Monthly Archives: September 2018

CI made easi(er)

Understanding how to provide comprehensible input makes teaching language easier. It means that a teacher can use any resource to guide acquisition. I mean anything. It could be a blog, a song, the back of a cereal box, the directions on shampoo, a video, a conversation, a question–

But it’s so, so much easier when there is a curriculum with options–a curriculum that a practiced CI teacher has developed.

I am having the best time imaginable using Martina Bex’s Somos curriculum, Amy Vander Deen’s Había Una Vez, and Señor Wooly’s website. I am also keeping an eye on Mira’s teacher’s guide for El Capibara con Botas. They are all worth their weight in gold. I am on the second lesson only in Amy’s curriculum, because they are all so rich that we are spinning these lessons out a long way, and because they keep giving me other ideas. Each of these authors offers tweaks that help me keep things fresh. I do a little mixing, but any one of them could also stand alone.

Luckily, I am the lower school teacher, so it’s okay to be taking my time. Lower school students have only two days a week of Spanish. But today I got such long series of conversations that I realized kids are beginning to trust our work together. They’re showing me our signs for words and phrases. They’re answering questions confidently. They’re contributing ideas for stories. They’re using Spanish outside class (two kids were counting up donated spoons for the school’s attempt to get away from plastic for events and they used “Vamos a contarlos” from the “Un mano, dos manos” song YIPPEE!!), and they’re excited when they can relate having understood Spanish outside the school.

My Russian side is a green-eyed monster when it compares the riches that are available to Spanish teachers, so I’m working on helping create resources for beginning Russian students (see this Nelly the Nerpa story, for example) and making sure that I learn about my students in both languages. Having a curriculum can become the tail wagging the dog if I get too excited, and that’s the piece that I have to remember: community, personalization, repetition and compelling input are what help students acquire a language–possibly in that specific order. But, having that knowledge, I am so very lucky to have expert, excellent guidance as I follow this new Spanish path.



Managing a class

I have one very wiggly class. I had been setting up my plans so that we moved locations every three to five minutes, and so that the focus changed at least that often, but it was wearing me out. And since I don’t have a classroom of my own, it was hard to set up and to have all the different items I needed every time.

Last week, I introduced a point system. I’m hoping that someone knows where I got it. I used to use it with some middle school and younger high school groups.

In essence, it pits the skills and behavior of the class against the teacher. I put up a simple scoresheet: Class/Sra. Whaley. Right now if they respond immediately to one of my teacher calls – anything from “cinco dedos” (the school system), to “nachos/salsa,” to “hola hola/coca cola” or “ACHOO/salud” – or if the spy (thanks, Erica Peplinski) tells me someone was speaking Spanish outside class, or if they do something truly amazing, they get a point. If they don’t respond immediately, blurt out irrelevant English, or if two start wrestling (honestly, they are like adorable puppies), I get a point. This group is very competitive, and since I can look very disappointed when they all behave perfectly, they think it’s really funny and work hard to get me looking like a sore loser. I may have to talk about that later and morph into being a well-adjusted game-player, since I don’t want them to think it’s appropriate to have a facial teacher-tantrum when I don’t get my way.

The class earns the number of points that they have over the teacher. If I have five and they have seven, they get two points. It’s pretty easy to control it so that they earn limited points each time. Their payoff will be that when their class has a certain number of stickers – one sticker per point – they will be able to listen to our entire playlist of songs in a row, or play games for 15 minutes, or other choices that I have created.

What is this called? It works beautifully for a wiggly, competitive group.

Class books

Reading, Preschool, Kindergarten, School

I am loving teaching Spanish classes. We are not moving very fast through the curriculum. In fact, we are kind of stuck on the first lesson in every class. But we are speaking Spanish, and we are having fun.

That said, one of the things I love doing is making books for classes. When I find out something new about kids, it’s hard not to rush out and use the story right away.


Luckily for my kids, who might be inundated, I make mistakes even in simple Spanish, and have to get the books corrected. (As you might guess, though, sometimes three different Spanish speakers have three different opinions. That’s the case in Russian, too.)

So – here is a kindergarten book about our animals.

Here is a book that will grow as we learn about families.

Here’s a book about what the children think a missing student might be doing.

We made up a story about my whale. I wanted them to learn my name: Señora Ballena. It didn’t work, but we had a story.

As you can see, they’re not high-quality, but the families can read them (they’re posted on a public blog site), and I print them out and bind them for the various classrooms.

We’re going to have a series of books about families as we do an interview for La Persona Especial every day in most classes.



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