First Day Free Write

I’ve been looking through old photos/documents, and I came across a couple of student free writes from last year’s first day of class. My first day routine usually included 5 minutes of writing, since it left me with a good sense of where each student was (also, they’re quite fascinating to read). Students were prompted to write anything they remembered from the previous year, whether it be just words or in sentences.

The free writes below are from students in the same class (Spanish 2) on the first day of school. Here’s the first:


And here’s the second:


The first student came to me from a teacher using legacy methods. She was a star student in that class, yet she only wrote words (some of which she copied from the board). The second student came to me from a TPRS class. These are just two examples, but a pattern became quite clear in reading through all of the student submissions: students from a TPRS class wrote in complex sentences or stories, while the others did not. It’s interesting to see, and certainly great samples to share with colleagues and administrators. If you’d like to download the free write forms above, you can find them on my newly-formed TpT Store here (for free). :)


Thank you

I left teaching on Friday, indefinitely, after saying goodbye to the school, students and profession I grew to love. 

Many thanks to my colleagues David Ramos, Kim Henderson and Susan Martin, the best team anyone could have hoped for. To Martina Bex, Carrie Toth, Mira Canion, Carol Gaab, Kristy Placido, Michele Whaley, Cynthia Hitz, Bess Hayles, Bryce HedstromLaurie Clarcq and to all of the amazing TPRS mentors, thank you! It’s because of you I became as best of a foreign language educator I could have ever hoped to be. 

To my students, words can’t express the gratitude I owe you for being amazing in every conceivable way. Believe me when I say the joy you brought into my world is immeasurable — the many laughs, the stories, the notes, and our conversations throughout the years have definitely been some of the happiest and proudest moments of my life yet. It was an honor to have spent this formative time in life with you, and I can only hope I’ve inspired you a fraction of the amount you’ve inspired me. Thank you!

I posted this to my Facebook account earlier this summer after a very tearful and difficult goodbye to my students and teaching. I thought it’d be fair to post it here, too. I started this blog as a first year teacher, and I can 100% attribute my growth and success as an educator to the incredible network of teachers who create, discuss and share online. To those teachers, I can’t thank you enough.

Though I won’t be teaching this fall, I do hope to continue posting again soon. Good luck to everyone in this upcoming school year, especially to those embarking on their very first TCI journey. Beautiful and magical things await you :).

Best wishes,


“Read, Draw, Ask” Sub Plan

Here’s the sub plan I left my students with on Friday while at was at ACTFL. I made it some time ago after borrowing from various places (ahem Martina’s posts on QAR and sub plan ideas from the listserv, I believe, though I really don’t remember exactly and hope I’m not infringing on anyone’s copyright here — PLEASE let me know if I am!).

For this sub plan, students:

  1. Read or re-read a story or chapter in the current novel
  2. Illustrate the story or chapter in the boxes provided
  3. Write 10 comprehension questions in the target language about the story or chapter

DOWNLOAD: Read Draw Ask Sub Plan (.doc), Read Draw Ask Sub Plan (.pdf)


I had the opportunity to attend ACTFL for the first time this weekend, and although my experience was unfortunately short-lived (due to sickness, ugh!), I had a GREAT time seeing familiar faces. Thank you Carol and the TPRS Publishing team for allowing me this opportunity to talk CI with so many amazing teachers.

I only attended three sessions. Maybe I’ll post on a couple later, but for now, I’d like to share an interesting encounter I had while working the TPRS booth. Halfway through working my shift, a group of native Spanish teachers approached us. They didn’t browse or even look our way; they simply stood in front of the booth, formed a circle, and I was close enough to eavesdrop on their conversation.

One teacher (the “lead” teacher, presumably) pointed over to our booth and shared that there was no way she would ever use “those inauthentic resources” in her classes. “Students should be reading OUR literature and OUR poetry,” she said to the rest. Another teacher looked over and picked up Karen Rowan’s adaptation of Don Quixote and said, “Well, what about implementing something like this?” The first teacher laughed and replied, “It is not the same.”

I missed the rest of the conversation. I wish I could have interjected somehow, but I didn’t. What would I have argued? Would they have listened? It struck me then that a) our mantra as CI teachers is evidently still grossly unknown and/or misunderstood, and b) I know very few native-speakers that have embraced TPRS/CI. What?!

Anyway, if you are using a textbook, like using authentic resources in your lessons, and are considering incorporating more comprehensible input into your teaching (the focus topic in this month’s issue of ACTFL’S “The Language Educator”) know that:

  1. Reading comprehensible texts in the TL that focus on high-frequency vocabulary (such as novels by Mira Canion, Karen Rowan or TPRS Publishing, Inc) go a long way in building reading comprehension skills/fluency during the the learner’s foundational years (levels 1-2). See Krashen.
  2. TPRS/CI teachers (generally) love authentic resources! We build our students’ reading comprehension (through reading/storytelling) during those foundational years so that they are better equipped to tackle authentic resources during their later years of language learning. We provide scaffolding through techniques like Embedded Reading to ensure our students feel confident and ready to negotiate meaning in authentic texts.

I wish I could’ve stayed longer — looking forward to NTPRS 2015. :)

I’m new to TPRS/TCI. Where do I start?

I’ve received a few e-mails from teachers new to TCI/TPRS with questions about how I first started teaching with CI. It hasn’t really been very long ago for me (this will be my third year with TPRS), but I’ve decided to make an FAQ post hoping it will be helpful to those making the transition to CI this summer. Just a warning though, this is a very long post!

TPRS/TCI Frequently Asked Questions

(Click on a question below to jump straight to its answer)


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Teaching with CI: Much more than just ‘TPRS’

A thought that stayed with me after attending #iFLT14 last week was how much TPRS has changed in recent years. I’ve only been around for a few and already the documented interpretations and adaptations have exceeded all expectations of what I felt TPRS was when I first started. It’s a popular method with a strong support community, and teachers are making more and more connections to strategies and resources that work well in CI-based classrooms. We’re finding that there are MANY ways of providing compelling input outside of just telling stories, which is actually great since story asking can be quite enervating by itself. Below are just a few popular ideas for the CI toolbox:


Whether it’s a novel you’re reading with your class as part of your curriculum or an easy book to speed read on Fridays just for fun (I plan to do this with Brandon Brown quiere un perro this year), reading aloud is not only great aural input, but also a great stepping stone to PQA, eliciting predictions (future) and class discussion (conditional). Follow reading aloud with Reader’s Theater, and you’re gold.


MovieTalk has been a break-through for CI teachers. It’s the latest craze, and good thing too, because students love it. Click here to learn more about MovieTalk from the great Michele Whaley, or watch the videos by Eric Herman below to see it in action.

Weekend Talk

Where did you go last weekend? What did you do? You’d think that students would eventually become bored with talking about themselves every Monday. Well, they don’t. There’s always something new or interesting to gossip about. Students love talking about themselves, and I love talking about myself too! We can easily spend an entire 45-minute period talking about our weekends (while the students think we’ve just wasted a whole day doing nothing). It’s rapport-building and REAL interaction that can be easily spun off into a story. You can also use Weekend Talk to introduce advanced structures:


“La Persona Especial” (The Special Person)

What a great idea! Bryce Hedstrom‘s “Special Person” activity entails focusing on one student and asking him/her as many questions as possible. In Bryce’s words,Everyone has a chance to be in the spotlight. Everyone has a chance to tell their story. Everyone has a chance to be appreciated.” After every 5 students and a lot of review, Bryce gives a quiz. You can even make it a big test that includes every student in class at the end of a grading period. I can’t wait to try this in August. For more information and examples, click here for Bryce’s explanation.

Embedded Reading

What would we do without Laurie Clarq and Michele Whaley’s Embedded Reading? My week would fall apart! From adapting authentic resources to scaffolding text, embedded readings are a great addition to our CI toolbox. To learn more about the Embedded Reading technique, check out the website or read more about my take-aways from last year’s NTPRS session.

Free Voluntary Reading

If you haven’t started a pleasure reading program with your classes, do it! It helps if you provide interesting, easy-to-understand reading material and light accountability (no reading logs or extensive book reports). 5-10 minutes twice a week is a great way to start, with conversation circles to discuss/compare books every week or two. You’ll be amazed how much they can acquire independently.

FVR Readers
Some of my students’ favorite FVR readers

Kindergarten Days

I posted about my first Kindergarten day some time ago — I only did it twice last year, but hope to do it more. Here’s a video by the amazingly awesome and perfect Carrie Toth demonstrating Kindergarten day:


Not all web tools are conducive to providing useful input. In fact, a great majority of popular web tools are mostly presentational — great for output but not so much for input. Below are some of my favorite tech tools (with examples) that lend themselves well to CI classrooms:







eduCanon or


What other ways are you providing compelling, contextualized CI to your kids? 


Language Lab, Day 1 (#iFLT14)

I almost didn’t make it. I drove in from Texas (with my significant other and Boston Terrier) for nearly an entire day to find that my school hadn’t confirmed payment for the iFLT Conference in Denver this week (thankfully, Martina and Carol came to the rescue on Twitter). After my late sign-up debacle, we had the pleasure of hearing Dave Burgess model passion-driven teaching and later sat with Carol Gaab and the experienced group to talk conference tips and expectations for the rest of the week. It’s a full house here at North High School — wish you were here!

My group started off Day 2 in a Language Lab with Joe Dziedzic. It was a packed room — 30+ observing teachers with 10-15 high school students up front. Joe went straight to it, prompting details from his Spanish 2 students about what they’d talked about the day before. Before we knew it, he’d helped weave together a story so compelling — I’m 100% positive all of us teachers left the room in astonishment at how it’d happened with such ease! Here are some of my take-aways from this session:

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