A class set of novels for…

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Congratulations to AMANDA MORA for winning the class set of novels from my Milestone Celebration!! I could not be more excited to announce this, since I know Amanda and think that she is amazing!!! You can follow her on Twitter @adiazmora, and I follow her on Pinterest too to get great teaching [and style] ideas.

How did I select a winner? The easiest way that I know how!! All entrants submitted a Google Form (a survey), and the data that they entered was automatically placed in a Google Sheet (a spreadsheet). Each entry was numbered, so I just hopped over to Random.org and generated a random number between 1 and the number of the entry, and the winner was Lucky #18 Amanda Mora! (I did double check my TpT records to ensure that she had indeed purchased the Merengue unit as per contest rules). Amanda, let me know via email or Twitter which TPRS Publishing novel you want from http://www.tprstorytelling.com. And remember, you can wait to redeem your prize until Kristy Placido‘s latest novel, Frida, comes out on October 1!! It’s written with just 150 unique words and designed for Level 1 Spanish students. (I can’t wait to get my hands on it!!)

Congratulations!! And THANK YOU to everyone that helped me reach my milestone!!

Cover photo Copyright 2015 TPRS Publishing Inc

Cover photo Copyright 2015 TPRS Publishing Inc

Get you some training!

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I have two collaborative training lists going to help connect TPRS®/CI teachers with training opportunities near them:

  1. TCI training opportunities–formal or informal, paid or free. If you offer or organize a training in your area, please enter its information in this spreadsheet for other teachers to view and access. Please only change information that has been input to the spreadsheet if you are the organizer of the training! Click here to find a training opportunity near you!
  2. Trained TPRS® teachers–find a teacher near you that has attended a formal TPRS® training to observe and/or meet with for collaboration and training. Many of these teachers are willing to travel and have websites and blogs packed with resources (linked in the spreadsheet). Click here to find a trained TPRS® teacher near you! If you are formally trained TPRS® teacher and would like to be on the list, just click here to complete the form!

And stay tuned for a post later today that announces the lucky winner of a class set of novels from TPRS Publishing!!

Story characters poster from Spanish Cuentos

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If you have never visited Spanish Cuentos, today is the day! I had the great pleasure of meeting Profe Craig Klein at CSCTFL 2014, and I was amazed by the student work that he shared in his presentation. As an elementary teacher that uses TPRS® and sees his students for just the smallest amount of time each week, Craig equips his students to speak accurately, originally, and extensively very early on in the year. By flooding them with comprehensible input through storytelling techniques that engage young learners, the output naturally pours out of them. If you ever have a chance to see him present and share videos from his class, GO! Craig maintains an awesome website, SpanishCuentos.com, that is filled with lots of great resources for world language teachers. In fact, his super fun Defile de yipao project was the inspiration for a cultural mini-unit that I wrote earlier this year. Follow @profeklein on Twitter!

If you’re setting up your classroom for the first time as a TPRS®/CI teacher, you are probably staring at all of your old posters and realizing that they aren’t particularly useful to students. I once attended an ESL workshop by someone whose name I can’t recall in which the speaker said to never leave “white noise” on your walls. Everything that you put on your walls should be used regularly by students. Scroll to the end of this post for posts and products about how to use your classroom space strategically! Craig shared this post on his blog this week, and I wish I had a classroom to stick this poster in!!:

from SpanishCuentos.com (re-posted with permission:

When you are a foreign language teacher, there is nothing better than watching your students produce meaningful language. After months of comprehensible input in the target language (which for me is Spanish), students began asking me if I would ever allow them to write their own stories. When students start wanting to produce language you know that you’re on the right path.

I was on my first year of teaching and I started focusing mainly on high frequency structures instead of vocabulary lists and grammar. After winter break my students were writing very creative stories and as the year progressed these stories became more and more complex.  It didn’t take long before students didn’t want to write about the girl and the cat anymore and they were constantly asking me for more complex characters such as “the hairy monster”…”the alien” or “the flying man”.   I realized that I needed a list of classic characters with some kind of visual to ignite creativity. It was then when I sat down with my notebook and encil and started designing my next poster. I finally got it done with the help of other creative foreign language teachers minds and Wow! Let me tell you, it has been an absolute success in my classes!
Seriously, if you want to encourage writing in the target language and ignite creativity this poster belongs in your classroom. These characters open students’ mind to magic and possibility but most importantly, they will have fun and improve their Spanish skills.  And yes, French and English teachers! There is a version of this poster for you too.


I love it!! And I love these resources for decorating your CI classroom, too–you won’t use all of them, but hopefully you can get some good ideas and be inspired to create some posters of your own after seeing others’ ideas:

What to do when they miss class?

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Because we know that students acquire language through comprehensible input, finding make-up work for students that miss class that actually helps them to make up what was missed is a HUGE challenge. I’m going to share some things that I have done, and I ask that you would add what you’ve done in the comments!!

The most important thing to remember is that anything that you assign to replace input from class needs to be about INPUT, not output. Although you might assign an input-replacement activity that requires output, that output should only exist to give the students a reason to get more input. For example, if you want students to re-write a story from a new perspective, that main purpose of that assignment is to get students to re-read the text thoughtfully (input). The by-product of the input is writing (output), but your purpose for assigning it was the input received by a second repetition of the reading.

make up work


If a student knows that s/he will be missing a day or a few days of class ahead of time and tells you about it (wow, give the kid an ‘A’!!), you have lots of options. Some classes are easy to task for absent students: the lesson plan involves reading and so you can just pass on the reading and any corresponding activities to the student. Creativity is needed when there is no pre-made content for the class.

make up work2

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Example #1: This was given during Unit 3 of my Spanish 1 curriculum. All I did was take my story script skeleton and add a task for each of its segments (I always introduce new vocab with practice sentences and personalized questions before jumping into the story, and they are planned out in my story scripts.) Knowing that a student was going to miss vocab intro day and story asking day, I gave them this assignment to complete at home. (It could also be given after the fact as make-up work.)






make up work3

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Example #2: Translate a class story from a previous year. This assignment was given to a student that was going to miss story asking day. Since I had used the same story in a previous year and saved the the class’s final product, I was able to print it out and give it to the student. In this instance, I had the student translate it, but it would be very easy to assign a non-translation reading activity for the story as well. (read about Textivities under “planned long-term absences” for ideas).







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Example #3: Translate and respond to personalized questions. Again, this was taken directly from a story script that I was going to use in class the next day. The student was going to miss vocab intro day, in which I establish meaning, give practice sentences, and we discuss planned personalized questions that include the target structures. This could also be given upon the student’s return to class.







make up work5

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Example #4: I used this when students were going to miss the day after story asking, in which we do story activities like the ones archived here. They were present for the class story asking session, but they were going to miss the opportunity to play with/think critically about the story. In this activity, I just printed out the story script skeleton (I use Matava scripts for all of my stories, so I already have a typed version of the story on which the class story is based). I wrote up a few tasks, and voila! Easy peasy absent work.






Well those examples are helpful if you use story scripts in your classes, but what about “free-form” TCI teachers–teachers whose lesson plans consist entirely of PQA and its spinoffs? If you are one of those teachers, please share what you do to provide an input replacement in the comments after this post. My inclination would be to have a set of ready-to go story scripts collected from blogs around the Internet that you could flip through until you find one that matches what you have covered thus far in class. Ben Slavic carries several volumes of story scripts from Anne Matava on his website, and purchasing those would give you an instant collection to work from. Click here to see Volume 1, and click here to see Volume 2.



When a student returns from an unplanned (or at least unknown to you, the teacher) absence, you can do many of the same things that you could have done for a planned absence. The biggest difference is that if you use class jobs and have a story writer or class secretary (which I strongly recommend), you can photocopy whatever it was that the writer recorded from the previous day’s class and give it to the absent student upon his/her return along with a task assignment (see the Textivities and reading activities links below). Basically, the story writer/class secretary records any new information that is shared in class in the target language. So if entire class period is spent discussing the question “What did you do this weekend?”, the class secretary records all new information in the target language that is shared in the discussion.

(For more on classroom jobs–Bryce Hedstrom, who is the best person I know to learn from about classroom management, has an awesome list of classroom jobs here.)



If a student will be gone from class for a long time and has at least some language under his/her belt, I send them with a copy of a novel from TPRS Publishing or Mira Canion or somewhere else (Bryce Hedstrom has an excellent list of novels sorted by level). If I own the Teacher’s Guide for the novel, I print out copies of any worksheets, activities, and additional readings that they can complete individually and without my support, and I send them on their way. I have done this with students that went on multiple-week family trips or that were homebound for one reason or another.

Independent textivities SPANISHIf you don’t have the Teacher’s Guide for any given novel, an easy way to get the students to read and interact with a text is to use a “Textivities” chart like the one that I created originally for use in Multi-Level classes. For each chapter that you assign to students, have them choose three activities (one from each column) to complete. My Textivities activity set is available here in French, Spanish, and English. Alternatively, you could scan through my reading activities category archive and assign one or more of them per chapter.

If you are dealing with a student that is planning to be absent for a long time at the beginning of Level 1 and has effectively no target language ability, you’re going to need an extra dose of creativity. I don’t have any tried-and-true solutions for this problem, so perhaps someone that does can weigh in with comments :) A teacher asked today in the iFLT / NTPRS / CI Teaching group on Facebook (which I’d highly recommend joining!) if anyone had compiled a list of stories that target Terry Waltz’s “Super 7” or Mike Peto’s “Sweet 16”. No one responded with a “yes”, and it would be really great if that happened. Then, we could send students that are planning to be absent early on in Level 1 with a set of stories that target the Super 7, theoretically with super limited vocabulary. If students have had at least a few weeks of language, they might have success with Brandon Brown quiere un perro (or its French, Mandarin, or German counterpart), but even that could be a stretch for a student to complete independently in the first weeks of class.



If you notice that a student has missed class for several days and, upon checking in to find out what is going on, you discover that the student will be absent for a long time and unable to complete work during the absence, you’ve got a real problem on your hands. I have had many students that left class for long-term treatment or that moved and then came back, and when they come back to class they might have missed 10 weeks of class or even more!! Often, these are NOT students that are able or willing to complete extensive make-up work outside of class. Keep in mind that they will be doing make-up work for all of their classes, so it is not realistic for us to expect them to complete 45 minutes of World Language work each day after school in addition to that which is assigned for their other classes. What to do??  At this point, your class essentially becomes a multi-level class. That student cannot make up for time lost. I keep them moving forward with the class whenever we are learning new structures (teaching to their eyes and making sure that I give them the extra support needed to understand the words that are out-of-bounds for them but not their classmates). When we are “going deeper” with a story or topic, I give them print-outs and copies of the class stories that they missed and have them read and interact with them independently so that they get more repetitions of vocabulary that the class has already learned. Quizlet is also a great tool to allow students to work on memorizing (yuck!) previous target structures. A little time spent memorizing (“learning”) missed structures can give students enough scaffolding to be able to listen or read and understand (“acquire”) the structures when they are used in class.

So there you have it. Some ideas, but I know that there are many more out there…what have you used and found to be successful in your classes?? Please share!

[And–side note–you have three days left to download my Merengue unit for free or enter to win a class set of novels! Click here for info.]

First we learn to listen

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I just read Sandy Cutshall’s article “Groundbreaking Study from ACTFL Measures Listening and Reading–Expands Understanding of Interpretive Skills” from the most recent issue of The Language Educator. Yes, I know…it’s been out for awhile. It takes a minute to get here to Alaska and then there’s the fact that I never check my mail…so yes, just reading it now. If you are not familiar with The Language Educator, then that means that you must not be an ACTFL member. If you are not familiar with ACTFL and you are a language educator in the US, then truly you need to to hop on over to http://www.actfl.org and read about it. ACTFL is our national, professional organization as language teachers, and advocate for world language education policy, promote research, and provide education for their membership. The Language Educator, published four times per year, provides ACTFL members with news and information on ACTFL’s most recent projects and research and trends in language education. You can begin receiving your complimentary subscription by joining ACTFL today. (And then you should register for the annual convention, which is in San Diego this November! I’ll be there!)

Cutshall, S. (2015) . Groundbreaking Study from ACTFL Measures Listening and Reading--Expands Understanding of Interpretive Skills. The Language Educator, 10 (3), 10-12.

Cutshall, S. (2015) . Groundbreaking Study from ACTFL Measures Listening and Reading–Expands Understanding of Interpretive Skills. The Language Educator, 10 (3), 10-12.

Okay, truly this post is not meant to be a sales pitch, although it is sounding a bit like that. The purpose of this post is to share with you what I learned in Sandy Cutshall’s article! ACTFL conducted a study last school year (2014-2015) that aimed to understand students’ acquisition of language in the areas of listening and reading (interpretive language skills). This is VERY exciting, because until recently ACTFL has had the reputation of being ‘all about speaking’. Many language teachers were trained in ‘communicative’ methods and continue to operate in that vein. Although listening and reading are certainly necessary skills in communication, a ‘communicative class’ is commonly understood to be a class in which the teacher’s objective is to “GET THEM TALKING!” and keep them talking. This is in opposition to TCI classrooms, in which the objective is to “GET THEM INTERPRETING!”, and the output (speech and writing) will naturally follow without demanding it from students. 

Click on the image to purchase this $7 poster from Grant's Products page

Click on the image to purchase this $7 poster from Grant’s Products page

Grant Boulanger (“The Great Boulanger”, as I like to call him), shared a handwritten poster from his classroom that has ‘gone viral’ in the TCI world–so much so that he made a fancy pants, typed, colorized poster out of it that you can purchase here. You see, TCI teachers have read language acquisition research just like any professional would–and based on the research, we have concluded that first we learn to listen. First we learn to interpret; then we learn to produce. To date, ACTFL-conducted research hasn’t contradicted that; they simply haven’t researched it. (Which is why we back our methods with the research of Dr. Stephen Krashen, who has studied this exhaustively.)

But not now! Now, we can begin to look to ACTFL, our very own professional organization, for research that supports what Krashen has long said. Here are some quotes from the article that got me excited!!!:

“Among preliminary findings being reported[,] listening and reading are acquired at a faster rate than speaking skills and therefore Advanced levels of listening and reading proficiency appear to be realistic goals for Category I languages at graduation, even if the students have not yet reached that level in oral proficiency”

What does that tell me? By golly, we’d better be giving our students an opportunity to practice those skills so that they can acquire them! We need to spend a good chunk of that 90 percent PLUS of our class time in the target language allowing our students to HEAR it and READ it–not inputing language for 10 percent of the time and then letting them loose for the remaining 80 percent! I spent my first year as a full-time public school teacher in this way, and the results were pathetic. My students were very comfortable speaking, but their speech was terrible! And their ability to read and listen to any significant text? Forget about it! But man, were they comfortable speaking. This study shows that students acquire the interpretive abilities faster than the productive abilities, and we must not forget that those skills can only be acquired if students are given the opportunity to acquire them.

“A greater focus on interpretive skills is an important advancement in the language profession…Many educators and researches have a renewed understanding of reading as a highly effective and efficient way of accumulating knowledge…”

Yes and Amen! Reading, reading, reading!! If you aren’t convinced, then click over here to Amazon and purchase Krashen’s text, “The Power of Reading“. Our students must be reading extensively in the target language. In TCI classrooms, we prepare our students to read and understand authentic texts by using mostly non-authentic texts in novice classes (non-authentic by definition, anyway…click here for more about that). And when I say “read and understand”, I mean that students actually read and understand the entire text at a deep level. My Novice students successfully interact with authentic resources of all kinds on a regular basis, but I would never say that they comprehend the resources. They might know what they’re about or be able to understand a few words or respond to some strategic questions, but comprehend? No. By using non-authentic texts every day in my novice classes as scaffolding and allowing my students limited opportunities to strategically interact with authentic resources, my kiddos are prepared to comprehend authentic texts early on because they have practiced the skill of reading. Real reading–not task-based reading. Just reading.

Cutshall, S. (2015) . Groundbreaking Study from ACTFL Measures Listening and Reading--Expands Understanding of Interpretive Skills. The Language Educator, 10 (3), 10-12.

Cutshall, S. (2015) . Groundbreaking Study from ACTFL Measures Listening and Reading–Expands Understanding of Interpretive Skills. The Language Educator, 10 (3), 10-12.

“[Erwin Tschirner, the study’s director] also notes the importance of the role of listening comprehension “not as an indicator, but as scaffolding” for developing interpersonal speaking. “Right now we know that most language students, even at the postsecondary level, do not go beyond the Intermediate-Mid level in speaking. One factor may be not giving enough time to teach listening comprehension, a skill that comes first” [emphasis mine]”

Do you hear the angels singing? HALLELUJAH! This is so exciting to me!! ACTFL’s research shows that listening comprehension precedes interpersonal speaking ability. So why on earth would we force our students into conversation to ‘solidify the language’ when they haven’t even learned to understand what the other person is saying?

First we learn to listen!!!

(It’s important to note that this post is about what got me excited about the article, and it excludes much important information about the study that would be important for you to know! For example, the study showed that listening comprehension of French develops more slowly than reading comprehension in French, which is different than the other Category I languages. So perhaps in French, “First we learn to read!” Perhaps.)

My other takeaway from the article is this:

First we must learn to listen!

The most obvious lesson from the article was that “First we learn to listen [and understand a language]”. The less obvious but possibly more important lesson is that “First we must learn to listen to each other”. This summer, NTPRS coincided with LILL (Leadership Initiative for Language Learning), and attendees at both conferences were tweeting their tails off! There were a few times when the tweeting got a little heated (not a lot…just a little) because the speakers at the two conferences did not agree on all aspects of language education. And there was a little bit of “us” and “them” from both conferences, but mostly there were a lot of people at both conferences saying that the “us” and the “them” is holding back our profession! I loved reading tweets from LILL and NTPRS at the same time because WE agree on so much! WE are moving in the same direction. WE want our students to acquire language. WE have read the research, and WE have not all arrived at the same conclusions. Who cares?? My husband and I don’t agree on everything, but we’re still here! We are still a family and we stand together. When we disagree, what do WE do? WE listen! We must listen! I listen to him; he listens to me. Sometimes we still don’t come into agreement…but sometimes we do. And even when we don’t agree, we can move forward together because we have listened.

I’m still a baby language teacher. (Actually, I’m not a language teacher at all right now, I’m a full-time mom.) I started teaching in 2006; not even 10 years ago. I didn’t ‘plug in’ until 2009, so I am blissfully unaware of why bad blood runs between “ACTFL types” and “TCI types”. But I don’t live in a cave, and so I know that there are some hurt people. As the saying goes, “hurt people hurt people”, and unfortunately I have witnessed a few too many hurtful interactions between “us” and “them”.

Friends, first we must learn to listen! If WE stop talking and stop assuming what the other party is thinking, WE will see that WE agree on so much! Look at this study, for crying out loud! WE are both trying to learn and improve and do better by our students. But we must learn to listen in order to make those connections.

My challenge to you and to myself is to go out and find something from “THEM” (whoever the “them” is for you) and consider it. You might not agree, but you won’t be worse off for the consideration. And, like me reading The Language Educator today, you might just find that you and “them” agree a little more than you thought!

Let’s learn to listen.

Milestone celebration–free product and a chance to win novels!

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This week, I am inviting YOU to celebrate my recent Milestone Achievement on Teachers Pay Teachers with me! Thank you so much for purchasing products from The Comprehensible Classroom since it opened in late 2012. It has made it possible for me to justify all of the time that I spend feeding my lesson planning and word processing obsessions even now that I am home full-time with my kids! I am so appreciative of all my customers, and especially those that have taken the time to email me with questions and concerns about the products that they’ve purchased. My goal is that products from The Comprehensible Classroom provide your students with comprehensible, cultural input; save you time; and help you to see many different ways that you can teach with comprehensible input so that you are better equipped to develop your own content!

So, how are we celebrating?

The first option is to download a mini-unit for Spanish 1 to teach your students the structure ‘baila’ as they learn about Merengue and Carrie, “The Dancing Merengue Dog”. This unit is usually $4.00, but this week it is FREE! Download it before August 29. Click here to download “Merengue y la perrita bailarina”. I teach it after Unit 10 in my Spanish 1 classes.

Merengue lesson plans

Option #2: If you are a Spanish teacher and you have already purchased the merengue unit or you have purchased my Somos Units 10-13 curriculum bundle (in which it is included), have no fear! I’ve got you covered. If you purchased either of those products on or before August 22, 2015, you can enter a drawing to win a classroom set of novels from TPRS Publishing, Inc. Click on this link to complete your contest entry! If you have not already purchased one or both of these products, your thank-you is to download the product for free (a guaranteed prize!).

Option #3: But what about my non-Spanish teaching customers? I haven’t forgotten you!! Any teacher that has purchased a product from me in the past that does not teach Spanish is also eligible to enter the drawing for a class set of novels. Currently, TPRS Publishing offers novels in Spanish, French, Russian, and Mandarin, and a German novel will be available October 1. If you teach any of those languages and have purchased a product from me, you can click on this link to complete your contest entry.

Remember, you only have until August 29 at midnight to download the unit for free or to enter the contest! I will notify the winner via email early next week, and I can order the novels immediately or wait until TPRS Publishing’s new novels are available in early October.

Thank you, and get celebrating!

Logic puzzle in French

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I’ve been on a mission to reduce the number of emails in my “to-do” folder. This evening, it brought me to an email from about three years ago that included the French translation of the first logic puzzle that I shared on the blog. You may recall that I love, love, love doing logic puzzles, and perhaps you have some students that do as well! I have found that they are an excellent way to get in many repetitions of target structures because students must read and re-read the clues so very many times in order to solve the puzzle. Click here to see the different puzzles that I’ve created in Spanish, and click here to download a puzzle in French! Thank you so much to Karima Mann for translating it to share on the blog, and I am so sorry that it took me this long to post it!! The French puzzle targets the structures ‘porte’, ‘a’, ‘aime’, and colors. (If you see any mistakes, email me straight away! It is quite likely that I mistyped something that Karima translated for me since I am not fluent in French!)

Click on the image to download the puzzle:

Logic colors French jpeg