Silver Lining: Learning to SLOW DOWN in hybrid teaching

Hybrid teaching has its own challenges. For me it’s that I only see my high school students two or three times a week depending on the week. I see my middle schoolers every day. Right now my middle schoolers are a week ahead of my high schoolers. For my sanity, I don’t like that, because it looks like planning a LOT more than I typically would. Of course, nothing about this is typical.

My high school students are expected to have something to work on on the days that they are not in class. Personally, I don’t think this is going well. I was trying to alter at home assignment types, but we’re having too many tech issues, or there’s too much confusion about how to submit. That’s why I’m changing things up by keeping things the same.

When students are not in class they only have one website/assignment type to work with. (I’m using Garbanzo, but you find what works for you).

I gave them a checklist of readings that I want them to get through when they are not in class, and have assigned them to use their personal dictionary to add words/phrases they learn.

Having them do a predictable assignment type on the days they are not with me will hopefully lead to less stress when they aren’t with me.

This is also going to cause me to slow down when we are in class together.

We aren’t moving through ‘content’ as quickly in class, but this will give me an opportunity to make sure that EVERYONE is on the same page before moving on.

Then I have to think about middle school. I don’t want to get TOO far ahead of what I’m doing with high school. And I don’t want to get too far ahead of what the 100% virtual students are doing (Oh… I have those too, so I’m juggling three different schedules.)

So I need to SLOW DOWN with middle school as well. My new plan is to start each day with students working on Garbanzo (once again, find something that works for you) which will help me not push through ‘content’ as quickly. The middle schoolers will also get more Spanish ‘chit-chat’ time to help me slow down my progression through lesson plans. Starting each day with “Como estás y por qué? is a great meaningful time eater, and doesn’t seem out of place because I want to know how everyone is doing.

So all of this to say: I can’t go as fast as I used to go. But in that, I’m learning I was going WAY TOO FAST introducing new words/phrases. Students need to get SO COMFORTABLE with hearing/reading language so that it comes out in writing/speaking. I wasn’t giving opportunities to let students process the language as much as they needed to. So, I’m going to calm down a little, and breathe, and go SLOWer.

What did you learn today (Update)

Last year I wrote about how adding a simple question at the end of class “What did you become more comfortable with today?” helped show students that even though class might not FEEL like learning sometimes, learning is happening.

When learning feels passive (all I have to do is listen and read, I don’t do anything) I think students can get discouraged because they can’t explicitly see that their vocabulary, and their communicative competence is growing.

I took a class with the wonderful Adriana Ramirez and she did something at the end of lesson segments that I immediately started to think of how could I incorporate it. We created a class dictionary.

What a wonderful way to show students that our vocabulary is getting better, and with Adriana pushing us to circumlocute it was still advanced input.

I created a personal dictionary for students to use to limit paper usage this year, but then one day I remembered what Adriana had been doing. “I can do this together with students to wrap up class” I thought.

During my lesson on Friday last week I had students working through some lessons on Garbanzo and while they were working independently I asked them to use their copy of the personal dictionary to add new words that they understood. (I did this by using the Google Assignments tool on Canvas, so every student has their own copy, and all of the student dictionaries are saved to my drive as well.)

After most students completed the Garbanzo lessons we took a song break then we brought everyone together to add words to our class dictionary (which is saved to a folder I share to students that includes our Write and Discuss documents, recordings of class, and our dictionary).

I think having students add words while they were reading was helpful for this last together activity of adding words, but I don’t know how I would feel about students having computers open adding words to their documents WHILE giving whole class input because it’s so easy and so tempting to do something else on a computer when you should be doing your best to attend to input.

So all this is to say, as a class we get to see a growing list of words and phrases that we’ve used and are beginning to learn and I hope this will be motivating for students as we go through the semester/year.

Also, students can self assess their vocabulary knowledge with the check boxes on the dictionary form and I can take a quick look in the shared folder to see what words students are feeling confident with, and which ones need more input.

Using Flipgrid to proctor online writing

I was SO hesitant about what writing in class would look like this year. I thought about students writing on paper and then taking a picture and uploading it to our LMS for grading. But that might’ve become too much work for students and myself.

I mean, what are my worries about having students write online? I can’t see what’s on their screen to make sure they’re staying in the same place, I can’t see if they are using a phone to translate something.

The point for me, of writing as assessment, is to know WHAT students CAN do without help. If students are using a translator for more than just singular words I don’t know anymore information other than students don’t have all the vocab they need. So enter Flipgrid!

Flipgrid has a new feature that records the student’s screen AND their webcam. You can view what students have written on their screen and watch that they aren’t using any outside tools.

I may change my translator on writing tests policy… if I can SEE that they only look up an individual word, that shows me what vocab students want to know.

Check out a video tutorial:

Virtual TPR and Beginning the Year

I’m still not sure exactly what this year is going to look like, but I don’t think anyone else knows either.

I do know that, as always, I want to focus on making opportunities for students to receive comprehensible input. One way I try to ensure comprehension throughout the year is to establish gestures for high frequency words when possible.

The HIGH frequency verbs that I’m working with this year, based on Super 7, Sweet 16, and Frequency dictionaries, and what words *I* most use in class, are: looks at, leaves/goes out, sees, likes, gives, puts, thinks, says, there is/are, knows, stays, wants, can, does/makes, arrives, has, goes, should. I don’t have ‘is’ in there because it’s really hard to gesture, and it is the highest frequency verb so it will naturally be used a lot, and students sometimes hear ‘es’ as ‘is’ which… sometimes helps… they guess the meaning pretty quickly in context.

Theoretically this should be pretty easy to do via video: Establish meaning, show a gesture, model the gestures, mix them up to start processing the meaning, repeat. Do in sets of three, randomize, repeat.

If you’re like me, you’ve had a hard time thinking on your feet to randomize commands, so I introduce to you…. The TPR randomizer! Feel free to make a copy 🙂 Put your list of words/phrases in the first column and everything else will automatically populate.

Admittedly, TPR is great for learning vocabulary, but it doesn’t often give a lot of context. I do highly suggest looking at TPR Materials from CPLI to learn more about the research of TPR as a language learning approach. I LOVE “TPR is More than Commands” by Seely and Romijn, and Berty Segal’s book “Enseñando y aprendiendo el español por medio de la acción”

What I HAVE seen in my classrooms in the past is that when I don’t start off with a solid base of TPR I notice instructional gaps “Why don’t students already know this word/gesture” right, because I didn’t teach it. I think TPR can be a great way to set a foundation of high frequency words that you’re going to use all through student’s learning. And the thing I love MOST about TPR is that when I teach verbs with it, I teach 3rd person singular, but as long as we have had the gesture established, I can use any form of the verb and still remain comprehensible.

So, what’s my plan with TPR as a virtual learning tool?

I have created some loom lessons to introduce the gestures and meanings, which also include screen grabs of me spelling the words to ‘teach’ the alphabet. Click the image below to look at the videos, and in the 3rd video… don’t mind my sunburn.

So after EACH spelling video (they watch the gesture introduction, and the spelling video) I am going to use my schools LMS, Canvas, and our G Suite for Education to create activities that put words into context.

Some ideas are: read a sentence and match the meaning of the TPR word. The sentence might be “Bob tiene chocolate” and students would need to choose ‘has’ from a list to show comprehension of ‘tiene’

I might use Charlala to give drawing prompts “Bob tiene chocolate” and students draw a person with chocolate.

I might give sentences and students try to translate, sentences will probably be recorded on video so I can do the gestures.

I might do a little story (Like video 6) but much shorter, essentially, storylistening with very simple sentences to start, adding in words naturally to make it more compelling.

So there are some of my ideas right now. I’m going to play around with our LMS and see what other kinds of activities I can do and I’ll post them on twitter @welangley and try to remember to update this entry.

Those PESKY Standards

First off, let me say that I LOVE Indiana’s World Language standards. They are SO easy to navigate not only for teachers but for students. If you are not a world language teacher, the National Standards from ACTFL and most state standards are comprised of the 5 C’s.


I’d take a leap and say most language teachers, even those who do Standards based grading probably only focus on Communication, and perhaps Culture (Especially since we have intercultural can-do statements from ACTFL-NCSSFL). But assessing and grading the culture standard can still be messy.

The other three, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities are REALLY hard to assess, at least formally. The question still exists though, how do we assess all the standards, and should we ‘grade them’? I don’t think they need to be graded.

In my opinion, these standards do help us push students to grow as learners and global citizens, but most of them are behaviors and grading behavior is well… meh.


I use Canvas, so I set up some outcomes based on each of the hard to assess C’s (excluding Communication). And like I said, I LOVE the Indiana Standards they’re very easy to use!

Then I copy and pasted the outcomes into a google doc with a few simple reflection questions.

So students can go in to the Google Cloud assignment and write about where they feel they are with each of the standards.

Then in SpeedGrader, I mark the level the student thinks they are reaching.

Important to note that these assignments are set at 0. No points are awarded, but perhaps we can have a celebration of achievement around these.

In outcomes, I set it up so Advanced is 3, Intermediate is 2, and Novice is 1 so when I look at student mastery gradebook I can get a pretty, color coded overview of where we think we are with the standards.

These are just test students so I went in and played around with the scoring just to see how this would all look.

I’m excited to pay a little closer attention to the standards this year. However I’ll have to see where we can fit it in, because we want to keep the majority of class, even if it is online, providing input to lead students to language acquisition.

Comparing class texts to make reading assessments

One of the things I LOVE about teaching with comprehensible input (TCI) is that I can start each class with the same prompt (a question, a story script, etc.) and no two classes are the same. We focus on similar language but the additional language we add is unique to each class depending on their interests.

For me, a problem that arises is that then not all classes have the same vocabulary, so creating a reading assessment based on what we’ve done in class can be cumbersome. Do I create something unique for each class, or do I try to create something that all classes can use?

I’m a big believer in work smarter not harder. I can do an assessment for each class based on what the class has come up with during write and discuss. In the past, I have even used first period’s class reading as an assessment for second period, and so on. But I’m not sure if that was completely fair, even with glossing words that were unique to each class.

So last night I was thinking about this and came up with a solution, I think.

I usually type (and this year will DEFINITELY type) write and discusses. Which makes it easier for me to do what I’m about to explain.

The first step is do copy your class text and put it into a word list maker:

Do this with each text you create so you have a list of items that appear in your texts.

Then, take two of your lists and shoot them through a list comparison.

When you put your lists in the list comparison tool it creates a new list of common words from the lists.

Then we’re going to use the NEW list generated by the comparison tool and one of the remaining lists from the other texts, and repeat until you get a list of common words from all of your texts.

We compare:

List A/List B=List AB

List C/List AB= List ABC

List ABC/List D= List ABCD

and so on.

So now you have a list of words that were common in all of your classes write and discuss writings. From that we can now create a new reading that uses the common words that EVERYONE has seen, and we should be able to create a fair assessment for all students.

MORE Remote lesson plans on Canvas

I created another set of lessons that you can use if you’re on Canvas! Simply add an audio/video story and a text.

Story Based Remote Learning Module

If you don’t have CANVAS here are the activities that students do in this module:

Behind the scenes: Find a story. Record video/audio, prepare a parallel story for assessment.

Step 1: Introduce key vocabulary with your favorite online tool.

Step 2: Students listen to the story and draw a picture to demonstrate understanding.

Step 3: Students listen to the story again and answer true/false questions

Step 4: Students listen to the story and put sentences in order, I wouldn’t use the ENTIRE story so that they have to listen to the ENTIRE story.

Step 5: Students read the text, and annotate the text by highlighting/underlining the text for a given guideline (verbs, adjectives, etc.) This is to get students to read the text CLOSELY.

Step 6: Jeopardy, students write questions about key words/phrases from the story.

Step 7: Students summarize the text by copying sentences directly from the text.

Step 8: ADDjectives/ADDverbs students use their summary and add adjectives or adverbs to make the story more interesting.

Step 9: Students change the perspective a lá horizontal conjugation.

Step 10: Back At’Cha: students type a sentence they remember from the text into a discussion, but they cannot post something someone else has already posted. They should be reading everyone’s responses so that they know what has already been posted. Tricky re-reading 🙂

Step 11: Listening/Reading quiz. Students read/listen to an alternate version of the story and give a summary in English.

Lesson Plans on Remote Instruction

We are starting remote instruction next week. We have been off for a month(1 week was spring break). But I have been going stir-crazy so I began working on remotifying lessons last week.

Before break we were getting ready to start talking about how we have used technology in the past week. Usually this unit is very discussion based, with some short grammar practice thrown in.

My goal with this unit is to get students to start seeing the structure “I have (done).

I have devised 6 days of 20-30 minute online lessons for my students, put into a module on canvas, and set so students must work through the unit activity by activity.

My hope with making everything required to move through the module is that students will see that even though things are not all graded, ALL the things we do build up to output.


  1. View video instructions, a screencast explaining what students ‘submit’ for EVERY activity, and explaining how modules work.
  2. Sign up for remind, it’s the easiest way to get ahold of me, and it guarentees a quicker response from me.
  3. Say hello on Flipgrid- I’m sure students want to see everyone else’s face, and I know that I do, but I know not everyone likes recording their face.Screen Shot 2020-04-07 at 1.15.09 PM.png

Day 1Screen Shot 2020-04-07 at 1.17.29 PM.png

You’ll notice that I put the objective for each day in a text header in the module.

  1. Present Perfect Introduction. This is quick grammar lesson.
  2. Optional “Conjuguemos” practice
  3. Discussion, post a picture of how you have used tech to not be bored. I respond to EVERY post here with a sentence or two. This is the real meat and potatoes of the lesson because they are getting reading input. I make sure to ask students questions (you form) and I state whether or not I have done the thing as well (I form, so they can answer the questions).

Day 2

Screen Shot 2020-04-07 at 1.22.44 PM.png

  1. Vocab introduction with textivate
  2. Listen and Write, I will record video/audio for students to listen to and they have to do a dictation of three sentences. Now they get to HEAR ‘he usado’ and be reminded that the /h/ is silent in Spanish.

Day 3Screen Shot 2020-04-07 at 1.24.33 PM.png

1/2. Grammar practice, low stakes, not for a grade.

3. Students read about someone’s plans for the day and they start outputting a little bit. I give feedback.

Day 4 Screen Shot 2020-04-07 at 1.26.12 PM.png

  1. Students Read, copy and paste, and translate sentences from a list of activities that they may or may not have done.
  2. Students output a little, make 3 statements of what they have NOT done during quarantine, and reply to 3 people saying what they HAVE done that the other person said they haven’t done.

Day 5Screen Shot 2020-04-07 at 1.28.34 PM.png

  1. Grammar practice, not actually for a grade, but it’s a self scoring quiz. It’s actually a reading with fill in the blank.
  2. Listening quiz, I will make a new video based on the discussions from Day 1 and students write a detailed summary of what they hear.

Day 6Screen Shot 2020-04-07 at 1.31.37 PM.png

  1. A quick writing, I’ll probably remove ALL points from this because, translators. But my hope was to give feedback on writing.


That’s it. That’s what I’m doing for the first week of Remote Instruction. The rest of the time in RI will be pretty similar in structure.


Training Students to Ask for Clarification (while reading)

Students, in my case teenagers, do NOT like saying they don’t understand something.

This is frustrating for me. It’s one of my expectations to ask for clarification, or rather I put it on myself. Tell me when *I* am unclear. Tell me when *I* go too fast.

I get frustrated because when students don’t tell me I am being incomprehensible, I can’t clarify, and I can’t help them acquire new language. Then because they aren’t acquiring new language, they have the misfortune of being left behind at some point. They get frustrated because they don’t understand, I get frustrated because they haven’t been doing what they need to do to succeed. I do do my darndest to preemptively clarify things. If I know it’s a new word I’ll write it on the board. But if I use it again and don’t clarify I need students to tell me that I didn’t do my job of making language comprehensible to them.

In comes lap reading. I read about lap reading from Jon Cowart. I really like that I can give students more reasons to re-read a text, and do a comprehensible input style “close reading” activity.

I’ve made my first lap (and I think it will permanently be this) to highlight what you UNDERSTAND. Obvi, the first reason I do this is to show students they are understanding more than they think they are.

Second reason is the review period for the lap. I bring the class back together and start reading the text aloud with the instruction: When we come to something that you have NOT highlighted, tell me.

This allows for on the spot clarification, they are rereading the text, and I can maybe have some collaboration going on by having other students help clarify.

The review period is SO IMPORTANT of this. Because we can’t just go back and tell students what a word means after the fact. It does nothing for real-time processing of language. You MUST re-read the text with students. Cold call students after reading a sentence, ask if they DIDN’T highlight something, then go back and re read the sentence, check for understanding after and then go on.

I’ll let you know if this gives students any long term confidence of letting me know when something is incomprehensible to them.