• Home
  • Author: lclarcq

CI Savvy: Wisdom from the K-5 Classroom

If you are available Tuesday MARCH 17 (NEW DATE!!) at 6 p.m. Eastern Time, please join me for a free one-hour webinar! Thanks to VOCES /Digital / Teacher’s for sponsoring this series!!

Check in/sign up here: CI Savvy with Laurie Clarcq

Check back for information afterwards! There will be a link where you can re-watch the webinar or see it if you missed it!

Speaking of things you may have missed……Here is the link to a webinar I did for VOCES/ Teacher’s Discovery in the fall. I hope to be writing some Watch and Wonder posts about sections of it this month!!

PS If you are watching me on Comprehensible Online right now, don’t forget to leave me a message….I’d love to hear from you!!

Success Squares

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.

Technology: Ipad, Mac, Iphone, remote, Facebook, Insta, Minecraft, Playstation, Fortnite  etc.

Shoes:  Nikes, Toms, etc.

Transportation:  Segway, Porsche, Tesla, Schwinn, Greyhound, local metro or lightrail (BART etc.)

Highly-recognizable Animals:  Chihuahua, Condor, Gorilla, etc

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!!

Look below for some examples. These are from this year’s Comprehensible Online presentation. Any questions?  Just ask!!

With love,


Short Days

It’s December 8th, and in less than two weeks, we will be waking up to the day with the shortest number of daylight hours.    What I often forget is how that coincides with a time of the year when we often have the longest to-do lists.  

Blogging about the teaching I see and the teaching I get to do really helps me…..and I’ve set it aside over and over again in the last eighteen months…thinking I would get to it.   And I haven’t.

But I need it.  And I miss it.

So although the days are short, and the lists are long, I’m going to try to post…..even if it’s short.  

So, here is what I’ve been up to: The Short Version.

In mid-October I began a substitute position at an independent school in Austin, Texas.   I’m teaching K-5 Spanish with amazing colleagues who use Comprehensible Input-based teaching.   I’ve been given the honor of covering for a maternity leave, and I do mean honor.

I love it….I truly do.  The beauty and sometimes brutal honesty of kids this age reminds me every single day what a priviledge, and a responsiblitiy, our job is.  

I’ll be here until mid-February….and I’ll keep you posted.  But right now I’d better get some sleep. I need all of the energy I can get!!

With love,


No More FOMO

FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is often used to get folks to buy, buy into, or sign up for things that are beyond their ability to pay for.  When I say pay for, I mean fiscally, physically and emotionally. It’s a more gentle form of a scare tactic. Or a guilt trip…..and I am so sorry that it has taken over our society…..particularly our teaching community.

That might sound a little weird coming from someone who promotes conferences and works as a consultant.  But I want teachers to know that they ARE NOT expected to do everything and be everywhere. When we do that we inevitably end up robbing Peter to pay Paul.  We end up broke, and broken and it isn’t worth the price.

So be careful with FOMO.  It’s true, this PARTICULAR conference will not come again (whichever one you are hoping to attend but don’t have the time/money/energy for.)    But another one will. And a lot of the same people will be presenting and attending. It’s going to be a little sad, but totally okay if you don’t go.  

Between 1990 and 2010, while my boys were growing up and living at home full-time, I just couldn’t go to much.  It was impossible. Or, it was possible, but so much work to get everything arranged that I just couldn’t imagine it.   Not to mention the money it would cost and the days I would have to miss from work (yes…many of us have second and third jobs.)   When I could go, it was utterly amazing….and I so wanted to go to everything. It would have been wonderful. But it simply wasn’t possible.   

I was already overworked and way behind on sleep.  Overloaded on guilt and suffering from impossibly high expectations.  I’m grateful that FOMO wasn’t so much of a “thing” then as it is now. I would have ridden the FOMO train and probably found a way to be the conductor.    And did I really need that? More to feel bad about?   

Nope, nope and nope.  And neither do you.

Forget FOMO.  Instead, try embracing.  Embrace the time that you have with your children, or your parents, or your neighbor or whomever else needs you right now.   Those moments go just as far to make us better teachers than a jazzy slide presentation. Embrace the moments that you have chosen to watch a game, or do laundry or even catch up on grading.  Your sanity will thank you for it. Embrace the money that you didn’t spend and use it to pay off a bill, save for a real vacation or treat someone you love. You can’t buy wisdom and insight and patience.  Embrace the fact that you have the emotional power to make the choices that you want to, rather than the ones you feel pressured into by Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more.  

Don’t get me wrong….I want you to come to conferences, workshops and trainings.    They are the gathering places for our community to meet in person, to share, to meet, to feel at home, to be professionally refreshed.  But with so many choices, remember that advertising is designed to make you feel that every opportunjty is the big one, the most important one, the don’t miss one.    Don’t go because you don’t want to miss anything. Go because you are in a position to be filled with all it has to offer. If you feel pressured, or guilty, step back.  If you are not sure how you feel, step back. If you are really stretching to fit it in, step back.

If it is outside of your personal budget (time, money or energy), stay home.  Settle in and put your feet up. Drink cocoa. Catch up on something (even sleep!)  In the long run, you will be a better human being….which will make you a better teacher.   

Our field is a great place to be right now. Many, many more opportunites are just around the corner.   I promise.  

So if I see you at a conference or a workshop I want you to be able to go all in and enjoy it…..or go home and get some rest.   It’s a wonderful gift to give yourself. No fear, no pressure, no guilt. All ready, all in, all joy. We’ll be there when you’re ready.

With love,


Pat Pinterest Doesn’t Exist

Pat PInterest Does Not Exist

Pat posts a plethora of pictures of the classroom. Pat poses pictures of conferences.  Pat poses in pictures with presenters. Pat posts and posts and posts pictures.  

Pat posts ideas.  Pat posts other people’s ideas that look amazing when Pat talks about them.  Pat posts about students. Pat posts that students are perfect! They love Pat, they love Pat’s room, they love Pat’s curriculum and they all score well on Pat’s assessments.   Pat’s students perform perfectly and create perfect projects. Pat is really hard to live up to. Even parents love Pat.

Of course, so does Pat’s prinicipal.  Pat’s principal does put Pat down. Pat’s principal pays for conferences so that Pat can pose for pictures there and post them on Pat’s page.   

Pat’s entire existence make us feel incompetent.  But the truth is that….

Pat PInterest does not exist.  On Pinterest, or Twitter, or Instagram or Facebook or on TPT or even on Pat Pinterest’s Perfect Blog.   Pat Pinterest is a figment of our imagination. Pat Pinterest has been created by the society in which we live and fed by our own insecurities.  But Pat isn’t real. There is no Pat.  

So let Pat go.  If you see someone who appears to be Pat, remind yourself that Pat, nor anyone like Pat actually exists.   Every teacher has struggles. Every teacher has students who challenge them. Every teacher has a colleague who treats them poorly.  Every teacher has a curriculum that won’t work for every student. Every teacher has some parent enemies. Every teacher has at least one administrator who doesn’t “get it” from time to time.  Every teacher has students who refuse. Every teacher has days when the lesson plan doesn’t work, weeks where the lesson plans feel like they came from the Wing It File.  

If someone really appears Pat-like, know that somewhere there is a trade-off.  Pat Pinterest, the perfect teacher, CAN NOT EXIST. And no one can expect to be like Pat for just that reason.  

So don’t let Pat Pinterest take up residence in your head.  Don’t let yourself see Pat in posts on social media. Pat’s Plethor of Perfect Pictures?  They are all posed. Yes, Pat poses her pictures then posts them so that we suppose that Pat’s world actually exists.    But there is no Pat Pinterest….no matter how many people are following Pat. Pat is a poser.  

We don’t need to be Pat.  

We don’t need to be like Pat.

We don’t even need to want to be like Pat in order to be good enough.

If you care, and you are trying, you are already good enough.   

Forget about being like Pat.

Be yourself.

Revel in your occasionally messy room because students feel comfortable there.  

Celebrate the lesson that went off-script because you and the students got excited about something else.

Honor the people who help you through the hard days of teaching and don’t worry if you have never met a “guru.”  (who also don’t exist by the way.)

Embrace the fact that not all of your students achieve all of the time.   They help to remember that it isn’t about us.

Recognize the days that you feel too tired, too dizzy, too hungry, too nauseous, too achey to do the job well.  We have students in class every day who feel the same.

Be thankful for the times you lose your temper or tear up.   They allow you to thank your students for their patience and remind them that we are all, truly, just human beings trying to survive.

Let Pat go.  Pat doesn’t exist.  You do. And that is what really matters to your students.

With love,


Saturday Workshops: Comprehensible CA September 14

Saturday starts with registration, refreshments donated by VOCES of Teacher’s Discovery, a little entertainment and then a keynote by Jim Wooldridge!!

Participants will have the opportunity to choose from four different workshops during each of the four sessions throughout the day. Exhibitors will be available during the lunch break. Below is a list of options for Saturday!

Here is the conference website: www.comprehensiblecalifornia.com

Click here to head straight to the registration page! Be sure to sign up before September 1st when the price goes up! Remember, discounted prices for Friday if you also attend on Saturday!!

When Kids Are The Curriculum: Circling with Cards with Clarice Swaney

Circling with cards is a wonderful way to get to know students, build community and provide compelling and comprehensible input! 

Make the Most of Your First Year/Student-Teaching Experience with  Bryce Hedstrom

     There are so many things to think about and prepare for.  Let’s focus in on the most powerful way to get started!

Theory and Research for the Win!  (Krashen and BVP) with Scott Benedict

     A concise yet in-depth look at the power of CI according to Drs. Stephen Krashen and Bill Van Patten.

(Almost) One Hour Readers’ Theater with Karen Rowan

     A fifty-five minute look at bringing sections of a novel to life with your students.

Structuring CI for Success in The Classroom with John Piazza

     Ways to set up your plans so that CI is a crucial yet compelling force in your teaching.

The Special Person Treatment with Bryce Hedstrom

     How to set up, utilize and follow through with the Special Person interview that Bryce has made famous!

Creating Community in the Heritage Speakers’ Classroom with Marcela Kerns

     Join Marcela as she passionately shares ways to cultivate community in the classroom and on campus with heritage speakers.

Setting Up A Crime Scene Mystery with Scott Benedict

     Do your students like to solve mysteries?  This session will help you set up a crime to be solved right in your own classroom!

Getting CI Started (Even if the Year Already Has!) with Laurie Clarcq

     Wondering if you can make changes even if the year has already started?  Stop in and hear how to add a more Comprehensible Input-focused touch to a program that is already started!

Life Hacks: CI Teacher Edition with Kelly Ferguson

     Ideas to make a teacher’s life easier?  Yes please!!! Ideas specially created for CI teachers?   Just what you are looking for!

Powerful Reading with Novice Learners with Clarice Swaney

      Their reading level may be “low” but the ideas Clarice brings will prepare these students to be  active and interested! 

How to Pull Off Free Voluntary Reading with Bryce Hedstrom

     You’ve heard of it, but now you can find out exactly how to make it happen!  Join Bryce as he outlines his ideas on how to create a successful FVR program in your classroom.

Creating Comprehensible Cultural Input with Kelly Ferguson

     Compelling Comprehensible Cultural Input is just a few steps away!  Join Kelly as she outlines how to keep the target culture central to your program.

Creating (A) Room For Success with Scott Benedict

     Explore an actual Comprehensible Input-based classroom as Scott shares what he uses, when, where and why!

Easy Interaction & Input (For Teachers Just Starting with CI) with Laurie Clarcq

      Let Laurie introduce the simple steps to success that she and Haiyun Lu have developed and shared with teachers who are new to the process.. Come and see that CI is easy and all the world is a story!

The Power of The Password with Bryce Hedstrom

      What is this mysterious “password” and how does it win buy in and create community?  Come find out as Bryce explains the power of the password!

WARNING: Graphic Content! with Jim Wooldridge

     Sr. Wooly’s passionate new foray into reading: Using Graphic Novels in the World Language Classroom!   

CI in the Upper Level Classroom with Clarice Swaney

    Teachers often wonder….what does Comprehensible Input look like in levels 2, 3, 4 and above?   Clarice uses her experience and insight to share the possiblilties with you!

Interaction &  Input Ideas (For Teachers Already Using CI!) with Laurie Clarcq

     Already using Comprehensible Input-based instruction but looking for new ways to create the interaction you are hoping for?  Join Laurie in this session as she shares a new way to look at the Input/Interaction connection.

 Circling to the Beat with Jim Wooldridge

     Lots of innovative ways to increase repetition AND keep it interesting!  Come see Sr. Wooly circle all of the opportunities!

Personalizing/Stories On Your Feet with Karen Rowan

     Karen brings her own special expertise to this session.  Join her and practice ‘working on your feet” with interesting and easy techniques.

Top Tips for CI Success with Marcela Kerns

     There is a lot of advice out there and Marcela will share what have become her Top Tips for creating and maintaining a Comprehensible Input-based program.

From Reading to Writing: Turning Input to Output with Laurie Clarcq

     Let’s look at ways that carefully chosen or created reading selections get a new life as powerful writing samples created by your students! 

Comprehensible CA Friday September 13

Comprehensible CA is only three weeks away!   This conference, like CI Iowa, CIMidwest and CIMitten is a shorter conference than the intensive summer opportunities which are so positve and powerful.  These conferences happen during the school year! They are a great way to recharge enthusiasm, ask pertinent questions, solve problems that may have popped up and refocus on new goals.   

Comprehensible CA has a unique line up this year!  We begin with a Friday Pre-conference line up of offerings!  We are very pleased to be offering the first regional administrative training in the country on Friday, September 13 at W.T. Eich Middle School in Roseville, CA.  This training, which goes from 9:00-2:30 to accomdate administrators’ schedules, will be led by Bryce Hedstrom, Laurie Clarcq and Marc Buljan.  Both Bryce and Laurie have over 30 years of classroom experience each and national and international experience in training teachers and administrators.  Marc is the Director of Personnel Services for the Roseville City School District. He has been the administrator for a highly successful CI-based program in an IB school and has worked for several years with administrators who are interested in bringing Comprehensible Input-based Instruction to their schools.  

Friday  3 hour Pre-conference options for teachers:


Beginning Basics with Laurie Clarcq

This highly interactive workshop is designed for teachers who desire a foundation in Comprehensible Input-based Instruction.  The goal is for participants to understand how acquisition theory becomes reality in the classroom! We will examine how to develop skills, set norms, keep language comprehensible and activities compelling.  All of the secrets you need to know to get started and stay strong throughout the year.Come join us for a fun and powerful three-hour experience.

Picture Talk Your Way to Movie Talk with Clarice Swaney

Picture Talk your Way to Movie Talk is an innovative approach that can be used at every level to bring comprehensible input  (99-90 % comprehended input to your classroom by using images, video clips and films to connect to the lives and interests of your students. In this half day session, you will experience interactive lessons that demonstrate scaffolded, differentiated questioning techniques with compelling input that will hold student interest by using images, video clips, and film. Participants will practice demonstrated skills, discover and develop your own resources in order to create lessons tailored to your students and curriculum.  

101: How to Engage Your Students in a Crime Scene MysteryMurder .  with Scott Benedict

Is the ordinary getting boring for your students? Do your students like mayhem and intrigue? Do you enjoy a good crime mystery? Then this session is for you! I will teach you how you can create your own crime mystery in your classroom and engage your students like never before.

Friday Afternoon Options for Teachers:

Classroom Management with Care and Respect with Bryce Hedstrom

Learn or be refreshed on the best practices that will build a sustainable culture of respect, kindness and equity in your classroom… and do it without burning out, including:

  • How to infuse lessons with culture naturally
  • The surprising effectiveness of call-and-response prompts… and how to use them in multiple ways
  • Why you need to start assigning classroom jobs
  • How to read and send body language signals to encourage subconscious engagement and acceptance.
  • How rejoinders build fluency, camaraderie and buy-in… how to teach them and keep kids using them.
  • How to do questioning differently  including tiered questioning for on-the-spot differentiation

Beyond the Play Button Jim Wooldridge aka Sr. Wooly!

Although music and videos are essential vehicles for providing language input, it can be challenging to figure out how to properly implement them in the classroom.  We all know how to click play, but isn’t there more? In this session, Jim Wooldridge, a.k.a. Sr. Wooly, will demonstrate a variety of practical activities that will give you the confidence to use music and videos in the classroom (and with none of the guilt!).  Plus, he will model how to win the class over so you have more class singalongs and fewer class eye-rolls

Setting up for Success: classroom layout, posters, and gradebook  with Scott Benedict

Setting your students up for success is more than lesson plans and expertise.

Learn how your classroom layout, what’s on your walls, and setting up your grade book can spell success for all your students. They’re more important than you think!!

Reader’s Theater:  From Reluctant Reader to Pleasure Reader with Karen Rowan

Reading has to be 98-100% comprehensible for language to be acquired.  98%! When your students read, do they automatically create visual images in their minds or are they decoding and translating word-by-word?  Bringing reading to life for all students through Readers Theater and strategic, effective use of movie clips builds visual images that bring reading to 98-100% comprehensible, increasing the chances that our students will become lifetime pleasure readers. This session contains instructions and a demo so that you can begin using Reader’s Theater in your classroom immediately with whole class novels or as a “sales presentation” to make readers in your classroom library fly off the shelves during FVR. (Bringing possible readers in any language, for any level is encouraged.)

A full day of training for teachers for only $99!  If you also attend Saturday’s conference (see next post!) then there is a reduced price!  

Here is the Comprehensible California website for more information!  www.comprehensiblecalifornia.com  

Click here to go directly to the registration page!

Special thanks to our exhibitors and donors!!


Now What? Activities

***This is part of a series on my Embedded Reading site as well. To see the series…start here: https://embeddedreading.com/2019/02/28/why-read-the-last-level/

Why Read The “Last Level”?

Activities!!  That is what I am asked about most often:  What other activities can I do with these readings?

I love this question because it means that the teachers asking it already realize that it is important to vary the activities as we read different versions of the text.  

Why?  Variety for one.  Addressing a variety of skills, appealing to a wide variety of students, the reasons are many!

So here goes!  Let’s look at some additional goals for those readings beyond getting from point A to point Z….and match them with activities.  The activities below are fairly straightforward and could be used as a class warm up, activity, homework, or even for assessment.

Remember, we usually do one activity per level unless there is a compelling reason to do more!

Here is the embedded reading example  in English from that we have been working with.  Below is a chart that can be used to identify ONE set of potential activities.  The activity examples are at the end on a Google document.

*Note 1:  This example is more for upper level students, however, the examples can be adapted for any level.  

*Note 2:  This is just a small set of potential activities.  Additional examples (particularly ones with more physical action) will come in a later post!

Base reading:

Students are uniting to draw attention to a very important issue.   The movement has inspired events in a number of countries. One student in particular has received a lot of attention for her actions.  Politicians are not sure how to respond to this movement.  

Version 2:

Around the world, students are uniting to draw attention to a very important issue.   The movement has inspired events in a number of countries, including school walkouts. The global movement is a result of a United Nations report and other studies worldwide. One student in particular, Greta Thunberg of Sweden,  has received a lot of attention for her actions. Politicians are not sure how to respond to this movement. Some feel strongly that the loss of class time is not appropriate. Others have expressed that if they were younger, they too would be leaving school in order to make a point.

Version 3:  

Around the world, students are uniting to draw attention to a very important issue.   Thanks to the power of social media, young people around the globe have decided to speak their minds to the press and to their respective governments.  This youth movement has inspired events in a number of countries, including protests and school walkouts. The global movement is a result of a United Nations report and other studies worldwide. One student in particular, Greta Thunberg of Sweden, is being seen as a leader for inspiring others.  As a result, she has received a lot of attention for her actions. Politicians are not sure how to respond to this movement. LIke many adults, some feel strongly that the loss of class time is not appropriate. Others support the passion and interest of these young people and have expressed that if they were younger, they too would be missing school in order to make a point.

Version 4:

Around the world, students are uniting to draw attention to a very important issue: climate change   Thanks to the power of social media, young people around the globe have decided to speak their minds to the press and to their respective governments about the future of the planet.  This youth movement has inspired events in a number of countries, from Europe to the U.S. to Australia. There have been numerous events, including protests and school walkouts. The global movement is a result of a United Nations report and other studies worldwide about potential and deadly results of climate change.. One student in particular, Greta Thunberg of Sweden, is being seen as a leader for inspiring others.  As a result, she has received a lot of attention for her actions. Politicians are not sure how to respond to this movement. LIke many adults, some feel strongly that the loss of class time is not appropriate. They feel that students would better serve the cause by writing letters or emails. Others support the passion and interest of these young people and have expressed that if they were younger, they too would be missing school in order to make a point.   They too believe that we need to address this issue, and that the future belongs to all of us, especially young people.

Possible activities:  These could be used with any of the versions above.

Here is a document with MANY ideas so remember to keep scrolling!!!!



with love,