Classroom Decoration Hacks

Published by:

Recycle old frames for cheap classroom decorations.  I printed quotes off the internet and soaked the paper in tea to give it an aged look.  I cut up an old map and glued it to the back of the frame.  I like just the framed map, and I have one that my husband and I actually used to drive around Europe (before Google maps) hanging in my classroom, but in this example I used a map as a background for the quote.  I did a Google search for “quotes in Spanish” and “quotes in French” and then clicked images to get some ideas to get started.  You can click on each picture for a better view.

Another classroom decoration hack is to recycle photos from calendars, postcards, and travel posters.  I had a ripped Picasso poster and a calendar with his paintings.  I took the calendar apart, spray painted some old frames grey, and now I have a museum to use with the novels Agentes Secretos and La France en Danger.  For more ideas on teaching with the art of Picasso, check out this previous post.

At local, regional, and national conferences I collect free travel posters from vendors and then cut them down to fit the frames.

I cut up a postcard set of Paris and framed them.  I also spray painted some old planters black and decorated with a silver paint pen to hold supplies.  Don’t forget to add plants to your classroom.  I use cuttings from my existing home plants and spray paint plastic containers and decorate with paint pens for a cheap hack.  And don’t forget to frame a photo of your target language crush for your desk.

Back to School Freebies to Decorate your Classroom.

Published by:

There are several places on-line to get stuff free to decorate your classroom.  Bryce Hedstrom has The Special Person Posters in several languages and lots of other goodies on his free stuff page.

The Creative Language Classroom has great free stuff to decorate your classroom also.  I use their proficiency indicator signs and their activity to teach the proficiency levels to students the first week of school.  See my prior post for this lesson plan.  I also love their Greet Them at the Door signs, How Are You posters, and Question Word posters.

Martina Bex has an entire google folder with helpful posters on her website.   There are links to her Question Word Posters in French and Spanish at  There are actually lots of free items on Teachers Pay Teachers, each seller has to post at least one free item as a sample of the quality of their work.  Just enter what you are looking for in the search bar and if it is not there consider creating it yourself and making it available to others.  For example, with a simple search I found these free posters in Spanish.  Check out my free word ladders in French and Spanish that can be enlarged into posters or framed and placed around the room.

Amy Lenord has a free list of rejoinders in Spanish that make a great word wall and there are a couple other free on TPT.  Here are some free classroom labels in Spanish and in French.


I found these 10 French phrases on Pinterest that will make awesome class decorations.


I also found this free Pledge of Allegiance poster  on Pinterest in two versions one colored and one that students can color.

For more ideas Check out my Pinterest Page.

What Freebies can you find or share for back to school?

Supporting Student Success

Published by:

I recently returned from the iFLT17 conference in Denver where I discovered additional ideas for supporting student success.  Annabel Allen aka La Maestra Loca demonstrated a simple activity to generate vocabulary for students to use in stories.  Post butcher paper around the room with the headings: names, places, transportation, food, animals, sports, colors, characters (in your target language).

Show the kids what you want them to do by moving to each poster and providing examples of the categories in the target language. Give students markers and instruct them to walk around silently and write words under each heading.  This activity could be used to activate background knowledge about a topic, and to share vocabulary among students, leveling the playing field.




Many teachers use word walls to scaffold student speaking and writing.  I really like this word wall idea from Jason Fritz.  Most comprehensible input teachers have the question words posted permanently in their classroom.  Jason adds butcher paper under each question word and writes vocabulary related to that interrogative as it comes up in class.  For example, under the “Where” sign he writes at school, at the restaurant, at the park, at the mall.  Under the “Who” poster he might write mom, dad, superman, abuelo.  There are sets of question word posters free from Martina Bex at in French and Spanish.









One way I support students during interpersonal activities is with sentence stems.  I like to make sentence stem graphics for free with Spark.adobe.  It’s quick and easy.  I use them at chat stations to prompt conversations.  Or I display them on the screen from my computer or under the document camera to keep students in the target language during partner activities.  These are very similar to the language ladders you can create with kids from a prior post.

Make sure to give them a few rejoinders, so they can respond to their partner’s statements.  For pre-made lists of rejoinders and ideas for words to create your own rejoinder posters (or have the kids make them) go to

Students can keep lists and other resources in their binders.  Some teachers keep words groups on rings and hang them on hooks in the classroom as a resource for students working independently.


Lots of elementary teachers use Language mats to help students with writing and speaking.  I’m not sure why we don’t use them more in upper levels as well, especially with high frequency verbs in several useful tenses.  Here is an example I found in French. literacy-mat-french  There are more free mats for various levels at the TES website in French and Spanish.






How do you support students for success?  What tools or resources do you use?  Please share your ideas here.





Creating Classroom Connections

Published by:

One of my favorite activities for the beginning of the year is to learn every student’s name and hobby.  I have students make a list of their 10 favorite things to do in life.  They make the list in English at first and then it gets translated into the target language.  

I start with one student and ask them what they like to do and they tell me the first thing on their list.  I ask how many other people have that activity on their list of ten.  If they have it on their list they raise their hand.  I count the number of kids and we graph the data.

This is a great way to connect to math and gives the kids something to do while listening to me count and repeat the hobbies over and over again.  I am also purposely making connections between students with similar hobbies and interests.  I go around the room, one student at a time, asking their name and favorite thing to do and then poll the class to see if they have that activity on their list.  If a student’s favorite hobby has already been graphed, they can choose any activity on their list that has not been mentioned yet.  I continually go back to the first student and say their name and hobby and continue around the room until I can say every child’s name and hobby from memory.  The kids are impressed that I can do it and then they realize they can do it too.

For one of our first quizzes of the year I can say number one and point to a student.  They write down their name and hobby in the target language and we continue until all students have been listed.

Another way I create classroom connections is with a recipe file holder and index cards.  An entry task on the first day of school is to write your name on an index card and list 3 facts about yourself.  I collect these cards and put a rubber band around the class set and store them in a recipe file on my desk.


Each day I pick an interesting fact from someone’s card and read it to the class. For example it might say “I have been to Hawaii.”  I say anyone who has been to Hawaii stand up.  Everyone who has been to Hawaii stands up and we make connections around the room.  I can ask follow up questions like which island, with whom, what did you do?  I can say anyone who wants to go to Hawaii stand up.  Then have everyone sit down and pick another card.  I purposely look for things that I think a lot of people have in common, point out the connections, and look for opportunities for spontaneous interpersonal communication.   I do a few each day until I have used a statement from everyone at least once.  I also use these cards to randomly call on kids or form groups, like Popsicle sticks, but cheaper and easier to store for five classes.

Another way to make connections is the game I call Te presento a in Spanish and Je te présente in French.  Have the students make a name tag and stand in a circle.  I start in the middle.   I say Je te présente and say a student’s name.  The students on either side of the named child race to wave and say “Bonjour” to the other child.  The slowest of the two moves to the center of the circle and becomes the next caller.  This forces kids to listen for the names of the kids on either side of them.  After a few minutes have everyone find a new spot so they are next to different people and listening for other names.

When I was in high school I won a scholarship to a Dale Carnegie Course on Public Speaking and Human Relations from Junior Achievement.  This course was life changing for me.  In particular, I have always remembered these quotes.



Published by:

A great activity for spontaneous interpersonal communication is a Timed-Think-Talk.  Students are given a minute to write down thoughts and words about a topic on a sticky note. I provide them with sentence frames and vocabulary to get them started and then I remove the scaffolding and they talk with a partner for a minute about the topic.

I use the free or set the transition time on the slideshow to keep things moving along.

Don’t forget to add in the rejoinders to keep the conversation going. I tell students they have to talk for the whole minute, that’s only thirty seconds each, even if they just say random words or count after they exhaust the topic.

I use a structured interaction like Speed Dating, Inside-Outside Circles, or Stand up, Hand up, Pair, Share to match students, and change partners after a couple of topics.

Collect the sticky notes for a Gallery walk.  After every two or three questions change partners and have students put their sticky notes on a piece of butcher paper under the appropriate topic. Students can then do a gallery walk to see other student’s opinions and levels of proficiency.  Students can summarize class attitudes toward a particular topic.

Make your own Think and Talk slide or check out the ones I created in French called Pensez-Parlez and in Spanish called Pensar y Hablar.  It’s about asking more open ended questions so kids have more opportunities to level up!


Fun with Functional Chunks!

Published by:

With over 30 years teaching middle school, it doesn’t take research to convince me that the average teenage brain can only focus intently for about 12 minutes. Building structured activities into lesson plans that provide opportunities for students to interact with each other and practice the target language is brain friendly instruction and good for everyone.  These structured activities give the teacher’s voice a rest while the students are practicing the target language, but more importantly it allows the teacher to walk around and provide some individualized feedback in a relaxed non threatening environment.  I am curating all of my favorite activities into a presentation called “Fun with Functional Chunks.”

Functional Chunks of Language are expressions, phrases or words that students learn as a chunk without necessarily understanding the grammatical structure.  However, they learn where and when to say them when communicating.  These functional chunks of language empower students to use the language early and often and help students and teachers stay in the target language.

I will be presenting a workshop on this topic called “Put the Fun in Functional Chunks” on March 18th at the WAFLT Spring Regional at Eastside Catholic School in Sammamish.  In this workshop common language chunks and language functions at various levels will be presented and discussed.  Engaging activities to practice interpretive and interpersonal communications skills with functional chunks of language will be presented and practiced by participants.  Let’s put the fun back in language functions.

Here are the top ten language functions, can we create relevant related tasks?


Here is an example of one of my structured activities.  I learned it as Pancho Carrancho, but in French we say Mon Frère Pierre.  For now, here is a list of structured activities I posted earlier. Strategies-for-Guiding-Interactions   The new and improved list will be coming out soon.

Please join us at the WAFLT Spring Regional: Saturday, March 18th at Eastside Catholic School in Sammamish, Washington. The price is $35 WAFLT members / $45 non-members.

Registration is now open:  

Sessions will begin at 9am and run until 4pm, with lunch from 12-1 (included in registration fee). Pre-registration is accepted until Thursday, March 16, 2017. Pre-registration will guarantee that you will have lunch. Registration includes 6 free clock hours, lunch, and all conference materials. Please consider becoming a WAFLT member.  For more information go to the WAFLT website.


Feeling Lucky

Published by:

I am a lucky person.  I have won a trip to the Philippines, a TV, hundreds in free groceries, free paint and sip classes, novels, and much more.  This week I won a hand-painted wine class from a wine event, an autographed poster from Señorwooly, and $100.00 off registration for me and another teacher to the iFLT conference in Denver.

So I am hoping to spread the luck.  I would like to offer $100 off registration to the International Forum on Language Teaching (iFLT) conference to a teacher who has not been to an iFLT conference before.  I also have a companion ticket for Alaska Airlines that we could use to reduce the cost of airfare, and of course split the cost of a hotel room in Denver.

As a conference junkie, I have attended hundreds of conferences and think the iFLT conferences by Fluency Matters are awesome. Carol Gaab and her team are among the best in the business.  I attended the iFLT conference in Breckenridge, Colorado and learned a lot. This years conference is July 11-14 with Fluency Fast classes available before the conference July 7-10. For more information on the conference go to the Fluency Matters website.  If you are interested contact me at

Here is my submission to the contest as to What Fluency Matters means to me.

Congratulations To Our Runners-Up:

Runners-up will receive $100 off iFLT registration for themselves and $100 off iFLT registration for a colleague!**

Lynn Johnston
I feel like I am learning how to teach in the target language 90% of the time with novices from day one because of the Fluency Matters team. Every time I am lucky enough to secure a spot in a Carol Gaab presentation I leave with new ideas and inspiration. The class sets of novels and teachers guides have made teaching easier for me and reading more enjoyable for my students. However, my light bulb moment was at an ACTFL session when Carol Gaab demonstrated higher order thinking using compelling comprehensible input. Probable or possible or its variations logical and illogical are now standard in my teaching. Students are hearing vocabulary in context and are thinking at a higher level, but are able to respond with very little forced language. Who might say is another higher order thinking activity I learned from Fluency Matters. Students must infer who might say something based on context, content and/or verb form. Another activity I learned from the fluency matters team is the action chain. Students love to act and I get lots of repetitions of the language structures while having students determine a logical order for the events. This summer I discovered the webinars and the CI peek blog. I plan to use these a lot more in the future. I would really love to attend the IFLT conference and bring a new teacher I am mentoring in my district.




Word Ladders in World Language

Published by:

I just discovered the website for making free graphics and have lost the past two days of my President’s day weekend.  I was interested in creating word ladders to help my students with interpersonal communication tasks.  These can be made into posters, added to presentations, kept in student notebooks, stored on rings on hooks in the room, turned into literacy mats, or for my current purpose, use at a chat station.

Here are a couple I created for expressing likes and dislikes.





You can télécharger your own pictures, use one of their themes, or just choose from lots of colors.

Here are some ladders for frequency.  I decided printing them on a white background takes up less ink, and if you use black or grey you can print them at school without your husband screaming at you again for using all the colored printer ink at home.I

I am also going to use this website for inspirational quotes at school and at home!  Better yet, I am going to have students create word ladders on different topics and post them to my padlet page.  My students have chromebooks so this is going to be a create station, create a meme, quote, or word ladder and share with class on

School: commands, classes, and comparisons!

Published by:

To start my school unit, I begin with the story of the new girl.  Get it here free at  La Nouvelle Fille in French and La Chica Nueva in Spanish.  This is the first story I teach each year as I train students to react to my statements with the appropriate Ohhhhh when a new fact is introduced, and Oh-no, oh-no, oh-me, oh-my, when a problem occurs.  It is good way to introduce subjects in school and high frequency verbs.

Comparing class schedules, lunches, subjects, calendars, uniforms, attitudes is more fun with hula hoops as venn diagrams! Create sentences in the target language for students to sort into similarities and differences.  Examples are: We wear uniforms. Schools are free.  School starts at 8:am.  We go to school on Saturdays.  We have school all year long.  We have a summer vacation.   We have our own computers.  We are allowed to have phones.  We eat lunch at school.  We get out at 3:00.  We get out at 5:00.  We have sports teams at school.  We study English.  We study French.  Create your own sentences or use the ones I created at Teachers Pay in French and Spanish. 

For another comparative activity, have students create a table in a Google document and type up their own schedule.  Practice interpersonal speaking skills by having students ask each other which is your favorite class, which is your least favorite class, who is your favorite teacher, who is your least favorite teacher, which class is the most difficult, which class is the easiest for you? Search the internet for some authentic schedules from schools in the target culture and have students compare and contrast.

                                                     Mi Horario

Hora Clase Profe Opinión de clase Opinión de Profe
1 8:00-9:00 Los Estudios Sociales Señor Choe Dificil Simpático
2 9:05-10:00 Ciencia Señorita Dombroski No Me Gusta Simpática
3 10:05-11:00 Educación Física Señor Turcott Fácil Gracioso
4 11:00-12:30 El Inglés Señorita Gronvold Aburrida Estricta
5 12:35-1:30 El Español Señora Johnston Comica Divertida
6 1:35-2:30 Las Matemáticas Señora Ericksen Me Gusta Inteligente

Recently, story listening has been a hot topic on many blogs.  Telling stories to children is a lot like reading to children! I like to use David Va al Colegio and  David Va à l’Ecole to introduce commands. I read the story to the students like I would to my own kids at night, stopping to point out details in pictues and asking questions. As a follow up, have kids write commands for what David should be doing, or make their own versions of things they should not be doing in school, like no texting in class, and no speaking in English.

David va a l'ecole









I recorded a French and Spanish version.

Another one of my favorite activities for teaching commands is Sentence Strip Simon Says.  Combine class objects, body parts, and commands and write them on sentence strips.  Create some novel commands for fun.  Be sure to include: Put your pencil in your ear.  Put a book on top of your head and walk.  Open the door and say Bonjour Mes Amis.  Make your own sentences or check out my sentences in French and Spanish at TPT.  Place the sentences face down on th floor and have students draw one, read it to the class, and act it out.

Check out the sale on TPT, it ends tomorrow!


Global Goals: From Class Objects to Service Learning Projects!

Published by:

It’s time to elevate my school unit from class objects, subjects, and classroom commands, to cultural comparisons, connections, and community service. Of course I still have to teach class objects, subjects, and commands, so I like to start with songs, children’s books, and comprehensible input activities.  Our opening routine includes the song of the week.  Here are a couple of class object songs I like, Mon Sac à Dos for French and La Mochila for Spanish.

Next, I do a Backpack Demo.  I have a backpack with all kinds of class objects and other crazy things that I pull out one at a time and describe.  Some items I like to include are: a giant pen from Barcelona, a giant pencil and eraser, a real apple, toy desk and chair, keys, books, a computer, a calculator, a student, a flag, a social studies teacher, a picture of Antonio Banderas, the ear of Van Gogh, and a heart from  Senorwooly’s Ya Está Muerto song.  Novelty adds to the fun and surprise.  I then put everything back in the backpack one by one and have the students list as many items as they can remember. After a couple of minutes, have them compare their list with a partner. They score two points if they can name an item in the target language and one point if they can name it in English (to be translated later for homework.)  This can also be done with a suitcase of clothing and accessories, sports bag, grocery bag, or a mystery box.

Coloring is relaxing. My students always enjoy a directed color listening activity.  Create a coloring paper with pictures of several class objects.  I talk about each object in the target language and have students color certain parts or add items to the pictures. Students cut apart these pictures and use them in partner activities. For example, pass out a copy of a backpack and give items that do and do not go in a backpack.  Have students take turns saying are you bringing a pen? Yes, I’m bringing it. Are you bring an ice cream cone? No, I’m not bringing it.  Write the correct response on the back of each item ahead of time so students can self check.

A great way to get students up and moving and outside on a sunny day is a backpack relay.  Collect five old backpacks from the lost and found and gather five of each item to be practiced.  Put one of each item in each backpack.  I dictate a list of about 12 items to all students.  Divide students into five teams.  One student from each team is at one end of the space with the backpack and items, the seller. The other team members, the customers, are lined up opposite their seller and when I say go they must run down and say “I would like to buy a _____” (the first item on the list.) The seller hands them the item saying a_____ here you go, you could also include a price and some fake euros.  The runner thanks them and runs back to his team and the next person runs down and asks for the next item and so on until all items are bought.

What’s in your backpack is a great  partner activity that can be adapted to any vocabulary.  Have students draw and label five items in their backpack from a list of vocabulary provided without showing anyone.  Match them up with a partner and they take turns trying to guess what each other’s five items are.   After that, have students report out: in my backpack there is… in his backpack there was… in our backpacks there are….we did not have. This activity can be done with lunch bags, bedrooms, houses, suitcases, shopping bags, and hobbies. Do a google search for backpack coloring pages and you will find several to choose from.

There are some great authentic resources and ideas for class objects in Spanish from Zachary Jones.  Students add up how much the items on the back to school list, from the Secretary of Public Education in Mexico, cost for each grade and compare to cost of students in other countries.

To take the school supply list to a higher level, using authentic resources, you need to see this post at PBL in the target language by@sraSpanglish.  Her classes have this awesome unit on selecting and sending supplies to Colombia.  This got me thinking, I have a connection in Haiti for my French students to send supplies including some of our favorite children’s books and original creations!

For a closure activity have the students popcorn down naming one class object. To popcorn down, have all students stand up.  They all need to say one item and sit down.  The key is that no one can say any item twice and two people may not talk at the same time.  If two people do speak at the same time, or someone repeats an item already mentioned, everyone must stand and start over again.  It forces them to listen to each other and watch each other.  Do not let them try to organize and go in a circle. They have to randomly popcorn down.  It is a great way to sneak in lots of repetitions.