MovieTalk with “Love Recipe”

Here’s the beginning of my MovieTalk lesson with the video “Love Recipe“. I use Martina Bex’s unit plans for the video. I think I’ve used this every year that I’ve taught. I love trying to personalize the new vocabulary that comes up. I won’t necessarily assess students on the vocab introduced with the video but it gives the high flyers something extra to focus on.

Today was a short day so I didn’t get to finish the entire video, so we’re going to pick back up tomorrow and continue on with the plans.


Strategy: Circling “I” during PQA

I’ve written about a few ways that I circle “I” and “we” forms in class, but I’m feeling really good about what I’ve been trying to do in class, and you can get input on ALL THE FORMS! And I’ve found that it’s been GREAT scaffolding for students to get them speaking about themselves!

If you’re already doing PQA it’s a super easy addition and can work with ANY PQA. All you gotta do is throw in the word/phrase “Would say”.

So, start by asking a student a question. Restate the information to the rest of the class, circle the information if need be. Then throw in “would say”, and circle that.

EX: -Bill, what time do you wake up? (2nd person!)
-Do you wake up at 5:00AM or do you wake up at 5:00pm?
-Class! Bill wakes up at 5:00AM (circle circle circle) (3rd person singular!)
Class, would Bill say ‘I wake up at 5:00AM or I wake up at 5:00PM’?(circle circle circle) (1st person singular!)

The next step is to try to get at least two students that have the same answer.
-Freddy, what time do you wake up?
-Class! Bill AND Freddy wake up at 5:00AM (3rd person plural!)
Class, would Bill and Fred say ‘We wake up at 5:00AM or We wake up at 6:00AM?” (1st person plural!)

You could ask questions directly to Bill and Freddy and use 2nd person plural if you use it (no vosotros for me, though).

After a lot of repetition of the 1st person, I did change it up and ask students, “If ‘(in TL)I wake up at 5:00AM’ means ‘I wake up at 5 AM’ How would you say “I wake up at 8AM?” and give students an opportunity to output *IF* they are ready. I do not often do formal speaking, but I try to give students the opportunity to show off what they are able to do.

Pop-Up mnemonics

Pop-up grammar are great little tidbits to explain the intricacies of language, clarify meaning, and give a little extra to those high flyers in our classes. I’m working on creating a LIST of mnemonic devices that I use in my class to use in my pop ups 🙂

Using task based language teaching with TCI/TPRS

Yay! Acronyms! TBLT, or Task Based Language Teaching is quickly becoming an obsession of mine.  At the beginning of the summer I was introduced to TBLT through the SLA course I took at MSU. I had to create a research proposal that used data from a task based activity. My proposal was about interaction with vocabulary and interactions affects on long term retention of vocabulary.

What is a task? Ellis (2003) says that a task resembles a real world activity, has a primary focus on meaning, has a non-linguistic outcome, and learners are expected to use their own linguistic resources.

When creating a task there are some questions that we need to answer to make sure it’s truly TBLT. (from Dr. Amanda Lanier, MSU)

What is the authentic task? What is the real world application of the task? Is it something that people REALLY, ACTUALLY do?

What are the teacher’s goals for the activity? What CAN students do to complete the activity? (Look at ACTFL can-do statements.)

What are students aiming to accomplish? What is the outcome of the task? What happens when they complete the task? e.g. If the task is ordering food, they will know they are successful if they receive the food they ordered.

What do students need to know? Basically, what do students already know, and how can they build on that to complete the task?

What terms and phrases do they need? These could be language chunks, meaning based chunks of words that students don’t need to know the grammar for, but will help express what they want to express for task completion.

What is the task? What is the activity that students are actually doing? What is the evidence of completion?

How can you extend the task to other modes of communication? If it’s a speaking task, how can we make that to an interpretive task, etc.?

What I absolutely LOVE about TBLT is that there is no required grammar, the only requirement is that students complete the task by any means necessary, and by any means available to them.

The reason I’m trying to use more TBLT in my TCI class room is that there is  ONE thing that I just can’t get into. I like funny and interesting stories, but I can’t get into how bizarre some people get. There’s nothing wrong with it at all, if it works for you in your classroom it is not wrong. It works great for some people, but it’s not quite my style. I do like to stretch reality with my stories, but I tend to not ever really arrive in BIZARRE story land. Something came up on a Facebook group that, sarcastically, mentioned “when will students talk about purple dancing cows?!”  Yea, I get it.  When do we do that? We don’t, but we use a lot of high frequency vocabulary that students will acquire and be able to reconstruct into their own thoughts as their journey through proficiency goes on.

Like I said, I’ve been dabbling in TBLT for a little bit, but I had a great idea for a task today and I’m just thinking about how I can implement it. It does take some backwards planning, and it may work better in a Targeted classroom (if you think Untargeted works with TBLT as well please let me know!). But that doesn’t mean that each story you do has to be about the same topic.

Right now I’m doing some TPRS/TCI with routines. (Basically I’m just doing some PQA and extending that into mini stories) In a couple weeks my students should be ready for a task involving their daily routines. But we can get to that point using the vocabulary that we’ve already started to acquire, and we can add vocabulary that we are working on acquiring now through stories and other TCI activities! If I do more stories does that mean I have to teach thematic vocabulary in a list? No. Do I have to focus JUST on reflexive verbs because a lot of routine verbs are reflexive? No. If I’m talking about my routine I also need to be able to say when I leave, when I get to a place, I can talk about eating lunch… There are a lot of things that go into talking about routines. I’m not simply telling stories about people doing mundane activities.

I believe, and I would need to collect some surveys on this, that students will feel more successful in a TCI/TPRS classroom if we involve tasks. It’s like “YES we do talk about silly things, now here’s how you can apply what we’ve been doing to real world”.


TPRS with a textbook is really easy.

That is a bold statement, I know.

This is coming from someone who had monthly common assessments. But I think this could work for even those who have weekly common assessments!

The first two years when I was just a baby teacher working with CI I was department of one. I did whatever I wanted with the blessing of my administrator. Then this past year I started teaching in a department. With a textbook. I was overwhelmed because I did NOT want to lose what I gained as a person by using CI. I turned to the internet and the wonderful iFLT/NTPRS/CI Teaching Facebook page to ask what to do. I was turned to Terry Waltz’s blog post about using TPRS from a Textbook. This was a god-send. I immediately got to inputting all of the vocabulary words from my textbook into a spreadsheet to start organizing what was important (or at least perceived important by me).

But then I started altering my approach. I decided to go chapter by chapter and focus on the grammatical aspects. I know (now, anyway) that the research says we cannot alter the natural order, just because we focus on a grammatical aspect it doesn’t mean students are ready to acquire it. However, I’m just trying to find the best balance so someone else can stay sane AND keep their job if they are in a tight situation.

So here is what I suggest as a ‘chapter outline’.

  1. What is the focus of the chapter? First, you gotta look at what the goals of the chapter are. For example let’s say that it’s present tense stem changing verbs, and verbs like gustar all enveloped in the vocabulary theme of ALL OF THE SPORTS AND THEIR RESPECTIVE BALLS.
  2. What can I PQA (personalized questions and answers)? Sports are really easy to PQA, so PART of the sports vocabulary was really easy to PQA “What sport do you play?” But then I had to look at the other grammar stuff, thankfully it was pretty easy to PQA these structures as well “Does football bore you, interest you, do sports movies interest you, bore you etc. and I branched off into “what else interests/bores you?”
  3. What kind of stories can I write? This is the trickier part. You DO NOT need include ALL of the grammar points in one story. I spent a few weeks on each type of present stem changing verbs (in Spanish e-ie, i-e, and o-ue). And continued to PQA the gustar verbs. I did a couple stories with each type of verb but one story might have only had one occurrence of a stem changing verb, and I tried to use some of the target vocabulary in each story.
  4. What if I can’t use all of the vocabulary I’m supposed to cover? For each chapter I made a textivate match set. (Textivate is my preferred tech tool click HERE to see how else I use textivate in my class). Or you can of course use whatever else you may use to have students practice vocabulary. It’s my suggestion that the vocabulary is available for students at the beginning of the chapter. I often have a textivate challenge throughout the entire chapter and the winner might get some candy or something (because sometimes they are LONG challenges).


Anyway I hope this may help someone else 🙂 Hope everyone is having a great summer!

My classroom expectations

These are the expectations I have posted at the front of my room that I review EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. It’s important for me to review them every day. It’s a procedure that students know to expect, and it reminds me to be consistent.

When writing these I tried to make them all encompassing but at the same time specific to a CI classroom. I also tried to make them sound positive, but I couldn’t think of a super bright and shiny way to say all of them. So here’s what I have posted, and the little blurb I say about each one every day.

  1. “I listen and read with the intent of understanding. I stop Sr. Langley if he speaks too fast or is unclear” If we believe we can do something we are much more likely to be able to do that thing. It is my job to make what I say in Spanish understandable to you, it is your job to pay attention. I’ll do my 50% of the job, but you have to do your 50% as well. You can tell me when I’m not doing a good job, and I’ll make sure you are doing everything you can do to do your job.
  2. I only speak when addressed as an individual, or as part of the class. I need you to remain silent so you can hear all these new words clearly, and so you can hear them enough times to get them stuck in your head. This means no side conversations, and no blurting out. When I ask a question to the class I need everyone who is able to answer to answer so I can get a feel for how strongly you all understand something.
  3. I am physically and mentally present in class, I am free from potential distractions. You look like you’re paying attention, and you are freeing yourself from anything that may be distracting. That include homework for other classes, cellphones, headphones, whatever else that may distract you from class.
  4. I respect my teachers, my pears, and our physical space. I want you to have a space that you can be proud of, so while we’re here we’re respectful, and clean, and we try to stay positive.
  5. Todo es posible en la clase de español. Everything is possible in Spanish class. How much fun we have in here is up to you. I will always try to make things enjoyable, but you have to remember that if you think a story or discussion is boring, make it exciting!

Circling “I” and “We” during PQA

As a department, we noticed students having trouble identifying subjects that included ‘I” with other people. So I decided I wanted to come up with something to circle the “I” and “we” subjects. I decided I’d do some picture PQA.

The prompt was simple: Draw an activity that you do with other people.

I had students come to the front with their interesting drawings and we started talking. I started off each discussion with “Student and I are friends” And then circled that relationship a bit. “Are we best friends? Are we brothers? Are we enemies?”

Then got into the meat of the discussion. One student drew a picture of running. I circled the verb a bit “Bob and I run” “Do we walk? or do we run” etc. Maybe come up with a little bit of a story. One class had us throwing frogs into the pond, that was… interesting.

Then I changed it up, even though we did the activity together, *I* did the activity a little bit different. “Bob and I run, but I run slow. Bob runs fast” “Does Bob run slow or do I run slow?” Circling the subject is kind of hard there if students are ready to output “you” forms, so I tried to keep away from the wh- questions.

We’ll be doing a little more of this tomorrow and I’m hoping to end the week with a horizontal conjugation as an assessment.