“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 blubbr.tv


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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Summer Reading Check-Out Program

Our school year ended last Friday. Simultaneously great, disastrous (the prom) and bitter-sweet, the 2013-2014 school year will remain filed somewhere in my brain as an overall successful year at LHS.

In November, Mike Peto and I will be presenting at ACTFL about implementing a classroom library (hopefully, as I’ve yet to put anything together!). If you haven’t already checked out his class library co-op initiative, please go there now — it’s genius.

Mike Peto's FVR Class Library


After a successful year with FVR, I’ve decided to extend the option to my kids over the summer. Below is a link to a Summer Reading Check-Out Program. In short, students select books to read over the summer. I mail them to their homes from our high school, and they return them to the school in two weeks.

Summer Reading Check-Out


It would be great as a summer reading requirement, but unfortunately our program does not yet have one implemented. We’ll see if this gains traction. Have a great summer everyone!

La Llorona de Mazatlán Student Reviews


My Spanish 3 students are now halfway through Vida y muerte, and unfortunately I never quite finished posting about La Llorona (I volunteered to put the prom together — worst decision of my teaching career really). 

Last post on La Llorona: A question on my students’ mid-term last semester was to briefly share their thoughts on this novel (great feedback for our department in determining whether they felt it was too easy / not enjoyable / too difficult). I’ve included some of their reactions to this novel below in case anyone is considering adopting it for their curriculum.

“The main reason I enjoyed La Llorona de Mazatlan was because I understood the storyline while gaining a new understanding of the Spanish language.” -Blake R.

“La Llorona de Mazatlan was a very good book. Although it was a slow moving book, it takes a while to get to the action. I think it is a good book for language learners of my level.” -Michael P.

“My opinion was that book was pretty good there’s a lot of words in there that are easy to understand and I also learned a lot of words from it.” – Ralph J.

“I liked the story. It made me want to keep reading when we would stop. It was really short. It had good vocabulary that I caught on to and know.” – Analisa F.

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