Chiles, Queso, and Superstars

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I wonder if your students are as obsessed with Ninjas as mine are?

After a conversation with Emily Baker last spring, another Spanish teacher here in Anchorage, I started distributing “Chiles” to my students whenever they say beautiful things in Spanish. Before the Chiles, I had a hard time getting them to give me complete sentences, or saying anything at all, really! (What is a Chile? It’s a little piece of paper with the picture of a chile pepper on it.) So I copied off pages of green Chile pepper clipart (linked to the bottom of this post) and now I hand them a 1.5″ square piece of paper whenever they something awesome or take a risk in Spanish (for some students, this means anytime they say anything at all!). At the end of the period, they write their name and date on the back and put it in a bag for their period. Emily said that her cooperating teacher last year would do Chile drawings once a month and really made them a crazy affair, with music and lights and things. We will do this eventually. Maybe.
For now, however, earning Chiles gets you two things:
  1. the chance to become the Singing Ninja (El CantaNinja). This means that you get a foam ninja sword and eye mask (you don’t have to wear it, of course), and all of the powers that any respectable Singing Ninja would possess. In addition to Ninja-fast reflexes and the ability to appear out of nowhere, you are also able to stop time and choose a song to listen to. At any time during the class (unless I declare ahead of time that an activity is NinjaProof), the CantaNinja can interrupt me and play a song of their choosing from our class playlist. As every Ninja knows, the way to do this is to jump up, do a high kick, swing the sword, and scream “HI-YAH!” This is so challenging for even the most skilled Ninjas that it drains all of your powers for the rest of the class period.
  2. I also have bi-weekly drawings on Fridays for really lame prizes, like peanut butter cracker sandwiches, Dora the Explorer pencils, and fruit snacks. Sometimes there are cool things, too, but they are expensive to provide and therefore few and far between. I usually choose five winners in each class (of approximately 35 students).
So last spring, I was telling the lovely Ms. Diana Painter about the Chiles, and she shared with me her fantastic idea of the CHEESE AWARD! Similar to the Chiles, you get little Cheese slips for an awesome, cheesy performance in a story. “El premio de queso” is a way to encourage your actors to (1) actually act and (2) stay on task. You get El premio de queso for acting with the perfect amount of cheese. I also attached a cheese sheet to this post. I put the cheese awards in with the chiles (copied on yellow paper, though) and they are also in the running for the Singing Ninja and monthly drawings.
The last award that gets you entered in the drawings is the “Star Student” award, which is given to excellent citizens–I leave them with the substitute to distribute to well behaved students, and I give them to students that demonstrate kindness or helpfulness or honesty or other wonderful qualities that every human being should possess.
Click here to download my award files….reaaaaaallly fancy 😉 : Student Awards
QUESTION (09/11/2015): For how long is each student “Cantaninja”? And since we’ve only used Señor Wooly songs and two by Selena from last year, should I start listening to more Spanish songs with my classes or just let them choose songs in English when they are Cantaninja?
  1. Each student is Cantaninja for one class period and has the magical ninja power to stop class ONE TIME during that class. After the song is selected, the student returns the sword to me for safekeeping until the next day when a new Cantaninja is selected.
  2. YES! Listen to more Spanish songs! We listen to at least one new song each week, so at the beginning of the year the Ninja doesn’t have many/any options from which to make their selection: they simply get to choose when to stop the class so that we can listen to the one song or one of the two songs that we know. Very quickly, though, a library of familiar songs grows, and students have quite a selection from which to choose.

22 comments

  1. Hola,
    Just printed these out; thanks for yet another great resource. I also just created a stop sign sheet, to give each student a small red stop sign when they are super-confused in class or during a story. they can just hold it up, or put it on top of all the other things on their desk and we’ll stop and circle back again. Let me know if you’d like me to email it to you or anything.
    🙂

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  2. […] Cara O’Brien-Holen, who I am now going to dub the ‘twist-master’ (Cynthia Hitz and I observed her doing an awesome twist on Chain Reaction in the fall of 2013), shared how she had used Word Race Stories in class. Her students had so much fun with it that they ended up acting out the collaborative stories that they wrote! Having one student (or the teacher) read a story aloud while students act it out is an awesome way to get in loads of comprehensible input–especially if you are using strategies like circling, checking for comprehension, and personalization while it’s read! If the acting is excellent, pull another page from Diana Painter’s book and give out Cheese Awards! […]

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  3. Hi! Quick question…i’d like to implement the “Cantaninja” award! It sounds pretty awesome, but I’m wondering how often you select a “Cantaninja”. Is it at the beginning of every class period? And does just a random student draw someone’s name? Also, how often to you empty the bag? Once a week, a month, etc?
    Thank you!!

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  4. I like your cantaninja idea! I might expand on it, and add the bailaninja! We have a collection of videos that we danced Zumba to this past school year. So I think our ninja might sing or dance. It will be great to be surprised during each class!

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