Choral Reading

Just to give a bit of backstory before I talk about choral reading, my classes and I all started off the year with a common storytelling unit designed to assess where all of the students were at. I teach grades 5-8 and I wasn’t expecting them to know much more than colours, animals, some numbers, etc. I assumed the grade 8s would be at the highest level of ability, but I actually have some grade 6 classes that seem to know more than some of the grade 8 classes, so I’m glad that I have had this chance to assess them all a bit. You can read more about how I started off the year in my First Day post. After the first day of class, we moved on to some storytelling using the script I had written. Our characters turned out to be Justin Bieber and Will Ferrell in most of the classes, simply because I have some hilarious celebrity masks at school. They were a huge hit with every grade level. They also came up with some interesting pets for the two characters, including a mini-monkey, a giant purple frog, and a llama. Try circling the sentence “La llama se llama Justin Bieber junior” as many times as you can in Spanish! Yes, they not only had Justin Bieber as a character in the story, but several of my classes insisted that Will Ferrell’s animal was named Justin Bieber Junior.

Anyways, to get to the point of this post, after the storytelling we moved into a common TPRS reading technique often called choral reading. This was their first time trying it out, and it went really well. I created a PowerPoint presentation with the story broken up into various slides. I added funny or interesting photos to each part of the story that would help students understand it better and stay engaged. We went through the story together as a class using the presentation. On each slide, I read aloud the sentences in Spanish. Then I had the students chorally translate the sentences into English. I like to use my laser pointer for this, but you can just as easily point with your finger instead. I use the laser pointer to keep all of the students reading at the same speed. This time I was trying to get them used to the speed, so I was very strict about them only translating a word if the laser pointer/my finger was on that word. They had to pause until I moved to the next word. After we translated each slide, I circled the important sentences and asked a few questions about the content of the story. I also occasionally compared the content to information we had learned about students in the class or myself. (ie. Gabriela has dark hair, but I have blonde hair.)

As a final step in the choral reading process, I had students get into partners and translate the whole story (the last slide of the presentation). They each had to translate one sentence at a time, and they had to alternate. I walked around the classroom while they were doing this, and had very few students who were struggling. Afterwards when asked, the students told me how smart they felt because they understood everything in the whole story.

Picture Dictionaries

This year I created a new template for the picture dictionaries I have students fill out. I borrowed the idea for the format from a math teacher at my school who uses something very similar. So far I think it’s working really well. It doesn’t take them long to fill out, and doesn’t seem to be as confusing or hard to explain as the previous version I had created. Basically the students write the Spanish structure in the circle in the middle. The English translation goes in the top left box, then we write an example of a sentence in Spanish that uses the structure in the bottom left box. In the top right box they then draw a picture (using stick figures) of that sentence or of something that reminds them of the structure (ie. for “se llama” lots of students drew a simple name tag). In the bottom right box, students can either describe in English how to do the action associated with the structure, or they can draw a picture/diagram of it.


First Day

This year I am starting out at yet another new school teaching Spanish to grades 5-8. I have come up with a new set of structures and a very basic story script that I will be using in all of my classes, as they have never had TPRS before. The structures that I have chosen to focus on are: se llama, tiene, and es. This will allow me to better assess the students’ individual levels before we move into the next story. I have backwards planned 4 different TPRS novels and hope to actually post some of my planning/resources this year, so check back again soon!

To start the year off, I had each of the students make name tags. I am teaching 10 different classes with 25-27 students in each class, so these will be necessary! I went over some of the basics of TPRS and then we launched into some PQA. I had one volunteer come up to the front and I started circling using the target structures. I used this as an opportunity to teach the class a few TPRS skills, like signaling when they don’t understand, saying “Ahhhh…”, and hitting the desk when I say “Es ridiculo!” When I ran out of things to say about the first student, I brought up another one to compare and contrast.

Some of the phrases I circled included:

  • Ella es una chica.
  • Se llama Jessica. (I suggested a few times that the volunteer was named Taylor Swift or some other celebrity and the students loved it. They seem to think it’s even funnier when it’s someone they don’t particularly like, like Justin Bieber.)
  • Jessica tiene dos hermanos. (I whispered with the student to find out and told the class the answer in Spanish. You could also ask the kids in Spanish if they had enough language ability to answer you. Whispering seems to make them more curious though.)
  • Jessica tiene un gato. (This was a fun one to contrast “tiene” with “es”. I asked “Jessica ES un gato?” and got lots of laughs.)
  • Jessica tiene pelo largo.
  • Jessica es atlética. (Once again, I got this information from the student.)

When I started talking about penguins and elephants, a few students naturally started making up fake pets. I encouraged this by asking them detailed questions about the colour, size, and name of these pets and then sharing the details with the class.

Our next class will involve more PQA and descriptions like those above, though I might let them start using my celebrity masks if they get bored hearing about each other. Eventually we will work our way up to asking a story based on the script below. I’ve included some practice sentences and questions to ask students as well.


  1. La chica se llama Cristina.
  2. Manuel tiene un gato.
  3. El gato se llama Fluffy.
  4. Fluffy es muy gordo.
  5. Señor Deis es muy alto.
  6. Justin Bieber no tiene un iPod.
  7. La profesora de español tiene tres hermanas.
  8. Jennifer Lawrence tiene pelo largo.
  9. Señor Pittman no tiene pelo.


  1. ¿Cómo te llamas?
  2. ¿Quién tiene un animal doméstico?
  3. ¿Quién tiene un perro?
  4. ¿Cuántos animales domésticos tienes?
  5. ¿Cuántos hermanos tienes?
  6. ¿Quién tiene pelo largo/corto?
  7. ¿Cuántos años tienes?
  8. ¿Quién es atlético/artístico/inteligente/simpático?


Ella es una chica. La chica se llama Gabriella. Ella es inteligente. Ella es guapa y atlética. Ella tiene un gato. El gato se llama Whiskers. Él es rojo. Él no es inteligente. Él es muy gordo. Gabriella tiene un problema. Ella no tiene un elefante. Gabriella tiene un gato, pero no tiene un elefante. Gabriella está triste porque Whiskers no es un elefante. Gabriella tiene un amigo. Su amigo se llama Jacob. Jacob tiene un elefante. Gabriella exclama, “Mamá, ¡no es justo! ¡No tengo un elefante!” Su mamá le responde, “Gabriella, un elefante no es un animal doméstico. ¡Es ridículo!”

Celebrity Masks

I recently found a great website where you can purchase very realistic-looking celebrity masks. It is called Mask-Arade. I have about 10 of them now, and I absolutely love them. I try to keep them hidden from the kids until we really need them to liven up a story. It’s a great way to get them interested in the story again when they are losing focus and it always makes the whole class laugh. Usually I either keep asking students for celebrity names until someone happens to guess one of the masks I have, or I tell them “I have a secret…” and then I reveal who the character is. Once they know which masks I have, they always try to work those characters into our future stories.

Since I am located in Canada, the website didn’t allow me to purchase the masks through the site, but when I contacted them via their contact form, they were able to help me do it through email/PayPal.

Some of my favourite masks include:

  • Justin Bieber
  • Lady Gaga
  • Barack Obama
  • Angelina Jolie
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Will Ferrell
  • Elsa
  • Borat

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Speaking and Writing Rubrics

The speaking and writing rubrics that I use come from Scott Benedict at Teach for June. He has a ton of other information and resources on assessment and proficiency-based grading so definitely check out his website. I have found his rubrics to work the best for me personally because they focus more on fluency and comprehensibility rather than spelling and grammar.

When using the rubric, there are two ways to mark: analytically and holistically. You can mark it so that each student gets marked on their speaking/writing, vocabulary, and structures separately or so each student gets an grade that tells them which level they are at overall. I generally mark analytically by checking the appropriate box for each category at the level the student has demonstrated. I then add the 3 percentages together and divide by 3 to get the average and that is the student’s mark.

  • Writing and Speaking Rubrics – Word; PDF