March Music Madness!

I am such a fan of March Music Madness!  Anything that relates to basketball in March in Indiana (go Hoosiers!!) is SURE to be a huge hit!!

I do not know who originated the idea, but boy, have they made a difference in the dull weeks leading up to Spring Break in my classes! I first heard about this on the iFLT/NTPRS/CI Facebook group.

Last year I purchased the TPT unit from Spanish Plans. You can read about how it went, hereandhere. It truly saved my sanity last March and the students STILL connect with the songs outside my class... on a regular basis! They include them in the school dance playlists, have Spotify playlists for studying, and we play them at GSHS Track and Field meets!

I chose to go my "own way" this year only because the new March Music Madness 2019 had several repeats from last year. And while I know that in basketball the same powerhouse universities are in the tournament year after year, it is seldom with the exact same teammates. Plus, I knew that if I d…

Nailed It, Mexico!!

I am so excited about Nailed It, Mexico!

I have been on the hunt for a comprehensible TV series that I can use in class and I finally I found it! (You can read about why I am sooooo picky about what to show in classhere - let's just say, I've been burned!).

This show is fun, witty, comical, whimsical, CLEAN, and chock-full of Mexican culture! We watch about 1/2 an episode each Wednesday, Movie Talk style (pausing every so often to discuss the action and make it comprehensible).

I show it in Spanish with Spanish subtitles. Double the input for my students!

My favorite part of Nailed It, Mexico!? The all out belly laughs... even from the most stoic students! It is so compelling that students are riveted to the screen. The language is so comprehensible for my level 3's that I do little explaining. In fact, after learning the most basic kitchen vocab, I have paused fewer and fewer times. I pause even less for my 4's.

Ways I have used it in class so far:

Compare and contrast …

Post-Reading Activity!

I love having a variety of post-reading activities "up my sleeve." Keeping things novel in the classroom is important because the human brain quickly adapts to whatever stimulus is provided. Fun, exciting activities become old and boring very quickly. When various activities are used sparingly, your language classroom stays shiny and bright.

Recently, Martina Bex created customizable ¡Cataplún! cards. Knowing that everything she creates is a huge hit with my students, I went directly to her TPT store and purchased my own set!

I am so glad I did!

My favorite post-reading activities cause students to go back and reread the text. The benefit to reading is READING, after all. I spent a few minutes after school yesterday customizing and printing enough sets that students could play in groups of three or four. Each set was a different color (to make the sorting easier for me at the end).

You can see that students all have a copy of the reading on their desks.
I altered the directi…

Training Opportunity in Southern Indiana!

I am so excited to announce that my friend Abby Whicker and I are putting together a one-day acquisition-driven instruction conference!!! We are two like-minded gals who LOVE to share the story of CI!

Abby teaches German at Mater Dei High School in Evansville, IN. She has presented at IFLTA and attended iFLT last summer in Cincinnati, OH.

We will have door prizes and lots of fun learning and sharing!

The conference is on Saturday, April 20, 2019 from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.

Sessions include:
Storylistening with Leslie Phillips
Card Talk with Janet Holzer
Using Whole-Class Novels with me, JJ Epperson
Special Person Interviews with Christy Lade
Assessing Proficiency with Abby Whicker
Monitor Theory with me, JJ Epperson

There will be two workshops available, as well!
Games in the World Language Classroom with Leslie Phillips
Acquisition Strategies for Newbies with Abby Whicker

I light breakfast and catered lunch are included in the $20 fee.

We hope to see you there!!

Am I Doing This Right???

I read variations of this question on the iFLT / NTPRS / CI Teaching group page almost daily. Making the change to CI can be scary and intimidating.  When I first began, I didn't know how to let go of the stress of covering X grammar rules in a semester. Using a textbook was "safe." It provided the step by step process for teaching about language in a methodical and BORING way.

However, I know from my own experience that learning about language doesn't mean our students will be able to use it in meaningful ways. So, I made the leap into CI. For me, it was a summer TPRS seminar in Indianapolis. I knew without a doubt that I would go back to school in the fall and change up everything. 

Along my journey, I have asked myself many times if I was doing it right. Often, the answer was a big, fat NO! At some point, someone said to me (I don't know if it was Laurie Clarque in a session at Central States, Michelle Whaley at iFLT, Carol Gaab, Kristy Placido, or my CI budd…

Does Your Teaching Need a Micro-adjustment?

I have read a lot of posts lately about making big changes to curriculum, classroom management, teaching style, and more. I have written about some of the big changes I've made to my teaching over the last three years. Big changes can be good - especially if they involve moving from a traditional grammar-based program to a brain-based, comprehensible input program.
Today, however, I received a huge benefit from a micro-adjustment and it got me thinking... what if what you need isn't a huge overhaul or serious change? What if the thing that will make an enormous difference in your classroom/life is just a teeny-tiny, little, micro-adjustment?

First, I need to give you a little background story...
We are vacationing with our horses in Tennessee. You guys! If you haven't visited the foothills and mountains of Tennessee on horseback, you need to add it to your bucket list! This place is gorgeous. And if you compare the weather to Southern Indiana, it's downright divine.


Reflections of 2018: Most Positive Change and Least Effective Activity

In continuing with my reflections of 2018, I felt it was important to share my most effective change to my teaching as well as my least effective activity.

I had a lot of positives this semester!  I have had the same students for three and four years in a row, something that won't likely happen in the future, and they have reached levels of understanding and use of Spanish that I never dreamed possible in this amount of time. We have gotten completely "off track" in multiple classes but stayed in Spanish... (who really won this one? The students who controlled the conversation or me for keeping them 100% in Spanish????) I met and was mentored by my intellectual idol, Dr. Stephen Krashen!!!!! A dream come true!  I successfully presented at CI Midwest and at Indiana's annual conference, IFLTA. And I strengthened bonds with friends Leslie Phillips and Christy Lade in the process.Did I mention that I met Dr. Krashen????
[I also had a few failures that you can read about

Reflections of 2018: Final Exams

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about how I was going to assess my students for final exams. Today, I want to reflect on what was good (or even great!) and what I can make better next time.

First of all, let me share my own personal beliefs about finals: They should not penalize students.They should reflect what students can do (proficiency), not test discreet knowledge about a topic (especially grammar).Most students should be able to finish the exam with time to spare. And, most importantly:
I have 120 students. I consider this to be a very manageable number of kids - the classes are just big enough that there is always someone willing to speak, but yet they aren't so big that I fight the classroom management battle. (For an in-depth look at how I survived almost twice that may students last year, read this!) I also don't want to spend a single minute of my break grading. I want to be done by the time I leave the…

Reflections of 2018: It's Not ALWAYS a Walk in the Park!

I am so passionate about using CI in my classroom. I have seen amazing results and I know that I know that I KNOW it is the way to acquire a second language. I want to share my results far and wide. To that end, it would seem that it's important to share my successes. However, I'm a bit more realistic than that... some days, well, let's just say......

Life never is. Social media has made "keeping up with the Jones'" a thing of art! Perfection abounds everywhere. We all need a good dose of reality and to realize that practicing our craft and reflecting on our failures are important to continued success. Honestly, teaching is like everything else: good days, bad days, incredible successes, and sometimes, epic failures. To that end, just so you know that not everything is a bed of roses in Señora Jota Jota's classroom, I'm going to share a few of my failures from just this semester.
There are actually quite a few. Especially for one semester!
1. I had an…

Final Exams CI Style

Every semester since beginning my teaching with Comprehensible Input journey, I have pondered what and how to assess my students' proficiency. I know that asking specific grammar details or vocabulary translations defeats the purpose of what I'm trying to do... but how do you come up with a good exam that:

doesn't set all your students up to fail and yet is still rigorous, provides assessment for all four skills (listening, reading, writing, and speaking), anddoesn't take hours and hours to grade? Number 3 is crucial for me this year as every class I teach is a dual credit class through USI and ALL my students are taking finals. That's a lot of sections of finals to grade!

In the past I have used a variety of assessment ideas from Mike Peto and others. I have pulled key vocab out of stories, Movie Talks, Picture Talks, and more and created a new story that students had to answer comprehension questions about. I have also created a speaking prompt where students can…

Reader's Theatre!!

There are so many benefits to acting in the L2 classroom. Student actors can build muscle memory, mirror neurons are activated when students watch the teacher or other students act. classroom community is enhanced, empathy and compassion for others is created, and so much more!

If you are new to CI/TPRS methods of teaching, this is a skill you should add early to your toolbox. I am a firm believer that you should work on one skill at a time while you are transitioning from a more traditional, textbook-driven classroom. If you are like me, and have changed your curriculum foundation to be novels, then Reader's Theatre is an essential skill for you to master! I first learned of Reader's Theatre from Carol Gaab of Fluency Matters, Karen Rowan of Fluency Fast,Darcy Pippins, andMike Coxon of TPRS Books. I have no idea who to credit for the original idea, but I do know that these four have done a LOT to promote this skill (and many others!).

This is what Reader's Theatre looks li…

IFLTA 2018!!!!

The Indiana Foreign Language Teachers Association Annual Conference was this past weekend and it was such a breath of fresh air with lots of new ideas!

Dr. Stephen Krashen was our keynote.

And, as I try to follow his theories as closely as I can in my classroom, I was hoping for a selfie. My students and children all know about his work and that it is the driving force behind what we do in class. Well, not only did I get that selfie, but I had the honor of eating lunch with him on the first day. I was sitting with friends I made at CI Midwest a few weeks ago and he ambled over to join us. 

There are several Teaching with Comprehensible Input (TCI) groups that meet in Indiana: One in the northern part of the state, one in Indy, and one near Evansville(Click the links to join us on Facebook!). We were very well represented at IFLTA this year so there was a wide variety of comprehensible input-based sessions.

I was incredibly honored to have Dr. Krashen not only attend my session, but al…

Taking Care of Our Earth

The link for the embedded reading was making you request permission to download the document. I think I have that fixed now. Please let me know if you have any issues. Thanks for your patience!

We are going to read Noche de Oro by Kristy Placido as our first novel this year in level 3. It takes place in Costa Rica, which we traveled to as a very large group last summer. That in itself may be a big enough hook for students, but I want to do something more. So I am putting together a "taking care of the earth" unit. I haven't named it yet, so if you have any ideas, please share!

More than any other country, Costa Rica has made huge gains in recycling efforts. Everywhere you go, there are handicrafts made from recycled goods, recycling bins are conveniently placed, and there is an "eco friendly" spirit. Conversely, just up the road, Guatemala has a huge problem with their basureros (garbage dumps) and a huge population of poor who live in and alongside the…

The Easy Life

I've been wanting to try Mike Peto's Write and Discuss. Nothing has really been stopping me, other than all the other wonderful ideas I've been trying out from his new book, My Perfect Year: A Practical Guide for Language Teachers.

I came across a movie short (The Easy Life) that I felt was really compelling, and somewhat creepy, that I just had to use in class. I like to use shorts that have a twist at the end so that students are always wondering what the plot twist will be. I decided to use this with my level 4's and to try out Write and Discuss at the same time.

This is the movie short:

I have found that my students get easily frustrated with traditional Movie Talk if the short lasts longer than a minute. It is just too much stop and go for them. So, I quickly changed to picture talking my shorts by making slides from screenshots.

Here is the slides presentation I created:

(You can download a copy here).

After learning the basic theme of the short, I tried the Writ…

Nothing (worth having) Comes Easy

Tomorrow we begin our 5th week of school. Every year I am amazed at how quickly time flies. But it seems to be flying so much faster this year and I think I know why...

Last year was HARD. It was lay-down-on-the-floor-and-cry hard and want-to-give-up hard. I had a record number of students (you can read how I survived here) and had to make a LOT of allowances that I wouldn't normally permit simply due to the high numbers. The kids weren't being bad, they were just being kids. And when you are literally elbow to elbow, you are naturally going to be chatty with your neighbors. Add in a few Alpha Dogs and you have a recipe that will try your patience on a minute-by-minute basis.

I also presented at an international conference in Spain and at regional conferences in The States. As such, I was exhausted every day. I was sick more than usual and I am still fighting knots in my back.

The year before that was HARD. I didn't have huge numbers (until 2nd semester). But I did finish m…


I love music! Many people say that, but really, I LOVE it! I love to sing, dance, and play music. I love it so much that in high school I somehow managed to be in choir, band, AND dance on the drill team. I also took classical piano lessons for 13 years. Music is the blood that runs through my veins.

I use music in class all the time. We sing songs, watch music videos, use Sr. Wooly for lessons and brain breaks, and create a March Music Madness bracket. Music is Rule #10 in John Medina's book Brain Rules becauseit boosts cognition, improves our social skills by making us more social, changes our moods, and boosts our language skills. There exists a plethora of research touting the benefits of learning, studying, or using music in lessons.

This week I have been re-teaching Kara Kane Jacobs and Arianne Dowd's unit on Robarte un beso to a fresh batch of level 3's. I seem to never tire of this song!

Click here to go to the TPT site and purchase this unit for your upper level st…