“Go fish!” to review a story

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Instead of playing with a deck of cards, play this familiar children’s game with scenes from a film or story as an opportunity to practice output in language classes. For more on the role of output in Comprehensible Input classes, please read this post.


  1. Prepare students for this output activity by pre-loading them with comprehensible input. The activity will be most successful and beneficial if students are very familiar with the scenes that they will be describing. Some basic ideas for providing input are storyasking and MovieTalk, and it would be wise to do some follow-up, input-based activities afterward. There are many options described in this category archive.
  2. Gather 12-15 images depicting different scenes from a film, story, or novel. The images should not be ambiguous–it should be very clear what is happening in the depicted scene. I have created a set for the short film “Carrot Crazy”, and you can download it here (free!). The film is one of my favorite to use with MovieTalk, and it is available on YouTube (click here).  Please be aware that there are weapons depicted in the film, so use your discretion when showing it in class. I did not include any of those images in the card deck.
  3. Print out four copies of the set of images in order to make a single deck of playing cards. Use card stock to make the game more durable, and consider laminating it if you want to use it again in the future.
  4. Form groups of 2-4 students and have them play “Go Fish!” in the target language. (In Spanish, “Go fish!” is “¡A pescar!”.)
  • For 2 players, each player starts with 7 cards; 3 players start with 6 cards each; 4 players start with 5 cards each. The remaining cards go face down in the “fish pond” (draw pile).
  • For complete instructions for game play, see http://www.gofish-cardgame.com.
  • Instead of asking “Does anyone have a #?”, they should ask (in the target language), “Does anyone have a picture of when [scene description]?” For example, “Does anyone have a picture of when [the boy makes a carrot cake]?”

This provides many repetitions of the structures “has” and “I (don’t) have”, and it can be used with basic vocabulary and numbers instead of with story scenes…but let’s face it, it’s a little more awesome like this :).

Once you’ve created the cards for this game, you can use them for zillions of other activities. Here are a just a few–please add more ideas in the comments section:

  • Have students line up the scenes on their desks, then close their eyes while a partner removes one of them. The student must describe what happened in the missing scene.
  • Tape one scene to each student’s forehead. The student must ask yes/no questions about his/her scene to his/her classmates until s/he correctly determines which scene is on his or her own forehead.
  • Distribute one card to each student, then have them silently form a human timeline.
  • Use them for a speaking or writing assessment: give several scenes to a student, and have them describe what is happening.

Esperanza around the web

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You know a novel is great when you can’t escape it on the Internet. Whether you read my blog, Kristy Placido’s blog, Sharon Birch’s blog, Profe Hanson’s blog, you’ve surely heard of Esperanza. Written by Carol Gaab, it is the real-life story of a woman who flees Guatemala with her family to escape political persecution. They immigrate to the United States, illegally at first, but eventually receive citizenship. It is a powerful novel to use in Spanish courses not only because of the deep cultural themes that it addresses, but also because it is written with very limited vocabulary and from the first person-perspective. For this reason, it is easy for novice learners to understand  and provides the not-always-so-easy-to-get-in repetitions of first person verb forms. I used it at the beginning of my Spanish 1B course (the second year of middle school Spanish), and it was the perfect way to start of the year. Purchase the novel here.

Well today is the day of Esperanza, apparently. This morning, Kristy Placido shared an activity on Facebook that she created for her classes to use in Chapter 7 of the novel. She got the idea for the activity from Cynthia Hitz, and she posted it on her blog here. Less than an hour later, I got a text message from my dear friend Christina Bacca, who teaches Spanish in the greater DC area, sharing a beautiful painting that one of her students did at the end of the novel:

Custom painting by one of Christina Bacca's students

Custom painting by one of Christina Bacca’s students

The student created the painting as part of the Esperanza final project, for which Christina used a modified version of Sharon Birch’s assignment (click here to access; it’s in Week 7). Christina was inspired by Sharon to use the song “Ave que emigra” by Gaby Moreno to start the novel (Sharon suggested using the song and provided a lyrics activity for it in this post, or you can download a simple lyrics sheet from this post of mine from 2012 which I had totally forgotten about). And get this–two of Christina’s ah-mazing students loved the song so much that they learned how to perform it together! Check out their incredible recording–I am amazed!!!:


One thing that is important to note…if you ever create an activity for a copyrighted novel and wish to share it online, make sure that you check with the copyright holder before you do. Depending on what is included in the activity (excerpts from the text, for example), it could constitute a derivative works copyright infringement. I have solicited and received explicit, written consent to post activities for Esperanza from TPRS Publishing Inc., which is why I am allowed to share things like the activity included in this post on my blog. Also, remember that anything that you post online for your students to access can also be accessed by anyone on the Internet (unless it is in a password-protected area of the web). This means that you can’t post digital copies of the novels that you’re reading or pages from the Teacher’s Guides, since other teachers can search for that novel and access those materials without having purchased them. Let’s model integrity for our students by only using materials that we have purchased or are otherwise legally allowed to use in our classes!

Christmas activities

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Christmas is a major holiday in many cultures, and Spanish-speaking countries are no exception. I have developed and shared several resources over the years that work well in Spanish classes:

Please link any resources that you love to use to teach about Christmas in Spanish-speaking countries in the comments section!!

Only 12 hours remain to save 20 percent at The Comprehensible Classroom

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It’s Cyber Monday Tuesday! I’m joining the TpT community in our giant Cyber  Savings Sale. All lesson plans and activities are 20 percent off until tonight at midnight. Now is the time to stock up on lesson plans for the spring semester:

  • Sub plans: in Spanish, no prep required, and the sub doesn’t need to speak Spanish
  • Holiday mini-units: in Spanish; plans available for Christmas, Semana Santa, Cinco de Mayo, and more
  • Curriculum units: in French and in Spanish; week-long units that teach high frequency structures
  • Activities: for all languages; reading activities, communicative activities, assessment forms, and more
  • Assessments: complete assessments in Spanish
  • Cultural readings: in Spanish
  • Grammar lessons: reading based; each one exposes a grammar rule and then provides targeted practice through CI.
  • Cultural mini-units: Units that last several days and teach students about a cultural topic

Check out my store page for a categorized listing of my products, or click here to go directly to my TpT store to start shopping. Enter the code TPTCYBER at checkout to receive a 20 percent discount.

Learning through Comprehensible Input

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For the first time since learning about TPRS® and Comprehensible Input, I am not teaching through CI, but learning through CI. I’ve of course participated as a student in demonstrations and coaching sessions in languages that I don’t know, but I’ve never “studied” a language for an extended period of time. (I say “studied” with quotation marks because I am not studying a language at all–just “coming to know”.)

I am now very excited to announce that I know (some) French! I am becoming trilingual!! What an exciting thing. This has been an absolute blast for me, partly because IT IS SO MUCH FUN TO LEARN A LANGUAGE, and partly because I have had many insights into what it is like to be one of my students–which is the purpose of this post.

How am I learning French?

BRANDON BROWN WANTS A DOG is available in French, Spanish, or Chinese from TPRS Publishing.

BRANDON BROWN WANTS A DOG is available in French, Spanish, or Chinese from TPRS Publishing.

I began learning French by reading the novel “Brandon Brown veut un chien” by Carol Gaab. I was able to do this without any vocabulary instruction or translation because I am already very familiar with the Spanish version of the novel. Between my knowledge of the plot and the similarities between French and Spanish, I can easily figure out any new words that I encounter in the novel. I have been doing some work with the Teacher’s Guide for the novel, and I do the quizzes from the guide after I read each chapter. Now that I’ve finished reading the novel and working with all of the quizzes, I am listening to the audio version of the novel. Meanwhile, I’ve been formatting the French adaptations of my Spanish curriculum, put together by Julia Ullman and edited by Karen Oberlander, so I am getting in more comprehensible input by reading Julia’s translations and listening to the authentic resources that she has included in the adapted units.

Other than French, what have I learned?

  1. Comprehensible Input works. I am learning French by reading and listening to contextualized language. The only rules that I have learned have come to me from Karen or from Megan Murphy (who has translated some of my activity forms into French) when they send me corrections on my French writing. I have now written several short, original texts in French–and one of them had ZERO errors. This is because…
  2. Learning high frequency structures leads to communicative competency. Brandon Brown veut un chien is written with the highest-frequency structures in the French language, and so are the curriculum units that Julia has translated for me. Because the first words that I learned were words such as “wants”, “has”, “says”, “goes”, “sees”, etc., I can speak and write on a myriad of topics already (effectively albeit simply), even though my vocabulary is very, very, VERY small.
  3. Listening and reading are both important. As I said, the first thing that I did to learn French was read. I was able to visualize the content as I was reading, but I was not able to hear the words in my head. This was actually a pretty big stumbling block for my comprehension! Not being able to hear the words in my head was very distracting for me, and it severely impeded my fluency (the rate at which I was reading) and retention. Once I began listening to the audio version of the novel, I could read the novel faster, and output (both written and oral) became easier for me.
  4. Speaking is scary. My in-laws are in town, and both my husband and my father-in-law took French in high school. I keep getting excited about my ability to speak French and begin saying something, but when I realize that I don’t sound anything like a native French speaker, I get embarrassed and stop talking. When I come to a block and can’t think of how I could say what I want to say, I get embarrassed and stop talking. Writing is much easier. I have the time to think about what I want to say and how else I could say it, and my errors do not embarrass me. I am reminded why I do not give speaking assessments until at least the second quarter of Spanish 1; only after students have had many opportunities to practice speaking during low-anxiety, communicative activities.
  5. Limited grammar instruction is helpful after receiving input. Pop-up grammar is an essential component of quality TPRS®/CI instruction, and it works! When I send my writing to Karen, Megan, or Julia, they give me quick explanations for each of their corrections. These quick explanations made sense to me because they were contextualized and to-the-point. I was able to read their correction and then look back at all of the things that I’ve read and say, “Oh yeah! That makes sense! Now, I understand what that letter means on the end of a word!”

If you would like to learn a new language or if you’d like to try teaching a novel, be sure to click here and leave a comment on my 500th post for a chance to win one of three TPRS Publishing Teacher Packages. You can also visit my STORE page and make a shopping list for the Cyber Savings sale on TpT: save 20 percent on any lesson plans and activities that you purchase from my TpT store on Monday and Tuesday.

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 Flickr.com

CC 2014 Christian Schnettelker Flickr.com

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!!