Professional Development

Ideas for free summer PD

If you are like me, it takes at least a month to get into the non-teaching frame of mind at the end of the school year. We go from a hectic state of mind to a state of calm. But with that comes that uneasy feeling that something remains undone.


If you are like me, it takes at least a month to get into the non-teaching frame of mind at the end of the school year. We go from a hectic state of mind to a state of calm. But with that comes that uneasy feeling that something remains undone. Have you ever woken up during the summer and freaked out that you didn’t get something graded, planned, or created for your classes? I’m sure we have all had that uneasy feeling. Yet, we do eventually get into another routine: one of summer. Less hectic, more reflective, and family-focused. During these down times, there is a lot of professional development available. After all, aren’t teachers continuous learners? Here are some ideas for summer professional development that are easy, free, and can be done from anywhere.

Follow teaching blogs

One of my favorites is Smart Classroom Management, a blog written by Michael Linsin. Last year, a group of us in our high school read his book The Smart Classroom Management Way and met monthly to discuss it. The book is a compilation of his popular blog, divided into chapters for teachers to develop a classroom management plan. His premise is to teach students the behaviors that you want them to have. Yes, this means taking time out of the first days of school and showing students what it means to be ready for your class, how to ask to leave the room for bathroom or water, how to do procedural things, etc. He also encourages teachers to have a list of rules and expectations in the classroom. If a student isn’t following a behavioral expectation, the teacher only needs to refer to the rule/expectation number when addressing the behavior.

I thought this wouldn’t work with my group of seniors. It does. Sophomores and seniors alike need explicit expectations of how to behave in class so there are no surprises. It creates a learning environment based on respect and the goal of growing in learning, which means any behavior that distracts or takes away from that environment will be held accountable. It was a great way to jumpstart classroom management after 19 years of teaching. It works!

Follow state and national associations

Our national world language organization, the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, is at the forefront of best practices for teaching world languages. ACTFL always has something for its members—conferences, professional development webinars, the publications The Language Educator and The Foreign Language Annals, and more. I get so much out of my membership.

It's also useful to follow your local state world language association for summer webinars, workshops, and more!

Free webinars

I follow our textbook companies on Twitter and via emails. There are many opportunities to do professional development with the professionals who have written our textbooks. It is easy to sign up and watch the webinars. And, if you can’t make the session, they are usually archived and you can watch them at your own convenience. I’ve learned a lot about our textbooks and the online learning tools via these webinars.

Social media


I follow many world language superstars on Twitter, and they have been so generous in sharing their ideas. Here are some that I follow: Leslie Grahn @grahnforlang, Diego Ojeda @DiegoOjeda66, Noah Geisl @SenorG, and many more. Once you start following a few world language superstars, there will be suggestions of who else to follow. From there, you can build a network of professional connections.

Facebook Groups

There are many supportive teacher groups on Facebook that provide help. I’m a part of “How do you say…”, “AP Spanish Language Teachers,” and a few others. You should also check out Spanish Teachers Using EntreCulturas and Proficiency Talks LIVE.


The last year has become my year of podcasts because I have so many that I follow and just love. The ones I use for my professional life are Radio Ambulante, Nómadas, Alt.Latino, Latino USA, and Codeswitch. For Radio Ambulante, there is an additional app for language learners called Lupa. I’ve only tried out the trial version, but students can listen to the podcast and fill in words, much like a cloze activity. While I haven’t used this for students yet, I can see it being a great listening activity. It also includes notes on the language and culture.

It is great to be part of a profession in which so many professionals seek to keep on learning. I hope these give you more connections to the professional development that is out there for us.

Alma Rivera

Alma Rivera

Alma Rivera is a Spanish teacher at Appleton East High School in Appleton, WI. She started teaching in January of 2000 and have taught every level of Spanish. In addition to teaching, Alma has been a department chair, a local arrangements coordinator of her state world language conference and organization, a presenter at conferences, and a travel leader for 8 student trips to Spain.
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