5 reasons I choose Aquisition

There aren’t enough characters on Twitter to tell you why I choose Aquisition, I need a whole blog post! So I, Carrie Toth, former grammarian, will share the 5 things that caused me to shift my thinking.

5. When I taught grammar explicitly, I had to do it in English. This meant a lot of class time was spent in English. When I spoke Spanish to them, they were not always receptive. They thought they needed the English. Now I start Spanish 1, day 1 all in comprehensible Spanish. They learn that Spanish is the language of the classroom and love it!

4. They still learn grammar but they don’t realize it. In my old classroom, they made grammar errors, even after 4 years. They still forgot the name of grammar concepts after 4 years. That hasn’t changed! I don’t teach formal grammar lessons yet they make less errors, not more. I’m not talking about my top 10. They would do well with grammar however I taught them. I’m talking about the rest of the kids. I clarify for those who need it, I point out patterns, they get all the same grammar… It’s just hidden like the zucchini in my meatloaf!

3. The kids love Spanish. Now that I’m free from the chains of Realidades, I can design lessons around whatever structures will benefit them most. The perk is that I can design cultural units that engage the kids. They are becoming speakers of the language sooner and are seeing many more ways that they will be able to use Spanish after high school.

2. Through Comprehensible input… Especially the content based comprehensible input (CBCI) that Kristy Placido and I are using, I get the opportunity to personalize lessons to the students in my class. It has built an environment of trust where I think we have some very low affective filters and a lot of attempts to use language without fear! I love that we have “insiders” that vary from class to class… For example, 1st hour has a character, Jengo Fairlax, who is the hero of every story. Jengo died but it turns out it wasn’t the real Jengo, there is a factory that makes Jengo clones. The real Jengo is safe in hiding. Only the clones are ever in danger!!

1. No child left behind… I used to give Fs. Not a lot but especially in Spanish 1 where I told myself “some kids just aren’t cut out for learning languages.” When I attended my first TPRS workshop and heard “everyone learned their first language and so they all CAN learn languages” it was a wake up call. I went back to class with a new attitude! You know what? Susie Gross was right! Some pick up language fast and some slow, but they ALL get something. From “Boricua” my star student who is better than some of my low Spanish 4s to my two “Héctor” who are weak in both English AND Spanish, everyone is learning at his or her own pace and no one is failing. Well there’s one but he has chosen that path no matter what I’ve tried! The Hectors cant spell so their writing is atrocious but they can read with the class and can understand and participate in class discussions/stories. In a traditional class they would have been left behind in week 1! 🙁

So really I can never go back. That enthusiasm kids have coming into day 1 of Spanish 1 doesn’t get squelched. We have a great time all year. And a side perk is that I rarely and I mean RARELY have a discipline issue because I don’t have kids who are frustrated by the material now!

I’m not saying its for everyone, this is just why it’s for me! We aren’t enemies because we choose different methods! We all want what’s best for our students and do what shows the greatest result in our own room!


  1. This post could not have come at a better time for me! I have been teaching Spanish for 6 years, first at the high school level 1, 2, and 3 and now with 7th and 8th graders. Funny I am a native speaker! Deep down I have always known that acquisition is the way, but the curriculum has always gotten in the way. I am pursuing my Masters degree and I start a class Monday on Theories of Second Language Acquisition. My position is acquisition all the way. I now have a firm stance on how languages are learned!

  2. Excellent blog post!
    I used to think I was a good teacher because I taught the grammar in Spanish too. Turns out that time could have been much better spent on USING the language to talk about things instead of TALKING about the language.

    I wish educational university and college professors would visit classrooms taught with TCI & TPRS to see the drastic change in (as you said): Comprehensible TL used; student success for ALL; trust; & increase in Ss that are learning to love the language.

  3. This makes a lot of sense, but I am left wondering one thing: can they explain the reasons behind their choices? There is something to be said for automated *acquired* responses, for sure, but without considering why they do what they do, is their understanding deep enough?

    It’s virtually impossible for me to explain subjunctive, and I think this is a hindrance in my ability to produce language that conveys what I want. This came up in a story I wrote for grad school last semester where the professor was confused by my intent because I didn’t use it (something about did I let the baby go or was it just a possibility that I might–still not clear on the difference because I can’t explain).

    I get that subjunctive is higher level, but I feel like we are limited to inane conversations that are not necessarily engaging if everything has to come from previous repeated exposure before language can be created. If I hear a suggestion that kids “describe their families” from prescribed “improved” curriculum, I think I’ll scream.

    I’m torn between designing project-based units that tap into real world problems that engage students and playing by CI rules.

    • I think that a common misconception is that CI means no grammar. I teach grammar constantly but not with worksheets and fill in the blanks. If we have had the structure “Ella va” I am constantly finding ways to incorporate other forms of the verb, to highlight the patterns, and to connect those patterns to other verbs… I just do it without making it a lesson. It is part of our story or discussion. We are reading the novel Esperanza right now and have been discussing life in Guatemala. They learned about kids living in the city dump. We had lots of forms of vivir of course but then the kids wanted to fundraiser for them! I taught them how to say donate and raise money and without my help they were able to say “we raise money” or “donate money.” They know the grammar just not the terminology!!! Verb conjugation!

      PBL is a great concept! I agree! But I’m not sure of its place, especially in lower level classes! There is a lot of time spent in L1 when do projects! you may be better at preventing that than i am! I don’t do more than 1 per quarter because I’m jealous of our L2 time!!

      When they go to university classes, the profs will often be natives and will be speaking Spanish. When they take the OPI to graduate from college, they have to be at least advanced low! I want to get them comfortable hearing the language so that they can continue to hone their grammar skills but can always feel confident about understanding what the prof is saying and so they will be confident going into the OPI. I don’t know about other states but here in IL we are doing a lot of training on the OPI and there is really a problem with our college grads making the advanced low mark! Many are so weak that they have to take it 2-3 times! They aren’t getting enough input to be able to output!

    • Your question about higher level concepts like the subjunctive is a great one! I’m going to be honest here, I taught the heck out of the subjunctive in Spanish 3 and 4 back in my grammar days. They could fill in the little train with the subject and verb in the engine and the que connecting the caboose with different subject verb but it didn’t carry over into their production. It didn’t for me either! I was teaching before I got good at using the subjunctive! When I taught it, all of the rules finally clicked! The kids I have now have a better understanding of what subjunctive is because we start it in level 1. They read “quiere que su papá regrese pronto” and I say “regrese not regresa because he wants him to but he may not” and I move on. By level 3 they have that part down pa and we can look at how they switch the endings… I guess that to me the difference is in the old days I taught subjunctive as a unit at a specific time. Now I teach everything over and over again for a LONG time! LOL

  4. On a side note, my meatloaf recipe is killer: you need 1.5 lb hamburger, 1 egg, 1 cup shredded zucchini, 1 cup Italian bread crumbs, 1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk, 1.5 tsp salt. Mix all in a large bowl and either make meatballs or a meatloaf. Top either with 1.5 cups ketchup plus 1/2cup brown sugar well mixed! Bake at 375 for 1hr for meatballs or 1.5 hr for a loaf! I swear you’ll love it! 🙂

  5. Excellent post! And it’s good to point out that with comprehensible input more kids are actually learning more grammar than when you spent class time talking about grammatical structures in L1.

  6. I love seeing the top 5 reasons…seeing simplified justifications is a nice way to express what we believe in. Does anyone have suggestions for introducing CI based methods with teachers that don’t value/use it? The main issue I have is showing what the assessments look like to those that are used to textbook quizzes and tests.

    Free writes and speaking retells is not tangible like a grammar or vocabulary quiz from the text. What can be used as a formative assessment for grammarians and the like…the matter has to do with collecting data and tracking our students…


    • Well, I think that is the hardest part for traditional teachers about accepting this method. Our formative and summative assessments look MUCH different than theirs do! I NEVER NEVER give a straight grammar or vocabulary quiz. I give story retells and the like to Spanish I and the grade may be based on structure or vocab use or maybe just their ability to communicate their message to me! That isn’t the norm for me beyond Spanish I. For example: In Spanish 3 we just finished a unit on the Spanish Civil War. We did a lot of journaling about the film Butterfly (find evidence that the Civil War was about to begin throughout the movie and identify who support the republican and fascist sides), we discussed the history of the Spanish Civil war and did a history quiz at the request of a group of history buff students :), we read the novel “La hija del sastre” and did a lot of predicting, summarizing, deep thinking about issues in the novel as assessment (I didn’t use any of the comprehension questions in the TG because I expect my kids to be thinking a lot deeper than that…) We finished the war study by watching back to back films on either side of Spring break. The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth (both Guillermo del Toro films) are full of symbolism. Kristy Placido created an amazing summative assessment that I used this year! As we watched the films I had them journal each day about some of the symbolism in the films… for example the key represents having power or control and the flower represents new life or hope that lives on…. They recorded symbols from both movies and their meaning and then they chose 5-6 and created a piece of art. I’m trying to turn it into a movie right now so you can see how AMAZING they did! I could not believe the presentations they gave!!! They had to describe the symbolism in their art at an art gallery with classmates. The classmates asked questions and they had to answer!! I was able to grade their speaking, writing, listening, vocabulary, grammar, cultural knowledge, and even reading through this project and they LOVED it and to me it is so much more authentic and I know for SURE that my students from the preTPRS days could NEVER have done what these kids did in level 3!!! I guess it just depends on what you can convince them is “data”!!! I’ll blog the video if I am smart enough to figure out how to make it!

  7. Wow great response…I am glad I checked back right away. I am going to share my question and your post with my colleagues. What you discussed is definitely hitting on deeper levels of knowledge. Convincing others that learning is not always “data” like points or scores is a progressive way of looking at language and a challenging thing to do too.

    I have seen rubrics for some TPRS writing…do you have any guidelines that you use to make things clear and concise? I mostly use word count and timed writings with the general formula of 5 minutes —100 words. I allow to write for longer and sometimes set higher standards for later in the year but when I communicate how I assess this…I feel my message (to colleagues) iis lost in translation…pun intended.


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