Help! My Class Keeps Blurting in English!

We’ve all been there. It is not easy as a language teacher to contain student’s natural response of speaking in English.

Quick tips to reign in your chatty class.

Disclaimer: I will not start my classes out with these approaches. I will continue to work with my classes to develop community, motivation, and routines. I will consistently teach and re-teach the routines. However, on the days that they really need to focus, here are some options!

  1. Buy this helpful guidefrom my instructional coach and CI guru, Connie Navarro, for $1.50. It will help diagnose why students are blurting and how to respond to it.
  2. Gamify: Split the room in two. Tell them that the team that wins does not have to take the quiz at the end of class. If one team blurts, the other team receives a point.
  3. Timer: Set a timer for 5 minutes (start small, so they can feel successful.) Say, “if I hear English more than 3 times, there is a quiz at the end of class.”
  4. 3 Strikes = Dictation: I ask students “Do you prefer to say the answers out loud or write the sentences out?” Most of the time they say “We want to say the answers!” I tell them, “Ok, you can say the answers, as long as you are staying in Spanish. If I hear English 3 times, you will write the sentences.” Then you do a dictation with them.
  5. Silent Responses: Instead of having students say their responses outloud, have them write it on a whiteboard. When you give the signal “3-2-1 Muéstrenme” everyone holds up the board.

October is hard but you are doing it! Keep up the great work. It matters.

CI Power Moves: I LOVE YOU!

This is a guest post from Connie Navarro. If you are looking for other CI Power Moves, Connie has a new website with easy and clear ways to elevate your teaching game! I have learned so much from her. Check it out.
CI Power Moves: I LOVE YOU
This is the power of positivity. We love and care about our students but how often do we really tell them?
Connie’s strategy:
“Pause right before or right after the first activity in front of the whole class and say “oh, let me look at you.” Then slowly scan the room and really look at everyone in the eyes, then say “I just love period 7. (p1, p4, etc) I really look forward to seeing you every day. I love being a teacher, but I especially love being YOUR teacher. Today is going to be great. Let’s do this!”
You will get the biggest bang for your buck if you can do this in your most challenging class. You have to be able to be sincere, even if you are TELLING YOURSELF as much as you are telling the students that you love being a teacher. If the kids push back and say “no, Miss, you hate our class” you have to be able to say (even if you are really telling YOURSELF)– “No, I don’t hate this class. It’s true I lose my temper sometimes, or it’s true, we bump heads sometimes, and that’s not my favorite part of teaching, but I do really like you, and I like having you in my class. By choice and by profession, I am a teacher so that I can spend my days with really passionate, dynamic people. I am here for YOU.” Even in your most challenging class, there are students you do genuinely like, and if you can pause and remember (or discover) things about the kids you find most hard-to-love, every class can be your “favorite” class because it will be full of people you genuinely care about, even if they don’t always want to do the activities you have planned or even if they don’t always want to be in school.
When I started giving this unconditional positive regard and 40 seconds of positive energy from my soul to the souls of the worst kids I had ever taught, something truly magical happened. At first they were uncomfortable, squirmy, would not meet my gaze, shouted back “but not me, Miss, not me. You don’t really like having me in your class,” as if to say “no teacher has ever liked having ME in class” or worse yet I think sometimes they were saying “no adult likes having me around, admit it.” The magic happened when I reminded myself daily and affirmed to them daily that the whole reason I was there was to be present with the imperfect humans with infinite untapped potential. The magic was that spark of joy, that moment of calm in the whirlwind of life, when we as a class could set our intention that no matter what fresh hell yesterday had brought, today had the potential to be better, to be smoother, to be calmer.
If you do this, your best classes will be amazing, your middling classes will be awesome, and your worst, dreaded class will rise like you never thought possible.”
-Connie Navarro
Happy new school year! Happy teaching! You are all are my heroes for taking on this noble work!

CI Power Moves: Gestures

This post is part of a series CI: Power Moves. As a teacher in Denver Public Schools and Colorado, I have had the privilege of learning from effective and generous CI instructors. Visit the previous posts here:
1. CI Power Moves: Doorway
2. CI Power Moves: How ARE you?

Screen Shot 2019-04-23 at 9.35.00 AM
(I post this slide before we do this activity. I refer to it. Later I have students explain WHY we do gestures.)

Why should we do gestures?
1. It is a behavior anchor. Once you establish a clear routine, students will know exactly what is expected. It resets their listening brains.
2. It provides scaffolding. You are priming your students’ brains for more listening later.
3. It is a comprehension check. They are able to show you they understand without speaking or writing.
4. Muscle Memory! This works for kinesthetic learners and almost all other learners. Physical response creates deeper memories because it activates more parts of the brain.
5. It provides repetition (not in context, but still, they are hearing the word spoken, as they see it on the board.) You can also continually review old vocabulary using gestures.

How do I effectively do gestures?
1. Before class, decide if you want a student to create the gesture, you want to create the gesture, or you want to use the American Sign Language. I usually type “asl (insert vocab word)” in Google. I like to use because they usually have gifs that I can drag and drop into my slide.

2. Quickly explain to class WHY we do gestures. “I want to see everyone doing the gestures because it helps me see who understands and physical movements are scientifically proven to help you remember something faster.”

3. Introduce the word. Show the word on the board in (Spanish) and English. Say “tiene” means “has.”

4. Show the gesture. Say: this is the gesture for “has.”

5. Teach the word “Show me!” (montre-moi or muéstrame/enseñame). Say “muéstrame tiene.” You do the gesture and they do the gesture.

6. Be seen looking. Obtrusively watch all students do the gesture. Say “I am looking for 100% of the class doing the action.”

7. Expect that 100% of students do the gesture. If they are not, walk closer to them. If they still are not doing the gesture, quietly say “muéstrame tiene (show me tiene).” If they still do not do the gesture, re-teach them WHY gestures are important.

8. Repeat the same process with 2-4 more words. Then, say them out of order. Say them faster. PRAISE THEM!

9. Check in! Make sure students are connecting the word to the actual meaning. “¿Cómo se dice “tiene” en inglés? (How do you say “tiene” in English?) Give them a 3, 2, 1, countdown and then listen for all students saying “has!” Praise them!

10. Do this for 3 minutes every day.


When they are ready, give them some challenges.

  1. Teacher delays gesture until most students do gesture. Teacher then shows gesture.
  2. Split the class in half and have a contest. Who can do the gestures better/faster/all together? Give a small prize to the winning team. (I always end up giving it to both teams because they all do a great job.)
  3. “Choose your challenge” Say “If you are ready for a challenge, close your eyes. Muéstrame tiene, le gusta, come.” You can gauge if your students are ready by seeing how many felt comfortable closing their eyes.
  4. Let me trick you! Teacher calls out the word but does the WRONG gesture. Continue mixing up words and gestures. Get close to the kids and playfully show them that you are really trying to trick them. Then, laugh at them (if you have a good relationship) when they mess up. Make messing up a fun thing.
  5. Incorporate last week’s words. Continue recycling old words throughout the year.
  6. Play Simón dice/Simon says.

CI Power Moves: How are you?

How are you? 

Doesn’t it feel nice when someone asks that question AND ACTUALLY wants to know the answer? Adding the “How are you?” routine to your class is powerful. Why?

  • Students feel acknowledged.
  • Students can identify their feelings and advocate for what they need.
  • I monitor the energy level of our class that day.
  • We create community.
  • We start really listening to each other.
  • It is spontaneous, interpersonal communication!

This is a CI Power Move. But how do we make this INPUT? I credit these ideas to the hugely talented, Sarah Rasay.

  1. Start by posting 3 emotions. (Tired, Hungry, and Stressed work well for high school!) Put the word on the board in L2 and L1, preferably with an image. Teach the emotions with a gesture.
    Screen Shot 2019-04-11 at 4.20.42 PM
  2. Ask in the TL: “Who is tired, raise your hand?” Look at those students. Count them. “Wow, 11 students are tired. Poor things. Who is REALLY tired? Sam, you are really tired? Makai, you are really tired? Oh no. Class, tell them, ¡pobrecitos!” “Who is stressed?” Count again. Acknowledge them. “Who is very stressed? Oh no.”
  3. WHY? **How are they supposed to answer WHY if they are in level 1?** Post some common answers on the board IN THE TL that they can use, for example:
    • just because (porque sí)
    • math class
    • lots of homework
    • stupid people
    • a problem with…
  4. Give them something for sharing! Positive incentives (though it is extrinsic motivation) help break the stigma of not wanting to share in class. Find what works for your class! In my class, they get:
    • Profe Pesos (tickets with my face on them) They can be exchanged in varying quantities for candy, a positive email home, a positive call home, an excused assignment.
    • Hershey’s kisses
    • If someone shares that they are VERY hungry, I give them a granola bar.
    • Other ideas, if someone shares that they are stressed, give them a fidget or a stuffed animal or a pillow.
    • a high five
    • mix it up. Some days don’t give them anything. Start to wane them off of the extrinsic motivators.
  5. Lean in. Show you are listening. Show you care.
  6. Explain to students WHY we do this.
    • It creates community.
    • I care about you.
    • You are receiving INPUT, which is the ONLY way to acquire language.
      Screen Shot 2019-04-23 at 9.28.50 AM
  7. On your roster, put a check mark by who you talk to so you can try to connect with everyone throughout the week.
  8. Variations:
    • Quick poll: How are you? Thumbs up/middle/down. Acknowledge their responses.
    • Middle school variation: Stand up if you are happy, stand up if you are hungry.
    • Written: Ask them on their warm up how they are. Notice it. Circle back to them about their response.
    • 3 Volunteers/3 Victims
    • Turn to your partner, high five, ask them how they are. PRAISE them using the language. Ask them to report out about their partner.
  9. Continue to add new emotions.
  10. Then start asking, how do you feel?Screen Shot 2019-04-11 at 4.19.32 PM

What other ways do you use the “How are you?” conversation in class? How does it impact your class?

CI Power Moves: Doorway

I have decided to start a blog series called CI Power Moves. I have had the privilege of working with fantastic mentors and teacher leaders in DPS and Colorado. I want to share their expertise with you!

CI Power Moves is based on a session that Mary Overton and I presented at CCFLT this spring.

CI Power Move #1: Greet your students at the door.

Greet your students at the door every day. This is not SOLELY CI. I recommend this for every teacher. According to a study, students are more likely to be engaged in the lesson and less likely to be disruptive if you greet them at the door. Read more here. 

  1. Stand in your doorway.
  2. Smile.
  3. Welcome every student and say their name.
  4. Make physical contact: high five, elbow bump, fist bump.
  5. Notice and compliment new hairstyles, shoes, logo on their shirt. Make a connection.
  6. Notice if they are not doing well and ask them if they need some space today.
  7. BONUS: Begin implementing the Password. Bryce Hedstrom is the master. He often presents on the password and why it is such a powerful way to start class. Read more here.

Cuesta Demasiado

I created this unit based on Martina Bex’s unit Cuesta Demasiado. It worked perfectly for my Spanish 2s, and could just as easily work for Spanish 1. I also incorporated several activities from Keith Toda’s blog.

Here is what I added:

  • Price is Right Guessing Game
  • A reading activity that is sure to provide major comprehensible input and take a good 20-30 minutes.
  • A couple sneaky phrases to preempt Señor Wooly’s Es Una Ganga!

Thank you, Martina, for this fun unit! And thank you, Keith, for this series of activities!

Included in this folder is:

-a Powerpoint with each day’s lesson and slides
– a reading with three activities
– a visual aid to retell the story (you can use mine or create your own based on your class stories)

Class Rules


Here are my class rules for 2018-19. I worked with a version of these rules last year and they encompassed almost every interaction I had with my students.

Reasoning Behind the Rules 

Before a student has a chance to question me on the rules, I like to give them the rationale behind each rule.

Rutinas: it is my job to ensure that every student has a place to learn that is safe. And, we only have so many minutes in a year to learn Spanish- let’s use it efficiently.

Español: We learn language through understanding what we hear and read. Simple as that.

I added “Try to use the words you know” because it creates a more academic setting where they are challenged to use the language WHEN they are ready. It also deters the slippery slope of students speaking English.

Comunidad: To paraphrase Krashen, our brains absorb language best when we are less stressed. That is why we spend a lot of time getting to know each other in this class. We need to feel comfortable in each other’s presence.

No seas quejón: whining can set a really uncomfortable tone for the class. I might say something like: “When you are whining, you are blocking the Spanish from reaching your brain.”

How to Teach and Enforce these Rules

  1. Post the rules.
  2. Address each rule as it comes up within the first weeks. Address it each time it comes up. This year I will not be showing full slide presentation of what the rules are.
  3. At the end of class, the class can earn 3 points. They earn 1 point if they completed routines with alacrity. 1 point if they stayed in Spanish AND allowed me to stay in Spanish. 1 point if they created a welcoming community. I will ask them to decide if they earned each point and I will ask them to explain to me why they think they earned it. I will agree or disagree by giving descriptive feedback. (This takes 2-3 minutes at the beginning of the year, but can take 30 seconds at the end of the year.)
  4. When individual students are not following the rule, I will stop, point to the rule, pause, smile, and continue my lesson.
  5. If an individual continues to not follow the rule, I will have a private conversation with them and talk to them about how their actions do affect the class and they affect their grade because (insert some student-friendly Krashen.)




Building Community

Routines + Community = Success

Teacher training programs focus on the importance of routines and procedures. From Teach Like a Champion to Harry Wong, we know that we have to be precise and consistent with our expectations. While I know these are important, I believe it to be equally important to build our class community.

In my first years of teaching, I spent so much time trying to control every moment of my class. I did not create enough space and time to get the class to know and understand each other. This year I will be very intentional about community building, from day 1 to the last day.

Community Building Activities:

  1. Greet Your Students every day. Stand at the door and welcome your students in. Use their name every day. Make eye contact every day. Shake hands, high-five, fist bump, elbow bump, pat on the back. This works for so many reasons: You make SURE that you connect with every student that day. You can see if they need extra love, support, or reminders of routines. They know that you are there for them and that you are holding them accountable for being a member of the class.
  2. Two Truths and a Lie about Electives: I want to know who my artists, dancers, actors, technology masters, engineers are. I will have students write their name in big letters on cardstock. In the middle of the cardstock, they will write 2 Truths and 1 Lie about their elective classes. I will take volunteers to read their Truths and Lies. The class will hold up their fingers to show if they think statement 1, 2, or 3 was the lie. The student will reveal their lie. Active Engagement Modification: Pair students up and give them one sticky note between the two of them. They will keep track of their score of how many Lies they detected. The partner with the most points at the end earns a high-five or a Starburst. ¡Ojo! Do not try to get to all students in one class period. Focus on a few students. Circle back to them so we can remember their names and their details. Quickly quiz the class on their names and interests. Keep the cards and bring up a few more students throughout the week.  I will be completing this activity is in English with my Spanish 1 and 2 classes because I think it is important to get a feel for their personalities. Also, I do not want to force them to use language they are not yet comfortable with. 
  3. Name Quizzes: On the 2nd day, give students a blank piece of paper. Point to a person we talked to yesterday. Have them write the name of that student. Have them write one thing they know about them. Grade it together in class. This one is a practice. Tell them there will be a real quiz on this later in the week. WHY? Because in order to learn a language, we need to be less stressed. When we have a supportive community, we are less stressed.
  4. Special Person Interviews: Bryce Hedstrom’s Special Person Interviews allows you to stay in the target language as you get to know your students by interviewing them in front of the class. Bryce kindly offered his resources for free at under “Special Person Interviews”
    Keys to Success with Interviews:

    • Start small. Start with 1-3 questions. Interview 1-3 students with these questions.
    • Focus on the student- not the language. Turn your body towards them. Pause and listen. Ask follow-up questions.
    • Keep it comprehensible. Post the questions in the TL and English. Point to the words. Write any unknown words on the board in the TL and English.
    • Teach and Re-teach your class how to engage in the interview.
  5. You/Me/Left/Right: This is a camp name game. Students stand in a circle with one person in the middle. Here are the details:
  6. More name game ideas here:
  7. Laugh Together: Find something funny or silly that works for your personality and your class. Ice-breaker games can be kind of cheesy but one game I like is called Elefante. Set-up: class forms a circle standing up (go in the hallway or outside if you don’t have space). There is a leader in the center. The leader points to one person. That person and the two people on either side of them have to create an elephant with their body. (Trunk in the center and giant ear on each side.) The goal of the leader is to be so quick that they confuse someone. If someone doesn’t move fast enough, they become the leader in the center. Add new animals or ask students for ideas. Confused by this description? Here is a video:

Here’s to a year of happy teaching!

Metacognition: Why are we doing this???

“Why are we doing this???” “Why do we have to stand up?” “Can’t you just play the movie the whole way through?” “Why aren’t there any desks in here?” “Do we have to read today?”

Ew. These questions deflate me. They taint the class community. To put it in the words of Faith Laux at iFLT last year, they are a tiny dropper of piss in the soup that we have been slaving over.

So, instead of getting pissed off and pissed on, I have learned to preempt these questions.


I have learned to use repetition and patience to teach them HOW we learn a language, which just happens to be THE SAME WAY we teach them the language itself.

Here’s how it looks:

  1. Continually repeat your version of the mantra: “We learn languages through understanding messages in the language.” (Acquisition learning hypothesis)
  2. Pop-up grammar Share a TINY bit of SLA research in student-friendly language:
    • “I want you to hear the words so many times that they just fall out of your mouth.” (Input hypothesis)
    • “Research shows you learn best when your stress level is low / when we have a supportive community.” (Affective filter)
    • “You pick up words 10 times faster when reading than when studying vocabulary.” (Krashen)
    • “Neurotransmitters help you focus. Movement resets your amygdala and brings fresh neurotransmitters.” (Neurologist Dr. Judy Willis)
  3. Repeat these SO MANY times, that students start parroting these responses. Create an allied front of students that can explain WHY we are doing this. Ask them to.
  4. Allow students time to digest some of this research themselves.
    • Mike Peto creates bookmarks with Reading research on them
    • Bryce Hedstrom displays his reading quotes and discusses them with his class.
    • Bryce also listens to Tea with BVP podcast with his students.
    • With the idea from Connie Navarro, my students completed group posters to answer the questions: Why do we do Movietalk? Why do we do stories? Why do we read? Why do we do brain breaks? Why do we listen to music? The students completed a gallery walk to read each other’s posters. When finished, I hung the best ones in class. Before every Movietalk, I point to the Movietalk poster and ask 3 students to explain WHY we are doing it.

Here are two of the posters:



Here are a couple more posters that I will be hanging in my room to start the year.

Feel free to borrow and adapt
why brain breaks doc
why brain breaks pdf



why deskless doc
why deskless pdf

IMG_1847 (1)

The final goal is that students not only know the language, but they know how to advocate for their language learning experience, and feel confident that they can continue learning it.

And when they ask “WHY ARE WE ___?” You just calmly turn to your class (and maybe point to your poster) and say “Hmm.. why ARE we doing this?”

¡Pan! Introduction Lesson

Here is how I will be introducing the vocabulary to Señor Wooly’s ¡Pan!

Materials needed if teaching 5 classes: 5 loaves of french bread ($1.50 each) / 5 bunches of bananas ($2/bunch) / a roll of toilet paper / butter / knife / cutting board / napkins

  1. Warm-up is always silent reading.
  2. Then I’ll ask the class: ¿Cómo estás? ¿Quién está cansado? ¿Quién está feliz? ¿Quién tiene frío? ¿Quién tiene calor?
  3. We’ll do actions with the new vocab: tiene ganas de comer, pide, trae, and tiene hambre.
  4. Show the slides and ask about the pictures: Liz Lemon tiene una pizza. ¿Liz Lemon tiene ganas de comer? ¿Tiene ganas de comer una pizza? ¿Tiene ganas de comer fruta? ¿Tiene ganas de comer pizza o fruta? ¿Tiene ganas de comer una pizza pequeña o una pizza grande? ¿Por qué tiene ganas de comer una pizza grande? (¡Porque tiene hambre!) ¿Ron Swanson tiene ganas de comer el banano? No, no tiene ganas de comer el banano. Talk about the pictures as much as you have their interest.
  5. Personalize it. Ask students if they feel like eating pizza in the morning. Do you feel like eating cold pizza or hot pizza in the morning? Do you feel like eating bananas in the morning?
  6. Then…. ask students WHO is really hungry. Ask them: ¿Tienes ganas de comer pan? Con mantequilla o sin mantequilla? Introduce “Quisiera.” Have a student who REALLY wants bread to say “Quisiera pan.. (con mantequilla)” Tell the class. ¡(Bob) quisiera pan con mantequilla! ¿Bob pide pan? Sí, Bob pide pan. ¿Bob pide papel higiénico o pide pan? ¿Bob trae pan o Bob pide pan? ¿Por qué pide pan? Etc. FINALLY, give the student his bread with butter. Then, ask the class: ¿Cómo está? ¿Tiene hambre o está feliz? ¡Está feliz porque tiene pan con mantequilla. Ya no tiene hambre.
  7. Repeat with more students. Offer them bananas, bread (with/without butter), and toilet paper.
  8. Exit: translate 3 sentences.

Here is the powerpoint with the pictures and gifs to discuss.

Here is a pdf of the lesson.