Subliminal Grammar

Beginning in level 1, I recycle the verb structure “ir + a + infinitive” to allow my students to acquire the three major times by the time they finish level 4. In level 1, our stories are told in the present tense and I do PQA using the present tense of all of our new structures. In the past, I would not have dreamed that I could introduce the past and future tenses along side the present tense but to my students, it is all just a “chunk”. As we retell stories and make predictions throughout level 1, I am planting seeds of the past and future. We use Ben Slavic’s idea of Circling with Balls to get to know one another and lay a foundation of our present tense verbs.

In level 2, we really dig into stories in the past tense. We still do a lot of dialogue about the story in the present tense so we don’t completely lose what we’ve acquired there… but now I present my structures in the past tense. I don’t focus on words like preterite and imperfect because, to be honest, they don’t care. I have never had them get fired up about a lesson on those grammatical structures. Instead, we set the scene for a ton of stories and learn imperfect in context. We discuss all the bumps in the road for the characters of our novels and learn the preterite in context. We have all year! I don’t need to rush. As Scott Benedict says: Teach for June! In a twist on Circling with Balls, we talk about what we did over the summer. It is a great way to get the preterite in their minds as we prepare for a year of creating a LOT of past tense stories!

In level 3, I add the future tense endings to replace our use of “ir + a + infinitive.” If they never use this again, it is ok. On the AP, the AAPPL, the STAMP, they can use either and still reach the high intermediate and advanced low scores. In level 3, we set 2-3 goals for the current school year and start our year by talking about everyone’s plans! This is such a great way to start the year! First, we build a sense of class community as we find out which goals people have in common and which are unique. Second, my students have to write on the AAPPL every year about their goals and plans!

I do have a level 3 student who is very interested in the rules so I made this poster and am going to have my husband print it on the school poster printer so she can look whenever she wants to impress me! future-poster_32078816 (1)


In level 4, I introduce some super common subjunctive structures. Please know that they have been seeing subjunctive constructions in their reading since level 1 and we continually pop up “why does this ending look different?” “Because his mom wants him to but he might not!”

I used to drill subjunctive to death. I used to go into every possible use of the subjunctive under the sun. I used to do chants to memorize subjunctive endings. I used to make them memorize the trigger words for subjunctive. I also used to have small upper level classes. I used to have students who still wrote “yo hablar” in level 4… and these were the superstars who stuck it out in spite of how hard it was!

Now we start the year making this “if…then” statement: “If I were (partner’s name), I would ___.” They just draw themselves doing the activity and I tell the stories with them. Some hits this year: If I were Savannah, I would give Steven all my money. (Steven was the partner.) If I were Sally, I would be fabulous.  If I were Alyssa, I would cheer everywhere. (even in the school bathrooms it turns out)

Now I teach the most common subjunctive constructions so they have useable chunks and I actually see them pop up in their writing! Correctly! Even in kids who may not be the superstar Spanish student.

I’m going to make them a poster too! I have a guy in Spanish 4 who also loves to know all of the whys!

I know that many believe that CI/TPRS teachers don’t teach grammar. And while it is true that we don’t drill grammar, I probably expose them to more grammar that they can use and understand than I ever did before! When I taught it from the textbook, it was just a few pages of the chapter and we would leave each grammar piece behind as we moved on to the next. Now, I carry these concepts through all levels, spiraling in new and more complex ways to say things. It feels painless because they feel what sounds right as they get to the upper level classes! It’s a hallmark of intermediate language to self-correct! If you see it, praise it. That means it is being acquired!

Don’t be afraid of the word grammar! It is part of every language. Be afraid of making grammar inaccessible to all students. Offer the chart-minded posters, quick explanations, a link to but for the others, provide the chunks they need to communicate. You’ll love the results you see if you are patient with the process!

Subliminal Grammar


Re-reading to answer questions

I’m always looking for ways to get my students to re-read our stories and yet be engaged in the second reading! Today we read the story from my packet for the song To’ My Love. As a really easy 5 point assessment I asked 5 questions. They had to find 4 answers in the text and highlight them and write a text message for the 5th.

It was ZERO prep, it was super effective, and it was a great exit ticket! You could literally do this with ANY story you read in class! Give it a try!

Screenshot 2018-08-23 16.55.13

The Train is Rolling

I started back to school last Thursday with a full day teacher’s institute. I had been in my classroom at the end of July shooting some tutorial videos with my students and Señor Wooly and already had the bug to get back in the swing but I did enjoy the three final summer weeks!

It’s funny, last year I had challenges in the classroom that I hadn’t had for 10+ years. It was a difficult year a lot of days. As the first day with students drew closer, I have to admit that I was a little nervous about a repeat! The year had left me tired from all the adapting, rewriting, and reworking I had to do to engage and encourage the students I had in front of me! Whether they wanted to be in front of me or not!

Last Friday, I even woke up with a stomach ache! I haven’t done that since my first day at the new school, the day the principal at my old school was mad at me for making popcorn for my 8th hour class, or the day the parent was mad because I taught about immigration (which he said is illegal). But the day came and went, and with it a whole new beginning! It was a GREAT day! We are going to have an amazing year in Wildcat Spanish this year. (Technically we did last year too… it was just exhausting!)

I’ve got 3 days in now and we’re doing all kinds of bonding in our new class communitites. In a variation of Ben Slavic’s Circling with Balls, my Spanish 2 are discussing what they and their classmates did over the summer (past tense stories), Spanish 3 have made 2 goals for the 2018-19 school year (future goals), and Spanish 4 are discussing what they would do if they could spend a day as a classmate (if… then with the subjunctive!) They’ve done their first FVR today (8 minutes at level 2-4), done their first song of the week (To’ my love- Bomba Estéreo), and are prepping for their first story from the same song packet! Before we know it, we’ll have a quarter behind us! And as crazy as it sounds, a whole semester… that second quarter goes by in a flash.

Have a GREAT year! Enjoy the ones you have in front of you and remember that if it is a challenging year, the next can be a new beginning! Don’t lose hope!

Sustainable Development Goals

Have you heard of the SDGs? If you are interested in tackling some of the sustainable development goals in your classroom but don’t know where to begin, there are teacher authors who can help you!

The 17 goals are:

  1. No poverty (free)
  2. Zero hunger
  3. Good health and well being
  4. Quality education
  5. Gender equality
  6. Clean water and sanitation
  7. Affordable and clean energy
  8. Decent work and economic growth
  9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  10. Reduced inequality (free)
  11. Sustainable cities and communities
  12. Responsible consumption and production
  13. Climate action
  14. Life below water
  15. Life on land
  16. Peace, Justice, and strong institutions
  17. Partnerships for the goals

I’m trying little by little to create a unit to address each of the SDGs. My units are on sale tomorrow, August 21, for 25% off with the code BTSBoost18! Do you have a unit to share that addresses one of the goals?


It’s that time of year! Every time I open up social media, I see new pictures of my friends back in their classroom or of their kids headed off to the first day of a new year! It makes me SO happy to see the joy oozing out as we all get back to school.

In the spring I shared my Scope and Sequence for all levels of Spanish at SCHS. In this scope and sequence, I embedded links to the materials we use. I’ve heard that the materials we use cost roughly $900 per level of language for a grand total of $3600. What a way to adopt a new curriculum! My last textbook adoption was over $10000 and I hated that book!

Tomorrow, Tuesday, August 21, TPT is hosting its annual Back to School booster sale! Imagine getting 25% off the pieces that we use from teacher authors on the site! That makes adoption even less!

If you’re on the cusp of a change in your curriculum or if you’ve been textbookless for a long time, a sale is a great way to add new tricks to your toolbelt! Use the code BTSBoost18 to get the full discount!


Asking Good Questions

Screenshot 2018-08-11 22.48.41.png

As I get ready to start the year, I have been making myself some little time savers! I want to use good questioning techniques that go beyond just recalling information and let my students show how they create with language!

I am going to laminate these Bloom’s Verbs and keep them by my computer! Hope it can help you too as you design assessments that let our students shine and really reflect what they know!

Strike a Chord: Gift card winners & music for Spanish class

Screenshot 2018-07-31 21.57.27

I got so excited this summer when I heard To’ My Love by Bomba Estéreo. It is SO catchy and I know it will be a great song to welcome them back to the classroom… and that’s just what music does! It welcomes them back every day. It is a piece of their world that is a piece of ours as well! Who doesn’t love music?

As we prepared for the Back to School sale from TPT this week, some of my very best friends and mentors and I shared some of our favorite songs to use with students as a way to strike a chord of community in the classroom this year! We also offered a contest!


As part of the post series, we ran a giveaway! Together we are offering $200 in gift cards to Teachers Pay Teachers to help teachers get the materials they need to feel confident generating comprehensible input from songs.

To help you stay CONNECTED with these great teacher authors, you’re going to have to go on a little scavenger hunt to see if you are one of our NINE lucky winners!

The winners will be posted at random times throughout the day on Sunday and Monday, August 5-6 (there might be a slight delay because Kara is currently exploring Colombia with her hubby…#sojealous…so be patient if there is a delayed announcement!).


…and look for the posts announcing the winners!

I get the pleasure of announcing that Jana Schaffner wins one of the $50 TPT gift cards!!! Congratulations, Jana! Thank you for playing! Just contact Martina to claim!


Looking for more music? Check out a collection of songs we all love on our collective Pinterest Strike a Chord Board!

Did you see the Strike a Chord post series last week? If not, check them out here:

Songs as a Culture Hook  by Kristy Placido

A Musical Path to Proficiency by Arianne Dowd

The story in your heart by Nelly Hughes

Strike a Chord by Martina Bex

and Beyond the Cloze: Aquisition through Narrative by me!

Whether you are back in school now or are heading back in the coming weeks, have a GREAT year!