It was just one session…

In 2007 I was searching.  Things in my classroom were not right and I didn’t know why… and then I saw Susan Gross present on TPRS at the ICTFL Fall Conference.  It changed my career.  I’m not kidding you.  One session led me down a path that has grown my retention rates, increased scores on proficiency tests, and increased overall love for Spanish at my school!

I learn new things EVERY SINGLE YEAR from just one session.  My goal is to never pull out the same plans year after year!  I want to find ways to adjust what I am doing to better meet my students’ needs!

This year, there wasn’t just one session… there were two!  The first was Bryce Hedstrom’s session on “What’s the Password” at iFLT in Denver.  The book is available from Teacher’s Discovery but to summarize… use important phrases and sayings that do not translate literally as a password to enter your room every day!  As Bryce promised, it has led to a sense of community, it has let me SEE how my students are as they enter the room, and it has taught them some valuable expressions already!!!  I just love this and am so grateful for presenters who continue to challenge me to up my game!

The second session was also at iFLT from Carla Tarini!  Carla shared a mini session about 10 line stories.  Our news program at school, Wild News, is now airing one Spanish word of the day (used in a sentence full of cognates) to tell a story.  The first 5 days tell the basics:

There is a teacher.

His name is ….

The teacher has a problem.

He has a big problem.

There is a monster in his car.

Friday, the monster was the cliff hanger!  On Monday we have a holiday so on Tuesday we will pick up with the last 4 (normally 5) lines.  I can’t tell you the end… the kids might be reading… but I CAN tell you that students who aren’t even in Spanish have loved this!  I have loved watching!

This Friday, we will take a picture of the teacher (Carla uses faculty and staff in her stories) and a colleague who helped “solve the problem” in action!  This will be the background as they reveal the final line of the story.  I think they’ll be so surprised!

Carla and Bryce, thank you for sharing your ideas!!! You guys who haven’t seen even ONE session in a while, what are you waiting for?  And if you have seen a lot of great ones, present one yourself this year!  Your ideas make a difference way beyond your own classroom walls!

Author: senoracmt

I began teaching Spanish in Illinois in 1994. I have taught levels 1-4 in a small rural high school, 8th grade introductory Spanish, Biology 1, and 101 and 102 at the community college level. My Spanish classes are partnered with the community college to offer students 8 semester hours of dual credit on completion of Spanish 4. In 2011 I met Carol Gaab and Kristy Placido and have since co-authored the book "La hija del sastre" with Carol Gaab and authored the novels "La Calaca Alegre", "Bianca Nieves y los 7 toritos." "Vector," "48 horas" and "Bananas" through Fluency Matters. In 2006 I became National Board certified and I have been serving as a mentor both for candidates seeking certification in world languages other than English and a virtual mentor for candidates in all certificate areas. I completed my Masters degree in Spanish education in 2011 and did my research on the use of Understanding by Design to create meaningful cultural units for the language classroom. I am a frequent presenter on this topic, please consider me if you are interested in a workshop on backward design. In 2013 I was named the ICTFL Foreign Language teacher of the year and in 2014 I was selected as CSCTFL's teacher of the year. In November of 2014 I was lucky enough to be one of the five finalists for the ACTFL National Teacher of the Year in San Antonio, TX. What a "Cinderella" experience! You can reach me via email at senoracmt at

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