Oculus Magicus


This is how they look

Magic comes to class when you pull out those bulky, cool, trendy Oculus Rift. As soon as I found out that we got two of those in my school, I knew that I had to use them in class. It turns out that it can be a great tool for the Foreign Language course, and many ideas come to mind as to how they could be implemented in the classroom, so here I am sharing it with you!

But, first things first, some of you may have never heard about this. What are the Oculus Rift? According to their Website, the Oculus Rift is a new virtual reality headset that lets players step inside their favorite games and virtual worlds. A gamer’s dream, as you may think, but what about a learning motivator to add some spark to your course?

Certainly, the Oculus have plenty of potential. In my case, I have decided to make them become my own “language lab”. Since I do not have a language lab close to my room, I think that this tool could be a good temporary solution.

It is quite easy to start using them. Check out this link for a step by step explanation.

Tuscany Demo

Tuscany Demo

The Oculus come in with a Demo. In my case, I had the Tuscany Demo already on them. I have not downloaded any other game yet, but I am sure that there is a world of possibilities out there if  you decide to go over the options provided in their system.

So, given that this is a house and you get to walk in it, what can we do with it in the Foreign Language class? You got it, house vocabulary, prepositions, directions! That’s what I did.

When wearing the Rift, you can turn and look around, but you cannot walk. In order to do so you must use the keyboard in your computer. So, I used this to my advantage requiring students to indicate the directions they wanted to go to next. Yes, an excellent way to apply the command tense (L’impératif) and prepositions. This is how I proceeded:

1. Teaching the impératif.

2. Reviewing prepositions.

3. Reviewing the parts of the house.

4. Multiple exercises in class prior to using the Oculus.

5. Oculus listening and speaking!

* Since I only have 1 oculus, I made sure that my other students had exercises to work on while I was conducting the speaking assignments.

In #5 these were the requirements (all in the target language, obviously):

1. Students describe the scene.

2. Students respond to teacher’s questions: Where are you? Do you like it? How is the weather? What is to your left? What is in front of you? etc.

3. Students direct the teacher to wherever they want to get to in the scene.

4. Toward the end of their experience, student locates an item in the house.

5. Student explains to next student how to get to the item that he located (scavenger hunt type of way)

6. Next student tries to find the object and confirms with previous student if it was the item that he had selected for the “scavenger hunt”.

Note: When using this demo, I highly advise you to limit each student’s intervention to a maximum of 4 minutes. Most of us (including myself) get motion sick after 4 or 5 minutes. I do not know if this happens with all games in the Oculus, but this is my experience with the Tuscany Demo. Also, please make sure that you tell students to let you know if they want to stop at any time if they are feeling sick.

Do you want to see it in action? Check out this video created by my favorite Educational Technologist, Lee Howell, and check out her blog here.

And you, have you ever used the Oculus Rift in your class? If so, what did you do with them? If not, how would you like to use them? Please, share and comment below.

Have a wonderful, oculus magicus lesson!


Día de las profesiones

Excellent video that can easily be used in the Spanish classroom (levels 2, 3, or advanced). Many subjects can be covered: current crisis and job market, family and its cultural connotations in Hispanic countries, and careers.
Use it and develop your students’ listening, speaking, writing and reading skills while covering a current topic.

Hispanic Heritage Month

September 15th to October 15th: Hispanic Heritage! Let’s celebrate it and embrace the culture of traditions of the Hispanic World!


This year, I decided to approach this as a collaborative project. Not just fostering student collaboration, but teacher collaboration as well. This time, our project has taken place between grades, ranging from 6th grade regular Spanish class to 8th grade Honors class. What a challenge!

Ms. Villa and I thought that implementing this project in our Spanish class would be very educational and fun for our kids. This is the first time that I do an activity with students with so many different levels. Ms. Villa has 8th grade Honors Students while I have 6th grade kids, some of which have never learned Spanish before…. this may look a big crazy BUT it has been done AND the outcome has been tremendously gratifying for both students and teachers.

hispanicFirst off, I started by teaching my kids the most common food and restaurant vocabulary expressions. To this end, I found some very useful slide shares on the web. I found these very easy to visualize and very well explained:

Restaurante Presentation

Comida Presentation

We went over all this vocabulary for two weeks. In the meantime, we reviewed it with games, listening, dictations, readings, and speaking assignments. Students loved to share with the class their favorite foods (using me gusta/no me gusta) and restaurants. We also discussed about:

– Tipping culture in Hispanic Countries (Spain, in particular)

– Traditional foods from Hispanic Countries

– Traditional Hispanic restaurants in our area

At the beginning of the year, I gave each student a new Hispanic “origin”. They are very proud to be from another country for one year! I have some students from Peru, some others from Spain, Cuba, Colombia, Venezuela, etc.

Before creating our menu, students from both classes had to decide what the name of the restaurant would be. To this end, I created a survey in survey SurveyMonkey. Students voted and we came up with our Restaurant name!

For this project, students had to team up in groups of 3. Each group had to create a menu and bring a 3 course meal. Each dish from the course will be from each student’s country. We ended up having a menu with an appetizer from Peru, main dish from Argentina, and a dessert from Uruguay: a great cultural melting pot!

Check out this Google doc to find out more about Project Instructions and Rubric

I was impressed with the results. My 6th graders mingled in with their 8th grade peers as if there was no language barrier. My students were perfectly prepared so they felt proud and confident to have the required conversations at the restaurant.

With this assignment students learned to implement vocabulary in real life situation. The classroom became the best immersion scenario. Mixing food, traditions and culture was just the perfect melange, the perfect melting pot.

Learn about ePals in this free Webinar

Do you know ePals? Most likely you have previously heard about it. If you haven’t, or if you have but  do not know very well how to implement this tool in your classroom today is your lucky day. Come and join us in this free Webinar for ideas and tips on using ePals in the language classroom! 

Since I found ePals my teaching methodology has been transformed. It was so hard years ago to find a partner in another part of the world. With ePals that is not a problem any longer. What an incredible tool. Incredible and… free!

Please preregister here: http://bit.ly/1b9itPl and be ready to learn from my experience using ePals in my French classroom. This will be wonderfully useful for any Foreign Language teacher. See you on Tuesday, August 13th!Image

Foreign Festivities in the World Language Classroom

We become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams. – Jimmy Carter.

Tolerance is a key component of a World Language class. To learn a foreign language is to open oneself to others; this includes to open oneself to other beliefs and cultures. That is why I try to integrate culture awareness whenever possible. Canary Islands day (on May 30th) is a great opportunity to implement a fun, educational and cultural lesson plan.

Since I am from these islands, students get really excited with this plan; there is a personal connection with this place. They receive first-hand knowledge from a Canarian native: me! I always do this at the end of the year. Not only it is a perfect set of exercises for those last days of school, but also it matches the real Canary Islands day celebrations on May 30th!

This the lesson goes:

1. Does the word Canary Islands sound familiar? Does it sound like a beautiful place? Let’s check it out with this amazing video:

and this one:

2. Exercises about video:

a. What is its main idea? Do you like the islands? Why?

3. Now we will learn the geographical location of the islands. I point at a map and I give an oral introduction (a bit of English, a bit of Spanish) about its location and the particularities of each island.

4. We will be doing some research online about the Canarian Museum and some key Canarian words. Students receive the worksheets (below). Note: Please make sure that the research is done using http://www.google.es

5. San Borondon Legend. Reading and exercises (below)

6. Homework: What are “Pintaderas Canarias”? Students must research and write a paragraph about their importance. They will choose their favorite one and will explain its meaning.

pintadera-41  pintaderas

7. Receta de las “papas arrugás¨.


Worksheets: Dia de Canarias

8. What about some music? Let’s sing and dance while we learn the vocabulary with this song. Here is the video: 

9. May 30th: Canary Islands Party! We will be eating Canarian Food that students have previously researched and cooked at home. Some of the food that we will be having will include bananas, papas arrugadas con mojo, gofio y tortilla española.

We also sing the song ¨Vivo en un Archipielago¨, and we will listen to traditional Canarian music while we dance Canarian Folklore:

This is an easy song to dance:

La Punta y el Tacón Lyrics

10. We will be coloring and researching Canarian drawings. Students will choose two drawings from the ones provided and will explain to the class their importance in the Canarian culture. Here they are.

11. Today we will be having a Skype conference with the Museo Canario! This is the power point that they will be showing us. We will also be able to see real Guanche materials, live!

Presentación del Museo Canario.

12. For homework, students will search current events in the islands. They will write a summary of one of the news that they find most interesting using one of these two Canarian newspapers: Canarias7 or La Provincia.

13. Lesson plan finale: Tshirt painting! Students will design Canarian Tshirts as a way to wrap up everything learned these days. They can choose to draw a pintadera, lucha canaria, the islands or even Canarian words. Creativity is always highly encouraged.

I hope that you enjoy this lesson plan and that you are able to incorporate it in your course. Students certainly have a blast, and I enjoy teaching them my culture and language. ¡Feliz día de Canarias!

Narrable your stories

Narration and storytelling are key components of my course. When I found Narrable I could not wait to use it. Not only it is a very user friendly tool but it is ideal for storytelling. What really excited me was the fact that it is all based on pictures and audio. Great opportunity to teach Creative Commons usage, and to practice speaking skills in my Foreign Language class.

First off, I created three Word Documents including the rubric, a cheat sheet, and instructions on how to use images from the Web. Please find these documents below:


NARRABLE cheat sheet


I tried to make sure that students had a clear and neat instruction about what they were expected to do. As usual, I also did my best to make sure that they would work on their story line and ideas BEFORE working with the technology tool. Very often students just want to jump into technology. When this happens the project might look beautiful and really techy, but the body of the project is missing. I make sure that I stress the importance of having a well structured story. This is what I asked them to complete at the top of the Narrable Rubric document.

Narrable is quite an easy tool to use. Additionally, it is free! However, in the free version you can only create a maximum of 5 projects. This was not an issue for me, I just made sure that I told the students. Projects are very easy to delete, so whenever they created too many that were just drafts they could easily delete them in order to remain in the free version. I think that this is a great tool for Foreign Language courses. Narrable becomes a mini language lab.

Once they completed the assignment they had to embed it in Schoology. This way students were able to see each other’s projects, and even comment on them.

Another very important thing that we learned with this project was how to use and cite online images. Our wonderful Educational Technologist, Lee Howell, shared these with us:

Easybib – It creates MLA Citation automatically!

CC Search Engine – We won’t be using Google Images as an image search engine any longer. From now on, students will have the habit of accessing this great site, and selecting the engine from there. The CC site filters the Creative Common licensed images. It offers convenient access to search services provided by other independent organizations.

Here are some of the beautiful Narrables that my students came up with. Enjoy!

Spanish 1 Example 1

Spanish 1 Example 2

Francais 1 Example 1

Francais 1 Example 2