OK don’t start your email or comments…yet.

Hear me out. I am proposing not insisting.

For years I stared my younger classes with the days of the week, date, weather etc. My older classes started with a few questions reviewing what we did the class time before (translate the sentences, fill in the blank, answer these basic questions etc.)

Then I stopped… why?


I believe in the Comprehensible Input Hypothesis by Stephen Krashen which means I believe the only path to acquisition to language is providing comprehensible language and preparing my students to read comprehensible language.

“The Comprehension Hypothesis says that we acquire language when we understand what we hear or read. Our mastery of the individual components of language (“skills”) is the result of getting comprensible input.” (The Case for Comprehensible Input Stephen Krashen,,  Published in Language Magazine, July 2017. )

  • So the majority of my time with my students which is not as long as I would like to think should be used PROVIDING COMPREHENSIBLE INPUT through listening and reading.
  • RICH & COMPELLING comprehensible input is BETTER than DULL & SHALLOW comprehensible input. So just because it is comprehensible does not mean it is good use of your time.
  • Based on my observation, (working on tying it to research) the first 20 minutes of my class is the GOLDEN TIME that I do not have to fight (as hard) for my students attention. Would you agree?

So here is my question, is the CALENDAR or BELLRINGER time at the beginning the BEST use of my time?

I say NO.

BELL-RINGERS- short activities like fill in the blank, translate this sentence, write the answer to these questions etc. (grades 3-8)

Maybe I am doing them wrong. My “bellringers” can last 10-15 minutes when I count

  • students getting in the class
  • starting the activity
  • completing the activity
  • reviewing the activity

Maybe I should just be more time efficient. Have a timer. Use a shorter activity.  Well… there is an argument for that, but my question is  WHY? What is so great about these activities that I need to protect it this much?

What I could do with my students instead?

I have my older students that I see everyday read for 10 minutes. They read from my classroom library of novels, readings and current event articles from Martina Bex and stories from Amy Vanderdeen at Storyteller’s Corner.

My younger students, who are not ready to read independently, start a story or other CI activity with the goal of getting to the MEAT (a.k.a – RICH & COMPELLING input) as soon as possible. We might read a passage together instead of listening to a story.


CALENDAR routine- What is today? What was yesterday? What is tomorrow? Let’s do the days of the weeks. What is the weather today?

** I have seen other teachers use the calendar time to discuss the students’ schedules and interests. I am not really talking about that. I know Tina Hargaden has suggested Calendar Time at the beginning of the year for YEAR 1 students. This is more of a conversation discussing personal interests using the calendar as spring board to personalize content. I am NOT talking about that kind of activity.

I have twin 6 year old boys who started Kindergarten this year. They do the calendar in their classroom everyday. So I should do it in my classroom, right? Well… maybe but WHY do they do it in their classroom?

According to child development research, 5 & 6 year olds are on the edge of understanding time.

My boys ask all the time- What is today? Is it a school day? How many days till my birthday? Is that a long time? Is it tomorrow yet? When is Friday? Is 7 days a long time?

In the article linked above, it says “Weather provides a perfect observable (and changeable) event to mark the passage of days … A weather calendar and graph is a perfect way for children to experience yesterday, today, and tomorrow.”

OK … so adding weather helps make CALENDAR more concrete, but if they are still learning the concept of time in their Kindergarten class, then I am taking a concept that they struggle with in their native language and then adding a language barrier. WHY?


I will restate “Just because it is comprehensible DOES NOT mean the activity is a good use of your time.” Can anyone really make an argument for the RIVETING calendar discussions you have had lately?

Being COMPREHENSIBLE does not automatically make it COMPELLING.

Yes the 5% of language nerds will LOVE anything you do in another language. (Hint- you are probably a language nerd.) But the rest of the 95% just want to have something interesting to talk/read about.

“It may be the case that input needs to be not just interesting but compelling. Compelling means that the input is so interesting you forget that it is in another language. It means you are in a state of “flow” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). In flow, the concerns of everyday life and even the sense of self disappear – our sense of time is altered and nothing but the activity itself seems to matter.” The Compelling (not just interesting) Input Hypothesis, Stephen Krashen, The English Connection (KOTESOL) in press

FLOW- Our goal is to have the students listen/read and forget they are communicating in another language. If the only thing compelling about the activity is that it is in another language then FLOW is nearly impossible.

If the activity is ONLY compelling because it is in another language, then it is not COMPELLING enough.

What do I do with my students instead? Stories, Discussion of Interests, Games that use language in context like Mafia


But my kids need to know this stuff?

Why? Is it high frequency?

You will probably use some higher frequency words when discussing the calendar and days of the week. But the vocabulary you are targeting IS NOT high on the frequency word lists according to Mark Davies Frequency Word Dictionary (Spanish), These are the calendar words ranking when the written and spoken language were analyzed.

  • Monday- 2187
  • Tuesday- 3490
  • Wednesday- 3431
  • Thursday- 2606
  • Friday- 2483
  • Saturday- 1816
  • Domingo- 1121

*** the #1 word would be the most used Spanish word in written and oral language (el/la is number 1). The words are then ranked by their use.

Seasons? The lowest number (meaning the most used) was for the word SUMMER (893)

Months? The lowest number was for the word AUGUST (1244)

If you look at the other more basic words used in conversation to discuss calendar, then yes, there are higher frequency words like DAY (71), YEAR (55), TIME (44), but isn’t there a better way to use these words in a richer and more compelling way?


If the word is important, then it will come up. My students know the word día and noche. How?… Stories. The colors, numbers, calendar, food and any other word can be told in a story. You can even come up with a story that targets some of the words if you want. I have started to move away from this because I want the STORY to drive my instruction and not a vocabulary/grammar list. I am not there yet, but I am headed in this direction.

But Anne Marie, I HAVE to teach these words. The parents expect it. My administration requires it. Their next teacher will DEMAND it.

Ok, so what about the end of class?

I have Kindergarten for 45 minutes. I strive to fill the first 20-30 minutes of rich, compelling comprehensible input activities. By the last 10-15 minutes, my students’ attention is starting to wane. Maybe you could use that time to do calendar and weather.

For older students, maybe the vocabulary lists or games you need to cover REQUIRED vocabulary could be the last thing you do.

CONCLUSION- I have my students for 45 minutes, some everyday and some 2X a week. There are so many more rich and compelling things to talk about. Why do I need to spend that time, especially at the beginning of my class, on the calendar or a traditional bellringer activity?

** Full disclosure-  Leslie Davison brought up the question of Calendar time not being a good use of time in an elementary classroom. The idea has stuck with me since NTPRS Chicago 2014. Thanks Leslie!


Back to school “SOY YO”

If you took a vacation under a rock then maybe you have not heard of Bomba Estéreo’s AWESOME song “SOY YO”

In fact I know I am late to the game creating plans for this song

Sometimes I start the year with the same lesson plans for 6th-8th grade with little modifications between classes. It is unifying for them across classes, and makes an easier beginning of the year for me. This year I choose to start the year with the song “SOY YO.”

So what did I do?

First few days:

I projected Niki Tottingham story of the music video. 

  • I went through each slide. If I had a new student with NO SPANISH experience then at the end of each slide we translated the whole slide into English. Otherwise I would spot check a few words here and there. I focused on the phrases:
    • soy yo
    • no se preocupa

I didn’t get through the whole story in one lesson because I had administrative beginning of the year stuff to do with them. Also I didn’t want to rush it. They started to lose interested after 5 slides so I would stop and move to something else.

  • At the end of each story reading session, I would show the video (and to avoid mutiny.)
  • When I finished the whole story we watched the video again.
  • I passed out the lyrics to the chorus. One side had the lyrics in Spanish and the other side was blank. As a class we translated the chorus into ENGLISH and wrote it in the blank box. I started the translating with what they knew. Then I translated the rest for them.
  • We listened to the video again. Students had to sing along during the chorus OR follow along with their finger on their sheet as they listened. (I sang…loudly…with dance moves)


PDF version of image above HERE

  • Lastly I had students discuss in groups how they would translate the phrase “SOY YO” into English not literally but in the message the artists wanted to communicate. We discussed these translations and wrote them on cards for my bulletin board later.


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  • I had students draw their name on a half sheet of card stock. They had to incorporate 2-3 things that described them. It could be a hobby, interest, or a favorite food/book/movie. It could be ANYTHING they wanted their classmates and I to know about them. (Learned this from Ben Slavic And Tina Hargaden- CARD TALKS)
  • I showed them my example first. (I quickly explained what I choose to incorporate but I didn’t do a long presentation in Spanish. That is for later.)


  • Then the class got to work on their own drawings while we listened to music. I walked around asking questions and commenting on their work. Students could use technology to look up how to draw different things if they wanted.
  • ON THE BACK- they had to translate (using a online dictionary- after a quick lesson of how to use dictionary for good and not evil) their 2-3 things. They could write it in complete sentences -I like sushi.- OR just the important part –videojuegos = video games- (This made my job easier when we discussed the cards later.)


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What now?

  • Then we discussed the cards one by one. (I started with my own to give them an example.) I chose one student at a time and asked them questions about what they drew. I had 2 student jobs during these interviews
    • Summarizer- This student wrote down the information that we discussed in class in English, Spanish OR a mix of the two.
    • Quiz Maker- I had a student write True/False statements with the answer at the end of the statement. I had the student write 10-12 person knowing I wouldn’t use all the statements.
  • The day after we finished an interview I either…
    • had the students read independently or in partners the information typed up in Spanish by me beforehand.
    • OR I had groups write in English or Spanish what they remembered about that person’s interview then I wrote/typed up the information in Spanish to then give them to put in their folder.
  • I am trying something new this year. Not sure yet if I will like it. I have groups pick 3-5 vocabulary words/phrases from the information to add to their dictionary in their folder. It has to be IMPORTANT words/phrases to the student interview reading AND words/phrases that we don’t know well or are brand new. I use Martina Bex’s dictionary page on TPT HOWEVER I use it differently than her plans.
    • The students write the word/phrase in SPANISH and ENGLISH
    • In the first box they write a sentence from the student reading that uses the word/phrase.
    • The second box is an illustration of that sentence.

** See Martina’s blog post with FAQs for more information on her approach)

  • I gave them a TRUE/FALSE quiz after every 2-3 student interviews.

Finally – OPTIONAL Bulletin BOARD


  • I make color copies of the students name drawings and staple to the bulletin board along with the cards the students used to describe their group’s translation of the phrase “SOY YO.”
  • Here are the large SOY YO letters from my bulletin board which I printed on card stock, cut out and laminated.

** These interviews were inspired by Bryce Hedstrom’s “La Persona Especial”


Me gustan los colores. ¿Sabes porqué?

I use Martina Bex’s curriculum for 6th-8th grade. In Unit 8 one of the target structures is “sabes.” I use a song called ¡Colores Colores! with my little students, and it fits well with this unit. It is a children’s song written for a younger audience, but I created resources to use the premise of why you might like a color.

The packet includes:

  • Lesson plans (2-3 days of class)
  • Lyric activity (match the color to the profession in the song)
  • 2 readings- The first reading is about a child asking their family members why their grandmother likes the color purple. Each family member gives a different reason, and then questions the reader which one of the reasons seems correct. The second is the grandmother giving her reason.
  • Creative writing activity where students write their own verse

You can purchase the plans and resources HERE.

Screenshot 2017-03-06 18.51.57

(**Side Note- This is based on a true story. My grandmother LOVES the color purple. So when I was thinking of a story to go along with this song, I immediately thought of her. I had to call her to ask because I had never asked why. It was because she remembers as a child going to church all the ladies who wore beautiful hats. Her aunt would come to visit and she had a big purple hat that was so beautiful next to her white hair.)

NEW & UPDATED Señor Wooly March Madness Bracket

Because of the AWESOME videos released during SEÑOR WOOLY WEEK, I updated my bracket to include the new videos along with adding Me Duele which was not included in the original.


1) Each of the students fill out their own bracket (just like a March Madness tournament bracket).
2) Each day we watch the videos from that round, and then the students vote by secret ballot.
3) We call out the votes, and reasons for each vote.
4) Each class votes and the video with the most votes moves on to the next round, and is added to the large classroom bracket.

For more information and examples of teacher’s who have done the same with popular music see previous post.

How did I divide the songs?

1) I divided 24 videos into 4 subcategories: Older videos, Newer Videos, Animated Videos and Wild Cards
2) There were 6 videos in each category. I chose my favorites and/or favorites from previous years in each category, and they got an immediate pass to the second round.

Celebrating Señor Wooly Week

If you haven’t heard, it is SEÑOR WOOLY WEEK!!!! There are surprises each day for subscribers starting today with the release of the video “NO LO TENGO.”

My students LOVE Señor Wooly, and the subscription to his website is money well-paid! So I thought we would enjoy Señor Wooly week to the fullest at my school.

So I created the SEÑOR WOOLY TOURNAMENT BRACKET which includes the bracket in PDF form, an editable Word document, and ballots for voting.

I got the the idea from the people below who have done this with Popular Spanish Music:

**  Bethanie Drew


**  Mis Clases Locas

How did I divide the songs?

  1. I divided 20 videos into 4 subcategories: Older videos, Newer Videos, Animated Videos and Wild Cards
  2. There were 5 videos in each category, so the math doesn’t quite work. So, I chose my favorite from each category, and it got an immediate pass to the second round.
  3. The second round has a choice of 3 videos instead of 2.
  4. There are technically 21 videos, but my students have never seen Me Duele in my class.  I took that one out because it made the math easier.

Now what…

  1. Each of the students fill out their own bracket (just like a March Madness tournament bracket).
  2. Each day we watch the videos from that round, and then the students vote by secret ballot. **The second round has 3 videos to choose from instead of 2.
  3. We call out the votes, and reasons for each vote.
  4. Each class votes and the video with the most votes moves on to the next round, and is added to the large classroom bracket.
  5. If everything goes as planned, we will have a CAMPEÓN Friday afternoon.

My students are really excited! I can’t wait to see who wins.



How my class fell in love with El Perdón by Nicky Jam

So I have taken the plunge into Teachers Pay Teachers. I have so much more appreciation for those teachers that I have bought materials from on TPT. It is so detailed, stressful and scary to put your stuff out there.


I was reading a blog post on Musicuentos about the song El Perdón by Nicky Jam (featuring Enrique Iglesias), and I got so excited to introduce this song to my 8th graders. As I started planning, my mind got rolling with ideas. My students have seen present progressive, but I wanted a way to put it into context for them that would be fun and engaging.

I started by just focusing on the chorus. We looked at the important vocabulary. I used a Word Cloud (made from We listened and searched for the words. I also used a cloze passage as a listening activity. I started to notice as we continued my students were changing the lyrics to the chorus to make other words with -ando and -iendo. They would sing them in rhythm to the song “Estoy hablando a mi amigo…”  So one day I gave students time to come up with our own lyrics. It was so much fun to hear their versions.

Then I started looking at Nicky Jam as an artist. Did you know he was discovered while rapping on his break at his job in a supermarket by the wife of an executive director of a record label?? What a cool story! So I wrote up a pretend story about a boy who is always singing and rapping at work (using present progressive). Then I had students read about Nicky Jam’s real life experience.

We had a BLAST with this song so I thought I would share. I even played the English version for them at he end. They didn’t like it, and asked me to turn the Spanish one back on. They sing it in the halls and ask for it even now as we have moved on. I hope you can have just as much fun with your class.

The first shorter version of activities is a 3 day activity packet with lesson plans. You can preview and download it for FREE here.

The other packet is a 6-day activity packet with lesson plans. It has the story inspired by Nicky Jam’s real life experience of getting discovered in the supermarket and the reading about Nicky Jam.


When do I teach this unit ?

 I use Martina Bex’s curriculum I teach this song after Storytelling Unit 08: La comida latina and use it to teach the present progressive tense. I also recommend Martina Bex’s notes and activities for the present progressive tense.

How do I address “tomando” which in the song means “drinking” (implied alcohol)?

In my class we have already learned “toma” which they know to mean “he/she takes” OR “he/she drinks” I go over “tomando” before looking at the lyrics, and I do not mention alcohol. I let them choose which meaning to draw in their dictionary, and we discuss either or both. Later when we go over the lyrics, I tell them what it means in the context of the song. Then, we talk about good and bad decisions for when you are upset. We come up with better ideas. (exercising, talking to a friend, listening to music etc.)  When it comes to“Como un loco tomando” while singing, we switch out the “oh” at the end of the phrase for a more responsible drink like Coca-Cola, leche, jugo or Fanta. It becomes fun to add in a different drink each time we sing.


MovieTalk Magic w/ Carol Gaab iFLT 2016

What is MovieTalk?

***MOVIETALK is NOT A TEXTBOOK. It is a PROP to interact with students ***

NOT – narration and paraphrasing

YES- Focusing on high-frequency structures and ask questions to clarify what is happening, DISCUSSION

Why are you using a video in class?? 

To engage students with comprehensible input, to provide mental representations for the target structures, platform to interact with students, something to talk to them about in the target language

TIP #1 Don’t pick random videos, match your kids or your culture PLAN IT OUT

  • Can you understand the video without the dialogue? Don’t pick a video that you can’t know what is going to happen if you can’t understand the dialogue
  • Pick a video that is short and minimal dialogue/words – You have more freedom to pick the words you want.
  • We shouldn’t be doing the same kind of videos (keep it novel)
  • NOVICE- commercials, movie trailers, Mr. Bean, just for laughs/prank shows (Just for Laughs on Youtube)
  • INTERMEDIATE- extend the length as you go up in proficiency level: movie shorts, news reports, interview speech, dialogue driven plot

TIP #2 TAKE THE FOCUS OFF THE VIDEO- You are only going to get so much of the MovieTalk in the actual video so front load with pre-viewing activities (PQA and discussion)

BEFORE viewing:

  • Students make predictions on the image of the video- What is it? Where are they? Who are they? What are they doing? Why?
  • PQA of those predictions (voting on opinions)
    • Start with the image and branch out from there
    • When you hit a dead end then go back to the image and pick up something else
    • Get to your out-of-bounds vocabulary in this discussion and go ahead and post it on the wall
    • Get repetitions of core structures BEFORE so they are comfortable when you go through the video
  • ACTIVITY- Have screenshots and kids make predictions of the order. What is going on? Students talk to a partner about what is happening. Class discussion- Which one goes first? What do you see? Do you have that? Come up here. What do you have? Show us!(PQA) DON’T TELL THEM THEY ARE RIGHT or WRONG- Create your own class story
  • Prolong the introduction for a long time to get the repetitions


  • You can keep it super simple (1 sentence per scene)
  • Watch the video in chucks over several days


  • Create the reading with the class
  • Read a narrative of the video with your target structure of one scene
  • Then go back to the video to watch again then ask questions that have the answers in the reading
  • Cloze passage

POST VIEWING- DISCUSSION based on language proficiency

  • Compare and Contrast your predictions to the video
  • List the emotions (basic recall)
  • Do people treat you differently as a rookie (compare and contrast)
  • What is the figurative and literal meaning of “Oh man!” (compare and contrast)
  • Describe a time it happened to you (create)

POST VIEWING- WRITING (not novice learners)

  • modified cloze passage – instead of a word put in a phrase
  • Sequence Prompts. Start the sentence and they fill in the blanks.
  • Screenshots
  • Prompts to write about a simular situations you have had, and then SHARE

Have a kid that saw the video already?? Then their challenge is to convince the class that it is a different story.


  • Write out transcription and have students read it. (Circle, PQA, compare, act out)
  • Make your own predictions of the video based ONLY on the transcript in class then compare and contrast to the real video

**Carol tied this video to hostage situations around the world (PRE-VIEWING)

Narrow-listening hypothesis (Dr. Stephen Krashen)- video driven not just audio listening

  • Listening along a similar NARROW topic with similar vocabulary
  • Listeners can listen as many times as they want

VIDEO FOR USELESS TRVIA (that uses your target structures)

  • Pre-viewing ACTIVITY – Reading on Cheetah (transcript of commercial) – How fast can a Cheetah run?
  • Reading ACTIVITY- Highlight words in transcript then have a word back of synonyms . They have to replace the highlighted word for the synonym.
  • Reading ACTIVITY- Give the brief main idea of each paragraph/section and then students match the paragraph with the brief description.


CONTENT-BASED / INFORMATIONAL VIDEOS – content videos (lots of dialogue)

  • LOWER levels-
    • mute and discuss
    • write out transcript and create narrative (SIMPLIFY)
    • unmute watch & listen as you read
    • listen repeatedly until you understand (put it in a station so they can independently as many as they want)

** STATIONS- reading the transcripts from previous videos, listening as much as they want

A-Z READING– site with fiction and NON-FICTION simplified readings

PRE-VIEWING- pre-load vocabulary so you don’t have to stop the video as much or at all

  • PQA with narrow vocabulary (Do you work out? Do you work out in the morning?)
  • Read some informational text first
  • Ask the questions about a screenshot
  • ACTIVITY- Possible or Probable- set of statements and partner then class discussion to decide if a statement is possible or probable
  • Tie the NARROW vocabulary to their context (baseball players want to know the word “lead”)
  • QUIZ- using a website like Kahoot/Photo Peach to create a quiz within the video


  • Students have access to the video to LISTEN as MUCH AS THEY WANT and fill out a “quiz” online quiz reporting (add in high-order thinking and/or new reading)
  • ACTIVITY- Find 3 imposters (simplified)- Write up a text of the video but replace the important words/concepts with false information and students have to find the wrong information.
  • NOVELTY- PLAYPOSIT – website that has the video and a quiz next to it. (FREE) Video won’t continue unless you answer the question.

***BEST ADVICE EVER- Don’t tell them it is a VIDEO!***

Once you play the video it’s THE END- Change it up and ask the questions first  (FRONT LOAD the discussion)


** All these videos were with Carol’s baseball players in mind. (Endurance, Speed, Hostage situations in their countries, Dealing with the disappointment when people are not excited to meet you when they realize you are not the All-Star)


  • Novice’s look at a small chunk of the speech that can be broken down to comprehensible containing target vocabulary
  • ACTIVITIES in stations- newspaper articles about racial discrimanation, readings on important people, listening to videos about other famous people who dealt with discrimanation (Felipe Alou, Jackie Robinson etc.)


If you found errors in these notes then feel free to email/message me. It was typed during the session and quickly. 🙂