Monthly Archives: March 2018

Building an MYP Spanish program pt1

I have been in my school in the Des Moines area for 3 years now. Next year I will begin my 4th year in the district. I have had to create, restructure, and edit our curriculum every year that I’ve been here and I had people asked me what I have done.  In this post, I will share what I have done, what has worked, and what has not worked in our MYP program. This material has been a compilation of 3 years of work, multiple PLC structure, and shared material.

I began my Spanish teacher career here in the DSM area. When I began in 2015, I was a traveling teacher. We’ve been always a team of 2 teachers. This year has been amazing and we’ve added a 3rd teacher, but unfortunately, because of cuts, we will be a 2 person team next year.

My school hosts around 800+ students. All students are required to take Spanish, so we split all students between 3 teachers. My first 2 years (and next year) I will have 400 + students on an alternating schedule. I teach all 3 middle school grades (6, 7, 8) and my students range from native-speaker, advanced speakers, and beginning Spanish students.


In 2015, as a traveling-new-to-teaching-native-speaker Spanish teacher, I stuck with what I know. I was heavily influenced by grammar charts, vocabulary list, many many worksheets and recycled material from previous teachers and what we worked in the DSM full Spanish PLC at the district level. It was a year of many firsts, but I managed to come out alive!

All my Spanish teaching were based on grammar. I had to differentiate heavily since I had native speakers with beginning Spanish learners in the group. I taught mostly in English and rarely gave input in Spanish. Being grammar-based, I divided all my classes (6, 7, and 8th graders) in essentially (Semester 1= estar & Semester 2= ser). I had one native speaker class with a handful of non-native speakers. I had no clue what to teach them, so I essentially “made it harder” for them by teaching Present and Past imperfect together. Their “job” as students was to fully navigate in both present & past with little to no “formal” errors. All of my classes were fully based on mountains on worksheets, but not a lot of lectures on grammar.


As a second-year teacher, first win was, I SURVIVED MY FIRST YEAR. I had a new partner and she was awesome. Most of it was a repeat of the previous year (2015-2016) with one major change. We established a native speaker route and a non-native speaker route.

Native Speaker track: Students actively speak Spanish at home, are or were in the ELL track, and feel confident in their Spanish abilities.

Non-Native Speaker track: Students are beginning to learn Spanish. Have had Spanish class before in a different school. The student would like to begin Spanish 2 when they reach High School.

In this year, my main goal was to purposely incorporate meaningful cultural material in the class.  I wanted to pursue this for multiple reasons. First, to give the students (and myself) a “brain break” in the general “verb chart conjugation & worksheet” class that we had. Second, my school’s schedule works with alternating Wednesdays. We label Monday/Thursdays as A days & Tuesday/Friday B days. In a month we have 2 Wednesday’s labeled as A or B

In these Wednesday’s I called them “Cultural Wednesdays” where we would talk about a specific topic in Latin America. It was filled with Web quests, documentaries, and inquiries of what students wanted to know about Latin America. This also gave students to ask all the questions about my home country, Puerto Rico.

In the next post, I will focus on the major changes that I have made after my first two years, my focus in music, and how I am beginning to work with TPRS, CI, and bridging grammar-based curriculum with CI components.

If you have ideas, comments or feedback do not hesitate in commenting below!





Where have I been?

Hello. Is anybody there. It’s me… José or MusicalPoetry if you’ve been here long enough.

I have been completely MIA. I have been gone out of the face of this Earth. For quite a while now. The last post saying “I am here!” was in 2015. What has happened since June 10, 2015? A lot.

Since my last post, where I was all excited about finishing my Masters in Music from WIU, I was in the looking for a career in the Midwest. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened yet. For the last 3 years, I have been teaching in the Des Moines metro area as a Spanish teacher in an IB (International Baccalaureate) School. In this position, I have created from the ground up a Spanish program for an MYP (Middle Years Program). The how I did and what I did will be another post!

As a middle school teacher, I’ve added a bunch of catchphrases (hashtags) to my life. One of them is #mistruggleesreal and it has been a struggle. I have been juggling this idea of where my career was going to take me, to the musician I want to be, the conductor I always imaged I would be, the educator I thought I would be. Most importantly, what I thought I would be after college.

Some of it has been completely real, I finished a masters in music. I have completed 2 degrees in music. I have focused on cultural aspects of Latin America since 1945 to the present. Some of it has been a complete flop. How do I connect music and poetry now that I don’t have a class to get these ideas? How do I begin to connect these ideas of culture, music, and choral conducting in a meaningful and practical way? After starting to teach Spanish at the middle school level for native and non-native Spanish speakers; how do I connect culture, language acquisition, and music in a practical way that students (and me) would enjoy, is practical, and is meaningful?

I believe that’s the direction this blog is going to go. I will still post “musical poetry” entries because I believe that it would be a powerful tool for my native speakers to navigate through our culture. My Hispanic students are already completely submerged in Hispanic music. Maybe not the music of my preference, but it is music that is meaningful to them! The challenge for me is how I can take these ideas, their music, our culture, and mesh it into one.



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