More Core Practice Number Five

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Core Practice #5: Design and carry out interactive reading and listening comprehension tasks using authentic cultural texts of various kinds with appropriate scaffolding and follow-up tasks that promote interpretation.

Interpretive communication is receptive communication where clarification of meaning is not possible.  The creator of the communication is absent.  It is reading, listening, and viewing.  It includes literal and inferential comprehension.  Inferencing is a thinking process that involves reasoning beyond the text using generalization, synthethis, and/or explanation.  Readers interact with text and their background knowledge.  Ask questions like what do you think will happen next?  What kind of person do you think character X is?

Why authentic texts?  Authentic texts present real language.  They integrate authentic culture.  Authentic texts stimulate interest in language learning.  I agree with Dr. Eileen Glisan in the ACTFL Core Practices webinar, that students are motivated to interpret texts their counterparts are reading, viewing, or listening to in the target culture.  Interpretive tasks should be motivated by a reason to use the language in the real world.  Provide students with a scenario.  For example, you are vacationing with your family in Paris.  What is the best way to go sight seeing?  Search the internet for transportation options and decide how you will get around Paris and what landmarks you will see.  Use information from the text to respond.


Commercials from the target culture are authentic resources and a great way to practice inferencing and predicting.

Do you think that Emma likes her husband’s reminders to use the iPad?  What makes you think that?  Here is a Movie Talk script and cultural comparison activity to go with this commercial in French, Spanish, and English.  The only word in this commercial is “Emma” so it can be used with any language.  Stop the video along the way and point out the wife’s facial expressions and have students make inferences about how she is feeling.  Have them support their answers with evidence from the video.

Have the students watch the commercial again and notice the things they are doing and the things in the background.  What do you notice that is similar to our culture.  Do you notice any differences from our culture?

A few last tips.  Let students collaborate to interpret a text or video.  At the novice level some collaborating will be in English and sometimes comprehension questions can be in English.  Teach students to activate their background knowledge, skim the text for the main idea, and then re-read and scan the text for important details.  Edit the task not the text for novices.

Here is a link to a former post on Core practice Number Five and some reading activities and resources.  There are inferencing resources like task cards and graphic organizers at Teacherspayteachers in French and Spanish for additional practice.

More Core Practice Number Four

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Core Practice #4: Teach Grammar As Concept and Within Meaningful Use in Context

Teachers should focus on the form after meaning of the form has been established in interesting and compelling contexts such as stories, legends, and authentic resources.  This is followed by explicit focus on grammar that is relevant, using the PACE model, according to the Core Practices Webinar by Dr. Eileen Glisan.

Why stories?  Here are some reasons provided in the ACTFL webinar to use stories.  Stories have a compelling theme, they have characters with personality.  They have a plot with actions and events, a problem to be resolved, and a resolution to the problem.  Stories have a schema that children already understand, in other words a beginnning, a middle, and an end.  Stories allow learners to make sense of life’s experiences.  Stories trigger emotions which are powerful in facilitating memory and learning.  Stories naturally create a context, meaning, relevance, and empathy.  They facilitate understanding, retention, and recall.  They include various text types such as conversations and expository texts.

I like to use stories with high frequency vocabulary and the super seven verbs with my novices.  Check out a former blog post on storytelling my way and some free sample units on in French and Spanish.

More and more I use the PACE procedure to teach grammar in context. The PACE Model is a dialogic story based approach to addressing grammar. Diologic means interactive inquiry between and among the students and the teacher.


Presentation– The teacher presents the story orally in an interactive fashion with gestures and visual support, students are involved in retelling parts of the story or signaling.

Attention– Focus the learner’s attention on some aspect of the story.  The teacher highlights a form for students to notice.  Look at the forms and write down three similarities you see, what are three actions in the past, can you find them and act them out?

Co-construct- The teacher and learners engage in dialogic analysis of the grammar point.  The teacher uses assisting questions to help students discover patterns.

Extend-Learners use the new grammatical concept in creative and interesting ways to make meaning.

Here is a free presentation based on the fable The Cigale (cricket, grasshopper, whatever!) and The Ant that I use to demonstrate the Pace Model with examples in French and Spanish.

We can work together to curate and share authentic stories in many languages that would be engaging for learners.  How do you teach grammar in context?  Add your comments here and please follow, tweet, and share my blog.

More Core Practice Number Three

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Design lessons and tasks that have functional goals and objectives, to include specifying clearly the language and activities needed to support and meet the communication objective.

Use the three steps of backward design.

1.  Identify desired results.  What do you want students to be able to do?

2.  Determine acceptable evidence.  How will students be assessed as to how well they have meet the objective?

3.  Plan learning experiences.  What specific activities will students do to achieve the objective?


Here is a sample of backwards planning of a Carnaval Unit from the ACTFL Core Practices Webinar presented by Dr. Eileen Glisan.

Step #1  What are students going to be able to do?
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More Core Practice Number Two

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Core Practice #2: Design and Carry Out Interpersonal Communication Tasks for Pair, Small Groups, and Whole-Class Instruction

Interpersonal communication is two way communication negotiated between two or more people.  It takes place face to face or over the phone.  It also occurs in writing through notes, e-mail, and social media.  It is spontaneous, not scripted or memorized.


When designing interpersonal activites for students there needs to be an information gap.  One person seeks information that another speaker has.  Students need to listen to one another to complete the task and they can not know ahead of time how the other students are going to answer.  They also need specific language and strategies to negotiate meaning.  Students should do something with the information they obtain.  For example they could use the information in a whole class discussion or presentational task like an advertisement or brochure.


One example could be students surveying their classmates for leisure time activities, using the information to report out most and least popular activities, in order to prepare to interview a native speaker about their favorite activities.

Create a list of helpful phrases in the target language you teach that would be appropriate for students at a particular level to use during their interpersonal activities.  Some possible examples are: wait a minute…by the way…let me think…excuse-me..  Post signs around room including: How do you say?  How do you write?  Change after they are acquired.

Create situation cards so students can practice spontaneous interpersonal communication.  Here is an example.  These situations are on separate cards or pieces of paper so that each student sees only his or her role.


You call a good friend  students and invite him/her to go out to do something with you (e.g., see a movie, have dinner, go to the gym, or something else). Make the call and make small talk first. Then make the invitation. You will have to figure out together the details (such as the day, time, where you meet, etc.). Ask questions so that you are clear on the plans. After you end the call, be prepared to tell your roommate what the plan is.


You receive  a call from a good friend inviting you to do something. Answer the phone and listen carefully to what he or she says. You will need to ask questions to decide how to respond.  Also you will need to keep in mind what’s currently on your calendar as you discuss the invitation. After you end the call, be prepared to tell your roommate about it.

Follow up with information gained by telling your roommates about your plans so they will know where you are and when.

I have created some slides to practice spontaneous interpersonal communication in French and Spanish on the Teachers Pay Teachers website called  Timed- Think-Talk.



Here are some other Activities for interpersonal communication.

Assessing interpersonal communication with Talk Scores.  This is an uncomplicated way to assess students during interpersonal speaking activities.  Each letter of the word talk represents one performance objective to be observed during pair or small group tasks.  During the task the teacher should observe only one objective to observe.  The goal should be that after one or two weeks students have been observed on all four objectives which would be a round and a score can be recorded.

  1. Is the student talking in the target language?
  2. Is the student performing at acceptable level of accuracy?
  3. is the student on task and listening to partner?
  4. Is the student kind and cooperative?

For each objective score with either a plus, check , or minus.  A plus is 2 points, a check is 1 point, and a minus is 0 points.  After a round add up the points for the Talk score.  Here is an example of TALK SCORES.  Here is the record sheet I use. Talk Scores Record Sheet

Another great idea to practice intepersonal communication is Chat Stations.  Watch the video by Cult of Pedagogy.

More Core Practice Number One

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Core Practice #1: Use the Target Language as the Vehicle and Content of Instruction

Target language instruction should always occur in meaningful contexts.  For example: comparing and contrasting a cultural perspective after reading or hearing about a product, or discussing leisure time preferences to compare with target cultures, or making, accepting, and rejecting an invitation.Start the year with an explanation of why staying in the target language is so important and follow up with motivational talks throughout the year. Praise students when they make the effort.  Teach students about the proficiency levels and how to move up the proficiency scale as motivation to stay in the target language.    ACTFL_ What_s my Proficiency level _ final

There needs to be an absence of immediate translation to English.  Otherwise students just wait for the English.  Incentives like points, perks, privileges are helpful as well as consequences for speaking English.  Try a reward system in which students can earn points for maintaining the target language.  I use Free Seat Friday.  I strictly enforce my seating chart Monday through Thursday, but if we have a good week using the target language, they get to sit where they want on Fridays.  It always amazes me how much they love this litte reward that costs me nothing.  When your students speak to you or ask you something in English, give a quizzical look and say you don’t understand.

Provide comprehensible input.  Here is a checklist to use in planning, Denoto’s comprehensible input tool, startalk-checklist-1

  1. Create Comprehensible Language- The teacher should paraphrase, slow the rate of speech, and define new words using examples instead of translation. (e.g. transportation – plane, cars, taxis, subway, train)
  2. Create Contexts for Comprehension- Use gestures, visuals, objects, drawings, photos, realia, artwork, menus, bus tickets, plastic food, clothing.  Make sure students know the topic and the objective of the lesson in advance.  Post the daily objectives and refer to them often during the lesson, and evaluate progress toward objective at the end of each class.
  3. Create Comprehensible interactions with students-Involve the students (e.g., signaling, responding, completing a sentence after meaning has been established, ask questions).

Plan lessons so as to eliminate idle time, which can lead students to chat in English.  Change seating often so students have a chance to pair up with different classmates. Use activities such as inside–outside circles that allow students to practice common expressions and structures in rapid sequence. This also gives the teacher a chance to listen for places where communication is breaking down.

Involve students in story telling with techniques like signaling where students hold up a picture, a phrase, make a noise, or do a gesture.  Have students complete the teacher’s sentences, and respond to questions.  Start with yes/no questions then move to either/or questions, multiple choice, and then the who, what, when, where, and how questions.

Provide phrases to help students negotiate meaning.  Can you say more?  I think you are saying…right?   So you meant…?  Post high-frequency phrases around the classroom so students can refer to them if they get stuck.

Teach circumlocution and play circumlocution games. Use common game formats like Catch Phrase, Taboo, $25,000 Pyramid, or Password. Or mix them all together like “30 segundos” from the Creative Language Classroom.

There are free “Taboo” games in French,  and Spanish on  There are free lists of useful phrases for students in French and posters in Spanish and free examples in Spanish.  There is also an app called Head’s up from Ellen Degenerous in English and Spanish.

You can buy the game or make your own with headbands and index cards using words in the target language.

heads-upHere is a example of the game password with Jimmy Fallon.


There is a place to use L1. The first language is helpful when giving assessment directions, during the C or co-construct of the of Pace model, some interpretive tasks, or emergencies.  Check out my first post on core practice number one, using routines to stay in the target language. How do you encourage students to stay in the target language?

Classroom Decoration Hacks

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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.

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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

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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

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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.



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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!