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

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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

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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!



Beyond the Cloze: Acquisition through Narrative

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What do you do when you introduce a new song in the classroom? The standard cloze activity can be great for stretching their listening ears, but is there a way to harvest more mileage from that ear worm of a song? I think there is!

When the video has a great story, I love to use a song to provide more input through different but related narratives! The song Sirena by Cali y el Dandee is perfect for this! The video has a wonderful story line (with only one little scene you may want to mute the screen for) and a powerful message. I can movie talk this video, tell a class story, and wrap it all in real world contexts like sign language, legends, and coding as a second language.

In this one week unit, I dug deeper into the song through the story in the video. I do this a lot! What better way to increase proficiency than with story? We are so innately programmed to respond to story.

Our narrative included input through movie talk and a class story but also included output based narrative as we retold the stories, read about and discussed examples of coding as a second language, and as we retold famous mermaid stories we knew. The unit was alive with story and that made it alive with participation and engagement. Learning feels good when it feels easy.

Other favorite story based song units of mine include: To’ My Love by Bomba Estéreo, and Educarse para superarse with the song Aprender a quererte by Morat.


If you are looking for great ideas, inspiration, and the work done for you, here are some great places to look for resources that turn authentic songs into comprehensible input!

Martina Bex’ store is The Comprehensible Classroom. Be sure to also like her on facebook and follow her amazing blog! Martina is “striking a chord” with the song Simples corazones by Fonseca. Her resource introduces students to the city of Bogotá through the landmarks shown in the music video.


Carrie Toth’s store is Somewhere to Share. Stop by and see her on facebook as well! Carrie is featuring the song Sirena by Cali y el Dandee. In this unit, Carrie goes beyond the cloze, providing acquisition through narrative with Movie Talk, and a class story. Students make connections to real-world issues AND enjoy this amazing song! Carrie blogs at Somewhere to Share. Carrie also shares resources through her facebook page!


Nelly Hughes shares resources at Comprendes Méndez SpanishShop as well as on Facebook. Nelly is proud to share the song Cuando nadie me ve by Morat. In this resource, she shares not only the song but also how she teaches Ollantay’s Peruvian love story as well as information about Ollantaytambo, Perú. Her resource features Picture Talk and a couple of CI games. Students form lasting connections between content and music!


Kristy Placido, of Placido Language Resources, shares her ideas on exploiting the culture in a song as a “hook” in this blog post. She demonstrates the power of connecting students’ own interests via music and culture in a music video through the Song of the Week resource Yo voy ganao by Sistema Solar. Kristy also shares ideas and resources through her facebook page!


Arianne Dowd shares her resources at her store CCC Spanish Store and is also an active blogger at Discovering CI. One of her favorite ways to connect students to music is through stories. She created this resource for the song Robarte un beso by Carlos Vives and Sebastián Yatra which features an embedded reading to help make the story comprehensible for students at all levels!


Kara Jacobs’ store is Comprehensifying and Extending Authentic Resources and she also blogs actively at CEAuthres. Her featured song is La cintura by Álvaro Soler. Kara’s specialty is creating great class stories leading up to a main story that is based on the song or music video.


Would you like to enter to WIN one of NINE TPT gift cards?


THREE steps to enter!


1) LIKE on Facebook or RETWEET a Strike a Chord post (at least one; or like/retweet them all!)!


2) FOLLOW these stores on TpT: Comprendes Méndez SpanishShop, Placido Language Resources, Somewhere to Share, Comprehensifying and Extending Authentic Resources, CCC Spanish Store, and The Comprehensible Classroom


3) COMMENT one way that you use music as a source for Comprehensible Input on a Facebook post of at least one of those stores.




Complete the form to be entered in the giveaway!  


2-$50 TpT gift cards

2-$25 TpT gift cards

5-$10 TpT gift cards

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Back to School Sale 25% all upper level units

2018_BTS_sale_productextension copyWednesday, August 1 and Thursday, August 2 TPT is offering their annual back to school sale! Use the code BTSFRESH to get 25% off of anything in Somewhere to Share! Now is a great time to stock up on units that take levels 2-4 beyond the textbook unit and into real-world purpose for using target language! Here are my favorites:

Medicina o Cura

Mar de plástico

El agua es vida

Biodiversity and Conservation

Educarse para superarse

Free: Las viviendas del mundo (Great at level 2!)

Comer para vivir o vivir para comer

If you’d rather bundle, try these!

Spanish 3-AP Bundle

Culture with a Cause Bundle


Things You Realize at 65ft. Deep


How long has it been since you were a novice at something? For me it’s been 1 year. In May of 2017, I decided I wanted to be SCUBA certified. The first day of class, I started to see a lot of parallels between learning to dive and learning a language. As I’m preparing to go back into the classroom in August, this has been on my mind. What does it feel like to be a novice?

In Open Water class, there was so much to remember. Breathe… clear your mask… take off and put on your mask in the water… navigate with a compass… don’t go down too fast… don’t go up too fast… neutral buoyancy. It’s pretty overwhelming! But the instructors were there every step of the way (even holding your… my… hand if you need it… once) and trying to make sure you want to come back for more training.

At the end of the course, I went diving in Panamá and in the Galápagos and they were such different experiences. In Panamá, my guide didn’t treat me like a novice. He expected me to know how to do… well, everything. In Galápagos, the guide treated us like novices for sure. He used a reel with a line and had us hold on so we didn’t get separated from him. See what I’m thinking? I could be either guide for my students. One left me feeling panicked during the dive (high affective filter if that applies to diving) and the other made it so relaxing I really got to enjoy the creatures I saw!


The Galápagos dive made me hungry for more training. I felt very Novice Mid and wanted to be more confident in the water. When I enrolled in the Advanced Open Water course, I thought that “Advanced” sounded a little terrifying but I found that it should be called Novice High transitioning to Intermediate Low Open Water! There was so much happening in my head all the time, I couldn’t multi task well, I felt like I was falling apart and then I’d have a burst of getting it all together.


We did a buoyancy dive to help streamline us and make diving less strenuous, a wreck dive to check out a submerged 747 and railroad car, a navigation dive, a boat dive, and a deep dive.  It was on this deep dive, standing 3-4 minutes on the platform 65 feet deep in 45 degree water, waiting for my turn to ascend, that I started thinking about how my novices must feel.

It was a dark, murky green in the quarry. The dive instructors were using dive lights and it looked like a scene from every underwater horror movie you’ve ever seen. I was freezing cold, my hood and gloves were making me feel claustrophobic. I needed to remember to go up slowly, to keep just the right buoyancy, to keep my ears clear… and right then I realized I was actually crossing over into Intermediate learner territory. I wasn’t getting it all right and I still needed help from my guide but I was suddenly able to manage a lot of the little pieces in my head… at once! I could check my computer, check my pressure, and ascend at the right pace.


So I did it! I finished the deep dive and I felt great! It wasn’t comfortable and I couldn’t do it alone but with repeated exposure I know I could. And better still… it made me want to do more specialty certifications. Isn’t that how we want our students to leave our class? With a hunger for the next accomplishment.


So now I’m an Advanced Open Water Diver and I’m going to take what I’ve learned and go back into the classroom. I want to honor the fact that my students at level 1 and 2 have a lot of things banging around in their heads and may only be able to address one at a time… that they may be great at one skill (I’m awesome at fish identification!) and not so hot at another (navigation). They may may need me to hold their hand or may want to try things on their own… and may even start on their own and then get hopelessly lost and have to ask me to save them (this only happened twice).  And even at level 3 and 4, when they are able to juggle more than one skill at a time, they still need my patient guidance to stay hungry to learn more.

As we head back to school, let’s dive in to language but don’t go too deep too fast! Be their guide and their inspiration to continue diving deeper.

Wanderlust Goals

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I started my summer with an unusual tour. In 2016, I began planning this 2018 tour to London, Paris, and Barcelona. My student tours had failed to make numbers twice in a row and I was looking for a way to get my small community interested in travel again! My tour coordinator at EF suggested a “community tour”.  Pitch a bucket list tour that would bring the adults in but then offer it to students as well. I loved the idea and set it up right away.

In the summer, just after my website went live, I got a job offer at a neighboring school. It was too good to pass up, so I accepted… but this left me in a bad place with my community tour! I had just left the school district and all of my potential student travelers! My new school had not traveled in years AND they didn’t know me… it took a while but we finally ended up with a group of 12 adventurous souls (10 adults and 2 kids).

Because our group was so small, we couldn’t be private without paying a LOT of extra fees so we had to agree to join a student tour group.


My group’s ages ranged from 88 to 17 so in some ways this was not the best fit! All that walking and public transportation was challenging for my three seniors but in the end, the tour was incredible! It really got everyone excited about traveling.


I had always stuck with Spanish speaking countries only so that my students could practice their new language skills but what I found on this trip was that in France, they were applying what they knew in Spanish to try and read maps, signs, and schedules! They were even figuring out French words on their own with no prior exposure!


For me, it was incredible to be a language learner again. My French is only about Novice High reading and even lower listening and speaking so I loved being in the place my students find themselves in my classroom.

At the end of our tour, everyone was so thrilled that we began to talk about where our next adult adventure would take us.


A friend recommended we give LingoTours a try. This company is based in the Netherlands but provides student AND adult tours. It’s incredible. For a fully private tour with as few as 15 travelers, they quoted me $500 lower than either of the bigger companies I’ve worked with in the past! We’ll be in central hotels and eat quality meals! And since this tour is designed to be an adult tour (although if a parent wants to bring a kid along, that is 100% fine), we’ll also visit some wineries, try Port wine in Porto, Portugal, have great Dutch beer and snacks in a brewery… It is going to be incredible!

Have you traveled only with students? From 2017’s tour of Ecuador with ICTFL and my travel-mate Kara Jacobs to this summer’s LPB with my 10 adults and 2 kids, I’ve discovered that student travel is a MUST and student travel to countries that speak your TL is also a must but a break now and then to travel with adults who are of the same mindset as you is a whole new experience! There isn’t the constant responsibility of counting your little ducklings before you put them to bed, there aren’t the complaints about the foods they’re served, there aren’t the homesick sweethearts! IMG_6428

If you’re interested in joining us, we’d love to experience Amsterdam, Portugal, and Galicia with you. If you are looking to take your own group and are interested in a more personalized experience, I can’t recommend Lingo enough! Whatever you do, see the world. It is more than just a bucket list to check things off of, it is a classroom that opens doors to things you never knew existed!

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So Much PD, So Little Time (and money)

What a beautiful and terrible problem we have! There is SO much professional development available this summer and fall and yet… there is no funding in many cases. It becomes a matter of spending your hard earned dollars on the best PD for you.  So how do you decide?

  1. Proximity – Sometimes, when the funding just isn’t there, going to the closest offering is the best way to get a PD experience! Keep your eyes peeled for chances to get positive, proficiency based strategies close to home!
  2. Presenters you know – Follow blogs, follow people on Twitter, get to know people who think like you (or like you want to) and then go where they are! If you’re spending a lot of money to go, go where you can see someone who you are sure can help you refine your practice!
  3. Access to the presenters – Is the person you want to see presenting a single keynote or a series of 1.5 hour sessions? Will you have access to the presenters through structured reflection/down time/collaboration time?
  4. Reading materials – Which vendors are exhibiting, if any, and how can you use sessions and visits to the exhibits to build more reading into your classroom?
  5. Depth – Does this PD offer strategies from level 1 to AP? For example, I am a science nut, so I am always looking for ways to deepen my cross curricular (still story but also culture, music, and movie-based) units.

Summer, for me, is a time to recharge and part of that is getting excited about new material in my classroom! I hope that you treat yourself to that feeling this summer! Go back in August ready to try something new and going back to school won’t feel painful at all… well, maybe still a little… but hardly at all!

Check out Mike Peto’s master map of PD! And don’t miss IFLT July 17-20 in Cincinnati! There are only 30 spots left and I have literally had to turn people away crying from Martina Bex’s presentations! 🙂 Don’t let that be you!

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Mar de plástico Speaking Assessment

In part 3 of our Plastic Ocean assessment, students could choose to make a real T shirt or draw one on paper.  They were amazing!  They presented via FlipGrid.  They had to explain what their design was, what it meant, and how it could inspire others to save the world’s oceans.


We had learned that cigarette butts make up 38% of the trash found on beaches so the student on the left made a shirt that said “Octopuses don’t smoke.”

The part that I loved the most was that it was a test but everyone CARES about this cause and they really put their hearts in telling what we could do!

These are my Spanish 4 loves and they are only with me 2 more days.  I am SO proud of what they can do with language and that is not something I felt before I began teaching for proficiency.

Storytelling with Yo voy gana’o

My friend Kristy introduced me to the song Yo voy gana’o by Systema Solar.  It is SO catchy! I have some fishermen in my level 2 group and it is SO close to the end of the year that they’re ready for FUN acquisition.

We started with the video and the full song lyrics.  After we had seen it once, we did the reading about the Chinchorreros of Taganga. On the sheet Kristy made, I had them make little images that summarized the main point of each paragraph.  We have iPads so it was fun to see the emojis they chose!

Today, we did the fill in of the song and we did a story about some fisherman! I don’t know how you like to do your storytelling but I like for my 3 level 2 classes to be in the same ball park with their stories! It makes it so much easier for me to remember the next day! So the first class set the basic main events and then I baited the other two groups into choosing the same events. 🙂

Our first fisherman didn’t fish with a pole or a net (I love that we’re getting the word net because next year in our plastic ocean unit, they’ll it when they talk about entanglement). The fisherman used his hands to fish!  Unfortunately there was a shark in the water and he was eaten.

The second fisherman thought he was a polar bear and fished with his mouth not a pole or a net.  Unfortunately, although he went to get revenge, he was eaten as well.

Suddenly, a giant bird attacked the shark who (Martina Bex, in your honor) got scared and pooped and that let the two other fishermen escape.  🙂 . It was disgusting but we got past tense reps of our new structures AND of flew, caught, saw, opened, escaped, disappeared… There’s so much grammatical gold in a story! And they just thought it was hilarious.

Tell some stories!  Make these last few days memorable!