Hand Counters

This year in my classes I have started using hand counters. I purchased a few of them on Amazon and they were about $2 each. I use them during storytelling to get students to count the number of times I say a certain structure. Every since I have started using them, the kids all want to be the “counters” because they love using them. The great part is that I can tell very easily if they aren’t counting properly. It is easy to see if they have pressed the button and it also makes a clicking sound when they press it.

Timed Write Rubric

At one of my presentations this weekend, I was asked to post the rubric I use to grade timed writes. I have posted it along with the timed write handout that I give to my students. Basically for this activity, students write sentences with one word per line. They have 10 minutes to write as long of a story as they can. The rules I give them are that they cannot give a character more than two names (first and last) and they cannot repeat the same word twice in a row (eg. very very very very happy). Their sentences have to make sense, but spelling doesn’t count as long as I can figure out what they are trying to say. They are not allowed to ask how to say words or look them up in a dictionary because I want to know what they have acquired. Their options for the story are to rewrite a story we have told/read in class, write a similar story with different details, or write an original story. The most important thing I tell them every time we do this activity is to focus on using language that they already know. Sometimes students get stuck because they get a great idea for a story but aren’t able to write it with the limited amount of Spanish that they know. I tell them to repeat the structures we have learned in class as many times as they can and to add another character when they get stuck for ideas. I also encourage them to use cognates that they know as well as proper nouns, especially for places (eg. Walmart, Starbucks).

My favourite part of this activity is that it allows me to see where my students are at in acquiring the structures. It is very easy to tell when reading their timed writes which students have acquired the structures and which students still need more input. The first time I do a timed write, I have students write down a target for themselves. This number is the number of words they think they can write in Spanish in the 10 minutes. After the first timed write, they continue to set their own target but it must be at least equal to the number of words they wrote the previous time.

I love to have students do this right at the beginning of the semester and again at the end so they can see how far they have progressed in the language. Click here to see a French sample from a student who was halfway through the year of grade 10 French at the time.

Palliser District Teachers’ Convention 2015

This year I am presenting once again at the Palliser District Teachers’ Convention. I will be presenting two sessions. Below I have posted the details, along with a summary of each session and links to handouts that will be provided at the session.

Using Easy-Reader Novels to Teach Second Languages
Thursday, February 19 from 2:50pm-4:00pm
Glen 210, South Building, Calgary Telus Convention Centre

Using novels in the second language classroom is the best way to show students how much language they have acquired over the course of a semester/year. This session will discuss where to find the best easy-reader novels in various languages, how to plan to teach them, and fun activities you can use while teaching any novel in a second language classroom.

Teaching Second Language Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling
Friday, February 20 from 12:00pm-2:45pm
Glen 210, South Building, Calgary Telus Convention Centre

Teaching Proficiency with Reading and Storytelling is a method of teaching based on the theories of Stephen Krashen that uses a mixture of reading and storytelling to help students learn a foreign language in a classroom setting. This session will introduce the method and many engaging ways of providing comprehensible input to students, including MovieTalk, embedded readings, novels, children’s books, and cultural stories.

Credit: Thanks to Bryce Hedstrom and Carol Gaab for much of the information in the two presentations. Thanks to Martina Bex and Betsy Paskvan for other information contained in the presentation. Thanks to Laurie Clarq, Martina Bex, Victoria Gellert, and Michele Whaley for the circling template. All information within these presentations is used with permission and cited accordingly.

Las chicas quieren todo

I am finally posting the story that goes along with the song Humanos a Marte by Chayanne. I ended up focusing on the past tense in this story as my grade 11 and 12 students are in their 7th and 8th years of studying Spanish, so they were more advanced that I had initially planned for. The script is written in Martina Bex style and includes practice sentences, questions for individual response, and personalized questions for class discussion. Luckily she has already written an awesome blog post on how to use story scripts, so I won’t bother going through and explaining it all again. The story itself is loosely based off of the story that Linda Li uses to teach Mandarin at her NTPRS sessions. It uses the same structures, but substitutes a car and concert tickets for coffee.


tenía – he/she had (cup one hand held out)
quería – he/she wanted (pull hands in towards self while doing grabbing motion)
miró – he/she looked at (point with two fingers at eyes then away from self)


Mi amiga tiene dos hermanos y un perro en su familia.
Los estudiantes no quieren mucha tarea porque quieren jugar los videojuegos después de la escuela.
Un estudiante mira al profesor porque tiene un bigote muy extraño.
El hombre no tiene mucho pelo porque es muy viejo.
Mi madre quiere una casa limpia pero mi padre no quiere limpiar.


¿Tienes hermanos?
¿Cuál tipo de aparato electrónico tienes?
¿Quieres un animal doméstico?
¿Quieres un carro?
¿Tú miras tu profesor durante la clase o miras a otras personas?
¿Miras afuera cuando hace calor y estás en la escuela? ¿Quieres ir afuera cuando hace calor?


¿Tienes el iPhone 5? ¿Quieres iPhone 5 ahora? ¿Por qué? ¿Por qué no lo quieres?
¿Quieres otro hermano o quieres otro animal doméstico? ¿Por qué?
¿Qué programas de televisión quieres ver este año? ¿Por qué te gustan?
¿Cuándo tienes tu clase favorito? ¿Cuál es tu favorito?
¿Tienes una computadora o una televisión en tu dormitorio? ¿Quieres tener una? ¿Por qué?
¿Qué haces cuando otros estudiantes te miran en la clase?
¿Tienes vergüenza cuando alguien te mira bailando/corriendo?
Prefieres mirar la televisión, una computadora, una tableta, o un Smartphone cuando ves una película/cuando usas Twitter? ¿Por qué?


Amy quería un carro rojo. No tenía un carro porque no tenía dinero. Juan tenía un nuevo carro rojo. Amy miró el carro de Juan. Amy miró el carro de Juan celosamente porque quería su carro rojo.

Además, Amy quería un boleto para el concierto de Justin Bieber. No tenía un boleto porque no tenía dinero. Juan tenía dos boletos para el concierto de Justin Bieber. Amy miró los boletos de Juan. Amy miró los boletos de Juan tristemente porque quería sus boletos para el concierto de Justin Bieber.

Juan quería una novia. No tenía una novia porque no tenía dinero. Tenía un carro y tenía dos boletos para el concierto de Justin Bieber, pero ya no tenía dinero. Amy era una chica perfecta. Juan miró a Amy románticamente. Juan dio su carro y sus boletos a Amy. Pero había un problema. Amy ya tenía un novio. Se llamaba Justin Bieber.


Amy wanted a car. She didn’t have a car because she didn’t have any money. Juan had a new red car. Amy looked at John’s car. Amy looked at John’s car jealously because she wanted his car.

In addition, Amy wanted a ticket for the Justin Bieber concert. She didn’t have a ticket because she didn’t have any money. Juan had two tickets to the Justin Bieber concert. Amy looked at John’s tickets. Amy looked at John’s tickets sadly because she wanted his tickets for the Justin Bieber concert.

Juan wanted a girlfriend. He didn’t have a girlfriend because he didn’t have any money. He had a car and he had two tickets for the Justin Bieber concert, but he no longer had money. Amy was the perfect girl. Juan looked at Amy romantically. Juan gave his car and his tickets to Amy. But there was a problem. Amy already had a boyfriend. His name was Justin Bieber.

Chayanne – Humanos a Marte

These past two weeks have been great for getting a head start on planning for this upcoming school year. I have decided to start off the year with my two older groups (grade 9s and grade 11s) with a few basic structures that we will need for storytelling. They haven’t had TPRS before as I am at a new school this year, so I want to make sure to challenge them a little but not make things really difficult. They are all at varying levels of ability (some have taken Spanish since grade 5 and others since grade 7), so we will see how this song works with them. It’s a little faster, but super catchy.

I’ve created a cloze activity for the song and I added some information about Chayanne as well as the Mars One project, since it seemed to tie in to the song. I also added a few questions about both topics. My focus structures for this unit are “tiene”, “mira”, and “quiere”, so I’ve tried to work that into the song whenever possible. I am also trying to limit the number of blanks they have to fill in until I have a better idea of where their level of Spanish is at.

I’m also hoping to post the rest of the unit that I created to go with the song, but I need to finish it up first.