Cyber Monday (and Tuesday) Sale – Save 20 percent!

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Stock up now on lesson plans for the spring semester! Shop on Monday and Tuesday, December 1-2 and save 20 percent on everything in my TpT store. If you’re on a professional budget, you can stick to the 60 free products on TpT and browse my blog archives to find hundreds more :) Fill your cart with lesson plans and activities, and enter the code “TPTCYBER” at checkout to receive the 20 percent discount.

Visit my STORE page to see a categorized listing of (most) of the products that are in my TpT store. I have products in French and Spanish in addition to general forms that work for any language.

Also–if you haven’t yet, click here to leave a comment on my 500th post for a chance to win one of three Teacher Packages from TPRS Publishing!

500 Posts

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I asked my Facebook followers what I blog about on this, my 500th blog post since switching to WordPress in March of 2011. The consensus was to do something reflective…so here it is!

CC 2014 Christian Schnettelker

CC 2014 Christian Schnettelker

When I dove head-first into TPRS® in early 2010, the only materials that I had to work with were those that I found on blogs. Ben Slavic’s blog was my home page, and I found scores of story scripts and TPRS® teaching tips in his archives. Betsy Paskvan and Michele Whaley introduced me to the mind-blowing Standards Based Assessment materials of Scott Benedict at Teach for June, and Carol Gaab’s downloadable articles, lesson plans, and handouts on the TPRS Publishing website gave depth to my instruction. I read many other blogs and pulled ideas from each of them, but those three had the biggest impact on my TPRS® infancy. In the real world, I was and still am incredibly blessed to live just 20 minutes away from the formidable mind and unspeakably warm heart of Michele Whaley. Under her gentle guidance, I learned that the power of TPRS® is found in the Comprehensible Input that it provides, and that it is just one of many ways to Teach with Comprehensible Input.

As I got my feet under me and began to write my own stories, I started sharing them on my class’s google site because I honestly thought that that was an unspoken “requirement” of TPRS® teachers. Whatever you do in class, you put on a blog so that others can figure out how to navigate a world without textbooks. I’ve since learned that it is not, in fact, a requirement: it’s just that TCI teachers are really, really kind and generous people that want their peers to love teaching again and students around the world to actually, truly learn language. Amazing!

In March of 2011, I made the switch to WordPress so that I could better file my posts and store my content. It’s pretty funny now to look back at my posts from the first few years–much of it is still good (in my eyes), but I have learned and changed a lot since then, so I would no longer stand behind all of my early ideas.

This blog has given me two wonderful gifts: first, the ability to stay home with my boys. I prayed long and hard that the Lord would make a way for me to stay home with my kids, and I never would have imagined that blogging would be the answer. He is so faithful to answer prayer!! The second, equally wonderful, gift that my blog has given me is cherished friendships. I’ll not list them here for fear that I would leave out a name, but a quick scroll through my archives will lead you to them. In particular, though, I do have to highlight Cynthia Hitz and Carol Gaab because I met both of them for the first time praying that I was not about to be brutally murdered by an psychopath disguising him or herself as a friendly world language teacher. I flew out to the remote woods of Wisconsin to meet Carol for the first time, and Cynthia came to my house–thankfully, without an ax in her luggage. So far, everyone that I have met online has turned out to be real, and really wonderful :)

I’d love to leave you with some of my “top posts”, but the most popular posts are skewed by Pinterest (most of the statistical top posts are ones that apply to teachers of all content areas and levels, not just World Language teachers), and I don’t have the mental stamina to consider all 500 to come up with my own personal favorites. So…methinks I’ll do a giveaway and leave the blogging to you!

I have recently begun to learn French as I have been reading the novel Brandon Brown veut un chien, listening to the audio book, and working with the Teacher’s Guide–the same three resources that are available to anyone that purchases a Teacher Package of one of the TPRS Publishing novels. IT IS AWESOME! I have become more convinced than ever that Comprehensible Input is the most effective way to learn a language, because I am experiencing it firsthand! For this reason, I am going to give away THREE TPRS Publishing Teacher Packages–each winner can choose the novel that they would like to have shipped to them.

If you’d like the chance to win one of the three teacher packages, just leave a comment with (at least) one thing you’ve read on this blog that other readers should not miss! If possible, find and include the link to the post; if not, just describe the idea (activity, strategy, etc.) and I’ll try to find and add the link to the specific post. It can be a post that inspired an ah-ha moment for you, the activity with which you’ve had the most success, your favorite story script…anything!

Any World Language teacher that comments will have their name entered in the raffle to win one of three teacher packages from TPRS Publishing. Comments must be received on or before Sunday, December 7, 2014, and I’ll notify the winner via email on Monday, December 8.

Can’t wait to see what YOUR top posts are!!

Literature Circles

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Waaaaay back when I was a baby language teacher, I attended a writing workshop for world language teachers here in Anchorage. Dr. Amy Wright, then-professor at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks walked us through an awesome application of Literature Circles in the World Language classroom. We used an excerpt from La casa en la calle Mango (The House on Mango Street) by Sandra Cisneros, and it was easy to see that students would be very comfortable and profoundly familiar with the text by the time that they had completed the series of tasks. Recently, I have explored how to modify the plan as presented in order to center it on Comprehensible Input (as-is, it is very output-heavy) and how to use it with Novice language learners through the use of Embedded Reading (see El hombre feliz unit for Spanish II for an example of CI/ER Literature circles in action). Today, I’m going to post the basic plan. My goal is to publish a new post with CI transformations and tips for using it with novices over the Thanksgiving holiday. For now, you can read this and ponder it on your own!

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  1. Select a passage from a text that you would like students to explore in-depth. It should be fairly evocative.
  2. Write two or three writing prompts that would allow students to explore the themes of the passage. Give students two minutes to do a focused free write for each prompt.
  3. In groups, have each students choose one of their prompt responses to read aloud to the others. (Or, you could assign the students to read a particular one.)
  4. Ask students to read the text aloud (do a read-around). This can be done with each person reading a sentence or each person reading a line (even if the thought or sentence is not completed on that line–it has a cool feel to it).
  5. Ask one student to read the text aloud, or have the teacher read the text aloud to all students. While the other students listen, they should underline any word, phrase, or sentence that stands out to them.
  6. If students underlined more than two things, have them choose their two favorites. Do another read-around, but this time students should read one of the phrases that they underlined. Go around the circle twice so that both phrases are read. Emphasize that they should not change the phrases that they selected if someone else reads it first; the repetition is important! The result will be an oral poem of sorts, created by and unique to the group.
  7. Then, ask students to do another focused free write. Have them choose one of the two phrases or words that they just chose and expand on it for two minutes. They should write anything that comes into their heads when they think about that phrase. The result is a stream of consciousness poem.
  8. Finally, do another read-around. One student will read the passage, but the other students in the group will interrupt him or her immediately after the reader reads the phrase about which they wrote. If multiple students wrote from the same phrase, there will be a chain of tangents. After the interruption is over, the reader continues until he or she is interrupted again.


Dr. Amy Wright, a former professor at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, modeled this strategy at a free writing workshop for world language teachers in Anchorage as a tool to explore literary texts in 2009 or 2010. It is a fantastic way to personalize and break down a complex text. 

Tener (“to have”) people search

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Being a comprehensible input teacher demands that students have opportunities to produce output. Read why here.

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 3.20.23 PMOnce we understand output is not a taboo for a TCI teacher, we can start the search for fun ways to allow students to build productive confidence and competency! “People searches” are one of the fastest, easiest, and lowest-anxiety output activities that you can use in your classes. I like them because they allow students to do a lot of talking in a very short period of time, which means that I am left with lots of class time to focus on comprehensible input.

Here is a quick activity that I use to practice the verb “tener” (to have)–click on the picture to download it. If anyone wants to translate it into another language, please send me your form so that I can post it on the blog for other teachers of your language to use–the editable file is included in the .zip folder downloadable here :)


  1. Provide students with lots of comprehensible input! Focus on the structure “tiene”, but make sure to use dialogue to get in repetitions of “tengo” and “tienes”. There are an infinite number of ways to get in repetitions of these target structures through comprehensible input (embedded readings, MovieTalk, storyasking, PQA, etc.), so choose one that works for you, your students, and your curriculum. I use this activity after the unit “Las novias de mi hermano”, and another option would be to use this basic story script and reading.
  2. Distribute the worksheet to students. Page 4 includes some body parts and other vocabulary, while Page 5 consists entirely of cognates and therefore can be used earlier in the year. You choose!
  3. Explain the instructions to students. They must fill two rows (horizontal, vertical, or diagonal) with signatures from their classmates. They obtain signatures by pairing up with a classmate and asking ¿Tienes _______________ (read the words in the box)?. The classmate will respond, “Si, tengo _________” or “No.” If he or she says “Sí”, he or she may then sign the box. Then, each student finds a new partner and repeats the process. The same person may NOT sign twice. A good strategy for finding partners is the Kagan “Stand Up, Hand Up, Pair Up” structure. Students stand up, put their hands in the air, high-five someone, and then pair up with that person. When they have completed the task, they put their hands back in the air and find a new partner to high-five and pair up with. To keep kids talking in the target language, I unleash the “Hole Puncher Police”. Read this post for an explanation.
  4. As the first few students complete the task by filling two rows, have them keep going to try to fill their entire board until many students have completed the two-row task.
  5. Call students back together.
  6. Lead a class discussion about the data that students have collected. Use TPRS®/CI strategies like circling, checking for comprehension, and personalization.
  7. Collect papers. Based on the responses and the class discussion, use them to create a reading that students can work with in class the next day. Here are some more ideas for extending class discussions.



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We had a small but fruitful First Second Friday meeting last night. For those of you that don’t know, Michele Whaley organized a group back in 2010 that meets once a month to discuss and practice anything and everything that might be of interest to World Language teachers. The April 2014 issue of The Language Educator featured an article about it, in case I’ve piqued your interest :) Click here to read the article (you must be an ACTFL member to access it).

Anyway…I’ve not been able to make it to many meetings in recent months due to my current stage of life (er, the current stage of life of my children), and I left last night reminded why it was that I cite those meetings as critical to my success as a world language teacher!

One great thing about collaborating is that everyone puts their own twists on prescribed activities. Here are some tried-and-true ways to maintain novelty even when using familiar activities:

  1. Diana Painter, the original mastermind behind “Chain Reaction“, shared how she extended the original activity in class yesterday. Her students had watched Alma, and on Thursday they did a chain reaction activity to review it. Then, on Friday, Diana gave them a printout with the same eight questions from Thursday’s chain reaction activity and blank lines for each of the answers. Then, instead of using the same answers that the students had worked with the day before, she re-worded each one so that students would have to think critically to complete this activity instead of relying entirely on their memory of the previous day. She read the answers out of order, one-by-one, and students scanned their list of questions to see where the answer that she had just read fit best.
  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!
  3. Michele Whaley reminded me that in Jason Fritze’s original Grab & Go activity, students rolled a paper die with question words on it to determine what kind of a question they would have to write. For example, if it was time for Bobby to write a question and the die that he rolled landed on “Who?”, then he would have to write a question about the text that began with “Who…?”. I’ve been using the activity to practice QAR with my students, but the method that I was using to get students to write different kinds of questions was much more complicated than this. From now on, I’ll write the different question types (Right There, Think & Search, Author & Me, On My Own) on four sides of the die, and on the other two sides I’ll write “Your choice”.
Betsy Paskvan talks to the Anchorage First Fridays group in 2012 (or 2010?)

Betsy Paskvan talks to the Anchorage First Fridays group in 2012 (or 2010?)

All that and more from two short hours of collaboration–I love it! I would highly recommended seeking out or starting a peer-guided professional development group in your area. A few that I know about are…

Please add more (with links and/or contact info, if possible) in the comments section!

Word Race Stories

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Generate comprehensible input and provide opportunities for output from a traditional vocabulary-review game that is played with a partner.

Download a PDF of the instructions and sample game boards for this activity here.


Generate a word cloud of the target vocabulary structures that you want to review (in the target language). This can be done electronically, or you could hand-write the words on a page. I typically use to generate my word clouds. For structures that consist of more than one word, delete the space between the words so that they stick together in the word cloud, instead of being separated as though they were completely separate terms.

Print out copies of the word cloud: enough for one for every student in your class. If you are proficient in word processing, take a screen shot of the word cloud, and paste it into a word document with eight numbered lines at the bottom. If this is not easy for you to do quickly, skip it! Just print the word cloud on a page by itself (or create a word cloud by hand).

I keep a running list of all target structures on This works well for students that have missed class to practice vocabulary the ‘old fashioned way’ (out of context), and I have an up-to-date vocabulary list that is ready to go for activities like this one.

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Distribute a word cloud and a highlighter or colored writing utensil (marker, crayon, colored pencil) to every student. Make sure that the students in each pair have a different colored writing utensil.

Play “Word Race”:

  1. Each pair uses Partner A’s paper first and places it between the two partners. Partner B sets aside his/her paper for now.
  2. Teacher calls out a term in English.
  3. The two partners race to cross out or highlight that term first on the paper. The student that marks the correct term first receives one point. If a student marks the wrong term, he or she loses one point.
  4. Continue game play until many terms have been crossed out (not necessarily all of them!), then have Partner B pull out his or her sheet and play another round. The winner is the student with the most points at the end of both rounds.


  1. Using words from the word cloud, each student should FILL UP the first line on the bottom half of the paper with the beginning of a story. It might be one sentence, it might be two….whatever it takes to fill up the line.(You can decide for yourself whether it’s okay if they try to write big so that they don’t have to write as much.) If you did not create a word document with the word cloud and lines on the same piece of paper, just have students fill up the first line on a lined piece of notebook paper.
  2. Have the students pass their paper clockwise.
  3. The next student must continue the story by filling up the second line with whatever happens next. It should make sense and go with the first line!
  4. Then, the second student passes the paper clockwise to the third person.
  5. Keep passing until all eight lines are filled, then return the paper to the original owner.
  6. If time remains, the original “owner” of the paper should re-write the story on a piece of lined paper, correcting and embellishing it to the best of his/her ability.
  7. Collect all papers before the kids leave!!


Type up several of the better stories that came out of the activity. Project them or photocopy them and distribute them to the class. Students can…

  • Read them with teacher guidance, using TPRS®/CI strategies like circling, checking for comprehension, and personalization (see this page for information about those strategies)
  • Translate them into English
  • Re-write them from another perspective or in another tense (Spanish 2A).
  • Expand them

Flu plans

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Are you a Spanish teacher?
Are you worried that you will catch the flu this school year?
Do you want to be prepared with a ready-to-go sub plan?

I’m your gal :)

If you answered “no” to any of those three questions, this post may still be of some use to you. It’s 9:30 on Saturday night, and I of course have nothing better to do than clean out my computer. So many files…so little time. In doing so, I dug up this sub plan that I used in Spanish 1, and it’s very easy to duplicate with unique content in any language and level. I used it during Unit 7 of my Spanish 1 curriculum. Here’s what you do:

  1. Sub plan ideaAssign a free write–timed or otherwise. (Not sure what a free write is or need a rubric? Click here. Or you could do a BINGO free write. 1-3-10 Free writes are really too long for this plan.)
  2. Collect them.
  3. Select several to use in the sub plan.
  4. Type the free writes that you plan to use in a word document, and make corrections while you type.
  5. Add a box next to each free write. You can draw this in or use shapes if you’ve got some word processing skills.
  6. Stick the following directions at the top of the page, changing the structures in Step #4 and Step #5 to match your language and level. (The structures in Step #4 are target structures for the course; the structures in Step #5 are purely for fun– “doesn’t speak Russian”, “has a chicken in his/her pants”, and “is a robot”.
  7. Get sick and stay home!

Here’s what students do:

  1. Read all of the stories.
  2. Draw an illustration of each story in the box beside it to demonstrate that you understand it.
  3. Choose TWO of the stories and translate them into English on a lined piece of paper.
  4. Choose one of the stories and make it longer by adding in more information. You must work these five structures into the extended version: le ayuda, tiene que, quiere ser, toma, está enojado. Write the new story on the lined paper below the translations from #3.
  5. Extra time? Switch papers with someone else that is done. Read their extended story. On a new piece of paper, write an extended version of that person’s story by working in these three phrases: no habla ruso, tiene un pollito en sus pantalones, es un robot 

Click here to access the 2-page worksheet that I used. Students will not finish everything…but that’s fine with me! As long as they are busy, behaved, and building proficiency in my absence–I’m a happy teacher :)

Want to read more about how to use your students’ work to generate sub plans? Click here.

Want more ideas to have successful sub days? Click here.