Saturday, May 20, 2017

Sub Plans that keep the CI Flowing

One of my least favorite tasks as a teacher is to write substitute plans. I can take the easy way out and have the students watch a movie. Movies have a variety of value: there are movies in the target language that students don't understand, movies in the target language with English subtitles, and movies that are in English but are culturally rich. 

What other options are available? What will keep the CI flowing even when the substitute doesn't speak the language you teach? 

Why not have a Spanish teacher in another part of the United States be your sub? Wait...What? Thanks to teachers that are recording themselves telling stories in the target language and making a concerted effort to keep the information comprehensible, language teachers now have another option for substitute plans. Use the videos of other language teachers telling stories that are on YouTube and Vimeo videos, and voila, that teacher can be your substitute for the day!

As more teachers are sharing their recordings online, I have been replacing old substitute plans with the new ones. Below are a few examples of how to write substitute lesson plans that will keep the CI flowing during your absence. The examples are of Spanish, but you can use the ideas for any language as long as you can find videos in your language.

1. Mike Peto!  @mike_peto on Twitter
Have you seen Mike Peto's videos on Vimeo?  If not, click HERE for his Vimeo account page for a list of his videos. In the videos he tells fables or stories that he wrote using high frequency words. He uses any tense that is needed to tell the story, but no worries - he is a genius at making it comprehensible and he uses his /or actions in the story.  At times, he writes the Spanish word and its English translation on the board.  Some of his videos he recorded during the actual lesson with students, so you can observe his comprehension checks with the students. There are other videos that Mike made without any students in class because he made them specifically for an absence this month.

The story I chose for my substitute plans on Monday (I will be attending my daughter's graduation to see her get her doctorate in physical therapy - yeah! - proud mom here) is "El cuervo tonto".   

First, my sub will hand out a paper with questions (see page 1 of 2 below) so students can read the questions to give them a heads up on the specifics they need to listen for. 

Then my sub will play the video and pause it when Mike instructs the students to sketch each part of the video. Students will answer the short questions during the story and complete the English translations as Mike explains them.
I need to add that I don't always have questions for the students to answer. Two weeks ago I was out and my students watched Mike's video "la señora" and their only task was to listen to the story because we were going to discuss it the following day. When I returned the next day, I drew the same sketches as Mike did and paused throughout to ask students questions about the characters and what happened. So...questions are not necessary, but for some students it helps to keep them focused on the story.

Click HERE if you would like to download the pdf of the questions for the "El cuervo tonto" story - 2 pages of questions/area to sketch and the answer sheets.

2. Pablo Román, @langdreamer on Twitter
Pablo is cranking out videos about Spanish festivals and holidays,  legends, and most recently, interviews with other Spanish speakers at the rate of almost one a day. Click HERE for his YouTube channel and check out his blog, Dreaming Languages

In the videos, Pablo is in the bottom corner and the rest of the screen he uses to sketch while he speaks to the listener. At times he inserts video clips to show a few seconds of an event that he is describing.

Below is a sample of how to add reading after viewing a video. This is based on his video "St. Jordi". I used this video on a day when I was NOT absent, but with the paper attached below, you could leave it as a sub plan.

1. Watch the video. I paused the video at the end where you can see all of the sketches, and the students and I discussed and retold the story. If this is your sub plan, skip the retell until the day you return.

2. Distribute the paper and students will match the sentences to the screenshots of the sketches.

3. Distribute the script below for the students to read.

The documents for this lesson are HERE
(To be clear, these lessons were NOT planned in collaboration with anyone, but rather I saw the videos online and then created lessons from the online videos that I can use in class.)

3. Cameron Taylor @Profe_Taylor
Cameron is a Spanish teacher in Japan. His YouTube channel is HERE and his most recent (I think) video is "Habla demasiado". His technique is very similar to Mike Peto's, in that he tells a story and makes it comprehensible due to the vocabulary he chooses and the sketches. Please note that Cameron's purpose of making the videos was to share with others HOW he does "storytelling" with his students. It is was not shared with the intent to have other teachers use it for sub plans, but I quickly saw the possibilities in providing CI for a substitute plan with this, and other of his, videos.

I do not have a specific document created for the story "Habla demasiado", but my students will read the story script after watching the story.

Two variation on the story scripts (the written text)
a. Omit a few details of the story in the script on a document you create and replace it with lines. Then together as a class, you can fill in the missing information and write it on the lines on the document.

b. Ten Errors (or however many you choose). When you write the script, make 10 minor changes to the details. After the students have watched the video and after you have discussed it or acted it out, distribute the document with the 10 errors. The students' task is to find the erroneous information and replace it with the correct information. (i.e. - if the story said he had two dogs, change it to 3 dogs or to 2 cats.)

4. BookBox
BookBox is a website with children's stories in the target language with subtitles. It has many books for Spanish, as well as a few stories for other languages such as French, Italian, Urdu, and more. This website also provides PDFs for you to download. 

I made a very basic story listening document with questions for my students to complete while listening and watching the story online.  (The screenshot does not show the entire document. If you would like the document, click HERE.)

OPTION: Instead of having students answer questions, the students could listen to the story one time. As they listen/watch it the second time, have them sketch the story that you can use as a retell using a document camera later in the class or on another day.

These generous teachers, and the Bookbox website, are my new go-to lesson plans for substitute teachers.  Feel free to download any of the documents that may be useful to you. They are available at no cost. HOWEVER, what I would like to ask in return, is if you like these options and create something to be used with a video similar to the story videos above, please share it with me.   :-)


  1. Thanks so much so sharing this! I will definitely try it next year and will share what I come up with. Love your blog (:

  2. I have a reading on my website called "Habla demasiado" that would pair well with Cameron's video... it is a different story that I wrote some years ago, but we may have been inspired by the same Matava script :) Here is the link for the lesson and download for the reading:

  3. You are all so generous, and we are all grateful! At the end of the year, when my inspiration needs a boost, you have supplied MUCH food for thought! Thank you and Mil gracias!!!