool. Images from different things that have happened around your school lately. Okay, anything you want. Prom, whatever. I'm like thinking of all the different things you could do. The possibilities are endless. And in between each slide with an image on it, you put a number. So, it could be two could be three. It has to be the number of people that are in the photo. So, if you have a picture of prom, and there are five people in the photo doing random poses, and one of them on their phone or whatever, then you would have the number five on the slide before. Now you play music, play, play, play, people walk around, or dance or move. And then as soon as the music stops, they look at the screen, and the screen is gonna have a number up. And they're going to quickly form groups of that number, they only have 10 seconds to form the groups, you count down, and then boom, you put up the picture. And then they have five seconds, 10 seconds, however long you want to give them to form that picture with those actors, with the students as actors. I have received incredible email feedback, TPT feedback from middle school teachers, high school teachers, elementary school teachers doing this activity. It is so much fun. Once you have them posed. I like to give out totally arbitrary points. Do the kids think they're arbitrary? No, they are all in for points. Remember, I think last episode or the episode before I talked about how gamification is so important for for engagement. And I've since learned from my friend Jess, that it's actually neurologically linked to like endorphins and dopamine. And that's why kids are all in for gamifying things. So as soon as they're in their different groups, I'll be like, ooh, three points for your group, two points for your group five points for your group. I love your facial expressions. But I narrate, I take the time to do all this in Spanish, while talking about the photo and talking about my students pose like the photo, all in Spanish. Because when they're paused in frozen in their positions, they can do nothing but listen to me. So, I'm talking to them in Spanish about what I'm seeing. I'm going around giving points. And then I say, Okay, remember your points and put on the music again. Because when they the music starts and stops again, they're gonna be in a different group, perhaps a group of two, and they're gonna have to remember how many points they earned the last time and add it to their new points. Does it matter if they forget? No. Do my elementary schoolers have any hope of like keeping track of it all? No. Do they care? No, because they're having so much point fun. I don't even need the points with my littles. But I definitely use the points with middle school and they freaking loved it. So that's another activity and shameless plug. If you want the resource that I have for es arte, I have it. In English, French and Spanish, I think it's actually literally just the same resource regardless, because the only text that is in the target language is that initial slide. But I have it on my TPT as well as video showing you how it works with kids. I'll also link to a video in my show notes so you can see what it looks like with kids doing it. It's so fun.

Scavenger Hunt

Okay, um, the next thing I want to talk to you about is the springtime scavenger hunt. This is an activity that I blogged about years ago, when I was still working at a Christian and independent Christian Schoolin New Orleans, and I did this because I wanted desperately wanted a way to reengage kids, it was feeling really hard. They were gearing up for finals times, and leap exams were around the corner, it was just like I just really wanted something different. So, it was Easter, and we were always encouraged to link to whatever the church was doing. So, I did an Easter egg hunt activity outside. And they came back and to their coloring pages and colored in their coloring page based on the clues that they found inside their Easter eggs. But once I moved away from that school, I wanted a way to still do that sort of activity without making it Easter themed because I wanted to be more inclusive of all the different identities in my classroom. And that, an easy way to do that was like just turn it into a scavenger hunt. So, what I did was I found a space in my building that I could use that wasn't my classroom. Just kidding. It was totally my classroom because my classroom was the auditorium last year. So, it worked well to do it in the auditorium. But one day, I did do it outside so you could do it wherever you want. And instead of easter eggs, I used colored envelopes. But I didn't always hide the envelopes in a place that was easily found. I really liked it to be like a scavenger hunt. So, each envelope hid a clue or a question. I prefer to do a question. Now the question might be like, in the video game changer, what color was the girl shirt? And Game Changer would have been a clip chat that we watched as a class of several months ago. or it might say, in the video, what is the first letter of the third word that senor says, or something like that. And then they'll have to come up with the color that is related to that letter, or literally, you can do anything. I've also done it to where they've had to answer questions, specifically about what we've just been learning about what country celebrates songkran as their New Year’s Celebration? And they would have to answer that Thailand and then come and give me the answer. And then I will tell them what color. Each clue that's hidden, has a number on it. So, let's say they're just answering a question and coming to me to answer it, and give me the answer real quick. Let's say they run over to me and say, oh, I got the answer to number two. Number two is Thailand, then I will say, okay, yellow. And I'll say in the target language, and then they go back to their coloring page in every single section of their coloring page that has a number two on it. It's like a Color by Number, they color that in yellow. And then they go and answer another question. Now, some pro tips for this, it is super essential that you model finding a clue and putting the clue back in the envelope and putting the envelope back where they found it like actually physically model that for whatever age you're teaching. Oh, my computer just tried to die on me what the heck computer? It's telling me to wrap up this episode, sorry. So, it's really important to model that first students like they have to physically put the club back in the envelope before they come back to tell you the answer, before they come back to write down the color clue or whatever it is. The next thing is let students choose how they want to do this activity; every child is going to be a little bit different. I had students who wanted to get all the answers to all the questions first, and then color their page, I had students who frantically like found an answer ran back to their coloring page, colored in yellow everywhere real fast and sloppy. I had students get the answer, walk over to their page, write yellow, where they would be writing yellow, and then go back to search for another clue. So, the possibilities are endless as far as how they want to what their process is, don't try and dictate how that should happen. Because it takes away all of the elements of choice that make it more fun and engaging. And remember, like a coloring activity, especially if you teach middle or high school is not something they get to do frequently anymore. So, this is a way to give them the input but give them a break from like, the way that you're normally doing class or the way that they're doing class all the time. Giving them a way to like, do something fun and relaxing and like different with coloring is really, really powerful.


So, another shameless plug. I have an incredible springtime scratch scavenger hunt resource available on my TPT that you can use, because I was super extra. And I think I created 11 different coloring pages, maybe more with Color by Number because I wanted my students to have choice and variety in what they were coloring, but you can literally do any coloring sheet. If you find a coloring sheet that you love, or you have coloring sheets that you already love. Just go ahead and take a few of them, put numbers in them wherever you want the students to color, run those copies, and then students have choice in what to do.

Thank You! 

Yeah, that's what I have for you today. Happy springtime. I hope that you're doing well. No brain break this episode because this has been really long and I need to go and wake my mom, because we have lots of doctor's appointments today. But I'm sending you lots of love teacher, I hope you're doing well. Hang in there, not too much longer. Maybe start counting how many Mondays you have left. That's a really fun activity. How many Mondays of the school year do you have left? I don't even know how many I do but I'm going to be with my mom for a while, so I'll start counting those when I returned to school. Take care of yourself. I adore you. Thanks for listening. Thanks for supporting me until next time, I'll be not really teaching la vida loca. I'll be caretaking la vida loca with mi mama and papa in Florida. I adore you. I'll talk to you next time.

Please Review! Thank You!  

Hey there teacher, if you're listening on Spotify, could you do me a favor and just hit the review option and give this podcast a review. If you're listening on Apple podcasts, if you'd take a second to write a review the reviews really helped me be visible and seen. If you've been listening to this podcast for a while, and you've heard me ask this several times, it'll feel less annoying if you've already done it right. And then finally, if you could pretty, please send this to a friend who might need some inspiration for keeping it novel and getting students engaged at this busy and exhausting time of year where we just really are waiting for June. So, oh my goodness, there's somebody mowing the lawn outside. Sorry for that extra noise. Grateful for you. Have a wonderful rest of your day whenever you listen to this. And I'll talk to you next week. Take care take care, bye bye.

Stay connected with tips, tricks, and inspiration!

Join my mailing list to receive tips, tricks, strategies, activities, and inspiration straight to your inbox!

Get inspired!