This is an activity that does a great deal in a short period of time! It’s easy, can be done several ways, and is helpful for teachers and students. Win Win!!
Start by creating several squares or rectangles on a whiteboard or computer-projected document. I usually start with four and build from there. As you can see below, I label each square with a question word. (Usually in the target language, but in English below for my readers.
I have students create one as well. ( Use small white boards, index cards, or print a sheet/half-sheet out for them in advance.)
In the Who? Block, I ask students to list the names of two people/characters (actual or fictional, present-day or historical, human or not) that they admire that are positive role-models. I often use Harriet Tubman as an example. They are given 2-3 minutes to think of names. Then I have them share with a partner and “harvest” on to their own list any of the names they agree with. The pairs then match up with another pair and repeat the process on my signal.
At that point, each group can share out their ideas and we create one large list together from their suggestions.
We then repeat the process for the other squares.
Where: List school-appropriate places where your students like to be/go or would like to be/go. With novice groups, proper names (Starbucks, Disneyland etc) are used. With groups with more language, we add the target language tag (el café Starbucks) to the proper name. The proper name is important for interest! If your students know the target language name for a culturally-related place (countries, cities, landmarks), fantastic! The key here is places that are high-interest for your students!
It is amazing what you discover about your students during this exercise!! Be careful accepting names and places that you don’t recognize. Set them aside on a “To Google Later” list!!! Sly students like to try to slip those past us!
1. List items that can be recognized by the proper name. This one usually requires teacher support to get started:
Food/Drink: Coke, Mountain Dew, Orangina, Milky Way, Doritos, etc. Cognate-friendly languages can also use those ie: pizza, chocolate or more universal terms: crepes, tacos.
2 Actions that students know in the target language:
TPR’d terms are the easiest to start with: walk, run, sit, stand, looks at/for, points to, dances, eats, drinks, sings, takes, takes pictures of, etc.
How: Because many teachers use TPR, these are interesting and accessible terms for many classes: Slowly/Quickly, Romantically, Without interest, Intensely, Carefully, Like a baby etc.
When compiled, we have a gorgeous, student-created, highly personalized list of things to use in discussions, stories, etc. We can create one list to use with all classes, or create one for each level/class.
It can be printed in large font, or hand-written on poster paper (students love this job!) It can be printed out for notebooks or projected on a screen. It can be done with words or in picture form for pre-literate students of any age.
This way it is visible whenever needed and it makes asking questions, personalizing discussions and co-creating stories so much easier!!
Ok…you have information in front of you: lesson ideas, activities, suggestions, Facebook pages, blogs, and more….
How do you start? How do you know where your students are going? Which unit do you teach? What topic ? Which video? Which song? It can be so overwhelming…….
First: THERE IS NO “RIGHT” WAY TO DO THIS. If you teach Spanish or French, and feel that you need a lot of structure and support starting the year with Comprehensible Input, really consider purchasing a curriculum. Teach For June, Comprehensible Classroom and Adriana Ramirez all sell prepared curriculum, especially for novice and intermediate students.
Second: If you teach a different language, or can’t find what suits you, or want and enjoy the flexibility, you will be creating your own curriculum. If you have never done this before….it’s okay! Look for a future post for ideas about structuring a curriculum and in the meantime, follow the blogs and pages that speak most clearly to you. With that information and your own knowledge, experience and intuition, you will be fine!
Third: Don’t feel that you have to dive right into anything. Remember, you can put your classroom into place, your expectations in place and begin building positive relationships without a “structure”, “vocabulary” , or “theme”-based year-long plan. These will begin the year by establishing that your STUDENTS are the focus of your teaching!
Let’s look at what vocabulary and structures are involved in those daily interactions:
(I’ll list the possibilities in English, but of course you will know what they represent in your target language)
If you greet students each day, talk to some about how they are feeling, use the target language for general classroom exchanges, talk about school/local events, birthdays, and the weather, you will AUTOMATICALLY work with the following:
Hello, Good morning, Good day, Good afternoon, Good evening, Good night etc,
Good-bye, See you later, See you tomorrow, Until next time, etc.
How are you? How is s/he? I”m/S/he is well, poor, ok, tired, nervous, hungry, ready, worried, sick, sad, happy, etc.
What is your name? I’m, my name is, What is his/her name? S/he is, his/her name is
Who is? Here, present, absent, etc.
Where is? Here, there, in the office, bathroom etc.
May I go to …..etc.
May I use…..a pencil, paper, book, etc.
Sign the paper…
Take the pass…
Look (at), Look for, Listen/hear, Write, Say, Wait, Give, Pass, Stop, Stand, Sit, Think etc.
What do you need/want/have/lack?
One time, many times, always, often, never, sometimes etc.
Today, tomorrow, yesterday, tonight, last night, this/last/next week, month, year, day
Days of the week, months of the year, numbers 0-31, and the year.
What is the day/date? What month is it/will it be? When is your birthday, the dance,vacation etc?
What is the weather like? It’s hot, sunny, breezy, windy, cold, rainy, snowy etc.
What season is it? Spring, summer, winter, fall.
What do you like? What is your favorite? When do you_____?
There is really NO NEED to plan special “units” on these topics because you integrate them bit by bit until they are part of the natural rhythm of your life with the students. What you will really be doing is teaching, practicing and utilizing a ROUTINE for:
Taking and reporting attendance.
Discussing the calendar, weather and current events.
Being prepared in class.
Getting permission to leave class.
Leaving and returning to the room.
If you teach a signal, or a call and response pattern you will also establish a ROUTINE for refocusing the class…not to mention whatever vocabulary you choose to use.
That is A LOT of high-frequency language!!
So don’t be afraid to take your time to set those things up.
Are you worried that it will be boring? Don’t worry! You will be personalizing and interacting with every new routine. Because you will be connecting what you are doing with the students, it will be interesting to them.
Let’s start with greeting the students. If you greet some/all of the students as they enter you can begin to bring your sense of humor and your personality in from the beginning of the class.
Put 2-5 questions on cards. Shuffle the cards and show the card as you greet students (Hi, Hello, How are you?, What’s up? etc.)
Don’t settle for just “Good” or “Okay”. Ask a follow-up question: a little good or really good? (use your voice to add interest) Allow/Encourage the use of gestures.
Add a fun handshake, fist bump etc.
Have students make a question or greeting card and decorate it. Use those cards to shuffle through and show as they enter.
Ask the first student to stand next to you and keep a tally: How many are good? How many are tired? Etc.
When taking attendance:
If your class is 20 or under: Ask Where is ________? The class points to the student and says __________is there! (with enthusiasm!! Like a game show host!) This loses its joy if you have 30+ students though!
Teach students to ‘invent” a location and action for students who are not there. Be careful with this….make sure that you teach them to say desirable things…not things that would embarrass or humiliate the person who is missing! If your students might go too far, make a poster of appropriate ideas for them to choose from! ( Is playing basketball with Steph Curry, is on a cruise with a world-famous soccer team, is playing guitar in a concert with a popular band, etc)
Assign students a “neighbor” buddy. Remind them to get work for that person as you take attendance if their buddy is absent.
Give maracas or a tambourine to several students. Set up a chant for attendance. Where are you John? I’m here! Cha cha cha!
Ask students to tell you something they like (to eat, watch, listen to) when you call their name: Alexa Snickers! Maria Reese’s!
If you teach Spanish, and have Sr. Wooly, definitely use that video to intro leaving the room to go somewhere!
Here are some other video clips you can use ( 30 seconds of English for an intro guaranteed to get there attention is worth it!!
And this one has no spoken English…just one quick slide….very fun!!
It’s not too hard to put together a daily or weekly routine around that calendar. After greeting students and taking attendance, direct students’ attention to a calendar. It can be a pre-purchased calendar, a teacher-(or student!!) made wall calendar or something projected or in a PowerPoint.
Many students remember this routine from their early elementary days, and enjoy the nostalgia of reliving that experience!
If you need students to be held accountable for this, you can create a weekly or monthly form for them to fill in and then hand in for a grade. Keep it simple to complete and simple to grade or it will drive everyone crazy!!!! We want them to enjoy the activity!!
You can talk about: the day, the date, the weather, holidays/birthdays, after-school activities, the school menu, National _______Day, ….so many things!!!
When you tie the discussion to students’ interests, preferences and daily activities, it really is interesting!
Following this is the time that many teachers have used to build in a certain activity for each day of the week. (Weekend review, Meme Monday, Baila Viernes, Weekend Plans etc….)
Fourth: Relax and enjoy!!!!!! If the teacher is uptight about “covering” the material and having the “perfect” curriculum, it will spill over into each and every class. You are where you need to be right now. You are where you are. Do not worry about not being more talented, more skilled, more prepared, more creative. Enjoy being yourself, interacting with students so that they understand and can respond, and relax!!!
Now what? Sometimes it is so hard to get started!! That is why I think that is important to start a new chapter by creating a list or a series of short focus statements for yourself. Try creating statements using key ideas and goals for CI/TPRS instruction: Comprehension, Interest, Interaction, Success, Acquisition.
Because if we have a clear idea of what is important, it is much easier to create a classroom based on what is important. I know it seems overly simple, but with all that we are required to do, it is easy to get away from what really matters.
It doesn’t need to be complicated. Maybe something like this:
In this room, Success Looks Like: Comprehension
Need more words? Think about adopting or adapting some of these:
When we comprehend…
When we are interested…
When we follow or interact successfully…
All of my students can acquire language.
Comprehended Input is the basis for acquisition in this classroom.
Compelling, connected, interactive input keeps students motivated for comprehension.
Success motivates my students.
I strive to provide an environment that facilitates language acquisition.
I strive to provide an environment that facilitates successful interaction.
I strive to create/find compelling input that connects to my students’ lives and interests.
I strive to interact with students using this input in a way that honors and motivates.
We all acquire languages naturally.
We all must comprehend the language in order to acquire it.
We acquire more language when we are engaged (using the language) in an interesting topic.
When we feel that we are a successful, important part of the language community in our classroom, we grow.
Students will be able to comprehend the target language used in class.
Students will be able to explore interesting topics, ideas, and lives in the target language.
Students will frequently interact with me and other members of the class.
Students will have opportunities be successful each day in these aspects of the class.
Once you have created your “message”, post it. Post it on your wall, on your website, on a sticky note on your computer, in a message to parents, wherever it will be helpful to share your vision.
What’s the one thing I really need to communicate to my students? The thing that everything else stands on and revolves around. The thing I can always go back to whether I am planning, evaluating, reacting or even treading water.
My students are important to me.
More important than the curriculum, the grading system, the behavior point system, the school’s reputation, the department’s success record, than anything else I can think of in the educational venue.
Because of that, my classes are important to me.
Each student is part of a class. Each class has its own chemistry and behaviors that not only affect the students in it, but also is created by the students in it.
So I put a great deal of importance on how we interact in each class.
I want to set up each class so that it is clear what we are doing, and why.
What are we doing?
We are interacting, using the Spanish language whenever possible, so that we can know and understand the world better, starting with each other.
Language acquisition happens when the language is comprehensible, the message has value, and the people involved know that they matter.
Oh wait. That isn’t in the right order.
I want my students to know that they matter, that the world they live in matters, and that we can use more than one language to explore and appreciate those things.
And I only have a few precious minutes every day to do that.
Since I was a little girl, I’ve dreamt of working in the perfect room. I’ve seen them on Pinterest. They must exist somewhere. But the truth is, they don’t exist in my world.
Perhaps your world is different. Perhaps you have unlimited time and unlimited funding. Perhaps you have no other distractions. Perhaps.
Or….your world is much like mine. The ideas all exist….in my head. The potential exists….in another reality. The desire exists…..every year.
But the reality does not.
That’s my classroom right now. It might be my classroom for the next few days actually. (and classes start on Thursday!!)
Clearly there is a lot to do. In the past I would have been committed to all-nighters (or nearly) full of drawing, cutting, decorating and hanging. I would have done nearly anything to make sure that my students walked into a “classroom paradise.”
But almost a decade ago I gave that up.
I didn’t really have a choice at the time. You know, building construction, Xerox breakdown, no paycheck for July and August, two sons to get ready for school, moving to a new house, etc. etc. etc.
A few students asked me, “Where’s all your stuff?”. But not many. In fact, a few students actually told me that they liked the new “quiet” look. That was eye-opening.
And we started the year. And as things were needed, we made them and we put them up. The kids made most of the posters and decorations and they really preferred it that way. I still have dreams of the prepared and laminated loveliness of my early days. I’d love to have a gorgeous little Pinterest page-worthy environment.
But this way I get a few extra perks:
I don’t have to live up to my First Day decorating prowess.
I have more money in my bank account.
I have students who love to hang out in the room and create materials and decorations.
The students, their needs, and their work has become the focus of the classroom.
and I can still spend hours day-dreaming on Pinterest if I want to. 🙂
Hello my friends. It’s a long time since I have posted on here….but I am back. I’ve accepted a new position and you can read more about how that is going, I promise.
This post is to let you know that I have started to post materials for teachers on the Teachers Pay Teachers site. I’m trying to offer a balance of free materials and materials for purchase.
The first set of items is a series of Story Outlines. What is a Story Outline? Simply, it is a skeleton of a story!! One of the things that teachers often share is that they struggle to get started creating a story. I am hoping that these will be of help.
They are actually the format I have used to help students become better (or beginning) writers. It has been very successful and I hope that you may find it helpful for you as you plan for your students.
Here is an example of a Story Outline of a very familiar story!:
I have posted a free document that includes Ideas for Story Outlines on Teachers Pay Teachers, but I am going to upload it for you here as well. Feel free to look it over and ask me any questions that you might have!
Originally posted as a response in a post on Ben Slavic’s blog and posted here by request:
About 10 years ago I stopped freaking out about arranging my room for the perfect look the first day of school. I did it for the following reasons:
1. I was too burnt out to do it.
2. I was tired of putting in work to “look good” to others.
3. I was tired of the competition that takes place every September over who has the nicest bulletin boards, doors, etc. People walk around pretending to compliment each other when they are really trying to outdo each other. Over a door. Nope. Not happening.
4. I didn’t want my students to think that little elves showed up overnight to do the work that teachers do every day. I wanted them to understand that these things take time and effort and do not just magically appear when they aren’t looking.
5. It was time to let the room creation be part of the community-building aspect of the room.
6. I wanted the room to evolve with the interests and needs of the students in it. I can’t do that before they show up.
I still resist the urge every year to go hog-wild-teacher-crazy on the room decorating. (yes…..I dreamed of teaching kindergarten and this hasn’t gone away…) I fight little voices of guilt when I haven’t hung matching curtains and placed color-coordinated authentic decorations just so.
But……I have found HOURS of peace in which I can do other, more fruitful , things with my time. There was a time when I thought that it couldn’t be done, nor should it be done….but now I enjoy putting out one or two carefully chosen items in order to start the year. And now I never get angry because someone misplaced / broke a treasured item or wrote I <3 Ramon on the corner of my bulletin board.
As the weeks unfold, the students decorate the bulletin boards, the door etc. They coordinate all of the colored paper and markers and scissors in a system in the room from the box in the back where I packed them up in June. (and they get mad at the kids who don't put things back right)
They point out when something needs to come down and something else needs to go up. They volunteer to create a birthday calendar and follow it closely so that no one gets missed.
I've come to love it this way….and I think they do too.
It's not that the color-coded, coordinated, poster-plastered walls and award-winning bulletin boards were a bad thing…..but I've found so much more to enjoy….and so much less pressure…in this approach.
I’m sharing here so that you can see where my education journey has been. Please stay tuned to Larry for more interesting posts and questions!
I have used TPRS in a variety of classroom situations. Some might see me as a high school Spanish teacher. I have been seen that way for over 32 years. However, I see myself as a person who helps students to learn about and navigate life using the Spanish language. (or if I am teaching English to local farmworkers..English) TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling) has been my primary approach to teaching for over 15 years.
I know that working through of lens of teaching via TPRS® has allowed me to improve my interactions with students on a daily basis, thereby increasing their abilities to comprehend and communicate in the language.
How? There is a more detailed explanation below, however, here is basically what is happening:
A. The teacher interacts (as a role model and guide) with students on a topic that students are connected to.
B. The teacher’s job is to structure the interaction so that students will acquire new language, successfully contribute to the interaction, feel valued, and ultimately have a high level of comprehension of the material.
C. The teacher believes that LANGUAGES ARE ACQUIRED through comprehensible input rather than “learned” through lessons. Because the human brain has a natural ability to understand and to develop language, teachers should make classroom conditions as ideal as possible for acquisition to occur.
On the surface, there are three “basic” elements to TPRS :
1. Introduce any new language in context.
2. Interact verbally with students using the new language in context so that all language communication is completely comprehensible.
3. Incorporate the new language into a literacy-based activity.
Below the surface are multiple layers of understanding, interpreting and integrating:
1. The unconscious and conscious functions of the brain in the area of language acquisition.
2. How a student’s emotional state affects interaction, attitude and memory.
3. How a student’s levels of social, emotional, physical and cognitive development affect nearly everything.
4. The value of relationships in any setting, particularly educational.
5. The relationship between emotion and language.
And much more…
Keeping these layers of knowledge in mind, TPRS teachers plan lessons using one or more of the steps and deliberately incorporate any number of specific teaching skills that most stellar teachers incorporate. It is not a big mystery; it’s simply good teaching.
Skills such as:
1. Eye contact
2. Appropriate pacing
3. Checking for comprehension
4. Constant interaction with students as a means of formative assessment
5. High-quality questioning strategies
6. Repeating, reusing and recycling information and skills
7. Asking for and encouraging responses that use higher-order thinking
8. Creating situations where students interact with each other
9. Connecting curriculum with the interests and needs of the students
10. Personalizing and differentiating instruction
I believe that TPRS is less about “learning a language” and more about Life’s natural growth processes in the classroom, for the teacher and the students. I have been involved with the training, coaching and mentoring of teachers for over 20 years. The knowledge and skills that I work to develop as a TPRS® teacher help me to work with teachers of all disciplines.
True TPRS instruction is about knowing what is going on below the surface, not just planning what activities are occurring on the surface.
Good TPRS training is ongoing. No one incorporates TPRS well after a two hour presentation, just as no one becomes a good teacher after one Intro to Education course. Each teacher using TPRS® will come to the concept, acquire the knowledge, and work on the skills in his or her own way and time.
TPRS teaching is about being part of the educational community. TPRS was originally developed by classroom teachers and shared by classroom teachers. It continues to evolve through the contributions of classroom teachers. TPRS® belong to coaching groups, listservs, Facebook groups, Twitter, wikispaces and more. They write numerous blogs, host websites and continually invite teachers into their classrooms to observe and to give feedback.
Every teacher using TPRS has his/her own challenges. In an ELL/ESL classroom there is often not one native language to rely on for comprehension checks so additional teacher skills are required. Languages that do not use the same alphabet as English have different approaches to incorporating literacy in order to address that challenge. Some languages rely heavily on cognates in early instruction, while others, such as Chinese, cannot. The more that we communicate with each other, the more we help each other address our challenges.
Despite the variety of challenges, certain things remain constant:
1. Clearly comprehensible language in context
2. Scaffolded student interaction
3. Oral/aural confidence tied to literacy-based activities
4. Positive classroom relationships
5. Continued growth and development for teacher and students
Thank you for asking for input. We believe strongly in what we do. We see it change the lives of teachers and students every single day.
Chabe wrote and asked how to find ideas to teach a particular structure and here is my response:
Here are some things that you might be able to try….
The first thing that came to mind when I read “se siente sola” (feels alone) was the English phrase…feels alone in a crowd. Because teaching a language is really teaching kids to put meaning to sound, we want them to be able to visualize or feel what the meaning is. So I Google-imaged (new verb! ) “alone in a crowd” and found these:
My guess is that you have several artistic kids who could, themselves, create incredible images for this.
Some questions that you could start with:
Where are people when they are not alone, but feel alone?
(a party, an airport, a train station, school, at home, the mall, the doctor’s office)
This is a good question to start with because they don’t have to talk about situations that they have been in personally…it is about places where, although there are lots of people, we might not know anyone, or we might not be understood. Which leads to the next question….
Do people feel alone in a ___________________ because they do not know anyone?
Next, offer them a series of reasons why people might feel alone…..
• They have a problem that no one knows about.
• They are missing someone special.
• They want to be somewhere else.
• They do not like what other people like.
• They do not usually go anywhere alone.
• No one is talking to them.
• They look different than other people.
• Everyone else has someone to talk to.
• They are treated badly.
• They learn something new and very surprising about themselves.
Next, give them a list of movies that they may have seen: (I Googled “movies in 2010”, thought about movies we have talked about, and used my own, very limited!!!!, knowledge to pick this list)
The Lovely Bones
Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief
Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Charlie St. Cloud
A great movie for this that many of them have seen (and if they haven’t it is easy to describe and imagine) is I Am Legend with Will Smith (2007) where he is the last human survivor in NYC.
I simply ask them to match the movie with the situation…or situations.
Take Harry Potter for example:
Harry has a problem that his human family doesn’t know about, he looks different because of his lightning-shaped scar, he is forced to live under a staircase at his uncle’s home, he is an orphan, he just found out that he is a wizard, he has to go to a new school…it goes on and on!
Another good connection would be books that students may be reading or may have read as part of the English curriculum….or historical figures This is a great way to connect curriculum.
Our students read Alas, Babylon, To Kill A Mockingbird, Romeo and Juliet, Of Mice and Men and several others that have characters that lend themselves to this discussion.
How about Rosa Parks? Martin Luther King? Abraham Lincoln? Anne Frank? Helen Keller? Albert Einstein? That list could go on and on…..
Even “famous” people who have “fallen”: Tiger Woods, Mike Tyson, Ben Rothlisberger….folks who may have felt quite alone when they had moments in which the world no longer saw them as idols.
These activities or discussions do not have to take a long time. They could simply be the topic for a quick discussion….or a longer activity….whatever works best with your students and your program.
Once students are comfortable with the topic, it is easier to switch into a more personal mode with them. Brainstorm with the kids things that people do when they feel alone.
This is a list that they truly already have the vocabulary for:
Cry, sleep, read, listen to music, get on the computer, call someone, draw, write, run, make plans.
Some of them lead into good discussion:
Do you listen to sad music or happy music? Which singer/band is good when you feel alone? Why do some people read and other people run? Why do some people like to be alone? Who do some people hate it?
Create characters for students to identify with:
George would pay $200 to be alone for an entire day.
Let them create a life that would make George want to be alone. They will draw from their own experiences, I guarantee it!
Angus has to stay at his grandmother’s house and dog-sit on Halloween night. She lives in the woods, the weather is horrible, and the electricity often goes out. Who does he ask to hang out with him and how does he convince them to go?
Googling “se siente solo” and “me siento solo” I found these songs:
Me siento solo http://www.metrolyrics.com/me-siento-solo-lyrics-frankie-j.html
Hoy Me Siento Sola http://mis5sentidos.blogspot.com/2008/08/hoy-me-siento-sola-cancin-de-mariana-de.html
This one came with this: Una canción que describe como nos sentimos aveces cuando estamos tristes, realmente una linda canción que lo escuchabamos en la escena que Mariana se sentía trizte de la telenovela “Mariana”.
And a video…
And these comments as well:
me siento sola es verdad lo k aveces sucede en los adolecentes
ps la knción me identifik cuando sty deprimida..
esta muy linda…..
es lo sentimos muchos nos los adolescentes
esta canciòn esta super chida te puedes identificar con ella por que hay veces que nuestra vida se vuelve un tormento.
if you would like to mention how teens write on line in Spanish :o)
When I get into these conversations with kids I want them to understand the following:
• These feelings are universal. Every human, be they adult or child, male or female, rich or poor, from any kind of family will experience these emotions.
• There are positive outcomes from negative feelings. (learning to relate to others, having time to think/feel/process, trying new things, meeting new people, finding new strengths in ourselves..)
• We can take an active role in improving our situation.