Fan N Pick: The possibilities are endless!

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Something that I lovetty love love about the ability to connect with other teachers via Ye Grande Ole Internet is the way that ideas expand exponentially as they are kicked back and forth among us.

Discussion questions for stories in Spanish and English from The Comprehensible ClassroomFan N Pick has long been one of my favorite Kagan Cooperative Learning structures, and I used it quite often in my classes even though it is straight up an output activity. It is always a bit complicated to explain the first time that you do it with your students, but I found that it was well worth the effort because it was an easy way to build some interaction into many of my lessons.

Traditionally, Fan N Pick uses question cards, and students are discussion those questions in small groups for the duration of the activity. Whenever I used it, it was the same thing: discussing questions. Since I know that the real work of language acquisition happens through input (comprehended input), I would always discuss the questions for the activity as a class first in a teacher-led discussion where I guided the input. Then, I could let students loose for 10 minutes to speak Spanish to each other on their own, and I felt reasonably confident that they would feel at ease and not fossilize the error ridden speech of their classmates because the questions and possible answers were all familiar.

So this morning I was reading one of Lauren’s blog posts (more Wildebeest materials, hollaaaaa!) after someone in the SOMOS group mentioned the Fan N Pick activity that she used. Instead of questions on each card, she wrote….wait for it…wait for it….SENTENCES. Instead of responding to the questions, the group members translate the sentence! 

Seriously. In all my years of using this structure, how did I not think of that?! And that is when I thought about what a beautiful thing the internet and my virtual PLN are, because much like an author hires an editor to have a fresh set of eyes and a different perspective look over his or her work, we need fresh eyes and new perspectives to look at our own practices and to inject life into what we are doing.

Of course I then had to postpone all pre-planned nap time tasks so that I could do some more thinking about input-driven Fan N Picking and update my Discussion questions for stories file to include forms and materials to better work with all of the variations of the structure. If you, like me, are a Fan N Pick lover, here are some different twists to keep the flame alive:

Input friendly variations of Fan N Pick structure


Prepare 12 illustrations and place them on a paper. On each of the 12 cards that will be fanned and picked, describe one of the 12 illustrations. The illustrations and text could be from a familiar story. In the examples above ^^, I used images and text from my simple story “El secreto de Ramón“. If you use the story with your students and want to add this Fan N Pick activity to the materials, you can snag it here.

  • Student A reads the card aloud in the target language.
  • Student B picks the card and translates the card aloud into English.
  • Student C copies the text from the card onto the illustration form, matching it with the picture that it describes.


Prepare 12 cards with statements that are easy to illustrate; possibly from a familiar story. Give students a blank, 12-frame grid (like the one pictured above, just sans images). You could number the frames of the grid to correspond to question card numbers or students could number the events chronologically once they have finished transcribing and illustrating them.

  • Student A reads the card aloud in the target language and copies it into the corresponding numbered box (also in the target language)
  • Student B picks the card and translates the card aloud into English.
  • Student C illustrates the transcribed card on the form.

OPTIONAL: Group members work together afterward to number the illustrations chronologically.

TRANSLATION (thank you, Lauren Tauchman!)

Instead of writing a question on each card, write a sentence or two in the target language–possibly from a familiar text.

  • Student A reads the card aloud in the target language.
  • Student B picks the card and translates the card aloud into English.
  • Student C records the translation on the form in English.


Use 12 statements that were said or could have been said by characters from a familiar story. Instead of using a pre-made recording form, have students sort and record the statements by character on a piece of paper. They can initial the ones that they write down if needed.

  • Student A reads the card aloud in the target language.
  • Student B picks the card and translates the card aloud into English.
  • Student C records the statement in Spanish and lists which character said or would have said it.

*You could also sort by location, tense, perspective, etc.


Prepare 12 true statements and 12 related false statements about a familiar text or topic. On each card, write one true statement and one false statement; each one labeled “A” or “B”

  • Student A reads the card aloud in the target language.
  • Student B picks the card and translates each statement aloud into English.
  • Student C identifies which of the two statements is TRUE and copies the true statement only onto the form in Spanish.


On each card, write a statement in the target language (possibly from a familiar text or about a familiar topic, although not necessarily).

  • Student A reads the card aloud in the target language.
  • Student B picks the card and transforms it to another tense (a present tense card is re-read in the past tense, for example) or to a different perspective (a statement written from the first person perspective gets re-told from the third person plural ‘nosotros’ perspective, for example).
  • Student C copies down the transformed text onto a form in Spanish.

If you are like me and prefer to use forms and visual aids illustrating the rotation order for Fan N Pick (I have found that it helps the activity to go much more smoothly), the forms needed for all of these adaptations have been added to my existing Discussion Questions for Stories file. If you already own it, simply visit “My Purchases” in your TpT account and download it again!


  1. Always love your work! What program do you use for your images? I would love to create images for some readings I have already done, but don’t know where to start!


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