Reading 3 Ways: Differentiation by Level

As you look around your room, you KNOW that students are all over the place in terms of language ability.  From day 2 of level 1, you can see the fast processors begin to emerge and by year four, the gap between can be VAST.  As I changed to a CI classroom, my enrollment grew and grew… and with it the challenges of multi-level Spanish 4 students.  It is a challenge I am determined to overcome.  Although it does mean a lot more work and understanding on my part, it also means that more students are going to have great experiences with language!  Think what that will mean for them in the future.

In Spanish 2 we are studying the comprehension based reader, Robo en la noche by Kristy Placido available at Fluency Matters.  Because at level 2 they are still flirting with the Novice High/Intermediate Low boundary, I know that they need my help as they read.  Cognates are not always cognates to them.  Past tense verbs with irregularities trip them up… basically, they need a guide as they learn to read independently.  That’s me.  In this class, we read sections of the chapter in table teams and sections as a large group.  When it is a really easy section, they read alone and summarize for me.  It is so helpful in building their confidence.  I follow up the read every day not with basic comprehension questions (low level on Bloom’s) but rather with activities that challenge them to think!  For example, mapping the events or a table talk:

These post reading activities (which I use at all levels are available here).

In level 3, we are reading the same novel but are reading “reading club” style.  For more on my reading club groups, check out this free download.

They have self-selected their need for help/independence and I have grouped them with others who had similar answers.  We have our reading time daily and they follow up by doing the post-reading activities as a table.  I love hearing their discussion about the key points in the story and I LOVE that they are digging back into the text again!  Plus I am teaching my own story Vector (available from Fluency Matters) for the first time! It has been so much fun because (and I know you’re not supposed to have favorite children) this reader and its TG materials were my favorites to create!

It is fun to watch the groups interact as they read and it lets those faster processors feel like they have some independence.  Like I recognize that they don’t need me! It also lets me have fun with the kids who really DO need me.

In level 4, they are well trained. They have read MANY comprehension based readers both in FVR and in class. They get to do their last book study in interest groups.  I prepare a “book tasting” sheet with the blurbs from the backs of the choices I’m giving them (there are so many good novels that I have a lot that I can’t fit in) and the anticipated difficulty level.  They rate them 1-4.  I try to group them with their 1st or 2nd choice.  This year’s groups are reading Piratas del Caribe y el Triángulo de Bermudas, Santana, and Guerra Sucia.

Guerra Sucia is definitely the most complex story and it drew 4 very serious young ladies.  They have worked VERY independently of each other, only grouping to clarify or share an idea or a question.  They are taking away tons of cultural information.  In week one, every group did this “novel study sheet” every day to keep track of new characters and places as they were introduced.


But this week they are doing the same follow-up activities as the 2s and 3s.

The Santana group are really loving the biography.  It is a fairly easy read for them and it is very easy for them to identify characteristics of Carlos and his life.  They work together to come up with the ideas and language to express themselves.

The Piratas group is hilarious.  They actually disturb the other groups often with their laughter.  The story is very easy but they have the two who still linger in the novice high/intermediate low zone and I have LOVED watching them guide these readers in how they say things.  They’ve taken the initiative to keep the group working together and to leave no one behind.  Although the text is easy, this is not reflected in their answers to the follow-ups.  They are challenging themselves to use good language and great detail just like the other groups!

There are TONS of great reading ideas on if you’re looking to incorporate more readers but as you think about the end of the year, maybe a differentiated book study is just what you need!


Finish the year strong!

I don’t know about you, but I am down to 5 weeks of class remaining.  It is easy to wish the year away and then get to these last five weeks and think about how much there is left to do!!!

Wherever you are in your curriculum, I encourage you to incorporate a “passion based” unit in the next 5 weeks.  Take a break from the stress of  “covering” or the worry of planning and creating and just add in something new, engaging, and cultural!

Suggestion 1: Try a reader.  Whether you read as a class, use my free reading club pack, or read FVR style, a reader is an engaging way to get a lot of input in at the end of the year!

Suggestion 2: Try a song of the week.  Not sure where to get started?  Some of my favorites are here: Suena el dembow, Me niego, Sofía, Paraíso, La bicicleta

Suggestion 3: Try a cultural unit!  For late level 1/2 – Educarse para superarse, for level 2/3 Comer para vivir, for 3/4 Medicina o cura, for 3/4/AP Mar de plástico or El agua es vida, for some time outdoors Biodiversidad y conservación!

Suggestion 4: Try a movie talk! For anyone: Animales Redondos  For level 1 El regalo or La abuela que baila, for level 2 El cacto y el banco or Runaway, for level 3/4/AP Atrévete or Parecidos

Suggestion 5: Try a quick cultural read!

Ecuadorian Food, Guayaquil, Galápagos, Panama Canal

Free: National Geographic Explorer Story and Map TalkAceites Esenciales

Suggestion 5: Try wrapping up a unit differently! Discussion Thursday, Yellow Brick Road Retell

No matter what you try, have a great time.  Make memories that your students will take with them for a lifetime!

Blog Posts on new things I’ve been trying the last few years:

Map Talk

FREE UNIT: Material World – a unit on world homes

Butterfly Life Cycle

Snapchat and Frida Kahlo (the reader but could be adapted to her art only)

Novel Study Different Readers


Novel Study: Different Readers

In Spanish 4 we are reading our last novel “reading club style” with a twist… they are in self leveled groups but they’re all reading different comprehension based readers!

For our first week, they read blurbs about the 4 different texts and ranked them 1-4.  I used these results to sort them into 3 groups: Santana, Piratas y el Triángulo de Bermudas, and Guerra Sucia.  I have some interesting observations to share after day 4… D10AED54-DC2F-47D8-B9F9-3AFDD0FFF73A

The groups are 100% on task but they are as different as their novel choices.

Group 1 has an easy read, Triángulo… they are having a great time.  They laugh and read aloud in Spanish and joke about the “gran plan”…

0ED95B40-49E3-42A5-B275-627EB905FA20The second group, with a slightly heavier read is the Santana group.  They read and clarify and ask each other (and me) great questions!

C19BEA63-C4CE-475C-AC75-5D9203FDC5B7The last group chose the most challenging read and while they do ask each other questions once in a while, they are studying much more independently than the other two groups.  I think this is reflective of their serious demeanor!

B99D286F-2776-47DD-A6F6-44523B245D69This week we did a “novel study daily report” each day… next week we will shake it up!

A0A0E600-3671-4CEE-A5D8-DCCE88A25DF0With all the stress they’ve had as scholarships were due and they’ve had to start enrolling in classes… and through the senioritis… the laughter and light hearted chats have made me really happy!


We will keep

Mar de plástico

I’ve been thinking about it for awhile.  It has been a unit that was eating at me!  I’ve gathered resources, thought about what I might create with them… but I never sat down and did it… until now!  It was a labor of love, let me tell you!  This is exactly what I wanted for my classroom (I’ll use the full version) but it is also something I wanted others to be able to share with their students.

Whether you know a lot or a little about ocean plastics, I think that this unit contains the information you need to be confident presenting it to your students!  I included a bibliography as well, in case you want to learn more!

Thank you for supporting all that I do, you guys have no idea how much I appreciate your kind words and encouragement!

They’re here! Three Plastic Ocean Units! Choose the one that meets your need:
The mini: 5 days
The abridged: 8-10 days
Or the full: 13-15 days
Don’t let the suggested days keep you from stretching the unit out as long (or going as fast) as you need to!  You don’t need all three.  Either choose the FULL and pick and choose activities you have time for, or choose the abridged or mini version to see what I would do if I were going to shorten to that amount of time!

Irregular Preterite and other yucky things

We all know that our students will see, hear, and use things like the subjunctive and irregular preterite verbs but it just isn’t any fun to watch them struggle to acquire them when we attack it backward.  I spent many a year chanting, pounding the desks, and sending home 6 conjugations for homework to still get back papers with yo tener in level 4.  UGH…

Several years ago I made some changes in my classroom and began to teach verb chunks as useable structure.  I can teach ANYTHING from subjunctive chunks in level 1 to irregular preterite verbs in context but I am careful to keep it engaging and filled with input!

As I changed jobs and began teaching with a colleague who hadn’t been trained yet in CI, I knew that she was willing and able to use lots of language in class but she didn’t have the training I did!  It was a pickle!  So we bought Martina Bex’s SOMOS curriculum.  I am telling you, this is a magic bullet!  It let her learn all about how to teach in target with clear instructions, through lesson plans, and engaging activities.  Even a nod or two to grammar as she was detoxing from the textbook!

I have always liked using Martina’s units in level 2 because while we’ve been exposed to past, present, and future in level 1, we are really working on narrative in these tenses in level 2!  Martina’s materials have GREAT stories to work all the different idiosyncrasies of the past tenses.  This week we’ve been in SOMOS 2 Unit 6 “El secreto”.

As I was listening to one of my current earworms, Suena el dembow, I realized it had many of the same verbs we were using in Unit 6 and even some we used in the first 5 units!  I was so excited!  Tuve, Supe, Vine, Acercarme (from unit 2)… It was GREAT!

I made this song of the week packet to go along with it.  If you’re looking for a fun way to get reps of past tense verbs in action, maybe this is it!


Medicina o Cura Hook

I just put the finishing touches on a Medicina o Cura unit a couple of weeks ago and it was finally time to try all the new parts with my intermediates.  Many will pursue a career in healthcare and I’d love for them to take away the understanding that our class gives them a skill not everyone has!

We started the unit with a hook.  If you buy my TPT unit, I have the handouts and specific instructions and questions but basically I brought a boiled egg to school and drew on some clothes.


I needed one per class so I made triplets!


When they came in, we listened to our song of the week “A mi burro” and did a manipulative activity then I picked up my egg and introduced him.  We talked about what he looked like and what we thought his personality was like.  Then I handed him to this guy, Dash.  IMG_5140

Unfortunately when we finished talking about what great friends “Huevo-bert” and Dash were, Dash passed him to me and he fell…. and cracked.  I didn’t do the best job of making it look natural but most of them bought it.

We took pictures of his injuries on my phone.  This class is small so I didn’t need to project them, we just looked at his injuries together.  We used the structures on our list to diagnose what was wrong with him and then filled in his medical chart. (All docs are available in the unit if you don’t have time and energy to make your own!

Poor Huevo-bert.  He was in bad shape.  Lots of injuries to his spine and head.  A broken arm and a cracked booty! ¡Ay, ay, ay!

I pulled out my first aid kit and we went to work deciding what kind of treatment he needed.  It was a lot of fun and the Spanish was flowing both as we talked about Huevo-bert as an egg friend and about his injuries after he had the great fall.  Day 1- Success!

I’ll post about our other medical adventures!

A.S.K. Me about National Geographic Certification


My path to proficiency as a language educator has taken many different turns.  From new jobs to new adventures in the language community at large, I have tried to never get so comfortable that I stop moving down the path.

Last summer, at IFLT in Denver, a friend asked me if I had ever considered National Geographic certification.  To be honest, I hadn’t even heard of it.  I’d used many National Geographic video resources over the years but had never gone to the National Geographic Education site and looked at their resources.  What I found when I began to explore put my mind directly into planning mode.  All I could think was “so many resources, so little time”!

The National Geographic certification process was not hard. It took some time and some planning but never anything excessive and it was all very rewarding. I did mine by rebuilding an existing, favorite unit and adding resources that National Geographic had already created.

The first step of the process is to become familiar with the Nat Geo learning framework and its acronym, ASK.  From Attitudes to Skills to Knowledge, National Geographic explained what they looked for in their explorers and I immediately found things that connected with me and with my students.


Attitudes: Two of the words that jumped out at me immediately were persistant and empowered. When I taught by breaking language down into its component parts, my students’ attitudes toward language were poor.  There were students, typically those who liked playing the game of school, who studied and memorized and did well but they did not persist in their language study!  They were compliant.  They conjugated, accented, and filled in blanks but they never emotionally engaged with the language.  They didn’t feel empowered to use it.  For several years now, I have been shifting my focus from typical thematic units to content as the vehicle of language acquisition. As I looked at the National Geographic content, I realized that it was a perfect complement to the units I’ve been designing to empower my students to use their new language to communicate and to persist in their studies beyond my classroom walls.

Skills: One of the skills that National Geographic values in its explorers is communication.  National Geographic students are storytellers.  What is more important in language class than developing narrative?  Our story as individuals, as a class, and even as part of the bigger world are all narratives that students are learning to tell.


Knowledge: I’ve taught about the world’s water crisis, climate change, food insecurity, and biodiversity and conservation.  When I read that the three key subject areas of National Geographic’s were “Our Changing Planet”, “Our Human Journey”, and “Wildlife and Wild Places”, I knew that this certification was a perfect fit for my curriculum.  Incorporating new pieces into my well-loved units has let me bring in this year’s current events like the effects of climate change on coffee and chocolate, the melting arctic ice, and the first rainforest city.


One of my favorite new activities was suggested to me by fellow National Geographic certified Spanish teacher, Abra Koch.  Using the National Geographic table top maps, I can introduce my students to the geography of an area by “map talking” what they see.  For example, we are studying the Civil War in El Salvador and how many fled the war to the United States via Guatemala and Mexico.  I am able to talk about their journey as the students follow along on their maps!  They can draw in details, color and outline important features, and even practice giving directions!

The world is so much bigger than the inside of a textbook. Check out National Geographic certification and see for yourself! If you have any questions about the process, tweet at me (@senoraCMT) and we can connect.