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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 onlinestopwatch.com 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!

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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:  http://tinyurl.com/gvnnpna  

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

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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 JohnstonL@edmonds.wednet.edu.

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

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I just discovered the spark.adobe.com 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 padlet.com.

School: commands, classes, and comparisons!

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To start my school unit, I begin with the story of the new girl.  Get it here free at Teacherspayteachers.com.  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 Teachers.com 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!

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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.



The Global Goals!

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I just discovered The Global Goals website and I am over the moon excited about the 17 goals and the authentic resources available in many languages.


On the website you can click on any of these 17 goals and change the language in the right hand corner to access resources on the subject in the target language of your choice!

The Global Goals

I was looking for reasons why all students could not attend school and was excited to discover these resources in French and Spanish and many other languages.12-Pourquoi-y-a-t-il-encore-tant-d’enfants-qui-ne-vont-pas-à-l’école and 12-Quality-Education-for-all_Español


Getting every child to school is one of the seventeen global goals. Having my students realize that not all students can go to school, and why, is my local goal. My students don’t realize that some kids have to stay home to help take care of siblings and collect water, others have to go to work to help support their family, some live too far from the nearest school, others can’t afford to pay for school fees or buy a uniform, and for others it is because of war.


I am going to use these with my novice level students so I created these presentations to build background knowledge and vocabulary.  ESCUELA for Spanish and L’école… for French.  There are resources from Donna Clementi and Laura Terrill on the ACTFL website for a unit on why can’t all children go to school.  Catherine Ousselin has curated lots of resources on her website on the obstacles some children face to go to school.

girls in school



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Today at TELLCollab in Seattle, Thomas Sauer reaffirmed my belief in the posting, copying, chanting, and choral reading of the learning targets with students.


The Washington State Teacher and Principal Evaluation Project (TPEP) has eight criterion.  Public school districts in Washington State evaluate teachers on these eight criterion using one of three frameworks: Marzano, Danielson, or CEL5D+.   There are differences between the frameworks but for criterion number one, all three models agree that teachers need to communicate clear learning targets to students.  Below is how each of the frameworks addresses criterion number one and the commonalities.

Criterion 1: Centering instruction on high expectations for student achievement.

 The Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model

1.1: Providing Clear Learning Goals and Scales (Rubrics)

1.2: Celebrating Success

1.3: Understanding Students’ Interests and Backgrounds

1.4: Demonstrating Value and Respect for Typically Underserved Students


CEL 5D+™ Teacher Evaluation Rubric

P1: Connection to standards, broader purpose and transferable skill

P4: Communication of learning target(s)

P5: Success and performance task(s)

SE3: Work of high cognitive demand

CEC3: Discussion, collaboration and accountability


Danielson’s Framework for Teaching

2b: Establishing a Culture for Learning

3a: Communicating with Students

3c: Engaging Students In Learning


Learning targets are best when they are consistently used and revisited during, and at the end of each class.  Teachers can check for understanding during the lesson by having students ask each other how they are doing in relation to reaching the target for the day.  Have students self-evaluate at the end of class on their progress toward the learning target.  How do you communicate learning targets to students?  Follow the conversation at #TELLcollabseattle.



Here is a comparison of the three frameworks used for Washington State Teacher Evaluation. commonalities among frameworks

Let’s Talk at TELLcollab Seattle!

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Give yourself the gift of professional rejuvenation!  Reserve your spot now to join state and national leaders in world language education as we come together January 21st and 22nd, 2017 for TELLcollab Seattle!  This “unconference” is a different type of professional learning experience where according to Thomas Sauer “whoever comes are the right people” and “there are no attendees only participants.”


Catherine Ousselin and I attended this unconference in Austin, Texas in June 2016 and we left inspired, invigorated, and we would like to personally invite you to join us for a weekend of collaboration.  Check out my blog posts about the experience.

For more information go to the website and register here http://www.tellcollabseattle.org/.  The cost is $99 + $6.44 processing fee for advanced registrations. At the door it will be $129 + $8.09. The Washington Association for Language Teachers (WAFLT) is providing free clock hours. Morning refreshments and lunches are included. There will be an optional evening activity on Saturday night to further network, make friends, and show off our beautiful city to the out-of-town participants.


Organizer Michele Aoki states “This is a unique opportunity for teachers. Not only will you have access to two of the strongest leaders in K-12 World Language education in the country from the TELL Project, Thomas Sauer and Alyssa Villarreal, but you’ll have their expert facilitation to help us get the most out of our own local expertise. In other words, it’s not just new information about language teaching and learning, it’s a new personal experience in learning. WE EDUCATORS need to continually refresh ourselves so that we feel inspired and ready to inspire our students.”

This is a great way to take a leadership role and bring a different kind of professional development experience to your building. So, please register, come, and help spread the word among your colleagues.   Check out the flyer here  tell_collab_uw_2017.

Let’s Talk Story

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My roommate at Central Washington University my freshman year was from Hawaii. She did not like the cold weather in Ellensburg, Washington, was not used to wearing shoes and socks, and was homesick for her family, friends, and culture on Oahu.  To get through that snowy winter of 1979, she would buy a six pack of Lowenbrau and say to me… let’s talk story.

On a recent trip to Kaua’i, I came across this little bookstore in Hanapepe called Talk Story.  My mind immediately went to Kim and our times together away from home, sitting in our corner of a four person dorm room, talking story about our lives, fears, and dreams. That’s the purpose of what we do, to teach people to interact in the target language, to talk story.


The brain is wired for storytelling.   Throughout time, a culture’s history and legends have been passed along through stories. We love to hang out with family and friends and embellish our experiences.  As we were traveling around Kuau’i, local tour guides kept pointing out locations of over 100 different movies filmed on the island. The entertainment industry makes massive money based on great stories.   If you are going to a social engagement, just go see the latest new movies and you will instantly have something to talk about with anyone.


One way to get students to talk story is through “movie talks.”  Movie talks were used by Dr. Ashley Hastings to help intermediate level university students comprehend full length movies. But the technique has been adapted by many language educators and is used with short films, commercials, public service announcements, movie trailers, television shows, and websites with gags and pranks, even at the novice level. Talking about things we have heard, read, or viewed with others is authentic communication.

Around the end of October, I like to use the short film El Monstruo del Armario.  It is a great way to get started with this technique.  I use the same film with my French  classes and just narrate in French.  Some popular videos for movie talks with resources on Teacherspayteachers are Wildebeast with a free script in Spanish, Partly Cloudy, Destiny , Crazy Carrot, and Alma.  I movie talk Senorwooly videos, especially the beginning of PAN were I describe the entire family, their actions, food and table settings.  I also movie talk the old DVD’s I have collected from Teacher’s Discovery over the years to get more input out of the videos.  Check out this website with 55 clips and my Pinterest page for more movie talk ideas. Blaine Ray has a new  CD with story scripts for $50.00 called Look I can Movie Talk in French and Spanish.

Although not a video yet, here is another visual, an old Powerpoint, that I start my year with to teach students how to do stories.  Get The New Girl here free in French La Nouvelle Fille and in Spanish La Chica Nueva.  We add details all year long as we learn new topics and information about the new girl and her story.  Let’s give them something to talk about. What’s your story?