Buzz Reading

This technique I stumbled upon while thinking of a way to practice reading our class story. I love ringing the classroom bell (a great prop, especially when teaching about the 89 year


old Paletero in Chicago who received over $380,000).

But anyway, this activity can be used a variety of ways in the TPRS classroom to go along with reading a story. Here’s how I did it:

  1. Students need a copy of a reading.
  2. I numbered the paragraphs on the reading.
  3. I explained in the target language that each student had to read 1 sentence and then the person next to them would continue. If there was a pause between the two people, I would ring the bell and the person would have to start reading the story from the very beginning.
  4. Also, if a student read more than one sentence, I rang the bell, and the student had to start at the beginning of the story.

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Passport Stamps and ICTFL 16

Thanks to everyone who stopped and visited our booth at the Illinois Conference of spanishteachershop-passport-stampsTeaching of Foreign Languages 2016 Fall Conference.

We’d like to remind everyone that all our materials can be found on our website and

One of the most talked about parts of our exhibitor’s table was our Passport and our  Stamps.

Passport Stamps and Passport Booklet for Spanish ClassGiving each student their own passport has a variety of functions. It gives them ownership of their learning; it introduces them to the concept of traveling abroad and learning about cultures; and it can be used to track their progress in class.
Over the last several weeks we’ve been working to expand our stamp collection. We now offer all 21 Spanish Speaking Countries (plus the US).

See below for more information: Continue reading

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5 phrase story

It’s been awhile since a blog post, and I’ve been keeping busy by attending various conferences and writing new stories for class as well as finally finishing stamp designs for all 21 Spanish Speaking Countries.

I wanted to share a really quick activity that I learned from a session by Carol Caab (of TRPS Publishing) at the first ever Comprehensible Midwest Conference in Milwaukee, WI in late September.

In this activity, the teacher provides 5 phrases in the target language. The key is to make sure that the phrases are vague enough that they leave open some sort of interpretation. Write them up on the board as A, B, C, D, E.

For example, I started with these 5 phrases:
A) Busca
B) Tiene un perro
C) Va al Pet Shelter
D) Ve un gato
E) Quiere

Granted 2 of mine are just verbs and not a complete phrase, (but this was my first time doing this type of activity, on the Monday after the conference). Ideally, they would be a bit more phrasal.

Hand out 5 cards to students with one of these letters written on them and have those 5 students come up to the class and act out whatever that phrase is. As they students are acting out the phrases, you want to try to get as many reps of the phrases as you can. So you can ask questions to the actor and the class. The trick is to try to critique the student in a playful way that allows you to get them to do the action again and again.

Have the class try to guess what letter the student is acting out.

Then have the class pair up and try to put the sentences in a logical order. The idea is that the sentences are so vague that there really isn’t an exact answer; they could be multiple ways to order them. It is up to the students to make sure it is logical. Then ask the class for which order to put them in. As you are asking groups what is first and which is second, you are getting in additional reps of the structures. Once it is established that the class is not at a consensus for which is 1st,2nd,3rd, have the students go back to their partners and try again so that the class can come to a consensus.

I put each phrase in a text box on a powerpoint so I can move the phrases around on the screen as the class tells me which one is first, second, third.


I then had students write a brief story using these 5 phrases to show us what they think happens in the story (and thus which order they are in). For example, Using the 5 phrases from above a student might say that they story is as follows:


This is a fun activity that allows for discussion and sneaks in a bunch of reps of the targeted structures. It’s one that I am keeping in the teacher toolbox and hope to get better at as I use it more and more.

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Redefing Boot Verbs with CI

We’ve all heard of “boot verbs” to teach the conjugations forms of stem-changing verbs.
Take the i–>ie stem changing verb querer:

Cute, right? Well, sure….If you want your students to only be able to memorize verb forms without actually acquiring them or being able to use them in context.

At the Comprehensible Midwest Conference, Dr. Krashen delivered the keynote. As CI teacher knows, teaching verb conjugations as a way to acquire the language would not fall under the umbrella of teaching with CI. If we are using grammar concepts to teach the language, our students are probably not acquiring the language. “When your hidden agenda is the future tense it’s hard to make class interesting” – Steven Krashen.

The key is to make language compelling and personalized (and comprehensible obviously). He used the analogy of eating a well-balanced diet. In your diet, you don’t think to yourself, “well, I need to take some vitamin A now, and then later I better take a dose of protein.” If you have a well balanced diet, your vitamins and nutrients will be present in your food. Your nutrition is not sheltered. Well, grammar is the same. We do not need to have a lesson on boot verbs. Stem changing verbs by themselves should not be the focus of a lesson. Boot verbs should be part of the input we give to our students. Over time, they will acquire all the necessary structures they need to be able to use them in their communication.

With that being said, I’d like to redefine what a boot verb is. A boot verb should be a verb that you can use when talking about boots. What type of structures are compelling to students to talk about boots?
These are MY boot verbs:
Redefining Boot Verbs as a CI teacherMy boot verbs include Se pone, tiene, quiere, va, and necesita. I can use these verbs to talk about boots. What are your boot verbs. Share them on twitter with #MyBootVerbs or leave them in the comments. Give us a sentence talking about boots.

chanclaWhat about Flip Flop verbs? Continue reading

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Get a scoop of Proficiency

It was last year that I blogged about Promoting Performance, and I adopted Shelby County School’s ice cream metaphor throughout the year to talk about  performance and A blog post about using the metaphor of Ice cream to talk about proficiency in the world language classroom.proficiency with my students. My phrase to students on assessments or just to encourage them in class was to “SCOOP IT UP!” I even had a back and forth call with my students where I would yell “Get a scoop of what?” and they would respond “ice cream” “What?!” “Ice cream!”. It was really silly, but the kids enjoyed it.

With the start of the school year, it is fun to see how everybody is showcasing the performance levels in their classroom. I’ve seen some great pictures of bulletin boards, posters, signs, and more that help students on their path to proficiency.

In continuing with the ice cream theme this year, I’ve made the following posters. (I am SO lucky my school has a poster maker!) Check them out….

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Spanish from Day 1

The first day of Spanish class. You want to be welcoming, you want the students to feel comfortable. You also want to set the expectation that this class is different. You want to maintain 90% of the class in the target language. It can be done. Here’ a few ideas.

One of the first things I do while taking attendance is establish the name students call me. After I say the students name, I prompt them to say “Hola, profe” or “Sí, profe”. If they say “Sí”, I will prompt them with what I want them to say. I make sure that they repeat it. I do this for the first several days. Sometimes I will just say a students’ name and look/nod at them and wait to them to say “Sí, profe”.

I then give the students an introduction of myself. I talk about where I am from, my family, my background in teaching and traveling, and my hobbies. During this period of time, I am speaking as if I am talking to a native speaker. I do not use visuals, I do not restate in simple terms/vocabulary. I do not give processing time. I then ask students what they understood. The response is usually not little if anything. Then, in Spanish, I explain that I am going to do it again, but this time differently.

I use this PowerPoint Template (you can download for free and input your own information). This time, I use visuals from the Powerpoint. I explain it in simple terms. I give processing time. I speak at a slower rate. I check the audience for understanding. I do everything I can to make it comprehensible.

TL from day 1Then I ask students to tell me what they understood. This time, they can tell me everything! I then ask them (in English) why they understood more the second time. I explain to them that I will be speaking to them in Spanish, BUT that it is my job to make it comprehensible to them. Their job is to be active listeners, because watching my gestures or visuals is important to their understanding. This helps them feel comfortable and not be so overwhelmed that I am just going to be rambling in Spanish.

On the second day, I like to do some sort of TASK that students have to accomplish. They have to listen to the instructions and follow along with what I am modeling. At the end of the class, I ask them if they were able to accomplish the task? When they say yes, I remind them that they were successful in accomplishing something and they didn’t need English to do it. One example is to have them set up their notebook, or you can have them create a passport booklet.




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Getting the year started

1st year spanish teacher ideasIf you’ve just been hired or are starting your first year as a Spanish teacher, you are probably a) super excited and b) quite nervous.

Hopefully we can help calm those nerves and make your year start out smooth.

Here are some tips to help get you ready:

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Facebook Project Giveaway

Our Spanish Facebook Profile Project is one of our best sellers. And according to the reviews, it’s not only a hit with teachers, but students love it too. And it’s no wonder. Students not only create their own Facebook profile page, but also a newsfeed with posts from their “friends” as well as a notification page, just like facebook.

Also included is a list of common “text-talk”: abbreviations native speakers use when texting. Such as “a2” for “adiós”. French Facebook Project

So we are excited to announce that we now have a French version of this project. And you could win either one of these versions on our Facebook giveaway.

All you need to do is to go to our Facebook page, and tag a French teacher in the comments of our most recent post. The people you tag will be eligible to win the French version and anyone who tags (that’s you!) is entered to win the French OR Spanish version.

For more French resources, check out our French page.


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What’s the Acronym for Acquisition?

We’ve all heard them. Most of us have probably even used them at one point or another. I’m talking about those cute little songs and acronyms to memorize grammar rules, irregular forms, verbs, and more.

commands irregularsExample: Your students are learning about command forms. So, you give them this little trick (on right) to remember the irregular forms for positive tú commands: Ven Di Sal Haz Ten Ve Pon Sé.

Easy Peasy. Your students are going to rock out on the commands quiz.


verbos irregulares preterito
Or how about using the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to memorize the irregular yo form verbs in the preterite. Sing that little tune during the quiz, and you’ll be set!

Then there are all the acronyms to remember the difference between Ser and Estar (Doctor Place), when to use the subjunctive (WEIRDO), and I’m sure they are many many more examples.


These tools may be great help to pass a quiz. But are they really that useful when it comes to acquiring a language? Continue reading

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Takeaways School Year 2015 2016

On the last day of class I had my students  fill out a course evaluation survey to gather their feedback. A few things stuck out and will help in my planning for next year:

  1. Stories! A majority of students specifically mentioned the MovieTalks we did in class and enjoyed them very much. A side note: the stories we choose can also have morals Spanish course evaluationor takeaways. Two students specifically mentioned that the MovieTalk of Destiny made them realize that maybe they shouldn’t be too focused on things (such as checking their cellphone all the time) and instead be aware of the world around them.
  2. Speaking of MovieTalks, a lot of kids mentioned their annoyance of me pausing the video so frequently. After some teacher discussion, it made me realize I need to explain to students the process and why I do what I do. Students want instant gratification to find out what happens. They are engaged in the movie. They don’t even realize they are acquiring language during the video.
  3. Going along with the last point, one of my goals for next year will be to better (and more frequently) explain to students how proficiency and acquisition works.
  4. 30 Days. I’ve shown this episode of 30 Days for the last 7 years and I thought about not showing it this year, because we talked so much about immigration already, especially after reading Esperanza, and watching some clips of children in detention centers. But I am glad I showed it anyway. Students responded well to the movie and were able to see the life of a family both before they came to the US and after. Many students mentioned this video in their evaluation.
  5. Profe of the Week: This is something I started the year with and it kind of died out over halfway through the year, but it is something that students seemed to really enjoy. Each week a student is assigned to be the “profe” and starts the class by asking some review questions. Another activity that students enjoyed was talking about their weekend plans on Friday (voy a) and Monday (past tense) which I will start earlier in the year next year.

If you haven’t finished out the year yet, here is a version of the survey I gave to my students: Course Evaluation 2016

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