Nervous about leaving the textbook behind?

Never fear!  If you’ve decided to embrace comprehensible language, you are excited to incorporate culture and authentic resources, and you’re thrilled to leave behind topics that don’t spark your students interests, you’re going to be successful!!!

So fundamental changes you’ll see right away:  

1.Textbooks WAY overload kids with vocabulary. Most ss don’t learn to use the new vocab chapter by chapter, just use it on unit test and then move on to next unit.  Now you’ll try to pick out key vocab and structures and use them in natural convo, stories, and situations with kids so they feel confident using the language!

 2. Textbooks isolate grammar concepts.  This is not how we learn our first language.  “Sorry honey, you can’t say anything in the past tense until you’ve mastered the present tense!” Teaching with Comprehensible Input  seeks to expose students to all tenses naturally as they appear in reading and in stories without worrying about what’s a 2nd year or 3rd year structure!  If it is given in context, students will understand.  Leave the explanation of why for after students have a large working knowledge of a particular tense and use the rules to help them see the pattern in what they already know… Makes a lot of sense doesn’t it?  I taught out of a textbook for 13 years before I caught on….
3. Textbooks have teachers thinking unrealistically about what students can do after 4 years of language.  Clearly if there are 8 different tenses and moods included in the Realidades series, students should be fluent users of all 8 when they graduate from high school… not so much! 😉  On the OPI, a score of Advanced Low is achieved by speaking consistently in three times (past, present, future)… We expect our graduating language teachers to hit advanced low… NOT our high school students.  Intermediate is long and messy!  They are often trapped in Intermediate Mid for a long time… Sometimes college students need a study abroad to drag themselves out of that sticky intermediate phase and into advanced low!  So focus hard on getting them comfortable and confident in the three times and have them reading lots of things with other tenses and moods so that the best can begin to acquire those as well… but even the slower processors will come out in the intermediate range!
4. You can’t fail them!  You’re going to be speaking Spanish in class every day!  They are going to learn a LOT of Spanish that way!  At the end of every year (hopefully) you’ll think of a million things you would change and do differently the next year but that is what makes it fun to keep going back!!!  You’ll just keep reminding them all year that tengo has the o so that means I and at the very end of the year you can put up that little chart and show them how all the forms fit in but when you ask them how to say “I have” they’ll already know! 🙂
Good luck shifting your paradigms!!!


  1. I have a few questions please. I also have always taught using a textbook and would like to switch things up so that more of my students come out actually using the language…not just the top students. I don’t quite understand how this works in a level one class. What authentic texts can a level one student understand without having to translate every word? I am not trying to sound negative, really I’m not. How do you go about finding material they can understand when they come in knowing nothing? I just want to understand how this will work so I can change things. I’m mainly concerned with level one. I can see levels two and up being able to handle more. I’d love to see this in action. Thank you for sharing!! Feel free to email me if comments get too long for the blog.

  2. In my opinion, an authentic text for level one looks a WHOLE lot different than an authentic text in level 2,3,4… It might be a pin on pinterest of a cartoon with a word or two they know. It might be a video with very few words and lots of visuals that I movie talk… In level one I start with all Spanish on day one but very sheltered! I want them with 100% comprehension all of the time. I don’t use authentic resources at all until they have a couple of weeks of language under them to serve as a basis for their continued study.

    We look at magazine ads that are heavy on cognates… and MUSIC is a favorite from day one! I start with the Spanglish song “You are the one” by Sonny Monreal and they’re hooked!

    My kids read 4 TPRS Publishing novels in Spanish one and by 3rd and 4th quarter they are easily able to handle related authentic resources like simple infographics and videos!

    I don’t know if you’re anywhere near me (southern IL) but you’re very welcome to come visit any time! We start the 15th!!! Yikes!

    • Thanks so very much. That was all very helpful and is a great jumpstart for me. I REALLY wish I could come visit but no time. : ( I’m in NC. I would love to see you in action. I’ll be following the blog to see what else I can pick up. Thanks for the great ideas!

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