Mistakes – er, reflections – from Last Year (and what I’m gonna do about it)

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Last year was my first year teaching 90-minute 7th and 8th grade Spanish classes. It was a huge adjustment from 40-minute Kindergarten-6th grade Spanish classes. I am the only middle school Spanish teacher at my school and took on the charge of Frankensteining my own TPRS curriculum. I learned a lot through these experiences and will choose to do some things different next year. Here they are:

1Quit fighting the internal battle of Traditional vs TPRS teaching. It took me all year to strike a balance between traditional teaching and teaching with TPRS. I thought, at the beginning of the year, that I could pump my students full of Comprehensible Input all 90 minutes long. I found that to be exhausting. I then tried to use 45 minutes for TPRS and 45 for traditional methods. There never seemed to be enough time for it all.

My solution for next year: Use Comprehensible Input methods in a way that I don’t have to be the star the whole time (which we are always striving for, anyway!) I want to use more CI-based activities, partner/group competitions, (lots of great ideas here from Martina Bex) and spice it up with some station activities and traditional vocabulary games.

I’m also SUPER excited to be using Martina Bex’s curriculum to base my class on!!

2. Hold my students more accountable for their own learning. I really struggled with grading late work, classwork, warm-ups, closures, writings, homework, participation and quizzes. I felt like all the pressure was on me and very little was on them.

My solution for next year: Warm-ups and Closures will be graded twice each semester in notebook checks. I’m done with late homework. In general, homework will be to complete 100 points/week on Duolingo and I will grade it every 2 weeks. My participation will based on the phenomenal blog post I read here, from a fellow CI-teacher. With all the time I save, I can focus on giving my students meaningful feedback and creating some amazing lessons.

3. 8th graders revolt when they think they are being babied. My consistency lacked last year and, wow, 8th graders can sense that! I started the year as a traveling teacher, so my classroom management wasn’t as consistent as I wanted it, and due to the fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants curriculum, my lessons weren’t, either.

My solution for next year: Practice the really important procedures in the classroom, and not worry too much about the less important ones. I will be using Love and Logic to guide my classroom management interactions. I will also have students track L1 infractions and the storyline using the three notebooks that Ben Slavic outlines in this handout on page 39.

Here’s to continually improving!


10 thoughts on “Mistakes – er, reflections – from Last Year (and what I’m gonna do about it)

  1. Here here! Way to stick with it and approach the new year with a combination of optimism and a plan. Also, at some point it would be great if you met the guitar player in my band. He’s a Spanish teacher in Boulder who’s really starting to hit his stride, and I think he might have some words of encouragement for you! Keep up the good work!


  2. When you say 100pts/week on duolingo, are you referring to the xp points? And how will you check that every week?

    Thanks! Great ideas!


    1. Yes, XP. On the web version, there is an option to Follow someone. When students create their accounts in the computer lab, I will ensure that they have Followed me. From there I can see how many XP they have accumulated. I will check it every two weeks. Every 2 weeks, they will need to accumulate 200 more XP.

      Thanks for reading!


  3. You might also have them take a screenshot, and submit it using your LMS or insert the pic in a Google Doc. The Google Doc could be something that they are required to update themselves.


  4. I am finding your blog to be super helpful as I tackle my first year of teaching! I am struggling with the same internal battle that you mention with traditional vs. TPRS/CI. I can’t seem to let go of traditional, but love what TPRS/CI does for learning a language! I would love to hear more about how you have tackled this struggle this year, if would be very helpful! MUCHAS GRACIAS! -Tana


    1. Hi Tana!

      I am so glad that my blog is helping. That motivates me to keep writing! One thing that I do is I will use a Storytelling Unit and then add about 10 words of thematic vocabulary in there. I use Martina Bex’s curriculum, which is fantastic. She does a great job of incorporating CI techniques into lots of engaging activities and she suggests thematic units you can add (like clothes, body parts, food, etc.) If you would like, I can e-mail you the curriculum map I have been working on for Spanish 1A and 1B.

      – Lauren


      1. Hola Lauren,
        That sounds like a great way to do! If you are willing to share that would be so helpful! I teach middle school and high school at a small school in Montana, so I’m trying to do it all (creating, planning, etc.) so all of your posts have been really great to see! My email is .

        Muchas gracias – Tana


  5. I would love to see what you have figured out, also. I am currently using Cuentos Fantasticos 1 & 2 with Spanish 7th and 8th grade(and really like it) but haven’t figured out my Spanish 1 at 9th grade level. I have used Look I can Talk and Cuentame over the last 3 years. I am now using 3-4 novels and love those. I would like to change 9th grade for next year.


    1. I have been using Martina Bex’s curriculum over the last two years with 7th and 8th grade. They connect with it a lot more than they did with Cuéntame. Her curriculum also provides TONS of resources, so you don’t have to create your own like with Look I Can Talk. I will be teaching 9th next year and I plan on continuing to use Martina’s curriculum!


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