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by Erica Fischer on Sep 9, 2015

Effective Lesson Planning for Your World Language Class!

Last week, Langchatters met to discuss lesson planning! They reflected on their first steps in the planning process, described how they go about gathering resources, and offered some tricks to speed up planning. Participants also noted how their planning process changes when they need a substitute. Efficient lesson planning is an art that we all strive to perfect, and #langchat participants offered a wealth of tips and support. @MmeFarab wrote, “Good thing there’s #langchat to the rescue!!” and @SraSpanglish commented, “WOW! Here on #langchat ask and you shall receive! Thank you all!”

Thank you, indeed, to everyone who contributed to last week’s conversation. We extend a special thanks to Thursday’s dedicated moderators: Laura (@SraSpanglish), John (@CadenaSensei), and Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell)!

Question 1: What is the first step in your planning process?

Langchatters reflected on how they get the lesson planning process started. While some begin by considering key Can-Do statements and end goals, others think up unit themes and ways to capture student interest.

  • Can-Do Statements and End Goals: @LisaShepard2 starts her planning process by “[choosing or modifying] Can-Do [statements] to fit [a] theme [or] topic.” Similarly, @VTracy7 considers “[I-Cans] and Proficiency Standards.” She added, “I wish I had them committed to memory.” @SraWillis keeps her Can-Do statements close at hand: “[I have] my ‘Can-Do’ expectations hanging above my desk for each [unit], and am constantly looking at them to stay on track.” While some participants did not specifically mention Can-Do statements, they too keep end goals in mind. @Marishawkins wrote, “[The] first step in overall planning is deciding on the end product: [What] do I want students to know or be able to do?”
  • Units and Themes: Others plan units and themes to get the planning process rolling. @MlleSulewski wrote, “[I start by] figuring out what themes I want to address and make into a unit.” @SECottrell agreed: “I can’t talk lesson planning without talking unit planning.” @SraSpanglish also uses units as a starting place, although that wasn’t always the case: “[My] lessons tend to start with units, but there was a time it was day by day…”
  • Student Interests: Still others begin by thinking about student interests. @MmeCarbonneau encouraged “[deciding] what students are interested in learning and what cultural aspect to lead with.” She added, “Find the HOOK and create essential [questions].” @SraSpanglish whole-heartedly agreed with this approach: “YESS! If you can’t picture your kiddos neck deep in the topic happy as pigs in mud, is it really worth it?”

Question 2: How do you go about gathering resources for a lesson?

Langchatters reminded fellow participants that resources are at their fingertips, often just a click away. They encouraged one another to make use of different online platforms, including Twitter (…and #langchat!), and to also look for real-world resources offline.

  • Get Online! Participants recognized just how much the Internet has facilitated the search for useful resources. In the words of @SrtaOlson, “Blogs, [Twitter], YouTube, you name it! Resources are everywhere!!!” Several Langchatters also mentioned Pinterest, and @SraCastle suggested looking at “other sites where you might find stuff pertaining to a theme, [for example checking out a] school website for schedules.” #Langchat was also mentioned as a useful source! @rlgrandis wrote, “Check #langchat !! Y’all have so many great blogs and … sites!” @MmeCarbonneau agreed, writing, “I ask my [#langchat] buddies.” With so many resources circulating online, it can be difficult to keep them organized and readily accessible. Some participants recommended tools to save and organize useful resources. @SraSpanglish said, “You can use GetPocket or Evernote to automatically store sources…We also have a #langchat Diigo.” @SenorG commented, “[This is an important] theme here about saving [and] curating resources. If you’re not using [Diigo] or the like, start. It’ll change your life.” He described Diigo as “bookmarking on steroids,” adding that it “[lives in the] cloud [and] allows [for] multiple tags, annotations, [and] highlights.”
  • Look for Real-World Resources! @tmsaue1 prompted instructors to ask themselves the following question when looking for resources: “[Where] would students find the [language] in the real world?” He encouraged fellow participants to “[look] there, [be it in] brochures, menus, tweets, schedules, [picture] captions, [etc.].” @SraGarces searches for and collects authentic resources during her travels: “I also hoard when traveling [because] I never know how I might be able to use [resources I gather]. Friends abroad now hoard for me.”

Question 3: What are some tricks that speed up your planning process?

As participants readily admitted, planning can take lots of time. Langchatters shared lots of helpful tips to speed up the process!

  • Borrow, borrow, borrow! @MlleSulewski observed that “shameless thievery from other teachers” facilitates the planning process. Others also referred to this act as thievery, to which @Shannon_LTS responded, “[It’s [strange that] when we use others’ ideas [and] resources we tend [to] call it stealing. We [absolutely] should do this, and with pride … Collaboration saves time, money, gives us more energy for [students, and] brings [in different] perspectives.”
  • Establish a Routine! @Marishawkins wrote, “[Having] a routine helps me speed up planning, [for example] always having a warm-up, [and] songs once a week, etc.” @rlgrandis also notes easier planning when a “[class] follows a routine even if the [students] can’t always tell,” adding, “[This way] I have an easy template to quickly fill out!” @SrLaBoone readily agreed: “Yes! A routine helps immensely! I use ‘[miércoles] musical’ most weeks.” @SenorG added, “Routines [with] opening activities can help ease planning and your predictability for [students].” For example, he wrote that Mondays could start with music, Tuesdays with memes, Wednesdays with art, etc.”
  • Review and Evaluate Previous Resources! Instructors recommended revisiting and reflecting on previous resources. @magisterb480 wrote, “Go through last year’s lesson plans. If [something] worked last year, keep it. But always add something different. Different is good.” @SrLaBoone shared an additional tip: “[To] help with planning, I edit my documents [and] activities RIGHT AFTER USING THEM….[That way they are] already tweaked for the next time!”
  • Use Online Tools to Make an Organized Plan! @oowwoo recommended Planboard as a great (and free!) application for lesson planning. @bjillmoore pointed out that this application can save time for lesson planning now and in the years to come: [I love Planboard. It lets] you move lessons from one semester to next [and put] all your links in one place.”
  • Stop Trying to Design Perfect Lessons! @Marishawkins highlighted the importance of “recognizing that there are only so many [hours] in a day and sometimes accepting a less than perfect reading, [authentic resource,] etc.” @SraDentlinger replied, “Well said. We are only human, albeit in search of perfection!”
  • Set Aside a Specific Time for Planning! Many participants advised dedicating a specific time to lesson planning. @MlleSulewski wrote, “I plan on Sunday afternoons, for the whole week. [This saves] my sanity [Monday through Friday].” @MmeFarab commented, “Same, but Saturday mornings for me!” @SraWienhold avoids letting lesson planning follow her home over the weekends: “[My] rule is the next week has to be planned by the time I leave Friday afternoon.” No matter when you prefer to plan, @SECottrell urged instructors to “plan to plan! [Pick] a time and make it yours.”

Question 4: How does your planning change when you won’t be there?

Participants recognized that it can be tricky to make plans for a substitute, who may or may not speak the target language. They shared technological tools that they turn to when preparing for their absence. Langchatters also noted that they try to put students in charge and give them tasks that they can reasonably complete on their own.

Participants mentioned a few different technological resources that they use when away from the classroom. @SraDentlinger wrote, “Blendspace is great for hosting [technological] activities [with substitutes. There’s one] spot for everything.” @CatherineKU72 turns to “Google [forms with] videos [and] links or [an] @EDpuzzle activity that can be done [without the instructor].” She added, “Student engagement is remarkably high [with a video and questions].” @SECottrell agreed that online tools aid substitute planning: “I was just going to say, online tools make this so much easier. I have conducted class many times via Google chat.”

@SraSpanglish also suggested putting students in charge of class: “I do like to appoint student leaders in [substitute] plans [and] alert the kiddos who’s leading.” Instructors added that it is important to enable students to take charge of their learning. @SraGSpanish2 said, “I have to make sure I know it’s something the students can do without help from the [substitute]. I leave a key too.” @MlleSulewski agreed, writing, “[I] usually [assign] tasks that students can complete easily, without asking too much of [the substitute]. I fear wrong input.” If there is an anticipated absence, @rlgrandis noted the benefit of scaffolding preparation: “If I know in advance [that I will be absent], I plan [an] extended assignment that I scaffold before I leave so [students] can work in groups while I’m gone.”


#Langchat participants had much to say about lesson planning! They shared their first steps in the planning process, described how they gather resources, and offered some tips to facilitate planning. Instructors also noted how they plan differently when they know that they will be absent. Participants acknowledged the wealth of resources now available online and the ease with which different tools can be shared and borrowed. That said, several Langchatters referred to this circulation with relative unease, describing it as an act of stealing. As @CadenaSensei observed, “[There seems to be lots] of teacher guilt pent up in lesson planning – [It’s] important to ask ourselves why that is. We [probably] deserve forgiveness.”

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who tuned in for #langchat last week! Remember, now you can #langchat both Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET AND Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. ET! Also, don’t miss out on fresh, new #langchat gear! Order your t-shirt or sweatshirt by September 21!

Due to space limitations, many tweets had to be omitted from this summary. To view the entire conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive. If you have a topic you’re eager to discuss, send in your ideas for future #langchats so that our weekly discussions can become as relevant and inclusive as possible!

Elementary in Spanish
Erica Fischer
Erica is the founder and CEO of Calico Spanish. Her passion for teaching her own children to speak Spanish led her to create Calico Spanish. Our mission is to give all children the opportunity to learn to speak real Spanish for life.

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