Across the world language teaching profession, teachers are eagerly looking for more and better ways to provide comprehensible (or better yet, comprehended) input to their learners.  They know that acquisition only happens when learners assign meaning to words and structures, and that requires comprehension.  This topic inspired the November 23 #langchat.  Let’s see what teachers had to say about how they ensure learners are receiving rich, engaging, and comprehended input.

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Finding Reading Resources to Provide Comprehensible Input

#Langchat teachers are always looking for more creative ways to integrate comprehensible input into their reading resources.  To choose wisely, @MadameVolz recommends understanding what your students are interested in: “I find resources by paying attention to what my [students] are talking about”.  Also, it’s important to make sure the reading is achievable.  “I believe in either scaffolding up to authentic resources or using texts that students can easily read,” said @Marishawkins. @GrowingFrench shared, “also shortening, chunking and editing authentic resources makes them more accessible.”

Where do world language teachers look first for good comprehensible reading material? @SraWienhold shared some of the favorites:I buy great language learner novels from @profeklein @FluencyMatters @MCanion @TPRSbooks.”

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Using Listening Resources to Support Comprehensible Input

When it comes to incorporating comprehensible input into listening resources, world language teachers shared a plethora of successful ideas for their classrooms.  Here again, scaffolding to make sure resources were comprehensible was important.  @sharon_grele mentioned Audacity, the free audio editing software from Sourceforge, adding, “You can slow down, repeat, shorten, etc. [the] audio.”  Then, when introducing the audio, “providing comprehensible input & visuals before the listening (film, song etc) helps SO much!” (SraWienhold)

During listening, focus was important for #langchat teachers. According to @kellycondon,“if the authentic resource is above their comprehensible input, I give them a specific task and remind them that the goal is not to understand everything they hear, but to complete the task.”  Similarly, @sharon_grele believes it is important “focus on one thing at a time. Don’t ask them to write a lot while listening. Can’t do both well. Keep task simple.”

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Supporting the Management of the Classroom while Using Comprehensible Input

Because of the high energy and focus on target language use by the entire class in a CI classroom, “management” can seem to become an issue.  We say “seem” because in typical school classes, movement and excessive talking are labeled misbehavior.  In a CI class, however, these behaviors should mean that learners are comprehending more and engaging more with the input.  So how did #Langchat participants “manage” class behavior and focus in a language class infused with comprehensible input?

  • @Rrrrrrrrrrrrosa said the class is more focused on the input with routines that “[keep] things familiar”: “language & content learning targets, daily themes, persona especial.”
  • @VTracy7 shared, “My walls scream CI! Verbs, rejoinders, question posters & my circumlocution board.”
  • @GrowingFrench uses “a lot of manipulatives and posters to support CI and support target language use.”
  • @MlleSulewski shared, “Also having routine phrases that signal what’s coming next/what students have to do. I always do a countdown to transition out of partner/group work, some use [call-response] phrases.”
    For a list of suggested target-language call-response phrases, see this post shared by Martina Bex.
  • @SenoritaHidalgo said, “I give students opportunities to shoutout with rejoinders that are distributed and passed out each day by the student helper. It gives kids an opportunity to shout out in the target language.”
    For helpful guidance on rejoinders, see Bryce Hedstrom’s rejoinder tag.

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Ensuring Students are Provided Comprehensible Input During Homework or Choice Assignments

Although it is challenging to ensure that students are provided with Comprehensible Input outside of the classroom, @MadameVolz suggested that “Classkick is a great tech resource for illustrating sentences from stories or text. You can see all illustrations in one place or click [through] students’ illustrations on overhead… a great post-story for novel [repetitions].” @Marishawkins said, “When I am feeling super ambitious I find a few different comprehensible input sources that can work for students but it is time consuming and hard!” @SenoritaHidalgo added, “You CAN’T 100% ensure students will be provided with comprehensible input for out-of-class assignments. However, SeñorWooly is great for comprehensibility and can be compelling depending on student interest.”

Thank You

Thank you to #langchat moderator @MlleSulewski and all who participated in the langchat on Comprehensible Input in the World Language Classroom and for continuing to make Langchat discussions possible!


The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages – ACTFL – held its annual Convention and Expo in November of 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee.  Although thousands of teachers attended the conference, many more, of course, were not able to.  On #langchat before the conference, teachers gathered to discuss their expectations for the event, and how to process and implement what they learned in their classrooms- whether they were able to attend in person or not.

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ACTFL is over, but ‘tis the season for regional conferences.  NECTFL is right around the corner in New York, and SWCOLT comes to Santa Fe shortly after.  The beginning of March brings the Central States conference to Milwaukee, quickly followed by SCOLT in Atlanta.  (The Pacific Northwest group will meet with the Oregon-Washington conference in October since 2018 is an even-numbered year.)  The perspectives #langchat participants shared apply to those big conferences as well!

Determining Which Sessions to Attend at ACTFL

#Langchat teachers collaborated on the sessions they were most looking forward to attending at the ACTFL. @SECottrell said, “I’m all about focusing on sessions that will help where I’m weakest at the moment.” Strategizing and prioritizing sessions to help growth as an individual or department was key to making the most of the time spent at the conference. @SenorParodi said, “When I’m with colleagues, we split it up. As [department] chair I️ try to balance my needs as a teacher with those of my dept.” @silvius_toda advised, “For a conference like #ACTFL17 know your learning goals ahead of time – it will make choosing sessions much easier!”

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Sharing Classroom Successes with Others

#Langchat participants answered the question, “What’s something you’ve been trying this year in class that you’re excited to share with others at #actfl17?”

  • @SraWilliams3 shared, “I’m using more CI & TPRS. I’d like to pick the brains of the originators of some resources I’m using.”
  • @htrude07 found success with “using @Flipgrid and then app smashing it with @ChatterPixIt. Digital Storytelling with @AdobeSpark is also a hit. Great tools for sharing student voice.”
  • @pwrflteacher said, “Don’t think you can set the same growth curve for every student- have to tailor/ individualize.”
  • @CristinaZimmer4 shared, “We are using proficiency rubrics for assessments and I would like to see how other schools are using them.”
  • @profe_irizarry was excited about using “individual notebooks for Spanish 1 students where they record their conversations- Hacker’s Guide for Spanish 1 conversations.”

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Language Teachers Looking Forward to Learn

Learning never ends, even for teachers! World Language teachers are always looking forward to learning new ideas and techniques at the ACTFL. @htrude07 wanted to learn about “new technology tools to integrate in the classroom. Using Can-dos and working towards proficiency.” @a2laurel said, “I’m looking for ways to streamline feedback. Teach the students to self-assess and set goals.” Connecting with other teachers and colleagues can always spark new and helpful ideas.

At your next conference, what do you want most to learn or improve?  Create a plan to target that theme.

How to Digest Professional Learning: Reflect, and share

After a professional learning conference, it can sometimes be difficult to digest all the information and begin making changes.  Some teachers had already established a public platform, and sharing their learning there inspires them to keep implementing change.  Though she wasn’t planning to attend the ACTFL event, @Marishawkins shared that after a conference, it helped her to share what she’d learned on her blog, in order to “concretely state how I want to change what I am doing and what part of my unit I feel that I can implement each small change.”  Small changes were also recommended by @htrude07: “Add one or two changes at a time. Small steps so it’s not overwhelming.”

Other teachers talked about both internal and external reflection on their learning. @SenorParodi shared, “I take a moment to collect myself and stop beating myself up after comparing myself to all the incredible educators I meet. Then I️ look to one thing I️ can add each month.”  Similarly, @htrude07 mentioned she would “reflect on my learning by rereading my notes and then writing about what I learned.”  She added she would share her takeaways with colleagues, an action plan echoed by @Mariacsmith: Debrief with colleagues about what is possible for short term vs. long term.”

How to Share What You Learn at #actfl17

At the end of the chat, teachers further explained how they would share what they learned from the ACTFL Convention.

  • @gonzales_lee said, “I will share at my building & district then possibly present at state conference.”
  • @SraScheetz was “hoping to share & collaborate with colleagues while there, divide & conquer sessions, come back & share during department meetings.”
  • @Staceymargarita shared, “I meet as many new people as I can at conferences, maintain contact via email or social media after to keep up learning momentum.”
  • @mmegalea said, “I will do workshops or webinars about what I have learned.”

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Thank You

Thanks especially to Maris (@Marishawkins) the guest moderator of this #langchat!  #Langchat official moderators continue to moderate the first and third chats of the month, but be on the lookout for participant teachers to take the initiative to lead many other discussions to come.


We recently told you about Pañuelito, a culturally authentic game for reviewing vocabulary in Spanish class.  Here we share Doña Ana. We incorporated this game into Calico Spanish Stories Online Level C (“I Live Here”), together with the song that inspired it.

The many names of “Doña Ana”

The children’s song “Doña Ana no está aquí” is a ronda, a “round,” a song sung by children in a circle while playing a game. This ronda is sometimes attributed to Nicaragua.  In Guatemala, you might hear it as “Vamos a la vuelta” and the star is a rana instead of Doña Ana.  (We’re amused, because the family in Level C is a familia de ranas.)  El Salvador claims it as either “Doña Ana” or “Doña Diana.”  Whatever you call it, it’s been a common, fun ronda across Latin America for a very long time.

Original game

This is how the original game is played:

  • Two children sit in the middle of the circle. One is Doña Ana, and the other is her caregiver.
  • The children, holding each other by the hands and circling the two girls, sing about how Doña Ana is not here; rather, she is in her orchard tending her flowers.
  • At the end of each short verse, the circling children ask, “¿Dónde está Doña Ana?”
  • The caregiver can give any answer about where she is or what she is doing.
  • The children continue to sing and then ask, “¿Cómo está Doña Ana?” until the caregiver responds, “¡Doña Ana se murió!” (Doña Ana is dead!).
  • At this point, the circle comes in to approach the girls, and Doña Ana jumps up to chase the children in the circle.
  • The child she catches is the next one to play Doña Ana.

See it in action

If you’re like us, you need this visualized.  Here are some children in Nicaragua playing the game.

As often happens with traditional children’s songs and games, there are many variations of “Doña Ana.”  Often there is no caregiver; Doña Ana is the only child in the middle and answers for herself.  Often the question

¿Dónde está Doña Ana?

is not asked, but rather only

¿Cómo está Doña Ana?

and Doña Ana answers that she doesn’t feel well, or that she has a fever, until she answers that she is dying, and then runs to catch the next Doña Ana.

Our update/game: House vocabulary + activities + telling time

In the version we present here, we have altered the lyrics to tell you that Doña Ana is in different rooms in her house, at a different time (on the hour), participating in a different activity in each place. She wants to know who these people are that keep coming in her house and keep her from doing what she wants to do. The children answer who they are: they are the children who are coming to eat in the red house, and by the way, how is Doña Ana?

To play the game with your children, use the video labeled “Doña Ana – para jugar.” In this version, when the children ask, “¿Cómo está Doña Ana?” there is no answer, so that your own Doña Ana can answer for herself.

The game should proceed this way:

  1. Assign gestures to different possible answers to ¿Cómo está? (See suggested gestures below.)
  2. When the song asks ¿Cómo está Doña Ana? the children in the circle should stop moving.
  3. You or someone in the circle should make one of these gestures at your Doña Ana. If she can respond correctly, she gets to run and catch a new Doña Ana. If she cannot, she plays Doña Ana for another round.


  • Judith is in the middle playing Doña Ana.
  • You, Andrew, and Bri circle around her (singing more and more of the song as you become more familiar with it) until…
  • you ask, “¿Cómo está Doña Ana?” while rubbing your.
  • Judith correctly answers, “Tengo hambre.”
  • Then, she runs and catches Andrew, who will be the next Doña Ana.

Version 1: Including answers

Version 2: Without answers, for the game

Suggested answers and gestures:

You can probably see how you can use different questions here to tweak the game for practicing any vocabulary (“¿Qué tiene Doña Ana?“) but for the question of cómo estás, we suggest using these gestures to elicit the corresponding answers from your Doña Ana:

  • Estoy bien : thumbs up
  • Estoy mal : thumbs down
  • Estoy triste : sad face, pretending to cry
  • Estoy feliz : big smile
  • Tengo hambre : rubbing stomach
  • Tengo sed : panting
  • Estoy listo / lista : posture to start running
  • Tengo sueño : yawning

Ready to play? Here’s a PDF of the instructions included in Level C of Stories Online, if you’d like to print them out.. Also, you can get a poster of these answers to help children learn them well. That poster is included in our Level C poster pack.  And snap a picture or video and share with us – we’d love to see how Doña Ana helps your learners improve their Spanish!



In this discussion, #langchat teachers proposed many ways to make the beginning and ending of world language classes more engaging and effective. Participants also shared their transition techniques that allow them to optimize learning during their class times.

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Using the Beginning of Class to Spark Learner Enthusiasm

#Langchat teachers discussed how to capture their students’ attention as soon as they walk into the classroom. @SenorG said, “Get weird. Be unexpected. Sometimes ‘activate prior learning’ and other times just shoot for a hook.” The more creative, the better! In AP last year I stood at the door to collect a ‘password’ from each student. It was a great way to start each day!” (@MlleSulewski). @Coachbpal shared, “We normally start with a review game of some sort. Something entertaining, yet [it] gets the job done as it relates to recalling info.” @Ginlindzey said, “We do jobs which rotate that include reading the agenda, date (includes yesterday, today, tomorrow), the weather, & school news.” The beginning of class can be the most impactful. @Marishawkins said, “I start with important input to have it sink in the most, so sometimes a song or reading.”

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Routines to Help Balance Business and Linguistic Benefit at the Beginning of Class

The beginning of class can often look like a balancing act between business and jumping into language acquisition. @ADiazMora starts class by “asking how everyone is in [the target language] and looking around to take attendance by the [students’] responses.” Many teachers use the beginning moments of class to lay out the objectives and schedule for the rest of the period. @Madamednmichael said, “I have lessons and instructions posted on SMART board and Classroom in both languages, plus follow routine.” @SECottrell shared, “We have a question jar, which helps start off class in the [target language] if I still have to prep.”

Go-to Beginning-of-Class Activities

Langchat participants collaborated on their go-to activities to start off the class.

  • “The beginning of class sets tone and purpose for the rest of the time. Love creating experiences, surprises, sense-based learning” (@tmsaue1).
  • @ADiazMora includes “weekend talks on Monday and then depending on unit, maybe pictures to spark interest.”
  • @SECottrell uses “a song, especially with #earlylang! Especially if they’ve come in from recess!”
  • @MmeBlouwolff advised, “Share an #authres (preferably video) and [students] complete some sort of processing guide.”
  • @tmsaue1 reminded everyone that the “beginning of the class is truly PRIME TIME for new learning. It’s a great time to focus on input activities.”
  • @senoraMThomas shared, “I have my [students] copy the learning target so they can self-evaluate end-of-class during that time also.”

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Transitioning Smoothly from Opening Activity, into Middle and Close

Good transitions can preserve time in class. By posting my agenda, students know what to expect so it makes transitioning smoother” (@Marishawkins). @ACWLteach shared, “sometimes the best transition is abrupt, not smooth, to keep it fresh.” Elementary Spanish teacher @Kellycondon said, “I may use a brain break or movement activity to break up activities.” @ADiazMora makes smooth transitions by keeping an eye on the time, adding that “sometimes timers on the screen” are useful.

(For the summary of a 2015 #langchat on smooth transitions, click here.)

How to End Class and Assess Student Learning While Building Excitement

#Langchat teachers continued to discuss closing transitions and how to bring excitement for future classes.

  • @Meganclaire87 admitted, “in a 48-minute lesson solid closure is a struggle. Students share their class work and we talk about what makes it successful.”
  • @Oraib_Mango likes to “recap or allow student reflection and feedback and a glimpse of next class.”
  • @AHSblaz ends class with a “ticket out! The last [five minutes] are second-best learning time & [students are] most highly motivated (to leave😉) so I pick the thing I most want to reinforce.”
  • @MlleSulewski said, “If I notice they’re getting squirrely at the end/packing up early, I’ll whisper something important, so they pay attention, ha!”
  • @AHSblaz also uses “exit humor! Weirdest relative, ask next [students] a riddle (written earlier) or give a compliment to next [student] in line.”

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Thank You

Thank you to everyone who participated in the #langchat on Maximizing Learning at the Beginning and End of Class. A special thank you to our lead moderator Colleen, @CoLeeSensei, for her thoughtful leadership and contribution!


This #langchat conversation looked at how to best assess interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational modes in a World Language Classroom. In the course of the discussion, participants also offered ideas on when to design assessments for each mode and worked to identify the important elements in a performance rubric.

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Deciding Which Modes to Assess

Quality AssessmentsWhen and how do world lag Wnguage teachers decide which modes to assess? @SECottrell shared, that she “tends to move in a progression: start heavy, heavy on interpretive, start sprinkling in interpersonal, and presentational later.” Many teachers agreed that focusing on interpretive and interpersonal modes first gives a strong foundation when it comes to practicing the presentational mode. @Srta_Zeiner said, “In novice, I focus most on interpersonal and interpretive. Getting [students] speaking and listening right away is key!” For teacher, @joyeuse212, it “depends on the ebb & flow of the class and when the timing is right. More interpretive & interpersonal first. Presentational last.”

Important Elements in a Performance Rubric

Langchat participants discussed the elements to include in performance rubrics and in the spirit of proficiency-based teaching, teachers agreed that comprehensibility is the most important element to look for in students’ presentations. @Marishawkins shared, “also after comprehensibility, how students use vocab- so they aren’t as repetitive.” @SraChiles said, “Yes, comprehensibility is #1, but also having details, varied language, & active interaction for an interpersonal rubric” are important.” “Sometimes banning the words bueno/interesante/bonito to force kids to use other vocabulary” is helpful to assessing a variety of language (@Meganclaire87).

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Tasks and Structures for Interpretive Assessments

World Language teachers discussed the variety of ways in which they use tasks to assess interpretation in their classrooms.

  • @SECottrell said, “we turn interpretive text / audio into a multitasking picture: diagraming the story, facts, timeline, etc.”
  • @srtabrandt96 assesses through “finding key terms, main ideas, supporting details//at higher levels: inferencing & predictions.”
  • @Nathanlutz shared, “deep and close listening using authentic resources (video and strictly audio) on @EDpuzzle, my tech hubby” creates tasks for assessing interpretation.
  • @Oraib_Mango uses “mostly multiple choice or true or false to identify main idea and details.”

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Tasks and Structures for Interpersonal Assessments

Physically setting up a task for an interpersonal assessment can look different from classroom to classroom. Langchat teachers shared what this can look like with their students. For example, @Magistertalley said, “I have recorded students, also have them record Flipgrid videos of a group. Sometimes it’s just me talking to a student.” @srtabrandt96 is a “big fan of allowing students to have an open dialogue with each other in pairs or groups. It allows freedom & less stress.” “Give students a prompt; they practice with the partners they choose, and randomly pair on day of assessment. Students then talk to each other spontaneously,” shared @Srta_Zeiner.

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Tasks and Structures for Presentational Assessments

Lastly, #langchat teachers shared structures and tasks for successful presentational assessments.

  • @Magistertalley said, “For speaking – Show and Tell, in-class presentations and Flipgrid.”
  • @kltharri suggests pechakucha.
  • @srtabrandt96 incorporates “some form of research & then [students] show what they learned, or they have to tell a story of some sort.”
  • @rlgrandis suggests “having students creating stories, whether writing or recording a story with their drawings on @educreations.”
  • @rlgrandis shared, “I am a fan of Google Voice but have started having students record in OneNote for presentational speaking.”
  • @GMancuso13 said, “I started using Seesaw for quick [presentational] assessments. I like being able to listen on my own time and give valuable feedback.”

Thank You

Thanks especially to John Cadena (@CadenaSensei) for moderating!  #Langchat official moderators continue to moderate the first and third chats of the month, but be on the lookout for participant teachers to take the initiative to lead many other discussions to come.

It’s no secret: young children love games.  (And really, don’t most of us?)  It can be challenging, though, to find a game for the early Spanish language classroom that is fun, useful, and authentic.  Pañuelito fits that bill perfectly.

How to play the game

Pañuelito, also often called el juego del pañuelo, is  historically common in several Spanish-speaking countries.  Traditionally, the game is played with numbers.  Here’s how that goes:

  1. A group of children is divided into two equal groups.
  2. Within each team, each child is assigned a number, beginning with 1.
  3. Someone stands in a place equidistant from the two teams, holding a handkerchief.
  4. The person in the middle calls out a number
  5. The child on each team that was assigned that number races to grab the handkerchief before the child from the other team can reach it.
  6. The child who grabs the handkerchief first races back to her original position.  If she arrives there, she wins the point.  However, if the child who didn’t get the handkerchief can catch her first, then he wins the point, and she loses.

Language targets in the game

You can enjoy playing with any vocabulary, not just numbers. Try assigning students colors, food words, and more. You need a minimum of four players and two category words in order to play, and you can play with as many players as you like.

We incorporated Pañuelito into Calico Spanish Stories Online Level C.  That level is titled “I Live Here.” In it, Rita la rana verde (the green frog) has a fun day playing around her house with her family and a few friends, including Goyo from Level B and a rather high-maintenance ratón named Raúl.  At one point, they go to the sala in her house and end up playing this fun game.

In Level C, we suggest using the following vocabulary as categories to support the level’s learning targets:

  • rojo, gris, verde
  • feliz, triste, aburrido, cansado
  • cocina, sala, baño, cuarto
  • grande, pequeño, listo, inteligente

But what about showing comprehension?

You may have noticed that this game uses vocabulary devoid of any context.  That’s pretty much not okay.  However, it’s super easy to ask children to show they know what their category actually means:

  • Give them something of the color to hold up when it’s their turn to run.
  • Ask them to show a number of fingers that matches their number.
  • Require a gesture showing the word or phrase’s meaning before a point can be earned: the child pretends to cook for cocina, or pretends to wash hands for baño, sleep for cuarto, or use a remote control for sala.


Still can’t visualize how this game happens?  Here’s an example.

Aaron holds the pañuelo in the middle.  Two students are on each team, and one is assigned feliz and the other is assigned triste.

Each team stands about six feet away from Aaron.  Aaron calls out, “¡Feliz!” and each child assigned feliz begins to run for the pañuelo.  Theo from Team 1 reaches Aaron first and grabs the pañuelo and begins to run back to his place on Team 1.

Mariah from Team 2 races to try to catch him but doesn’t catch him in time.  He makes it back before Mariah can catch him, then shows a happy face to show he knows what feliz means.  So,Theo gets the point for Team 1.

Mariah goes back to her place on Team 2 to try again on another turn.

If you want something more to print out, here is a PDF of our instructions directly from the Stories Online Level C Teacher’s Guide.


One more thing before we go: the only things the Pañuelo game and this song have in common are the words pañuelito and that they’re both part of Stories Online Level C, but here’s our song for you anyway:


This langchat discussion focused on the benefits of teaching without a textbook. Although it may seem challenging to some, many #langchat teachers believe teaching without a textbook increases student engagement and allows proficiency in the target language to become more attainable.

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How to Begin to Transition Away from the Textbook

The transition away from using a textbook may seem daunting for some World Language teachers, however, the benefits can be great. @magisterb480 shared, “When textbook stories get dull, when grammar drills are boring your students, when what used to work doesn’t work anymore,” that’s when it is important to step away from the textbook.  #Langchat participants shared how they began this process. @Mmeshep said,choose themes and start looking for authentic resources for the theme you have chosen.” @CourtneysClase shared her experience and said, “I started with the textbook objectives and vocab as an outline, but created my own activities, movie talks, and stories to do.” “View the textbook as a guide/resource but remember you as the teacher are the language expert in the room, not the textbook” (@silvius_toda).

Reassuring Those Worried about Loss of Rigor and/or Support

#Langchat teachers shared how they reassure parents and colleagues alike that teaching without a textbook can still be full of rigor and worthy of support.

  •   @jaybeekay518I said, “show them how aligning instruction to authentic resources has the potential to be WAY more rigorous than textbook exercises!”
  •   @SraWilliams3 shared, “show them the results and the higher engagement levels.”
  •   @CatherineKU72 said “rigorous is not how I would define a textbook. Watered down units on household chore? Or use AP themes & social justice?”
  •   @Oraib_Mango believes “following proficiency standards while motivating students and using meaningful resources does not require textbooks.”
  •   @magisterb480 shared, “Students learn at their own pace about things that interest them. We use compelling topics to build more ‘rigorous’ content.”

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Working Smarter and Not Harder Without Textbooks

Ditching the textbook may seem like creating more work for the teacher. However, scheduling prep-time, assigning certain tasks to certain days and [adding] it to a calendar” cuts back on distractions (@tmsauel). @MartinaBex suggested “plan the same activity for all classes, and just change the content.” Of course, using resources can help #langchat teachers work smarter. “Divide the work and SHARE SHARE SHARE! Be vulnerable to colleagues you trust! And trust YOURSELF!” said @PRHSspanish. @silvius_toda also shared, “collaborate with other like-minded teachers, read blogs, attend presentations on the topic, share your victories/failures.” Collaboration is key. @magistertalley finds, “using info provided by students to create input for future listening/reading/writing activities” to be helpful.

Using the Textbook as a Positive Supporting Role in the Curriculum

Textbooks can have positive supporting role in curriculum. They can be used “as reference for grammar, culture, and vocab. [There is] no reason students can’t use it as they wish” (@Magistertalley). Textbooks can provide “thematic organization. Pull relevant activities as you can. Some have differentiated assessments which helps if you have IEPs,” shared @madamednmichael. @dkcrump1299 said, “It is supplemental and can spark ideas for creating your own activities.” @Elisabeth13 explained how she was able to transition from the textbook; “we designed our units/themes FIRST, then dug through books to find what supported them.”

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Student Results

The best way that #langchat teachers advocated for teaching without the textbook was by sharing their students’ results. For example, @Mmeshep said, “I’m amazed at what my students can do. Not having to cover a [textbook] allows my [students] to spend all of our time using the [language] to [communicate].” Without relying on a textbook, “students start to believe this is real life instead of a class. Classes end. Relationships change but can endure” (@SECottrell). @ogmsespanol praised this new way of teaching and said, “I can’t even begin: [level 1 students] are reading independently, writing in multi tenses, and joking in [the target language]. Incredible, never happened before!” Simply put, “More authentic=more interesting=more retention! It melts the teacher’s heart!” (@MmeGoodenough).

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Thank you

Thank you to all who participated in this engaging conversation on Teaching without the Textbook in a World Language Classroom. A special thank you to our moderator for the week, Meredith (@PRHSspanish) for her efforts in leading the group.


Using Students’ Passions to Drive Instruction in a World Language ClassroomSome call it “20% Time,” a concept borrowed from Google in which people spend one-fifth of their work time on a project of their choosing.  Others may call it “genius hour,” still referring to one hour out of five per week that students spend pursuing their own interests in learning.  Another term, “passion project,” is more or less self-explanatory.  Regardless of the label, the field of education is increasingly turning away from traditional models of sit-and-get, memory-based learning and turning toward learning that allows students to investigate problems, questions, and projects they are truly interested in.

Accordingly, in the September 28, 2017 #langchat, participants discussed the importance of understanding and using what their students enjoy to inform their classrooms. This discussion focused on how to incorporate students’ interests and passions in world language learning.

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Curating Students’ Passions and Interests

Discovering what students are interested in and passionate about is an ongoing process for World Language teachers. There are many ways to uncover what students are most interested in. For example, @Marishawkins said, “I curate by asking questions and giving surveys.” @SraWienhold said that she is “constantly asking students about life. Weekend talk on Monday, asking about weekend plans Friday and paying attention” are important in her classroom. @sr_connolly listed the ways in which he is able to learn more about his students. He said, “open-ended writing, reflection, [conversations] in class, connections before and after class. Passion + practice = progress.”

Using Students’ Interests to Influence Class

Students often become driven when they are interested and passionate about what they are learning. @CrookedCaddis shared that students’ interests influence the class “all the time! But most significantly when learning culture.” @Magistertalley agreed and said, “Students’ interests always influence instruction in some way, even if just what chapter to read in textbook.” @EdTechTiff gave a great example and said, “I experimented with passion projects and homework choices last year. It was neat to see students tackle various challenges.” Interest makes all the difference. @CourtneysClase shared, “if I have kids asking ‘can we learn this?’ I’m willing to make it happen! If they’re interested, it makes everything worth it.”

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Handling Different Interests in a Classroom or Level

What do you do when students are all interested in different topics or ideas? #Langchat teachers shared their strategies:

  •   @QuesnayAnali said, “Creating learning stations! This allows your students to perhaps explore new interests.”
  •   @Brennabyrd finds “having lots of choice in assignments and covering different interests at different times” to be helpful.
  •   @MlleSulewski added, “plus, how awesome is it that no matter the [language] ability, using [students] interests allows THEM to be the ‘experts’ for a while”
  •   @srtabrandt96 said, “try to group interests together – strive to get everyone engaged, they might find a new interest!!”
  •   @Sravaughnk shared, “when I taught high school I sent a quick Google form and grouped students based on survey results.”

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Incorporating Students’ Passions into Established Curriculum

It is often challenging to incorporate students’ passions, which are constantly changing and forming, into an already established program or curriculum. @SraErwin said, “I think mixing up the authentic resources you choose to use each year helps a ton with this. [Authentic resources] change all the time.” “Find whatever ways you can connect what must be taught to students’ lives/interests and make time for it,” added @Magistertalley. @PalacMrs gave the key to incorporating students’ interests and passions into curriculum- “they may decide WHAT I must teach, but I decide the HOW.”

Incorporating Students’ Interests Without Reinventing the Wheel Each Year

Students’ interests change from year to year. #Langchat participants shared how they can retain lessons that focus on students’ ever changing and diverse interests. Put the ‘creating’ in the hands of the [students]. Give them a project outline, and see where they take it. Reuse the ones that work” (@Kellycondon). @Magistertalley suggested, “have similar types of activities and story templates. Basically, prepare a mold to pour each new batch of students into.”

@SraWienhold, who has long advocated using comprehensible novels in the classroom, said, “Make Google slideshows for each novel and keep adding. [This allows for] many activity options for each chapter.”  She schedules free reading for the start of class twice a week, calling it “student choice and zero prep for [teachers].”  Finally, @Marishawkins suggested, “also coming up with general prompts for speaking/writing that allow students to express themselves with personalized vocab.”

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Thank You

Thank you to all the #Langchat participants who joined in on the discussion on Using Students’ Passions to Drive Instruction in a World Language Classroom! We would especially like to thank the lead moderator, Megan (@MlleSulewski) for her hard work in making this discussion a success!

For #Langchat summaries or to suggest a topic, visit the chat wiki pages.  Are you ready to guest moderate #langchat?  The official moderators can help you become more of a leader in this fantastic learning network!  See the sign-up sheet here.


Role play for young learners? Yes, please!

It’s no secret: in early language education (and even in middle and high school!), finger puppets are a win! Somehow, sometimes, it seems less intimidating to pretend you’re a puppet speaking Spanish rather than be yourself speaking Spanish.  Of course, young children usually love any kind of role play with stuffed or puppet creatures.  (My children can’t get enough of Toca Boca’s record-a-scene feature.)

So, when a customer recently suggested stuffed toys of the Calico Spanish Stories Online characters, or maybe puppets, we jumped on the idea.  We’d already played around with creating a foldable version of Rita la rana verde, but let’s just say that idea didn’t pan out.  It turned out that folding a proper frog doll from a sheet of cardstock was a project worthy of a college architecture class.  We knew the characters needed to be easy to make.  We researched some designs for puppet characters and our amazing graphic artist came up with foldable cone finger puppets.  She didn’t stop there.  She made the backgrounds!  And then she made Pepe’s birthday cake and birthday presents!

Meet our finger puppets

We’re making Pedro el pez azul and María la mona amarilla available here on the blog.  Other characters, including Pepe el perro café and Goyo el gato negro, as well as the backgrounds and props for playing with the characters, will be made available on the member site.  Stories Online subscribers will have access to printables of all our characters and various backgrounds and props.  Just click the image below for the PDF of Pedro and María.

Finger puppet printable of Pedro the blue fish and María the yellow monkey

Click for PDF.

But what if the kids want to color it?

Or if you have 300 students who each want their own puppets and who’s going to make that many color copies?  We’ve made you a blackline version, too.

Pepe who and Stories what?

Haven’t met Pepe el perro café or tried Stories Online yet?  If you click the red button on the homepage, you’ll quickly be into your 7-day free trial.  You get to explore 100% of our content (including the printable puppets) for 7 days with no obligation.  Enjoy, and please tweet, Instagram, or email us your pictures of your learners using these great finger puppets!  We love to see kids learning with our products.


Learning in general is often more successful with bold practice and a willingness to make mistakes. Overcorrection from teachers, however, can discourage learners.  In the September 21 #Langchat, teachers discussed how to correct student output while still encouraging them to put forth effort.

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Determining the Errors to Correct

It is sometimes difficult for #Langchat teachers to determine which language errors should be corrected. Because the affective filter (a learner’s general emotional attitude toward learning) is often high in a world language classroom, #Langchat teachers know that it is not always helpful to correct every mistake a student makes. What constitutes output worth correcting? @SraWilliams3 said, “the longer I’ve taught, the less I feel the need to correct output. I only [correct] if I can’t understand at all.”  Corrections should be made “when the error changes the meaning of what they were trying to say,” according to @SraStephanie. @MmeJGillespie shared, “it depends on the student. Some are shy and I don’t want to discourage their attempts to speak. [Instead], I usually rephrase what’s said.”

Addressing errors without resorting to the native language

Staying in the target language can be tricky when correcting student output. There are a variety of ways to correct while remaining in the target language. @SraMarconi260 shared that she stays in the target language “by rephrasing the questions and modeling the correct pronunciation for the students to follow.” @Profedenham said, “It’s back to modeling with gestures. Also, use visuals, I have word and verb walls all over my room. Pointing works too.” @PRHSspanish shared, “I stopped recasting last year so much and experimented with framing it in the perspective of their response. ‘¿Me gusta?’” Of course, “accuracy comes from lots of ACCURATE comprehensible input, with opportunities for output with real feedback” (@KrisClimer).

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Correcting Errors Based on Levels

#Langchat participants shared how they vary the way in which they correct errors based on the level that they are teaching. For @jaybeekay518,lower levels get written and spoken reframing to reinforce nuances both ways–upper levels get verbal negotiation of meaning.” Elementary Spanish teacher @MundodePepita shared, “with my Kindergarteners I rarely correct directly; by 4th grade we are refining more directly when appropriate. Communication is key.” Some #langchat teachers find that there should not be any differences for correcting errors based on a student’s level. For example, @jnowak_asl said, “I don’t think it looks different from level to level. I ask them to try their best and I help them be the best they can be.” @LauraErinParker also shared, “I don’t think my approach to feedback changes – just the proficiency that students have reached changes.”

Different ways to Correct Output

There are many ways to correct errors in output without bringing discouragement into the classroom.

  •   @SraWilliams3 said, “I think circling* has been a gem to help with corrections. REPEAT REPEAT REPEAT.” *circling: a TPRS technique in which a teacher asks questions involving very similar information but changing one or two details, e.g. “Who went to the store?” followed by “Did the boy go to the store?”
  •   @SraDentlinger shared, “if I’m working on a reading, I bold or underline concepts we’re working with to remind them.”
  •   @SraMcNeilly said, “have students self-evaluate proficiency skills and choose their own practice for improvement.”
  •   @Oraib_Mango encourages through “a lot of listening and reading and repetition with different activities.”

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Framing Feedback

After mistakes and errors are made, #Langchat teachers find it important to encourage students to try again. “Celebrate success, choose 1-2 things that could help them move up proficiency wise” (@SraWilliams3). @jnowak_asl said, “I make my errors obvious to them to try to show everyone makes mistakes. I don’t expect perfection, just their best effort.” Go beyond the feedback on errors. @Srta_Zeiner said, “provide students the opportunity to use the feedback to revise and resubmit. Don’t let your corrections be the be-all end-all.” @MundodePepita, explained that “our tone, facial expressions, and body language are key to making our students feel we are helping them, even when we need to correct.” Finally, it is important to remember to “lay the groundwork. Show kids you care about them and their learning way before corrections” (@SraStephanie).

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Thank You

Is there a topic you would like to discuss in the coming weeks? Check out our #Langchat wiki and tell us your ideas! Thank you so much to all those who participated in the #Langchat on Addressing Errors while Encouraging Students in the World Language Classroom. Thank you to our lead moderator, Elizabeth (@SraDentlinger), for her hard work and contributions!