Elementary adaptations: Crafts!

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Laura Masci, who teaches Spanish at the elementary level, emailed me to share a few of the ways that she has adapted the ‘Dice’ unit, and specifically the teaching of the song “Los pollitos dicen” for her young students. Laura just began her TCI journey, and she wrote, “These elementary students are more engaged in the last two weeks than in the whole earlier part of the year”. This is the same thing that I experienced when I made the switch to TPRS®/CI! For the first time, all of my students were engaged and building fluency–not just the upper echelon of “studious” students!

The “Dice” unit is the first one that I teach with my Spanish 1 students, and I love the additions that she has made while using it at the elementary level. The first one is by turning my “Campanadas” into Comprehension pages that the students can complete. The second is adding a craft for the song “Los pollitos dicen”, because let’s face it–an elementary school unit is not an elementary school unit without a craft! The dozens of boxes in my parents’ crawlspace will bear witness to this fact. I love how she wrote out the instructions in a PPT with pictures to support the students’ understanding of the instructions. As always, circle, personalize, and check for comprehension while giving the instructions, just as you would during story asking.

Click on the image to download everything that Laura created:

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Fast Finisher Resources

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It’s a new semester for many of y’all, and if you used Fast Finisher activities in the fall, you probably have a few students that are chomping at the bit, ready for more. Martina to the rescue! I finished up a new pack of 15 Fast Finisher worksheets (purchase it here), and even better I have started a Pinboard onto which I will be pinning ready-to-go, printable worksheets that I find online and think would work well for this purpose. (The purpose of Fast Finisher activities is for students that finish their work quickly to be able to grab something to do and complete it without needing help from the teacher–read more about how I used them in my class here.)

Logic Puzzles make great Fast Finisher activities!

Logic Puzzles make great Fast Finisher activities!

Click here to check out the Fast Finisher Pinboard! You’ll find a huge range of activities (especially as I continue to pin to this board–there’s not much there yet), so you’ll need to think about what kind of activities you want your students to work on and then sort through the ones that I pin. I prefer to use activities that give students comprehensible input, but I definitely include some straight-up vocabulary activities and even a few grammar and culture activities just for variety. Keep in mind that the kids that will be completing these activities have already finished what was expected of them in class, so the Fast Finisher activities should not be a burden. They should be activities that the students enjoy doing, FIRST, and if they provide high-quality input, even better. As you build your library of Fast Finisher activities, you’ll be able to weed out more and more of the not-so-beneficial activities as you substitute better ones in. The activities that are most beneficial to students’ language acquisition are reading-based (even if they are puzzles) and match or slightly exceed the proficiency level of the students that will be using them.

What procedures have you set up in your classes for ‘Fast Finisher’ students? Other than the folders, FVR is always a great option–and Mike Peto and Crystal Barragán are two of my fave bloggers to learn about that! Check out TPRS Publishing’s FVR Pinboard to see many of their ideas and those of others! 

TPRS®/CI as Explicit Instruction

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Michele Whaley, a Russian teacher at West High School in Anchorage, invited me to her classroom in 2009 to observe a TPRS® lesson. I went in expecting to see a glorified version of Simon Says. What I saw bemused me, and it drove me to park myself in front of my TV for the next three days with training DVDs playing and a pencil and notebook in hand. I have spent the last six years seeking out further training in TPRS® (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling) and other Comprehensible Input (CI) strategies, and I have discovered that when used correctly they are not only incredibly fun and engaging, but effective and explicit as well.

TPRS®/CI teachers are often criticized for sacrificing quality for quantity: critics claim that while their students may be able to understand and produce large amounts of language, the language is full of errors because of a lack of explicit grammar instruction and/or error correction. In a world of “How well you teach = How well they learn”, the assumption is that TPRS®/CI teachers just aren’t teaching that well.

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 8.59.07 PMHowever, in Explicit Instruction: Effective and Efficient Teaching, Anita Archer and Charles Hughes have compiled the works of at least nine educational researchers and created a list of sixteen instructional behaviors that are characteristic of an explicit approach to teaching: an approach that is purported to promote achievement for all students because of its directness and scaffolding. Interestingly enough, all sixteen elements that Archer and Hughes list are used by trained TPRS®/CI teachers. According to Archer and Hughes, Explicit Instruction is systematic, direct, engaging, and success oriented. In other words, students must be presented content in a step-by-step, logical order along with clear goals and explanations at each point along the way. The content must be presented in an interesting manner and with adequate supports so that all students achieve the goals with which they are presented. Trained TPRS®/CI teachers provide their students with explicit, highly engaging grammar and vocabulary instruction through the use of several key features and strategies, all of which can be used to enhance any curriculum.

Comprehensible Input According to Stephen Krashen’s input hypothesis, Comprehensible Input is the most important factor in language acquisition. The input hypothesis claims that we acquire language when we comprehend input (textual or auditory) that is one step above our current level of linguistic competency: in a nutshell; language can only be acquired when it is understood. TPRS®/CI teachers believe that everything that our students receive (hear or read) in class be comprehensible to them. In any subject area, teachers must use clear and concise language (Element 8) Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 9.24.37 PMin order for their students to learn. It makes sense that this would be doubly true when language is both the means and the end of instruction, as is the case in language classrooms in which a minimum of 90 percent instructional time is spent in the target language. Cynthia Hitz, a long-time Spanish teacher from Pennsylvania, relates it to first language acquisition: “When we talk to a young child, we don’t have the option to switch to another language. We simply adjust our language to speak to the child in a manner that he understands. We naturally limit the vocabulary. The same applies to students learning their second language. I limit the vocabulary, which allows me to stay in the TL and to keep it comprehensible”. Mike Peto, in “My generation of Polyglots” blogged about the importance of focusing instruction on input instead of output: “You DO get out what you put in… you get OUTput if you put in comprehensible INput. What comes out (the writing) is profoundly shaped by what went in beforehand (all of the reading and listening that was comprehensible and interesting enough to grab the attention of the student)”. TPRS®/CI teachers include writing and speaking activities in their plans, but they are not the center of instruction: those skills will come as a natural overflow of the comprehensible language with which we flood them.

High Frequency Structures While TPRS®/CI strategies can be used to present any curriculum, many CI teachers strive to use curricula that are based on the systematic presentation of high frequency structures as opposed to the thematic units that are often found in traditional language textbooks. High frequency structures, which can be single words or phrases, are the terms that are most often used in a language. For example, structures like “has a problem”, “needs food”, and “wants something” are universal high frequency structures. Carol Gaab, President of TPRS Publishing, Inc., explains the importance of building curricula around high frequency structures: “[The] real benefit of teaching high-frequency words first is that we (teachers) are equipping students with the most essential and useful words for communication. There are certain words that are used every day, words that are crucial to one’s ability to communicate with a native speaker. Teaching these essential, non-negotiable parts of speech first has a direct positive impact on students’ listening/reading comprehension and subsequently on their ability to respond (produce) in the Target Language”. By teaching the most frequently occurring words in a language first, there is a logical sequence to the content (Elements 1 and 2) and a natural provision for distributed and cumulative practice (Element 16) of previous material. The teacher will continue to use these terms throughout the year, and students’ understanding of their meaning and usage is strengthened–not forgotten–as time passes.

Circling Circling is the most basic strategy in a TPRS®/CI teacher’s repertoire. Circling allows a teacher to provide a high number of repetitions of the target structure in a systematic, engaging manner. To circle, a teacher begins by making a statement; for example, “Bob wants a puppy.” The teacher then asks questions about the statement by substituting variables for each component of the original statement (subject, verb, object). By asking different questions (yes/no, either/or, open-ended) and selecting variables that create funny or otherwise interesting statements, the teacher is constantly aware of his or her students’ understanding of the material, and the students remain engaged. Here is an example of a teacher script for circling: (The teacher pauses after each question and waits for the student(s) to respond before affirming the correct statement)

“Does Bob want a puppy?” “Yes, Bob wants a puppy!”

“Does Bob want a cat?” “No, Bob hates cats! They’re terrible! Bob wants a puppy!”

“Does Bob want a puppy or does Bob eat a puppy?” “Bob doesn’t eat a puppy! He’s not a monster! Bob wants a puppy”

“What does Bob want?” “Bob wants a puppy” “A cute little puppy!”

“Why does Bob want a puppy?” “Bob wants a puppy because girls like puppies and Bob wants a girlfriend!”

The constant stream of Q&A provides an adequate range of examples and non-examples, demands frequent responses from students, facilitates close monitoring of student performance, and naturally provides immediate and affirmative corrective feedback (Elements 9, 11-13). And, while it certainly keeps the lesson moving at a brisk pace (Element 14), teachers must be careful to not set a pace that is too brisk that students become lost in the flurry of questions.

The three stages of Explicit Instruction

The three stages of Explicit Instruction

Three Steps to TPRS® Many teachers find TPRS®, a specific strategy for delivering Comprehensible Input, appealing because there are just three steps to remember: Establish Meaning, Story, Literacy. There are innumerable permutations of each step, but the steps remain the same. By following these three steps, teachers easily design organized and focused lessons (Element 4). To establish meaning, teachers present the new structures to their students in the target language and give the meaning in English. Often, this is done by saying the word and translation and writing them on the board in two colors (for example, black for the target language and blue for English). By following this step, the teacher naturally begins lessons with a clear statement of the lesson’s goals (Element 5). Instruction then continues with the class created, teacher-directed story that includes the target structures. The process is complete after students have read a text that also includes the target structures; sometimes, it is a version of the class story, but other times it is unrelated.

Embedded Reading Developed by Laurie Clarcq and Michele Whaley, Embedded Reading is one possibility for the “Literacy” step of TPRS®. It is three or more readings in which each subsequent reading is an expanded version of the one that precedes it. Embedded Reading takes a text and breaks it down into smaller, more easily mastered pieces (Element 3). Clarcq explains how these readings meet the needs of all students in a class: “The base reading is at the reading level of the lowest-achieving reader in the group. Each succeeding version contains the base reading and is designed to raise the skill level and the interest of the readers, without leaving any students behind. The activities designed to accompany the readings help to build these skills and challenge more advanced readers”. In this way, all students are both successful and appropriately challenged with each level of the reading.

Comprehension Checks Comprehension Checks are targeted questions that allow the teacher to know whether or not students understand what they are being taught. Additionally, they allow students to affirm or correct understanding, make connections with previous concepts, and develop new knowledge. A trained TPRS®/CI teacher uses comprehension checks constantly to assess language acquisition and to provide differentiated, guided, and supported practice (Element 10). For example, a teacher could make the statement “Maria es una muchacha” (Maria is a girl). To one student, the teacher could ask “¿Quién es una muchacha?” (“Who is a girl?”). To another, “What does the word “muchacha” mean in English?” To yet another, the teacher could ask “How would you say “María is not a girl” or “María was a girl?”, thereby requiring the student to use a concept that was previously taught. The teacher matches the difficulty of the question to the ability of the student so that the student is challenged at his/her own level yet always able to be successful.

Pop-Up Grammar Trained TPRS®/CI teachers provide explicit grammar instruction through “Pop-up grammar” lessons: extremely short, contextualized explanations of grammatical concepts. In the experience of  Terry Waltz, Ph.D., who provides specialized training in and for Mandarin Chinese, “Pop-up grammar works [because] it is very, very highly contextualized. Putting things in context is important, [and] pop-up grammar easily wheels the grammar mini-lesson to where the context already exists.” For example, after reading the sentence “Yo puedo bailar” (I can dance), a teacher might say “We have already seen the word ‘puede’ (‘s/he/it can’). This word is just a little different. The ‘-o’ on the end of “puedo” means that “I” is the subject, so this word means “I can”. Instead of teaching big grammar concepts like verb conjugation and agreement of gender and number with long notes and in grammatical terms, teachers present the concepts to their students by explicitly ‘noticing’ one small chunk at a time (Element 7). Then, they use circling, contrastive grammar, and comprehension checks to reinforce the concept. Waltz continues, “…Pop-ups happen frequently. They take full advantage of the rich comprehensible input TPRS® provides, with many examples of different structures. Acquisition of words happens by matching language to meaning over and over; acquisition of patterns (grammar) happens by generalizing thousands of matches of language to meaning even when the word-level meaning is different”. The frequency of pop-up grammar lessons ensure the distributed and cumulative practice of grammar concepts, just as the focus on high frequency structures does for vocabulary.

Contrastive Grammar Contrastive grammar is a strategy that TPRS®/CI teachers use to present grammatical concepts in context by comparing a new concept to one that students have already mastered. To begin instruction, the teacher reviews prior knowledge (Element 6) by writing the old term (a verb in the present tense, for example) on the board in two colors. Then, he or she establishes meaning for the new term (ex: the past tense of a verb) and adds it to the board. From there, the teacher uses circling and comprehension checks to compare and contrast the two terms so that students acquire the correct meaning and usage of the two terms. This strategy organizes students’ knowledge (Element 15) of the language without requiring the use of lengthy grammar notes.

Personalized Questions and Answers The “heart” of TPRS® is the teacher-student relationship. We strive to build this by making the students the center of instruction–both content and delivery. Personalized Question and Answer (PQA) sessions happen in almost every TPRS®/CI classroom, every day. It is a time when the teacher asks questions that include the target structures to the students about their lives. For example, questions for the target structure “went” might be “Who went somewhere interesting last summer?” Then, their answers are discussed and expanded (and “embellished”, quite often) using techniques like circling, comprehension checks, and contrastive grammar. Kristy Placido, who teaches Spanish in Michigan, states that “PQA allows learners to experience language structures in a different, more personal context. [It] allows modeling of first and second person language”. She continues by saying that PQA makes a lesson compelling because people’ favorite topic of discussion is themselves!

By presenting students with compelling, highly useful content while meeting all elements of Explicit Instruction, it is easy to see why teachers across the globe are adding TPRS® and other Comprehensible Input strategies into their instructional rotations. If you’d like to see any of these strategies in action, please send out a query on the MoreTPRS listserv to find a trained TPRS®/CI teacher in your area that you can observe. Just beware–you might find yourself the subject of the daily PQA!

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I wrote and submitted the above post for publication (unsuccessfully) to The Language Educator in 2013. It is an expanded version of something that I originally wrote to provide to my administrator as justification for using TPRS®/CI in my Spanish courses. As a Title I School on a Level 5 plan for improvement, all teachers were trained in Explicit Instruction and required to use instructional strategies characterized by its 16 elements. If you find yourself in a similar position, please email me directly at MartinaEBex at gmail dot com to request written permission to use this post as justification for TPRS®/CI.

All content © 2011-2014 The Comprehensible Classroom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written consent from Martina Bex is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Martina Bex at The Comprehensible Classroom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Paperless hoarding

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My husband’s real estate business is completely paperless (you can check it out here–it’s awesome), and he is constantly harassing–I mean encouraging–me to become a paperless teacher. Ha! I mean, seriously. I was just down in our “dungeon” (most people would call it a crawlspace), where all of my teacher materials are stored, and I think that it would probably take me a year on sabbatical from work and motherhood to go through all of it! Hence the urgency in my husband’s request…

Well, this year is the year. My goal is not (yet) to become a paperless teacher, meaning that I don’t use any papers in class, but rather it is to become a paperless hoarder: to continue to hoard all of the ideas and activities and strategies that I’ve gathered over the years, but to do my idea-hoarding in the Cloud. I’ve been slowly eliminating papers, but my system so far has been to recycle only those things for which I have ready-to-use digital copies. This means that I have been saving all of my old activities until I have the time to “comprehensify” them to work in a TCI classroom. No more! Everything must go!

Here are a few tips for anyone that would like to join me as a Paperless Hoarder in 2015.

Tip #1: Get Evernote

Click on the logo to get Evernote

Click on the logo to get Evernote

My husband is obsessed with Evernote. He uses it for everything, and his clients love it too! These are my top three favorite things about Evernote:

  1. Digitizing your life is easy. All it takes is a tap of the camera button on your phone or tablet. Evernote captures images of all kinds–documents, business cards, photos, etc–and creates a clean, digital image. If you are taking pictures of a document, you can take many sequential pictures before clicking the “done” button, so saving a multi-page document is easy. Once you’ve accepted the digital images that you’ve captured, you can edit them, add more images to the same file, re-name it, and more.
  2. You can find stuff. Evernote’s search feature is robust, and it will even search the text from a document that has been captured (not just the title that you give the document). This is waaaaay easier than you reading through documents on your own in order to find that one hidden diamond in the rough that you recall from your Methods class 30 years ago. Since Evernote can capture anything–websites, sketches, documents, etc.–you are able to gather everything that you have on a topic into one Notebook (similar in this way to a board on Pinterest). Then, when you want to write a lesson plan on something specific, you’ve got it all in one place. And even if you organized your notebooks poorly, you’ll still find everything because the search feature is that awesome.
  3. It’s always with you. Evernote syncs across all devices and platforms, so there is no longer the problem of, “Oh, I have the perfect thing for this lesson! It’s at home…in my dungeon…buried under sombreros…maybe next year…”

Click here to get Evernote.

Tip #2: Respect Copyright

I almost cried a few times because of this one. In my hands, I held a beautiful, amazing, wonderful, successful worksheet that I had used in the past. But alas…it was a photocopy from a workbook that belonged to a school that I used to teach for, or something that a friend had given to me…and I no longer have the legal right to use it because I do not personally own the book from which it was copied. WAAAAAAAAAH! Life is so unfair!

Well, life is definitely unfair, but what is really unfair is violating copyright. Awesome people work really hard to create awesome things, and many of them can only do so if they are able to eek out a meager income from the sale of the awesome things that their awesome selves create.

When you find yourself staring down a worksheet and you break into a cold sweat because you know what you should do but it just too intellectually painful to handle…close your eyes, ball it up, and throw it into the fire before you lose your willpower! It’s probably a good idea to write down a note first that contains any information you know about it–like the title of the book it came from, the author, and a quick overview of the activity in your own words so that you could create your own, adapted version with credit to the original author for the idea. You could type up this note in Evernote or hand-write one and then take a picture of it to add to Evernote. Either way, you have a permanent, digital record of the activity so that you can purchase it and therefore gain the legal right to use it.

If you get rid of everything that you happen to have that you aren’t legally allowed to use, you’d be amazed how quickly your recycling bin fills up.

Tip #3: If it’s dumb, ditch it

If your file system is paperless, there is little harm in keeping around activities that you know you’ll never use. That being said, there are some things that are not even worthy of the two seconds it takes you to click the capture button on your device’s camera and then the accept button in Evernote. I created many activities in the past that I would now categorize as “bad practice”. Some of them can be resuscitated and brought to life in a TCI world, but others are beyond hope. If you know that you would never use it, recycle it. If there is something in it that you’d like to cover in a different way, recycle it…but take a picture or jot down a note first. If you know someone else that might be able to use it, take a picture and send it to them. Then recycle it.

Tip #4: Make a to-do list

Click on the logo to get Wunderlist!

Click on the logo to get Wunderlist!

My hang-up with making my file system paperless is that I had a built-in to-do list in my paper files. I had a crate (okay, still have…for now) with files with which I am intending to do something–whether it be to work them into a unit, write a blog post about them, correct an error, whatever! A much better option, not only because of its inability to feed a fire, is Wunderlist. I have Wunderlists for everything: things I need to put in my next Amazon order, things I want to buy the next time I go to Joann Fabrics, things I need from Costco, posts I want to do on the blog, lesson plans I need to work on, questions I need to remember to ask my husband…this app is the bomb diggity. One great feature is the ability to share lists. So, for example, the list of questions to remember to ask my husband is shared with him, so he can see the questions that I add in real time. Then, he choose to call me right away with an answer, if he’s able, or formulate a response and let me know later, or ignore the notification and just talk to me about it when we see each other. It. is. awesome. I have an “on-the-way-home” list for him that he checks before he leaves work each night so that he can grab milk or swing by the bank or whatever it is that I need him to do. I LOVE WUNDERLIST! I’ll shout it from the rooftops. And there is something so wonderfully satisfying about the “ding ding ding” you hear as you check items off your to-do list (I love grocery shopping with Wunderlist!), and you can even go back and see all of the task-items that you have completed, which further serves to make you feel like a superhuman. Like Evernote, Wunderlist syncs across devices–get it here.

 

…and even more posters!

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I no longer teach traditional “thematic units” (ex: places around town, food & dining, etc.): instead, I plan my units around high frequency vocabulary and pull in other vocabulary as it naturally comes up. My students have had great success with this instructional focus, and there are a few tricks that I’ve incorporated to make sure that we still cover important, non-frequency vocabulary. One of my favorite way to do this is by covering my walls with posters that contain vocabulary that I want my students to use and learn. The operative word in that sentence is “USE”, because any poster that stays on my wall needs to be USED so that it doesn’t become white noise. Click here to view and download some of the posters that I have in my classroom (they are provided in French and Spanish).

The posters that I’m sharing today are location posters: common places that students talk about in normal conversation. This list includes places like school, store, restaurant, college, house, church, library, mall, and park. Because they are important locations in my students’ lives, I refer to them constantly as they appear in personalized class discussion, and students use them in their writing and when they make suggestions for class stories. I believe I saw this idea about five years ago on Ben Slavic’s blog, but I might have learned it from Bryce Hedstrom. Can’t really remember at this point. Either way, it came from greatness :)

To create these posters, I wrote the Spanish vocabulary term on a piece of construction paper (12″x20″), divided them up between each of my classes (I think I had 10 locations, so 2 per class, since I had five classes), and then asked for student volunteers to illustrate them (I wrote English translations on the back to make sure that students drew the correct location). I had at least two very artistic students in each class that were quite happy to have the opportunity to display their artwork. They took them home and brought back the completed illustration within a week. I laminated them, and they became a classroom fixture for the remainder of that school year. Check these out:

house

la casa – the house

This poster, for “house” is fairly obvious, but some students might interpret it as “garage” or even “driveway”. For this reason, I think that it is important to still tack up a translation of the term on or near the poster until students are sure of the meaning: we want to eliminate ambiguity whenever we have the opportunity!

library

la biblioteca – the library

Because of this poster and the amount that we used it in class conversation, my students had already acquired it by the time that we reached our Biblioburro unit.

la universidad - the university

la universidad – the university

This last one (la universidad) cracks  me up, because the student that made it was Samoan with family living in Hawaii, and she was less concerned about communicating the meaning of the word than she was about personalizing the poster. Also, I love that she wrote “…etc.” on the poster. I used it anyway because many of my students had family members and/or friends that had attended BYU, so they were familiar with that acronym, and “la universidad” is a cognate. If it weren’t for these two things, I would have asked her to re-do the illustration not because it wasn’t awesome,  but because it doesn’t effectively communicate the meaning of the word.

Depending on how regularly you refer to these posters, you may only need to keep them up for a quarter or a semester, and then you can take them down and put up new word posters in their place. Never keep a poster on your wall that students don’t use!

On Sacrifice

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Part of the conversation during #langchat on Thursday night talked about how it is important that we be “real” with our students. In the same vein, I am going to be real with y’all. My last amazing Grandpa, Henricus Josefus vanLieshout, died at the ripe old age of 93 in the early morning of December 31. I was not able to travel back East for the funeral, and my heart continues to mourn the loss of this great man that I was planning to introduce to his youngest great-grandson in just a few short weeks. As Sara-Elizabeth once wrote on her own blog, this is my blog and I can write about anything I want! This post is in honor of him.

Henricus Josefus vanLieshout, 2 April 1921 - 31 December 2014 ~ My amazing Grandpa

Henricus Josefus vanLieshout, 2 April 1921 – 31 December 2014 ~ My amazing Grandpa

It would be impossible to spend more than five minutes with Grandpa and then try to argue that he didn’t absolutely love his life. Chief among Grandpa’s many wonderful personal qualities was joy: he loved to laugh, he loved to talk, he loved to play…he loved to play tricks…he loved to learn, he loved to sing, and he loved to love. He loved being alive.

Grandpa’s boundless joy was bought at a price. He worked hard for everything that he had; including his relationships. This is most true of his relationship with Grandma. I remember being at Steve and Cindy’s house for Christmas 2010 and seeing Grandpa sitting down, kitty-corner from Grandma at a table. It was loud; a lively game of charades, no doubt led by The Three Musketeers a.k.a. Jessica and Theresa and Maria, was going on across the room, and laughter bounced off all the walls. And yet Grandpa was not aware of any of it. He was leaning forward, gazing lovingly into Grandma’s eyes as he talked to her quietly about who-knows-what as she sat slightly hunched over with a blank, downward stare. And somehow, he didn’t care that she wasn’t responding. Given the opportunity to take a break from his role as care-taker and just enjoy himself for a few hours while others cared for Grandma, he chose to stay by her side.

You see, the secret to everything that Grandpa had–the secret even to his joy–was self-sacrifice.

There is no higher calling for each of us than to lay down our lives for others: in our friendships, in our marriages, and in the one relationship that matters above all others: our relationship with God the Father, made possible through the sacrifice of His son Jesus Christ and evidenced by the Holy Spirit that dwells within us. We are called to sacrifice our joy for the joy of others; our will for the will of the Father. When we do, we find that even though it defies all logic, our joy is restored and then increased.

I am so sad that Grandpa is gone, and I know that I am not alone in thinking that if one person were ever going to defy death, it would have been Grandpa. And as I have spent these past few days in tears, eating sandwiches with excessive amounts of iceberg lettuce and considering how I might honor his legacy, I am left with this:

“He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal”. – John 12:25

Grandpa, I love you so much, and what can I say? I miss you.

¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

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Happy 2015, friends!

We celebrated in the car on the way home from a New Year’s party, since the kids made it to 11:30 but would not last one minute longer. Maybe next year! For now, my New Year’s resolution is to sit down with my husband and make family resolutions for the year. I’m hoping that life will continue to normalize after adding to our numbers in September, and that I will slowly but surely develop a more regular schedule that will allow me to spend more time on the blog. I know; I have big dreams!

I’ve been eeking out minutes here and there to expand on the New Year’s lesson plans that I used to use in class. You can download them here. They include a puzzle, a three-level embedded reading, and several #authres activities, among other things.

Here’s to a year filled with Comprehensible Input and Language Acquisition! Go get ‘em!