Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Pictograms of Well-Known Stories

If you are looking for ready-made materials to use in your language class, the website Orientación Andujár has familiar children's stories en pictograms available to download.  It is a website for Spanish teachers, but even if you teach another language, you will still be able to use the pictograms because there are not many words in the pictograms.  Some of the stories also have additional activities that you can download to use with the stories.  

Ideally, the majority of the fables and legends that I teach in class are authentic stories from countries where the target language is spoken, such as stories about Juan Bobo.  But, occasionally it is fun for the students to hear a familiar story from their childhood told in the target language.  The advantage is that the students already know the plot and the characters in the story, so they can concentrate on learning the words they don't know in order to retell the story.  A variation I employ when using familiar children's stories, is to ask questions for information not given in the original story so the students can use their imaginations instead of sticking with the regular story.    

There are pictograms of the following stories:
- Los 3 Cerditos                         - La Ratita Presumida
- El Asno y el Cochino                - El Rancito Pérez
- La Princesa y el Guisante         - El Flautista de Hamelin
- Cenicienta                              - Los Músicos de Bremen
- Blancanieves                          - La Cigarra y la Hormiga
- Caperucita Roja                      - La Casita de Chocolate
- Ricitos de Oro                         - El Patito Feo

Since I mentioned authentic stories, I just found this book, Tales our Abuelitas Told, (Cuentas que contaban nuestras abuelitas) on the web this morning.  If you have the book, please e-mail me directly or leave a reply on the blog if you have used the stories in class or if you recommend it.  Thanks!  

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The iPad & Educreations App in the MFL Classroom

If you have an iPad or have one available to use at your school, consider using it to make mini-lessons with the free Educreations App.

This school year, I have been experimenting with the Educreations App and other digital story-telling apps to record the stories that my students help me create in Spanish class.  I also made one mini-grammar lesson for my Spanish 4 students that insisted on a formal lesson on the subjunctive.  

Here is the story the students and I created on Friday. (The sound quality is usually better but I was sitting next to my noisy computer when I recorded on the iPad so I could read the script off of my computer screen.  I was in a hurry so I didn't take the time to re-record it.  Next time, I'll print out the script and move away from my computer!)


These are the steps I follow to make the stories:
1.  When I'm ready to "storyask" with my students, I ask for a volunteer to sketch as we create the story.
2.  I give my iPad to a student, give them a brief overall of the app, and tell them to sketch as the story develops.  
3.  I tell the student to make a minimum of 5 different sketches for the story.  
After I hand off the iPad, I usually don't check back with the student or see the sketches until the end of the class.  I'm not concerned that they're not verbally responding to my questions because I KNOW they're paying attention because they have to illustrate the story.  If they weren't paying attention to the storyline and what I am saying as we develop the story, they wouldn't be able to sketch it.
4.  Since the story was just created on the spot with the students, after they leave, I type it up on my computer because I usually give them a copy of the story to read the following day if we didn't write it together in class.
5. After the story is typed, I mark the typed version to indicate when I want to go to the next sketch on the app.  
6.  Then I record the story as one recording.  I think you are able to record each page individually, but with the script in front of me, it's no problem to record the entire story without pausing.  This way when the students view it, they do not need to click to the next page.  My goal is for the students to be able to understand the story by listening to the story, so I need to discipline myself to speak slower to make it 100% comprehensible for the students.
7.  After the story is recorded, I give it a title, save it, and link it to the class Edmodo page.  Then it is available for students to view at any time.  

There is never a shortage of students that want to make the sketches.  The following day, I like to use the story on the Educreations App as a review of the story.  Then the artist's classmates are able to see what they drew.

The Educreations app allows you to add text and upload photos.  

There are other apps that I have experimented with a little, with pros and cons for each of them.  The apps I currently have on my iPad for digital storytelling are:
- StoryKit
- Explain Everything
- Felt Board
- ZigZag Board
- ScreenChomp
- Educreations
- ShowMe
- Book Creator
- My Story

If you have a favorite app for recording lessons or stories, please share them with me.  I like the Educreations app but I know there are probably other apps that will do the same thing, maybe even easier to use, that I may not be aware of.

La Bolsa Fea - Negotiating Meaning

This is my Bolsa Fea. Two or three times a semester, if I have ten minutes remaining during a Spanish 3, 4, or 5 class, I pull the "Bolsa Fea" out of my closet for a listening activity.

The Bolsa Fea is filled with random words on small slips of paper. First I put the students in groups of 3 and give each group a mini whiteboard. I define and explain the word in Spanish, wait a minute for the students to discuss among themselves, and then they write the word on their whiteboards.  Most of the words are not ones they know in the target language so they write the answer in English.  Some examples of the words are: roadblock, soundproof room, and boar.  

The purpose of the activity is for the students to listen for meaning, not to learn the obscure words that are not high frequency words.  Two or three times a month, I visit my friend from the Dominican Republic to chat with her in Spanish. Talking with her gives me the opportunity to listen to a native speaker and to listen for meaning around some words she uses that I don't know.  Students need to realize that if they talk with a native speaker or read a text that wasn't written specifically for a 2nd language learner, and they don't understand every single word, they can still understand what they hear or read from looking at how the words are used in context and using those context clues to find meaning.  

The students enjoy this activity, so I'm careful not to overuse it.

A side note: I don't think the purse is "ugly" per say, but it certainly is not my style. I called it "Bolsa Fea" one time and it stuck.  

Click HERE for the list of words that I currently have in la Bolsa Fea.  There are some words that students may already know in Spanish but I don't discard those words because it is still a good word to describe to them in Spanish.  If you teach lower levels and describing these words are too challenging, make a list of more basic words, even many that students know, and the activity will work just as well.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

To Proficiency and Beyond!!!

I decided that this is my new motto - To Proficiency and Beyond!!!  

In fact, maybe I'll have to consider changing my blog name to "To Proficiency and Beyond".

Why? Because this year, more than any other year in my teaching career, I thoroughly scrutinize my lesson plans to assure that the activities I offer are those geared toward helping my students become proficient in the language.  Doing things like I used to, simply because that's how I always did it in the past, doesn't stand up against the scrutiny of the question, "Does this help the students to acquire the language?"

Through my intensive reading on how students acquire a language, and through my own personal experience of when I learned Spanish, and also how my students are progressing in my classes, it has become crystal clear that some activities I used to do, did nothing more than act as a vacuum, sucking up precious minutes of class time. 

I still catch myself at times planning an activity for class that is based more on the "fun factor" than on acquiring the language.  That's when I have to Stop, Review my Goals for my Students, and re-evaluate and make necessary adjustments to keep proficiency as the target.

Please don't interpret the previous statements to mean that teaching with TPRS isn't fun.  That would be a definite misunderstanding. Teaching with TPRS and CI has brought a breath of fresh air into my teaching because it involves the students.  It draws them into the story with their creative ideas for the story development, through acting, through class responses during storytelling, using their artistic skills, and a whole list of other ways.  There are days that I look at the lesson plans I made on the weekend and find myself looking forward to sharing a story with a class to see how they make it their own through their contributions. 

"Fun" has a new meaning.  

"Fun" is reading a chapter with the students in the mini-novel and students, that would have struggled in the traditional setting, volunteer to summarize what happened in that chapter.  
"Fun" is hearing a learning-support student say, "Hey, I think I'm getting this." (which I heard today and it made me smile). 
"Fun" is reading the students' endings to a story that they wrote without dictionaries.  
"Fun" is when I ask a series of questions to a students in Spanish, and they answer, whether in single words or full sentences without hesitation, and I point out to them that their comprehension of my questions was "spot on". 
"Fun" is when students say "awwww" when I end an activity such as creating more details about a person or describing, in Spanish, their classmates' sketches that I share w/ the use of the document camera.
"Fun" is hearing from students that graduated and say they're enjoying their college level Spanish classes and are considering minoring in Spanish.

The groundwork and formula for that fun always lies in providing CCI (Compelling Comprehensible Input) for the students.  It's not always an easy road, and certainly not without many mistakes on my part, made along the way.  It is a journey that demands a sincere commitment from me, every day, every class, personalized for every student.  It's not about me; it's all about them, and all about getting them "To Proficiency and Beyond!!!" 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Cloze exercises w/ Songs

I'm feeling a little frustrated with the results I'm getting when my students take their song quizzes on Fridays.  The grades are lower than I expect and I haven't quite figured out what the problem is.  

Here is my routine for songs:
1. Monday: I introduce a new song in Spanish.  Students listen to it without seeing any lyrics and list words they hear in the song.
2. Tuesday: We listen to the song again but this time with the lyrics, some of them missing for students to fill in. Go over and explain any new phrases/words.
3. Wednesday: Listen to the song, pausing the video at times to ask the students comprehension questions.
4. Thursday: Listen to the song.
5. Friday: Quiz - for some of the points I replace words with a line and students listen to the song and fill in the blanks; for some points I put some words in bold print and students write what it means.

I suspect that I'm not getting super results from this because I'm not taking the time to preteach the unknown grammar and vocabulary.  If that is the case, then I need to weigh whether testing students on the song is worth the time that I will need to spend to preteach the necessary vocabulary.  I feel like my classroom instruction time is very limited as it is.   
Would it be better to listen to the song once or twice, maybe with a cloze activity, and then NOT test the students on the song?  The students enjoy listening to the songs, and I like that I can introduce another aspect of the culture to the students through music. 

Maybe I should simply let them enjoy the music and the cultural experience and save the testing for other areas.   Time to check with my PLN to hear their experiences with music and assessments and their suggestions.

Interactive Reading

Order through TPRS Publishing
My Spanish 1 students are reading the book Piratas, written by Mira Canion and Carol Gaab.  I have pre-taught the high-frequency vocabulary words in each chapter before we read the chapter using various activities and methods.  Therefore, it took us 3 weeks to read 3 chapters. I decided that this week we were going to read 3 chapters, possibly 4 if I make a little adjustment to my lesson plans.

In an effort to vary the way we read those 3 chapters this week, I planned a different reading method for each chapter.  

- Chapter 4 - Projected the discussion questions from The Teacher's Treasure Chest (CD available to purchase packed full of ideas and materials) onto the white board.  As we read the chapter together, I paused to read and point out the questions, plus I added some some questions to personalize it, and the students answered verbally.  

- Chapter 5 - Students chose a partner and read the chapter in English with their partner. I walked around the classroom as they were reading to help with any words that they didn't know.  Many times, if a student asks me what something means, I write it on the board in Spanish and English because undoubtedly another student will have the same question.  Students answered 5 comprehension questions about the chapter when they finished reading.

- Chapter 6 - The INTERACTIVE READING activity.  This was my favorite.  It was the first time I tried this to the extent that we did it today, and it made the reading very enjoyable.  The full description is on a document embedded below in case anyone is reading Piratas and has use for it, but the activity can be used for any reading. 

1. I wrote about 18 words on the board.  The students knew the majority of the words but there were a few that were new.  
2. For 4 of the words, I asked 4 students to sketch the word on a 10 x 13 paper.  
3. For the other words, I had predetermined motions and/or sounds to represent them.  
4. We sat in a circle (with no desks - they have been pushed to the back and side of the room for the last 3 weeks) and I asked for volunteers to hold the sketches and for the gestures.  
5. After practicing the motions, I read the story and the students listened carefully so they knew when it was time for them to participate.


The students enjoyed this activity, some hamming it up more than others.  I'm fortunate in that, for the most part, my students are ready to participate in these types of activities which makes it easier and more fun for everyone involved.  For my second Spanish 1 class of the day, I had the students find a partner and read through the chapter in English.  The students had an easy time reading since they had already seen it "acted out" during the Interactive Reading.

I plan on reading at least one other book with the Spanish 1 students before the semester ends in January, so if you have some reading activities that you're particularly fond of, I'd love to hear about them.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

ACTFL and 90% TL Goal

Last week at our World Languages Department meeting, we had a discussion on the percentage of time we teach in the target language. I challenged my department to ask one of their students to tally the time spent in English and the time spent in the TL for a class period.  I took this challenge during my Spanish 2 class period today and asked for a volunteer to track my use of English.  Let me first say that knowing a student is clicking the stop watch as soon as you speak English is a great incentive to stay in the TL.  It's possible that the results may have been slightly higher due to that motivation, but I didn't feel like I was conducting class any differently than usual.  The results: she timed me for 64.5 minutes: 2.5 minutes in English and 62 minutes in Spanish = 96%.  She handed her time stats to me at the end of class and I noticed that she even included time intervals of 10 seconds; no mercy! I'm sure the percents vary from day to day, but my goal is the 90% mark or higher.  

If you are a member of ACTFL (American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages), you may have read the article in the October 2012 issue of The Language Educator, written by Douglass Crouse, regarding "ACTFL's recommendation that communication in the target language comprises at least 90% of instructional time."  The article provides several educator's perspectives on how they accomplish this goal and a list of resources to learn more and connect with colleagues about teaching in the target language and language acquisition.  (You may even notice a familiar face in the article.)

If you are not a member of ACTFL, you can access this article on the below link in which they make several sample articles available to non-members.
October 2012 - The Language Educator - Going for 90% Plus: How to Stay in the Target Language.

In one part of the article, Crouse states that the 90% goal needs to be accomplished through Comprehensible Input.  I found this to be true in my teaching.  Several years ago I was feeling good about the fact that the 2nd semester started in January and I didn't speak any English to my Spanish 1 students until the end of April or beginning of May.  Looking back, I now realize that I was missing a key element - Comprehensible Input.  It wasn't beneficial to the students if I was speaking the TL if the students weren't comprehending it.  After a great deal of reading about different strategies and methods on Comprehensible Input and attending several workshops and conferences on TPRS, I have a better understanding on how to accomplish this in my classroom.   My goal of speaking in the TL through Comprehensible Input is one of my top priorities this year. 

Someone once wrote, "there are two times that students are not learning the language: 1-when you are are not speaking in the TL, and 2-when they don't understand what you are saying in the TL.  

Several nights ago I saw the following tweet with the #spanishteachers hashtag that reminded me how frustrated students are when we don't make the language comprehensible.  I'm posting his tweet on my blog to remind me that the type of teacher the student is referring to in the tweet is what I need to guard against if I sincerely want my students to understand what I'm saying and enjoy acquiring the language.


   This semester I have two Spanish 1 classes, one Spanish 2 class, and 1 Spanish 4 class.  Tomorrow I'll have a student keep track of the TL in the level 1 class.  I know I should check that on a regular basis to keep myself accountable with ACTFL's recommendation.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Follow-up activity after reading

The students in my Spanish 1 class are reading the book Piratas del Caribe y el mapa secreto.  Since I want the students to understand everything that is happening in each chapter, I am making it a point to include activities that will give additional repetitions of grammar structures and vocabulary. 

Here are 4 activities that we did after reading chapter 3, in addition to the yes/no, either/or, and open-ended questions that I usually ask.

1.  The students worked in groups of 4.  They had to choose something that happened in the chapter and make 5 sketches about it.  There was a lot of action in this chapter so they didn't have to include all the events, just choose something that they could draw 5 sketches.  Then they had to think of 2 sentences in Spanish to describe their sketches.  I told them that short sentences were fine.  As a group they shared their sketches with the class and, without notes, individually talked about their sketch in Spanish.  (The reason there were 4 people in the group, but 5 sketches, is to provide extra opportunities for some of the star students to say more.  In other words, differentiation.)

2.  After listening to some of presentations the first day, it was obvious to me that they needed to have more input of one person doing something compared to two or more people doing something. So after a verbal review of the chapter again the next day, I listed things from the chapter but this time they had to raise their hand if I needed to change something in my sentence.  For example, if I send "los piratas entra en el mercado", they raised their hand and said I needed to add an "n" to "entra" because more than one person did the action.  That may not be the best way to solve the problem, but it seemed to work for the time being, because several groups still had to present due to running out of time the previous day and I heard a difference in their sentences.

3.  I still felt like we needed to practice singular vs plural more, but NOT with worksheets. So, on the spot, which is how I come up with many of my ideas, I counted them off to put them in groups of 3 or 4.  Each group needed 3 mini-whiteboards and markers.  There were 6 groups in my first class.  As a group, they had to write a sentence about what happened in chapter 3.  The trick was that 3 of the 4 people in the group had to write the exact same sentence. I told them that if one person doesn't have the exact same sentence, same spellings, etc., that they couldn't receive a point.  In this way, they helped each other write the sentences correctly because now it was a real team effort.

I started with group 1 and they held up their 3 boards with the sentences.  If the subject and verb agreed and were spelled correctly, I gave them a point and wrote their sentence on the board.  If they made small mistakes like la mapa instead of el mapa, they still got the point, but I wrote it correctly on the board. Then I went to group 2 and did the same thing.  If group 4 had a sentence but saw that group 2 already said it, they had to erase their boards and write another one.  It was not a race, but if I came around to their group and they didn't have a new sentence yet, they had 1 minute to write something or I moved on the the next group and they didn't get a point. 

Do you see how much repetition this gave them?  Not only were they reviewing by writing their sentences, but they had to read the sentences from the other groups that I wrote on the board in order not to duplicate them.  I was expecting short sentences but I underestimated them because they started writing compound sentences, which were correct!

We did 6 or 7 rounds of writing sentences, which meant there were at least 30 sentences on the board about chapter 3 of Piratas.

4.  I then created another on-the-spot activity. I told the students to stand up and in order to sit down they had to translate one of the Spanish sentences on the board to English, erase it, and then call on another student to translate the sentences.  This last activity went quickly and smoothly because by that time the students knew most of the sentences without much effort on their part.

I'll definitely do #3 again as a follow-up reading activity one more time this semester and add it to my list of activities for other classes.  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

23+ Activities for Halloween and Day of the Dead

I've seen several posts on Twitter and on Edmodo that mention activities for Halloween and for Day of the Dead.  Since Blogger has not only been a way for me to share my materials, but also a means to help organize resources so I don't lose them, I decided to list the resources here, in one place, so it will be easy to find in the future. (update: I posted 2 additional ideas as a separate post a year later HERE.)

1. Pumpkin Powerpoint - Guaranteed...that your students will like this powerpoint.  Click HERE for the file. Thanks to the creativity and work of Marta Yedinak and her willingness to share this with us.  (If you download the powerpoint, you'll be able to see when different parts of the sentences appear instead of having it all appear at once.)

Canción de la Brujas - I used this song last year, along with a cloze activity.  It is a cute, short video that was easy for my Spanish 1 students.  Click HERE to take you to my post from last year. 

3. Se Hace de Noche - Luis Pescetti leads this short story-like echo that is fitting for Halloween.  I think the first place I saw this suggested was on Kristy Placido's list of YouTube videos.  Click HERE to watch the video.

4.  La Leyenda de la Llorona - Undoubtedly there must be a Spanish teacher that has materials prepared to go along with the legend, but I don't have a link to offer at this time.  Click HERE to see the legend on video.

OR...listen to Joe Hayes tell the legend of La Llorona in Spanish HERE.  He speaks slowly and clearly so students should be able to follow along. I tell the story to my students in Spanish, but leave out some of the details that Joey Hayes tells.  Then the students listen to his retelling and they list new details that I had omitted.

5. La Llorona Cloze activity - Here is a CLOZE activity for La Llorona.  It's very basic, but ready to go if you're in a pinch for an activity.  It's by Joan Baez and the website is:

6.  La Bruja Loca - Lyrics only can be found HERE. The video is HERE.

7. Canción de las Calaveras - I had this on my list of resources but haven't done anything with it thus far. HERE is the video.

8. Go to Zachary Jones' Zambombazo for an activity a song by the Claxons entitled "Día de los Muertos".  Another teacher, Nelly Hughes, made this video of the same song and added lyrics to the video.

9. Video on Día de los Muertos - My colleague told me about this video last year.  Check it out if you're looking for a short video in English about the Day of the Dead.

10.  Make-Up instructional video for Día de los Muertos - This young lady is an expert on transforming her face into a traditional Day of the Dead "look".  If you have a lot of patience, you might want to give this a try and you'll be sure to stand out.   

11.  Pan del Día de los Muertos  - AllRecipes has a recipe to make Bread for Day of the Dead.  I've made this for my students for several years now, or ask them if they want to make it and bring it in.  My suggestion is to go light on the anise seed.  That's one strong seasoning!

12.  Molde de calavera 3-D - I bought this mold at a craft store last year for half price on Halloween, just in time to use it for Day of the Dead. 

13. Task Magic has some worksheets with photos and activities related to Halloween.  Click HERE to go to their website. 

14.  Audrey Misiano, a Spanish and French teacher, shared this odopod sketch on Edmodo.  Fun to watch as the sketch develops.    

15. Skeleton Craft - Audrey Misiano tweeted about this craft, easy enough for elementary school students, a few nights ago. She also made a sample and posted it on her Pinterest board HERE. I'm definitely sharing this activity with my classes this year!

16.  Diá de los Muertos Calavera Collage - THIS is another project that looks fairly simple.

17.  Chocolate Molds for Día de los Muertos and other supplies at Reign Trading Company website.  I found this website and promptly ordered some chocolate molds for my Spanish Club.  There is a variety of objects for sale at this site.  I called the number because I had a few questions about the molds and the lady was super friendly and shared where on the site you can find materials to download to use in class.

18.  Other PINTEREST Boards of Día de los Muertos:
Kimmie Duff - http://pinterest.com/aggiechiquitita/dia-de-los-muertos/

19.  Kristy Placido told me she uses the song "Mi Novio es un Zombie" around Halloween.  Google the title and you'll find several videos from which to choose. 

20.  Los Esqueletos is another song for beginner classes.  Find the video HERE.

21.  Dancing Skeleton - If your students are in need of a brain break, show them THIS VIDEO of a street performer with a dancing skeleton.  It's worth a few laughs.

22.  Teacher Suggested Activities for el Día de los Muertos can be found at THIS website.

23.  Kathy de Lima has a blog in which she posted several videos on Día de los Muertos.  Find her blog HERE.  

Additional resources:
- Skullflake - found at Crafty Lady website - remember those snowflakes you used to make as a child in elementary school.  This is the Day of the Dead version of a "skullflake".  

- Mis Cositas - In-Flight Movie en español - Día de los Muertos

- Ofrendas - bknelson website with ensayo de imágines, entrevistas, una canción

- Video - by Angel Benito.  Sr. Benito says it is appropriate for levels 2 or 3, but there are not many words that would be unfamiliar to my level 1 students, so I think I'll show it to them, as well as my level 2 students. 

- Short Video on Day of the Dead  You can find a worksheet made by C. Miller HERE.

- QUIA Vocabulary Games - concentration, matching, etc. If you go to the home page of Quia, you can find other vocabulary lists and you don't have to be a member to play the games.

- Milk Jug Skeleton - HERE are directions how to make a skeleton out of milk cartons.  Scroll down to see a photo at the bottom.   

- Online Book - Mi Abuela Ya no Está - Joy mentioned this on moretprs. 

- Images "Los Elementos de la ofrendas" - shared by @karajacobs on Twitter.  

**UPDATE: Here are 3 more sites with resources that Martina Bex shared**



Spanish 4 Weekly Schedule

This year, more than ever, I am focusing my energies and lessons on activities that will help students acquire the language.  I have a host of activities that I used in the past that were "fun" but not necessarily the absolute best use of time.  Now I scrutinize each activity and if it isn't something that is proven to help students acquire the language - phutt - I toss it in favor of more worthy activities.

Today I worked on drafting a new weekly schedule for my Spanish 4 class.  Half of the class period is before lunch and the other half is after lunch.  Each 1/2 period of class is equal to one unit.  I wanted to have at least 2 units of reading a book together as a class; 2 units of SSR; 2 units of listening to native speakers through podcasts and other sources; along with songs, discussions, "Kindergarten Day" and "hidden" grammar activities such as this one on SER vs ESTAR

 So today during my planning period, I went through the Spanish 4 curriculum to see how I could match the current curriculum to a schedule that includes more listening, reading, and storytelling activities.  After reviewing the curriculum, I see that as long as I stay on the high end of the creativity scale, I'll be able to weave all of the existing curriculum into the newly drafted Weekly Schedule.  The biggest challenge will be including information about the geography of Spain, and the interesting customs and celebrations throughout the regions.  I'll need to be particular in selecting the podcasts and audio sources, in order to include information about the regions of Spain and the specific customs and festivities of those regions.  I'll add authentic reading materials to supplement the 3-4 books that we will read this semester.

I shared the weekly schedule with the students today and asked for their input.  We made some minor changes and are ready to give it a trial run next week to see how well it serves its purpose - helping the students move toward fluency in Spanish.

I look forward to next week to put the weekly schedule to the test and tweak it if necessary.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Brain Breaks

Last Wednesday, my Spanish 1 lesson plan included the following:

1. Listen to Billy la Bufanda - (song of the week)
2. Read TPRS class stories from yesterday (from pd 2 & 7)
3. Read 1st half of chapter 2 of Piratas book
4. Venn diagram - describe Carlos & Felipe; asked students if they are more like Carlos or Felipe; what they or their friends have in common with the characters
5. pd7 only - Looked at sketches with document camera - Sra. put eraser on one of the 6 sketches on each paper and Ss said a sentence that related to that sketch 

 Activities 1-4 was packed with Input, Input, Input, with limited Output from students. We were moving from one activity to the next and I was pleased with how the students were responding and with the level of student engagement.  Before I started #5, with only 15 minutes remaining in the class, it surprised me when one of the students, that is usually first to acquire and internalize new words and structures, said, "I need a brain break."

Wow - he was completely right.  They had been getting a steady flow of Input  and, because they were responding so well, I had forgotten to give their brains a chance to relax - to have time to digest the information without additional input.  (That's also evidence that he had been paying close attention at the beginning of the year when I told them I knew that listening to another language was hard work and I would provide them with the breaks that their brains needed throughout the class period.)  

It is so easy for me to forget that when students are listening to the target language, their brains are mentally engaged because they are listening with the intent to understand, and listening for meaning in what is said.   

The next evening, the Thursday night #langchat discussion on Twitter was on RIGOR in the language classroom.  I mentioned the students' remark and said:

One of the participants in #langchat commented that the students' brains are constantly ANALYZING the language and structures as they receive comprehensible input.

Yes, even when the TL is completely comprehensible, it is still hard work for the language learners. When I forget how much work it is for language learners, I have to remind myself of two times that I experienced how much work it is to learn a new language:
   1 - when I spent a semester in Spain studying Spanish. Some days, long before evening arrived, my brain was screaming for a break because input, when living in the country where the language is spoken, never ceases.
   2 - this summer when I went to NTPRS and spent 7 hours learning Chinese.  Linda Li was sensitive to our needs as language learners to have short periods of "brain breaks" to be able to process the material. Those brain breaks were not a luxury, they were needed!

To an observer, it may appear that the students are not doing anything because they're "only" sitting and listening, but that is an inaccurate assessment.  The longer I teach with TPRS, the more evident it becomes to me that when students are actively listening and/or reading in the target language, it is far more productive and a better use of time than if they were completing verb worksheets or vocabulary exercises.  

During the #langchat discussion, Lisa Butler, a Spanish teacher at Hershey, tweeted this link to me from her blog which explains the connection between Bloom's taxonomy and teaching with TPRS.  It's an interesting post and worth reading when you have a few minutes. Thanks for sharing Lisa!

So, as I complete this week's lesson, I am making a conscious effort to write notes for myself on the lesson plans to provide Brain Breaks for the students before they realize they need one.  

There's always an area on which I can find room for improvement. :)

Note:  If you have a Twitter account and would like to join in on the language teachers' discussions on Twitter, please join us on Thursday evenings from 8:00-9:00 Eastern time for the #langchat discussions.  I consider it (one of) my weekly professional development session.