Character Cards for First Day Seating

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Alright everyone, I am currently getting about five emails a day asking me to send the editable files for the character cards that I use for my first day seating assignments. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO EMAIL ME TO ACCESS THESE FILES!! They are already uploaded, free, on Teachers Pay Teachers. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THEM.

If you don’t know what I am talking about, click here to read about how I assign seating on the first day of school.

Again, no need to email me….just click on this link and you can download the editable files for yourself!! They are already translated into French and Spanish, and you can edit them for any other language! 


30 {TCI} things I love

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Well, it has happened. This morning, I crossed the great divide into the land of the 30s. In honor of this life achievement, I would like to share one TPRS®/CI thing that I love for each year with which my sweet Lord has blessed me! In no particular order…

  1. Jesus Christ. If I weren’t able to rely on His strength, wisdom, and provision, I’d be spending my days curled up in a ball under my covers–not blogging or collaborating or chasing after my boys.
  2. Michele Whaley. I would still think that TPRS® was the west-coast’s acronym for TPR if it weren’t for her. Beyond that…well, if you’ve spent more than five minutes with Michele, she’s on your list, too, I’m sure!
  3. TPRS Publishing, Inc. I thank God every day for Pat and Carol Gaab and their amazing business! They provide invaluable training and mentorship to TPRS®/CI teachers, and their novels are fascinating for students and life-saving for teachers. Pat and Carol, I love you!!!
  4. Teachers Pay Teachers. This website has helped me to realize my dream of being a full-time mom to my boys and still working in the field that I love–language education!
  5. Laurie Clarcq. Can’t make a list about love without listing Laurie! She exudes caring and love for her students and her colleagues.
  6. Jennifer Pike’s pinboards. Seriously. They are amazing.
  7. #langchat While not technically a TPRS®/CI resource, #langchat has helped me to understand and articulate how the many trends in language education apply to TPRS®/CI teachers as I discuss them with colleagues that teach many different languages, in different ways, in different states and countries!
  8. Señora Spanglish Rides Again. Okay, aside from the fantastic blog title…I love Laura Sexton’s mind! She shares the ideas and instructional goals that she has, and then she shares the process, in great detail, of working toward those goals.
  9. Carrie Toth. Author of my favorite novel ever (La Calaca Alegre) and 2014 ACTFL Teacher of the Year Finalist, Carrie has no reason to acknowledge my un-renowned and un-distinguished existence, and yet I consider her a friend. I realized this week that her blog was missing from my ‘Blogs I love’ list, and I paid for this great sin of mine by eating five cookies in honor of her successful diet of which I am so jealous.
  10. Kristy Placido. Authentic resources, music, novels, beauty, humor, tenacity, and the best teacher stink-eye I’ve ever seen. Since Kristy was responsible for introducing TPRS to Michele, who introduced it to me, I guess you could say that she is my professional grandmother. I have great genes :)
  11. Grow Story Grow. Loooooooove this website. It’s electronic embedded reading–worth every penny.
  12. Embedded Reading. Embedded reading is an effective strategy for language teachers. Embedded Reading is an effective strategy developed by Laurie Clarcq and Michele Whaley for language teachers that facilitates language acquisition. Embedded Reading is a fabulous, effective, essential strategy developed by….you get the point.
  13. Scott Benedict. He saved my sanity and made me a better teacher by teaching me what Standards Based Assessment is and what it looks like in the language classroom. My students’ grades are now full of meaning!
  14. YouTube. Where would we be without this endless fount of content for #authres, MovieTalk, music, and more?? Thanks to Firefox’s add-ons, available in the ‘Tools’ menu, you can even download any of their vids at home so that you don’t have to deal with firewalls and streaming at school.
  15. Noah Geisel. He recently wrote about how blog posts that share lists are not as helpful as blog posts that share “one really great and practical suggestion that is accompanied by specific ideas and examples from real classrooms”. As you can tell, this post is not that ;-).
  16. Crystal Barragán. She embodies Noah Geisel’s recommendation for quality blog posts as described in #15. She takes a lesson plan, activity, strategy, method, etc. and explains exactly how to apply it to your classroom.
  17. A truly excellent Web 2.0 tool for any language teacher–the site is constantly developing and adding more and more ways to interact with a text!
  18. Cynthia Hitz. As much as I love her cookies, I love her blog even more. And she uses iPads like nobody!
  19. Mira Canion. Oh, the mind of Mira! The only thing that saves my brain from exploding when I talk with Mira about language acquisition, world language education, and the meaning of life is her uncanny ability to locate really, really good food.
  20. Deidre Kelly, Kim Hart, Ellen Roberts, and everyone else that takes the time to email me when they notice an error, typo, or inconsistency in one of my products. You are so kind and so gracious to help me!
  21. Pages 4.3. I’m obsessed with pretty documents, and I couldn’t create them without this outdated, killer software that is no longer easily, legally available. Glad I had iWorks ’09 on a disk so I could re-install it after the newest version threatened to destroy everything I love about Word Processing!
  22. Sharon Birch. Hard to say whether I love her blog or her pinboards more. If you spend any amount of time digging through my blog archives, you’ll find more than a few ideas that I’ve gotten from her!
  23. This, along with Textivate, was my solution to the perpetually absent student. Make sure your target vocab list is up-to-date on Quizlet and your readings and stories are on Textivate, and your kiddos will be able to receive CI without any extra effort on your part.
  24. Ben Slavic. Without his blog, I never would have started TPRS in the first place. It gave me the scripts and education I needed to try it out! I finally met him the summer–talk about exciting!!
  25. With free shipping to Alaska on orders over $35 (truly, this is a rarity), Amazon is my marketplace of choice. Whether I’m buying a doc cam, class whiteboards, videos, books, or any number of teacher essentials…I love Amazon! (I’ll be ordering the doc cam and whiteboards from my August giveaway from Amazon!)
  26. Kristin Duncan. She has a knack for finding the best resources and ideas from the TPRS®/CI world and cataloguing them in a systematic way that makes it easy to find exactly what you need, when you need it.
  27. First Fridays. Michele started this regional PLN, and it has sustained me professionally throughout the last five years! If you are looking for a source for encouragement and collaboration, start your own regional group or find one that is already going by sending out a query on the…
  28. MoreTPRS listserv. I am not that active on the listserv, and I do not read every email, but I scan every daily digest that I receive! I’ve gotten so many great ideas and insights from the folks on this network!
  29. Elizabeth Dentlinger. Elizabeth and I email back and forth often enough that we probably qualify as 21st century Pen Pals. A fellow Pinterest junkie with the desire to incorporate culture into every lesson that she teaches, I’m sure that you will love her blog as much as I do!
  30. Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell. My sista from anotha mista, Sara-Elizabeth and I keep finding new things that we have in common. Her blog was the very first language teacher blog that I followed after I began teaching full-time…which means that it has been around for awhile! Don’t visit it for the first time unless you are free from commitments for the next…oh…60 hours.

There you have it!! I could go on forever, I think, but these were the first 30 that came to my mind on this particular day. Hope you found something new to add to your list of favorite TPRS®/CI things!!

Back to School Boost–20 percent off!!

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Isn’t Teachers Pay Teachers the best? They felt bad for everyone that is starting school later in the year and missed the first back-to-school sale, so they are throwing a one-day Back to School boost. I’ve discounted my entire store 20 percent, and you can use the code “BOOST” to receive an additional 10 percent off from Teachers Pay Teachers. Yowza! You only have until midnight on Wednesday, August 20 to receive the discounts, so click here to start shopping…and saving!



Classroom Essentials

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What tools and resources do you have that you would be devastated to not have in your language classroom? A reader asked me this question a few days ago, and I figured I’d share my answer with all of you. If you read all the way to the end, you’ll find out how you can win some of my favorite things :)

  1. High frequency word posters. My classroom was always plastered with these, and my students’ fluency–interpretive and productive–improved exponentially when I began using them. My husband was watching a webinar about Evernote the other day, and the company representative said that the concept behind Evernote was that the highest and best use of your brain power is to solve problems, not memorize information. I love this! By posting high frequency words around my room that students can and do access at any time during the class period, they are not wasting their brain power with rote memorization of hard-to-internalize structures like “therefore”, “but”, and “also”; they are able to focus on the real content–of interpreting and communicating messages! Because the words are so high frequency, the students reference them constantly, resulting in the acquisition of those structures within the first semester of Spanish sans exertion of brain power. I love it!!
  2. Individual whiteboards. Oh my, I use these for everything. They are a must-have tool for TPRS®/TCI teachers. They allow students to provide suggestions for stories and other forms of feedback in a non-chaotic manner, they serve as mediums for presentations, they are great for note-taking, they allow students to produce output in a non-threatening manner, they provide the teacher with valuable insights during formative assessments…I could go on forever. A class set of whiteboards + dry erase markers + erasers (I buy mega-packs of washcloths from Walmart and cut them into quarters) is definitely on my must-have list.
  3. A projector. Does this really need explanation? If your school hasn’t bought one for you, you need to take it upon yourself to get one. Start a GoFundMe account and send it out to your friends. And your administrators….because come on. You need a projector.
  4. A document camera. If you’ve never had one, this may seem frivolous. Once you’ve gone there, it is so hard to go back. Document cameras are particularly useful in TPRS®/CI classrooms where so much of the content is student-generated. You need a way to share students’ work with their classmates! Whether you’ve just finished a round of Write, Draw, Pass or are discussing where everyone went over the weekend, this is the easiest way to engage the entire class in one students’ work. It will also make it waaaaay easier for you to review worksheets, fill in notes, or exist as a teacher in general. My favorite cheap-o document camera is the iPevo Point 2 View camera. It’s not fancy and doesn’t have any mind-blowing functions like my old Promethean Actiview did, but it’s cheap and gets the job done.
  5. Shakira came to my sixth grade class...obviously!

    Shakira came to my sixth grade class…obviously!

    A classroom library. Mine has never been anything to write home about, but it was filled with readers from TPRS Publishing, children’s books that I bought used on eBay, and storybooks created by my students. Crystal Barragan and Mike Peto have much more impressive classroom libraries and information posts on how to create them.
  6. A costume bin. Oh, if you could only see my costume bin…it’s filled with ridiculous articles of clothing, accessories, masks, hats, wigs, and more. I can’t imagine storytelling without it!

So…there you have it. My must-haves. Now…the fun part. I am going to give away a class set of 30 whiteboards and a document camera–not to the same person. If you’d like to enter to win one of these items, you must leave a comment with your name and the top three things that you can’t imagine teaching without. Entries must be received by August 31 at midnight, Alaska Standard Time, and I will announce the winner September 1 assuming I am not giving birth :) I’ll then contact the winner via email to get mailing address information so that I can send along the goodies to you!

Can’t wait to hear from you! 

AND…a side note…Teachers Pay Teachers is throwing a back-to-school boost sale on Wednesday, August 20, and all the products in my store will be 20 percent off. Click here to see a categorized list of the lesson plans and activities that will be on sale!

Okay…get commenting!

TPRS® is failing…what to do?

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I received an email from a new-to-TPRS®/TCI reader this morning, and it is one that I’ve read many times in different forms:

“I have been trying your curriculum maps for Spanish I & II for 3 days.  Spanish I has been going okay.  Spanish II has NOT.  I tried the fue activity, and to my horror, the storytelling lasted about 10 mins (I really am not proficient at these methods yet).   [...]  I am not proficient in the storyasking/circling methods & feel that although I take work home every night and try to familiarize myself, I still end up embarrassing myself the next day by not having enough to say. If you have any suggestions, that would be helpful! I may end up having to do some of the same stuff I’ve always done for Spanish II this year & switch to TPRS next year (after they have had a year of it in Spanish I). I want to move toward a more effective classroom, but I don’t want to go crazy either!”

Girl, I feel your pain!! I think that everyone has had the experience of a storytelling or PQA session falling flat, leaving the teacher in front of the class feeling inadequate and embarrassed. (I would argue that that happens in non-TPRS® classes, too–ever have a great idea for a communicative activity or sweet grammar notes that make no sense to students?) We are students of the teaching profession, no matter how long we have been teaching!

Here are a few pieces of advice for anyone that finds themselves in a similar situation:

  1. Remember that TPRS® is only effective because COMPREHENSIBLE INPUT is effective. TPRS® is just one way to provide students with comprehensible input, and it may not be the best fit for every class. The strategies used by TPRS® teachers–personalization, circling, checking for comprehension, pop-up grammar–can be applied to any CI method. If you are struggling with TPRS® in one or all of your classes, check out methods like MovieTalkEmbedded Reading, and PQA. Use readers designed for language learners, like the ones available from TPRS Publishing, Mira Canion, or Blaine Ray. Check out the webinars at Fluency Matters for training in these varied methods.
  2. Make a plan to get training. You can learn so much from online sources, but nothing will benefit you more than attending an in-person training with an actual human being that is considered to be an expert in the field. As with anything, improper training will lead to mixed results; often, more bad results than good! Conferences like iFLT and NTPRS are costly, but if you make a plan NOW to obtain a grant or save money throughout the school year, you can make it happen! Karen Rowan was at both conferences this summer, and she is an incredible resource to teachers that need help learning to maintain engaging, personalized class discussions–the foundation of TPRS®. There are also many regional workshops offered from Blaine Ray workshops and TPRS Publishing. Another idea is to locate or start a TPRS®/TCI mentoring group in your area–the MoreTPRS listserv is a great way to find one of these! 
  3. Don’t feel guilty if you have to just give yourself a break! Your students learned before you stumbled upon TPRS®, and they will continue to learn without it. While your ‘comfortable’ methods might not be the most effective methods, they will most likely not do any harm to students’ proficiency. Similar to cleaning your house (you can only accomplish so much in one day, so you tackle one project at a time), cleaning up your curriculum and instructional methods might happen in baby steps. As they say in Meet the Robinsons, the important thing is to “Keep moving forward!” You’re on the right track!

For more tips for teachers that are new to TPRS®/TCI, check out this great post from Crystal Barragán!

Songs for Level 2

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If you’ve not yet followed The Comprehensible Classroom on Facebook, please do! It’s a great way to get great resources from the TPRS®/CI world–I’ve been sharing my favorite blog posts, Facebook posts, and Pinterest finds over the last few weeks. It’s also a great way to send me questions, although I think that the best way is still emailing since I check that pretty obsessively.

Anyway…I received a Facebook message question this week about the songs that I use in Level 2. Students are never too old for songs (I even used them when I taught at the university level), so it’s pretty hard to ‘go wrong with a song’. Here are some of my favorites that I’ve used in Level 2 (some have also been used in Level 1):

A Dios le pido – Juanes

A puro dolor – Son by Four

La quiero a morir – D.L.G

Gazpacho – La Ogra

Guantanamera – Various

I Swear – Voz a Voz

La Llamada – Selena

Millonario de amor – Sergio Vega

No me digas que no – Xtreme & Adrienne

Pa’ Bailar – Las Ramblas

El pantalón blue Jean – Flaco Jiménez

Pasos de gigantes – Bacilos

Te pido perdón – Tito el Bambino

Tengo tu love – El Sie7e

Torero – Chayanne

Todo cambió – Camila/Nota

Te dejé – Playa Limbo

La Melodía – Joey Montana

Miles de Millas – Gina Chavez

Me enamoré – Angel y Khriz

A la bulanye – Belkis Concepción

Espacio sideral – Jesse y Joy

Chica de mi barrio – Zacarías Ferreira

Arroyito – Fonseca

Te extraño – Xtreme

Yo soy el aventurero – Pedro Fernández

La Gallina – Ozomatli

Papi dijo – Aventura

I Love Salsa – N’Klabe

Que le den candela – Celia Cruz

CC 2011 John Liu

CC 2011 John Liu



Fast Finisher Folders: FAQ

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I’ve received several emails recently asking me questions about my Fast Finisher (Extra Time) Folders. You can read all about them here, but in a nutshell they are my system for managing students who complete work very quickly. Those students know that they can choose a folder and complete the activity whenever they finish the current task more quickly than their classmates.

Here are some of the questions that I’ve received recently:

  1. How do you structure the folders so that students know which folders contain activities that they are able to complete? I don’t. Students can grab any folder that they want, regardless of where we are in the year and what the folder contains. They are allowed to browse through the folders until they find one that they would like to complete and feel ready for, so they usually choose the more basic folders first and put aside the more complicated folders. By the time that they’ve done all of the basic ones, it is later on in the year and they are ready to tackle more challenging tasks/content. Additionally, I add work banks and keys to each of the folders so that students are able to complete the activity even if we’ve not yet learned all of the content that it contains. For example, if the activity is a horizontal conjugation of a short passage, I’d include a short “how-to” with translations of first-person structures that they’d need (tengo – I have, mi – my, etc.).
  2. How do you grade students’ work? I don’t grade it. I check to make sure that it is completed satisfactorily, and then I give the student a sticker to put on the sticker chart. I offer prizes for achieving certain milestones–like picking a prize from my prize box for every 10 sheets that are completed–and a big prize for completing the entire sticker chart (like buying them an ice cream). I don’t put a grade in the grade book, because not all students have extra time to work on the folders, and all students work at different rates. This is the equivalent of ‘extra credit’ work that is above and beyond what is expected of them in class, but I don’t give extra credit :) Since students work at their own pace, when they have time, I don’t put a timeline on completion of the sticker chart. I simply recognize them for their work as it is completed.
  3. What if I don’t have access to a laminator? Just put paper copies of the worksheets in each folder, and students can grab one of the copies, complete it, and keep it after you’ve checked it out. This is way easier than preparing the laminated folders, but it uses much more paper and requires more maintenance in the long-run (you have to keep track of which folders are running low on their activity sheets). Either way works just as well as the other.