Gracias por…

It is the end of the school year.  It is also that time in the school year that we look back to see whether we accomplished what we set out to do back in September.  This has been a wonderful year, in fact, each year I seem to get closer to being even more excited about my career choice. Each year, I set out on this “blind date”, embrace hundreds of students and their families, their dreams, their fears, and make one big collage that includes my dreams, my fears, and my goals for the school year.

This is a  difficult time of the year as I say goodbye to a group of students that I have had for the past two years.  These students will be moving on to high school and with their move they will say goodbye to a village of teachers, staff members, coaches, administrators, counselors, and even younger siblings, who helped shaped their three years while at the middle school.

So, I knew I wanted them to reflect on their experiences while in middle school. Pinterest has all these beautiful picture frames hanging from vines, ropes, and they just look so hip and cool…so I got the idea of creating a banner that would spell out the word “Gracias” = Thank you, and the students would complete the task.

Here is the plan I developed:

  1. Students were asked to choose a teacher per grade level they would like to honor. One for sixth, one for seventh, and one for eight grade. The caveat was that I could not be one of the teachers because in the end…is not about me. I wanted my students to reflect and think: Who made me feel welcomed? Who smiled? Who offered lunch bunch? Who talked to me, one on one? Who asked me…Hey, how are you doing today? Anyhow, you get the idea.
  2. I have two blocks of eight graders and so they voted on 6 teachers, all from different subjects; from math to physical education.
  3. I brought the canvas, string, and sign.  The students cut out card stock, which they used to write thank you notes, in both English and Spanish.
  4. Thank you notes in Spanish…well this involves them knowing how to use “por” and “para.” I have never explicitly taught these concepts but they have heard and read them, in my many lectures, stories, and chats of what we graciously call “random useless information.” But, being the teacher that I am, I wanted to make sure they used the structures “somewhat” accurately. So…
  5. I wrote the preposition Por on the white board, three times, in three separate lines.
  6. Gracias por …….[things], example: los cuentos, las charlas, las galletas, el turron, etc.
  7. Gracias por …….[adjectives], example: ser buena, bueno, amable, chistoso, parlanchin, etc.
  8. Gracias por ……[actions], example: hablar conmigo, escribir cuentos, llevarnos de gira, ense~arnos a leer, etc.
  9. You get the point. The students had NO difficulty in writing these thank you notes because they have heard, read, listened, to all these structures for two years, whether in novels from the amazing Mira Canion, Karen Rowan, Carol Gaab, or stories that we made up in class, like the Blazian Asian baseball who was sad because he did not have any money to buy a package of rammen noodles.

On June 5th, my students will honor those teachers who touched their lives while on their journey through middle school. My students will bring to life what Carl Jung has beautifully said: “One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings.  The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and the soul of a child.”

At the end of the day, everything comes back to one thing: relationships. It is so important to build relationships with our students and our colleagues. It is imperative that we realize we are on the same cruise ship and we all want to get to our destination.

So this is how we are saying goodbye.


As you can see, the individual card stocks are hanging from the banner, by threading thin ribbon thru each card stock. We used blue and orange ribbons = school colors.

So, how will you finish out the year?

Happy teaching 🙂



La palabra secreta

Bryce Hedstrom is a gracious and giving soul. He inspired me to start an FVR program in my classes and has now inspired me to add the “secret word” routine to start my day. You can read all the details about the secret word in his blog but here is a brief summary:

For me, classroom management starts at the door, with me greeting each and every single one of my students at the door. I usually say something like: Hola, Buenos dias, Buenas tardes. Last year, I had a student who wanted to be the greeter and basically emulate what I did. It worked great. However, after reading about the “secret word” on Bryce’s blog, I realized that he was presenting an opportunity for WL teachers to add authentic and useful input that our students can and will use when they visit Spanish speaking countries or even when they meet a native speaker, right here, at home.

So here is a list of some of the phrases that I will teach my students and use to start the day, right at the door:

Update: Alina Filipescu, a Spanish teacher whose blog is started the palabra secreta many years ago. I had no idea. Alina, gracias. Please check out her blog for this and many other wonderful ideas on teaching with comprehensible input. Some of the words/phrases that she used: lo siento, lo que sea, no es justo, mil gracias.