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.

Baby Steps to 90% or How to Manage Chaotic Classes

1_ZthF3S3oOXtqYDKz5xdM6ASarah Rasay and I presented at CCFLT on how to get yourself and your students to 90% TL.

If you are struggling to stay in the target language, of if even one of your classes are struggling,  here are our recommendations:

  1. Teach pop-up theory in student-friendly language. Teach it OVER and OVER, as if it were content. Get students to start voicing the WHY behind each activity.
  2. TEACH interpersonal skills and back it up with a grade. Do NOT just use the grade to extrinsically motivate them. Teach them HOW and WHY the interpersonal rubric will help them be successful.
  3. Have Target-Language call-backs and resets.
  4. Use TPR actions to anchor the class. Every student can be successful with this. And it requires NO student speaking.
  5. Start mini-personalization lessons with INPUT- not output.

More information and examples of these five topics are available in our presentation at:

BONUS: I highly recommend visiting Mary Overton’s blog at

Last semester, I used Mary’s Reading Rubric to reset my chaotic classes. It has absolutely changed my life. The classes that I could NOT get to settle down, now know what is expected of them from BEFORE the bell rings through the reading and the warm-up. It sets the stage for a productive and positive class. 


7 Activities for Volar by Álvaro Soler

Working songs into my routine has been difficult this year. So, I just decided to make it part of the warm-up.

I was inspired by Jim Tripp and his blog post

My daily routine:
1. Students spend 5 minutes silently reading.
2. Students spend 5 minutes with the song of the week (or two weeks) completing an activity.
3. TPR actions for that day’s vocab
4. PQA/MovieTalk/Story/Reading Activity with brain breaks
5. Listening Quiz

Here are 7 activities you can use for a warm-up or just for teaching the song Volar by Álvaro Soler. Great for Spanish 1! If you notice typos or errors, please be merciful! But do let me know! 🙂

volar actividades docx (editable)

volar actividades pdf