My top 5 Techniques from Teach Like a Champion 2.0

My top 5 strategies from Teach Like a Champion 2.0


Here are 5 of the techniques from TLAC2 that I have put into practice in my class. I’ll do another post about the techniques that I want to get better at later.


1.      Reject Self-Report

Rejecting self report means that we are moving past the question “Do you understand” which can give us a vague ‘yes/no’ answer. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes yes/no questions are fine, like when circling. I don’t think they are useful when we are trying to gauge whether or not to move on though. I was thinking about this the other day when having Christmas lunch with my three year old nephew. I first asked him if he ate all his food. He said ‘yes’ but here’s the thing, three year old kids lie. So I changed the question “WHAT did you eat?” well come to find out he had only ate mac and cheese! His parents want him to have a more balanced diet, so if I just stayed with the ‘yes/no’ question he would have been left with an incomplete meal, but because I went beyond yes or no to find out more information he couldn’t just get away with only eating mac and cheese and nothing else. The same is true in our classroom. If we REALLY want to know whether or not students understand something we can’t just ask them to tell us they understand. We have to ask more pointed questions about wht they understand. For me, that might be “How do we know the sentence says ‘I walk’ instead of s/he walks?” Is a lot better than just asking, “do we understand what this sentence means?”


2.      Cold Calling

Cold calling is calling on students who have not volunteered to answer a question. Some people don’t like it because it feels like a “gotcha” moment. Which it definitely can be, but what I think people don’t understand about cold calling is that you can call on a student and THEN decide what question you ask them, it doesn’t always have to be question, then call. Call then question is better for me because I know what my students can do, I know how to ask them questions so that they feel successful. Am I guilty of doing an “gotcha” question? Sure, but I try to balance that with having discussions with students about consistently meeting expectations and paying attention. For my cold calling I have one set of 30 popsicle sticks with numbers 1-30 (Or whatever my biggest class is) and in each class I have assigned each student a number alphabetically. So I pull a stick, or have a student pull a stick, they tell me the number, I look at my roster and ask that student a question that I know is appropriate for them.

  •  EDIT: Great suggestion here!

3.      No Opt Out

This is something that I definitely started doing but need a little more practice at. Not letting students get away with answering “I don’t know”. Whenever I get a student that says that, I try to make sure that they know I expect more from them so I say “I’m going to ask questions to two more people and come back to you, be ready”, or it may be something like asking a student the same question that I ask someone else so that they can have a little bit of a sense of achievement, even if they did just get the answer from someone else at least they can take pride in having answered the teachers question. This has worked best for me when I do cold calling with popsicle sticks. I tell students “Ok… I’m going to put your stick back in the cup be prepared next time I call your number”. In most cases this has worked to get students back on the page, but I do want to be a little more consistent with it.


4.      Circulate

Easier said than done. I’ll be completely honest… the best times that I circulate are during evaluations. That’s not to say that I don’t always circulate, but it happens a lot more during those times.  I have my classroom set up, most of the time anyway, in 3 columns of 2 seats in 5 rows with two aisles that I can make my way through. For me when this is an issue is when I am speaking Spanish to my students I like to use hand gestures, and I like to write quick translations of words on my board so it’s hard to get away from my board. I’m going to try to hand that job off to a heritage speaker (a student who already speaks Spanish) this semester though so I can circulate a little better. I try to set up my classroom so that I can have proximity to every single student when I need to. Let’s get away from our desks and circulate this semester, friends!


5.      Everybody Writes

This is something that I’ve worked on a lot this year. I want to find ways to make students write, not only because we need to get better at writing, but because I want students to see that they CAN put into Spanish their thoughts. I have tried to create different forms that students use for different tasks. If I can make something provide input AND give them a reason to get pencil to paper it’ll be great! So I started with Persona Especial from Bryce Hedstrom, as we interviewed a student at the front of the class I had students write three different types of things. 1) what the student says about themselves (first person) 2) what we can say about them (3rd person) and what they have in common (first person, plural) We did that almost every week and students WERE able to write about themselves later, it’s been magical. One of my issues with Everybody Writes is that Mr. Lemov suggests that students write before discussing which kind of distracts from meeting the interpersonal communication standard (two way, negotiation of meaning, and spontaneous) if students already have their answers written it’s not really spontaneous.

I was going to try to pick 10 of these to discuss, and maybe I will find more, but here are my top five so far. Later I will write about the techniques that I want to get better at, and some ideas of how I will get better at them.




Let me see your syllabus!

My syllabus is ever changing. Bits and pieces of it stay the same, but every semester I find something that I need to clarify. This is what I currently have, feel free to steal bits of it, or suggest what might make it clearer 🙂 Teaching is a collaborative effort and I’m sure someone will see something that I haven’t seen, or have become blind to.



Reflections 2018

This semester was difficult. I bit off more than I could chew and it affected what I was doing in the classroom. I was finishing up coursework for my masters. Though I still have a portfolio and some presentations to put together I don’t have anymore classes to take. The two classes I took this semester were tough. One was very time consuming, and the other was time consuming and mentally a challenge. But, I ended the semester with 4.0, and a cumulative 3.94 so there’s that.

I also decided to do two productions as drama club director this year. This past fall we did “Clue: On Stage High School Edition. It was such a great production, of course there are always things that I want to do better but this was the first time that I built a set, I’m always a bit of a minimalist with my sets, but I designed what, in theory, was a great set. We had secret passages, six different rooms that looked like the gameboard, I was so happy with it. Of course the night of the first production things didn’t stay where they needed to but hey, that’s live theatre! I was so proud of the students too. They all did such a great job with their characterization, I know they are harder on themselves than I am when it comes to the performances but I think we had a show that everyone could be proud of.

In the last weeks of the semester I decided it was a good idea for me to be in the Christmas play at the community theatre. I had a blast, but my grad school finals definitely took a hit.

And of course we had the incident at one of the intermediate schools. I’m not going to write much about that because I think we are all still kind of processing it a little bit. It was an awful situation, and our community had protocols in place and we stuck with them. My students are safe, my friends are safe and for that I am thankful.

As far as teaching this past semester goes… it was rough. I had some of the chattiest classes I’ve ever had. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, individually all of my students are great people but sometimes you get them with their friends and they just don’t stop talking and that can affect how the rest of the class goes. I do think I’m getting better at classroom management, but I think I tried to jump all in with what I learned over the summer rather than implement things little by little. I’ve been reading Teach Like a Champion 2.0 and Tools for Teaching although not everything in those books relates to the Second Language Acquisition classroom, there are a LOT of great ideas that I’m trying to take into the classroom next semester. I’ll be writing about all of those ideas later.

The time off between semesters is great, and I need a little more time to get ready to go back, and a little more time to reflect on how I can be the best that I can be for my students.

Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth chapter 1 Reflection

We are doing a book study at RCS with the book “Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth”. It’s a very short, very readable book. I’m going to cross post my discussion board posts from the study’s Canvas page here to share out a bit more of what we’re doing.

1. If you knew you would have visitors in your class or in your building what would you address with your students before the visitors arrived?  Why not tackle that now?

I have my classroom expectations posted clearly at the front of my room. I try to review them EVERY DAY, and I model what those expectations look like. “Does it look like I am ready for class?” “Am I meeting expectations if…?” We also practice attention getters so that when they are necessary they work.

2. How do we respond to academic and behavioral mistakes differently?  Why do we have such different approaches?

I don’t think I respond to them differently. I do a lot of pedagogical research and extra reading on my own and find that the two are extremely linked. If a student is not performing well in my class, I have a conversation with them. I let students put blame on me, or I frame the discussion about what I am or am not doing to support them. It’s my belief that if a student is acting out in class, they probably got bored, or lost, or got lost because they were bored and act out because of that. I try to remediate both the same way by starting each conversation with “Am I going at a speed that is comfortable for you? Am I clarifying things when I see that you look confused?” I do then ask students if they are doing everything they can to meet expectations, and remind them that I am doing my best to do my part in the learning process and they need to do their part. I finally follow up with “What can I do to support you moving forward?”

3. What are the skills we assume students should just have, the ones we think we shouldn’t teach?

I know that every student comes from different backgrounds, so I try not to assume what skills they have.

4. Share a time with a student when “I’m proud of you” and/or “I’m sorry” helped to solidify your relationship.

My professional goal this year is to be more in touch with parents, and I’ve called quite a few parents/guardians this year to compliment their children, and maybe slip in a “we need to work on meeting class expectations”, leading with a compliment has really helped!

Ditching Textbook =/= Ditching Curriculum

Ditching the textbook does not mean that you don’t have a curriculum. It just means that you gotta know a few things ahead of time.

What you gotta know before you ditch the textbook.

You gotta know your standards.  Or at least be really familiar with them. Textbooks DO sometimes lay out how they relate to the standards, so if you’re following the textbook you’re getting all the standards… theoretically. If you’re going to get rid of the textbook you need to know what your state/national organization expects students to know.

You gotta know what your goals are. This may look different for everyone. Maybe your goals are that students succeed on the end of course assessment. Maybe your goals are that students have mastered some kind of skill. For me, I know that I want my level 1 students to be Novice mid-High according to my national organizations proficiency guidelines. And I know that I want students to be able to talk about themselves and others in a basic yet meaningful way.

You gotta know what your assessments are. You have your goals… How are you going to know when students have met those goals? How are students going to know when they’ve met those goals? I think that when you get rid of the textbook that people need to be really good backwards planners. I know some people will disagree with that, that’s fine. I’ve seen some teachers go in without a plan every single day (either intentionally or not) and do just fine. 

You gotta know how to deal with the unexpected. Much easier said than done. With a textbook, you can meticulously plan every second of your class with ease. When you don’t have, what some might call, the crutch of a textbook, what do you do when the lesson is derailed or an activity that you thought was so great falls flat? My suggestion is to have some go-to bail out moves. Maybe you have a Kahoot or Gimkit ready to go *just in case* you need to fill time, or catch your breath. For me, it might be a quick way to turn a listening activity into a writing activity. Even the most foolproof lessons fall flat sometimes, just gotta be prepared.

You gotta know how to find resources. This is probably the toughest part. And I’m sorry, I probably don’t have a lot of real advice for teachers who don’t teach languages. We essentially have all the knowledge of the world at our fingertips. Even though it’s not my favorite thing because I there is so much to dig through, Pinterest has a lot of stuff there, and other teachers who have ditched the textbook have probably been nice enough to share what they like to use. Or Twitter, once you find the right hashtag, like for language teachers #authres to find authentic resources, you will find so many ideas to use in your classroom.


Ditching the textbook isn’t easy. I think, though, that it allows teachers to inject more of their personality into their lessons, and allows teachers to teach what they believe is truly necessary for students to succeed.

iFLT18 Reflection pt. 2: No one is born knowing how to manage a classroom

    Within the classroom I am pretty confident in my abilities to create engaging, meaningful language experiences. However, one of the challenges that I often face within my classroom is classroom management. Personally, I think that teacher education courses often forget about classroom management. In my undergraduate program I did take a classroom management class, but after the first few classes I felt the course did not focus much on classroom management.

    Jon Cowart, a language teacher from Memphis, Tennessee has long been an outspoken force for classroom management in language classrooms. Specifically in urban settings. Before this session, I thought that maybe I was just bad at classroom management, but Jon brought to my attention that there are outside forces at play too. Things that we do not see in the classroom can cause issues in the classroom.

    Mr. Cowart also walked participants of the presentations through some actual scenarios that can happen in the classroom. He did demonstrations how he would use the target language to positively narrate the class, providing students with more input in a non-threatening way. He said that when doing positive narration, try to avoid personal feelings, only state what you see.

    During the session, Jon also emphasized the importance of positive relationships. He shared some stories of having positive relationships with students and keeping their stakeholders involved in their education. I plan on setting aside a day, or at least half a class, a week to hold some individual conferences with students to try to better establish those relationships so that I can show them they have a positive adult role model, and to help maximize their investment in my class.




Some other quick tips that Jon gave us were to:


  • Make directions SOC(Specific, observable, concise). Jon helped us practice this, and reaffirmed that we “cannot punish students because we are unclear”.

  • positively narrate classroom actions

  • make sure that everyone is paying attention when you are giving directions

  • use the phrase “When I say go…” when giving directions allowing students to hear all of the directions before attempting to work on an assignment

  • create concise, positive instructions “No blurting” becomes “Respond when I signal you”.

  • Not redirect actions until after positive narration is done to give students one more opportunity to hear the directions

  • Positively frame consequences, eg. “I’m moving your seat so that you can learn more”

  • End hallway conversations with “What can I do to help you more?”

iFLT18 Reflection pt. 1 Dr. Krashen on the Net Hypothesis

    One of the talks that I was most looking forward to was a talk from Dr. Stephen Krashen on the Net Hypothesis and “Drop-in” language classes. Dr. Krashen started his presentation by discussing an overview of some of his foundational hypotheses such as the comprehension hypothesis, and the natural order hypothesis.

    Dr. Krashen discussed in length the natural order hypothesis and the pedagogical implications of it. The natural order hypothesis states that there is a predictable and reliable order in which constructions are acquired in a language be it in first or second language acquisition. What is sometimes misunderstood about the natural order hypothesis is that the natural order may not rely on what we believe to be simple versus complex constructions. In some cases, what are typically described in grammatical textbooks as complex. Dr. Krashen states that even though we know that there is a natural order, any type of grammatical based syllabus for a language class should not be used. By using any kind of grammatical syllabus, teachers would be under the assumption that the students learn what the teacher is currently teaching, which is simply not true. We still have to account for individual differences.

    Within the classroom, because individual differences occur, Dr. Krashen suggests that the Net Hypothesis will take care of the individual needs of students at the appropriate time. He says that if we cast a large enough “net” of input, i+1 will be available and students will acquire language. He did also reaffirm in this talk that the ‘i’ of i+1 does not necessarily stand for anything, it was just the variable he chose to use. Dr. Krashen gave a great metaphor, as is typical whenever I have seen him speak, he said that if we have a balanced diet (compelling comprehensible input) then all of the vitamins and nutrients (i+1) will be available and one does not need to worry about adding supplements to their diets.

    An issue that arose for me during this talk is that Dr. Krashen was talking about how ‘noise’ in the input, that is language that is not ready to be acquired, is fine. I did ask Dr. Krashen if he had an idea of how much ‘noise’ was appropriate in the language classroom, his response was simply ‘Let’s find out’, as though it were something that we still needed to investigate.

    In the classroom, the idea of the Net Hypothesis, especially with the background in Natural Order Hypothesis allows me to view student growth in a different way. I do still use some targeted input, so I am sure I may not be casting a large enough ‘net’ for students, but perhaps when evaluating students I will take a look at what it is that I am asking them to be able to do. Perhaps the student’s individual net is not catching all of the input yet to produce what I am asking them to produce.



Conference time!

2017-2018 was my first conference free school year since I started teaching. It was weird, but also kind of relaxing. 2018-2019 however is going to be a whirlwind and I’m starting off with iFLT in Cincinnati.

iFLT is the international Forum on Language Teaching. The conference is often held in the US. I did attend last summer, in Denver and it was AMAZING. This year, the conference is a bit closer, in Cincinnati so I’ll be driving down tomorrow to start the conference.

I am starting my week at the Coaching for Coaches workshop. We will be practicing, and discussing coaching styles to better train teachers that come to our workshops/events etc. After that We will have our first coaching session, and then I will meet with my Adult Spanish teacher team.

I am one of five teachers that will be teaching the Adult Spanish class. What is unique about iFLT is that conference attendees can go and watch real classes with real students. This is the first time that iFLT has done an “apprentice” program, so I will be paid with a Master teacher who will observe me being observed. I am so looking forward to this experience, especially because I’m wanting to start an adult Spanish class of my own.

My mornings this week will be filled with the the language labs, and then I’ll have time to go to other sessions and talks that pique my interest. But there are SO MANY OPTIONS! I think I am most looking forward to learning more about the Net Hypothesis with Dr. Stephen Krashen. I have a basic understanding of the Net (that if you give students enough input, they will have uptake in whatever they are cognitively ready for), but I think it will be a very interesting session.

While I’m at the conference, I will be working on grad school. I’m currently taking a Methods Course, and doing an experiential module(essentially, a self planned project). My EM, originally, was going to be conference attendance/reflection. But after talking with my adviser, we decided to go a different route. I will be using what I do at this conference as a basis to develop training modules for language teachers (Look for those in Spring 19).

And of course, one of the biggest reasons I am looking forward to iFLT is to hang out with my teacher tribe. It is such a rejuvenating experience to be around folks who believe the same things you believe, but who are also willing to challenge you in those beliefs.

Part of my EM will be reflections on sessions I attend so I will probably create a Master Post for that where everything will hang out.

BTW, check out all of the iFLT18 tweets here!

Developing a PAT Point System

I have tried an failed over the years to incorporate a PAT(Preferred Activity Time) point system.

In brief, a PAT point system awards a class with points to earn some sort of prize.

I’ve tried giving points for staying in the Target Language, but that ended up being too much running back and forth with a timer, sometimes felt subjective, and wasted my time when I had to keep resetting the timer.

I know some people work wonderfully with a timer, but it just wasn’t my thing. I decided I needed to take a look at my class expectations, and see how I could reward students for meeting and exceeding those expectations.

These are the expectations that I hold students to, and potential for points in meeting/exceeding these expectations.

  1. Listen and read with the intent to understand, and let me know when I’m not being clear.
    A few different point possibilities here. I’m thinking 3 points when I ask a whole class question and get a partial response, and 5 points when I ask a whole class question and get a (what sounds like) full class response. And although I probably wouldn’t announce it because I don’t want it to be taken advantage of, but when a student asks a GREAT question, or stops me because I’m going too quickly or said something incomprehensible (they use my stop signal, fist in hand) I’d probably give like 10 points because that is SO important as a language learner to be able to say ‘hey, I want to be able to understand you, let’s try again’.
  2. Be free from potential distractions such as side conversations, cell phones, other technology.
    My admin bought be this pocket chart. I’m going to establish a routine for students to put their phones in the pocket chart (I give students numbers alphabetically for when they turn in on-paper work, and for my popsicle sticks for cold-calling, they will use this number for their phones) OR put their phone on a charger at the front of the room. Each phone is worth 1 point. Honestly… might need to put smart watches up too… yay technology!
  3. Sit up with clear laps, look like you’re paying attention.
    I’m not sure how I would reward this one, tbh, it’s such a basic skill, but it is CRUCIAL.
  4. Be respectful of peers, teachers, and the classroom.
    If I see something great, reward it, and praise it. Probably be willing to give like 2/3 points for this.
  5. Push yourself to respond in Spanish, act it out, draw it out, use words you already know.
    If a student feels comfortable enough (which is my goal!) to try to output I’m going to praise them like none other! Give a sticker, a high five, call home, whatever is appropriate, but make a big deal about it in front of everyone. 10 points!

So there are some of the things I give points for. Now… how many points are they shooting for and what happens when they get those points?

When I test drove this point system in the last few weeks of class, we were shooting for 100 points by the end of class Thursday. That seemed pretty reasonable. If my classes are 25 students and each student puts up a phone every day, voila! Maybe I’ll up it, I’m not sure.

So 100 points earned students 10 minutes of a preferred activity at the end of class Friday. I think maybe an additional minute for every 10 points after 100.

So I’ve done, outdoor time, dance party, a game, a movie (I know 10 minutes of a movie doesn’t seem like long, but they know they can earn extra class points). I’m still working on compiling more rewards though. A friend of mine suggested something that *I* do, like sing a song in front of the class, dance in front of the class… or something. I’m not sure. What do you all do for PAT?