Atscom0376-summary-icon-100x100 the CSCTFL Conference in March, I promised a room full of teachers that I would make a video about how to use screencasts in class.  It only took 6 months, but here it is.

A screencast is a video of everything that happens on your computer screen with the audio of your voice narrating.  I have found them very useful for various applications in and out of class.  The following link should direct you to a video that explains how I make them and how I use them.

Screencast Video

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More Resources for El Internado

35a0b1f6196ef65cb9aafdf4ebb60ed3As I continue to restructure my own resources for using El Internado in class, I’ve decided to organize many of them on this site.  It will provide me a starting point in future years and allow me to share with other teachers who are interested in trying out El Internado in Spanish class.

I’ve created a page dedicated to El Internado resources.  For now, it is located under the Resources/Links heading.  It can be found here:

El Internado Resources

Currently, the page contains resources for three sections of Episode 1, which cover the first 24 minutes.  There are slides with vocabulary, slides for Movie Talk and previewing sections, reading, listening and writing activities and instructions for using them.

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Roberto Wants to be Famous

paseo_de_la_fama_de_hollywood_por_christian_haugen_flickr-1000x666I had a story I almost always used in class early in the year in an attempt to get repetitions of puede + infinitive (is able do something) and quiere + infinitive (wants to do something).  The story was about a girl who was jealous of her sister.  Her sister was popular and successful, and the girl wanted to be like her.  At the end, she stole her sister’s money, hair, shoes, feet . . . etc. and became the popular one.  It always seemed like such a good story, but I was never able to get it to work in class the way it did in my head.  I told it in two classes this year with similar disappointing results before I realized I needed to make a change.

It’s incredible how a small change in a story can make a giant difference in class engagement.

Here’s the new version.  In short, the protagonist wants to be famous (not popular), and he is jealous of several other people in the class (not just a sister).  The small changes allowed me to include several characters and get several more reps of structures.  It worked much better in the next class.

Roberto quiere ser famoso:  (Spanish only – Sorry) This is actually a text I used as a reading for one of the earlier classes in which I told the older story, but it is essentially the same as the story to be told in class.  Several classmates can be included as the famous ones.  Be sure to get many repetitions on the puede and quiere structures.

Vocabulary Intro and PQA : These slides contain the vocabulary, PQA questions and examples of the structures in use.



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A Technique for El Internado and Movie Talk

el-internado-10-galeria700x400If you’ve ever been frustrated because you feel like you’re not getting enough out of Movie Talk, the following may help . . .

If you’ve ever wanted to try using El Internado in your Spanish class but you’re not sure where or how to start, the following may help . . .

One of my goals for this new school year is to better utilize El Internado, which almost always means going slower than I tend to go.  Mike Peto sums up a good pace as always going slower than the students want.  Students from last year’s classes would laugh at the idea of going even slower than we did, but I think there is more we can do/get out of the program if we take our time.

As I was preparing to show the first part of episode 1 to a class this year, I used the following steps.  I believe these steps can also be very helpful when applied to any video as Movie Talk.  It’s a more scripted alternative to what I would normally do.

  1. Select a clip and write out the narration.  I grabbed a pencil and a few sheets of paper and started the video.  I paused the video often and wrote out everything that could be used as narration of the story.  Even for someone who has used Movie Talk for years, this step revealed how much language was actually embedded in a short clip.  I quickly filled 2 sheets of paper.  This step may sound tedious and unnecessary, but I found it very helpful and was actually excited by how much I was finding that I would have otherwise disregarded.
  2. Evaluate the narration notes.  I used different color pens and started marking any structures that would not be already known or not well-internalized by my students.  I made distinctions between structures that could be gestured, structures that were high and low frequency, structures that were used often in the episode . . . etc.
  3. Create new vocabulary structures.  Based on all my colored markings, I selected and formed three structures to be the focus.  Because the structures were mostly nouns and cognates, they were easily internalized.  For this particular episode of El Internado, they were:
    1. se escapa por la ventana – she escapes through the window
    2. sube un árbol – she climbs (goes up) a tree
    3. hay un lobo en el bosque – there’s a wolf in the woods
  4. Create a gestures list.  Honestly, I do not typically do a lot of gesturing beyond some TPR actions at the beginning of the year for verbs that will be essential to all stories.  However, I wanted to be able to get some other vocabulary into this MT without overloading the amount of language in the focus structures.  For this clip, I chose
    1. se quita – she takes off
    2. se pone – she puts on
    3. se cae – she falls
    4. dice – she says
    5. salta – she jumps
    6. encima de – on top of
    7. debajo de – below
    8. sonríe – she smiles
    9. está preocupada – she is worried
  5. Create screenshots. This IS the tedious part.  If you are using the first 5 minutes of El Internado, you can use the presentation linked below.  I created a screen shot slide for everything that happens in the clip.
  6. Present the new structures.  Now, it’s time to get the students involved.  I presented the three focus structures and asked some personalized questions.  We talked a bit about trees and forests and where there are wolves.
  7. Present and practice the gestures.  I acted them out.  Students acted them out.  I said them without moving.  I did them without saying anything, and students said them.  All the TPR tricks.
  8. Watch the clip. We watched the first 5 minutes of El Internado.  I paused to question from time to time.  Some teachers get the bulk of their reps at this step.  Sometimes I do too, but not for this version.  We did some talking here, but the majority of the repetitions occur in step 9.
  9. Lead the students through a retell of the clip.  Using the presentation linked below, we went through the first section of slides (no text) together with me asking and circling.  This is a very important step, as it is where most of the input occurs.
  10. Students read aloud.  We did this in partners.  The second section of the presentation contains slides with narration text.  Students simply take turns reading the text displayed over the images.
  11. Students fill in blanks.  The third group of slides contains text with blanks.  Students read aloud and filled in the blanks with the correct words.
  12. Students retell.  The fourth section of slides (Yes, it’s a long presentation) contains no text.  Students retold the events by just looking at the images.  This step could be very difficult if it were the first task, but after input from the teacher and slowly removing text, students completed it with little trouble.  It would be possible to even add another step between, in which more blanks are added if needed.
  13. Watch the second section.  We watched the section section (5:00-9:05), and I paused, questioned and circled in more of a traditional Movie Talk style.  I felt the second part worked better this way, and it allowed some variation in our process.
  14. Students read and complete.  Using the following document, students selected the correct word in some sections and wrote in the correct word in others.
    1. El Internado Fill-in #1
    2. El Internado Fill-in #1 – complete
  15. Writing Assessment. Students completed a writing assessment in class with no resources other than images.  The assignment is on the last page of the following document.
    1. El Internado Fill-in #1 – Writing Assessment

Here is the presentation.  It includes an intro and link to the trailer for El Internado and the 4 sections of slides that were referenced earlier.

El Internado Intro and Episode 1-1



Posted in Authentic Resources, Classroom activities, El Internado, Movie Talk | 1 Comment

300 Chistes

I often demonstrate to other teachers how I use a daily joke to provide input in Spanish class, and they say something like, “Oooh.  I like that, but where do I find jokes to use for class?”

To which I usually reply, “Uh . . . I um . . . I just find them . . . I don’t know.”

The truth is that I’ve spent a few years looking online, in books and on Twitter for anything I could make into an appropriate, comprehensible and (sometimes) funny joke for class.  Until recently, I’ve had the jokes scattered in different digital documents and on scraps of paper in my desk drawers.

I finally took the time to compile them into one resource.  Below is a link to the document.  It includes more than 300 jokes and a short introduction about how to use them in class.

300+ Chistes 


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CSCTFL Workshop

For those of you who attended the Seamless CI workshop this morning at the Central States Conference, below is a link to the presentation with links included.  Again, thank you for your attention.  I enjoyed spending a few hours together.

Seamless CI Slides


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El empleado del mes

empleado del mes copiaHere is a story to be told in class with a bit of a twist in the delivery.  Typically, my order is about the same.  We begin by establishing meaning to new structures then move to personalized questions and then to an in-class story.   This one is a bit different.  The meaning of new structures and the personalized questions come up at different points of the story.  I know that some TPRS teachers are good at always weaving PQA into stories, but I struggle with it.  So for this unit, I deliberately created PQA breaks.

Here is the script with personalized questions included: El empleado del mes – script

Here are the slides I used as we went: El empleado del mes – slides

I also included a sheet for students to record structure definitions and take notes on the events of the story.  Again, this is not common for us.

Here is the sheet that students used to follow along: El empleado del mes – student guide 

The plot of the story is pretty simple.  There is an employee who has worked at a meatball company for many years and has been very successful.  He is a meatball salesman and has sold thousands of meatballs in his years.  However, the son of the owner of the company is also a salesman.  He has sold very few meatballs but always wins employee of the month because his father is the owner.  After so many years, the good salesman cannot take it anymore and decides to do something about the injustice.

Of course, the details (meatball company) can be changed and were different in each of my classes.  And, most of our stories ended pretty violently, which would not be necessary.

I was pleased with the results.  The actual plot of the story is pretty simple and boring.  The switch in delivery was enough to maintain student engagement.  One of my concerns was that it would be difficult to jump back and forth from personalized questions about real life to imaginary details of the story we were creating.  However, the transitions were smooth in all classes.

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Listen more. Think less.

escucha mas

There are two types of language students in a CI class.  Well, there are many types of language students, but for this post, let’s divide them into two groups.  There are those who actively listen and absorb the input we provide, and there are those who discover the meaning of words and try to think/translate their way through everything.  The second group is full of students who say things like . . .

  • Me llamo es
  • El hombre era comiendo
  • Espalda en mi día

How do we move students from the second group into the first?  How do we get them to buy into what we are doing? – providing them with the input they need to communicate without (much) thinking.

I’m going to start with this.  It’s simple and lame, but so are some of the best classroom strategies I use everyday.

Escucha más poster

I’m going to hang it in my room after break or maybe even hang several of them in my room.  We’ll discuss it, and then I’ll point to it when we need to refocus.

Of course, thinking and some translating are natural for any language student.  And given the brevity of our time with students, extending concepts from one structure to another with which they have not had much input does require some thought.  I’m not trying to eliminate that type of thinking.  I’m trying to eliminate the frustration of standing in front of class everyday and saying “hace calor”, “hace frío”, “hace fresco”, “hace calor”, “hace frío”, “hace calor” . . .

And then hearing a student one day say, “Profe, es frío hoy.”

*If you are not a Spanish teacher, the sign simply says “Listen more.  Think less.”  Translate it to your language or in English.

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Here’s another way to provide input while investigating target language culture.

I believe I borrowed this idea from someone a couple years ago, but I cannot remember for sure.  I am in my second year of using it, and it works well.  The concept is pretty simple.  Once a week (usually on Tuesdays), I ask a trivia question to all of my classes.  Each class comes up with an answer.  The following day, I reveal the correct answer and award a point to the class that was closest.  At the end of the year, the class with the most points wins.


  •  The questions are always in the target language and usually contain a pretty thorough introduction.  Although the students may be most excited about trying to answer and win, I am more concerned with valuable input at this point.  As with many CI activities, I must fight the temptation to rush.  There is great value in the process.
  • All questions are based on target language culture.  I often get the questions from current news events.  When I reveal the answer on the second day, we often look at an article or a video.  Again, I care much more about this step than about which class wins, but the competition gets them engaged.  Recent topics have included inflation in Venezuela, drug trafficking and Spanish speaking athletes and musicians who are currently active.
  • The questions work best when they are quantitative.  If the answer is a number, there will always be a winner (the closest guess), and there will almost always be only one.  It’s also a good way to provide natural exposure to using numbers.

Finding good questions can be difficult at times.  Here are a few places to start.

  • Online newspapers and news sites (CNN en español, BBC mundo)
  • Online shopping sites. Show an item and description and ask what it costs. (
  • Sporting events. Choose a target language athlete and ask how many points he/she will score in tonight’s game or who will win?
  • Celebrities. How many records has he/she sold? How much money did he/she make? What does a group charge for a concert?
  • History.  What happened on this day? Find a question in a historical event.  

Many of my questions from last year are scattered throughout different presentations, but I’ve done  a little better this year at keeping them together.  Below is a link to the file I’ve been using for much of this year.  It includes many of the questions we’ve used along with descriptions and links to articles or videos.  The last slide is a score sheet for my classes.   


Posted in Authentic Resources, Classroom activities, Current Events, Reading | 1 Comment


FeastFeast is a Disney animated short that can be used for Movie Talk.  The video can be found here and on Netflix as part of a collection of Disney short films.  Below are two of the resources I created to be used along with the video.

  1. Presentation – These slides include focus structures in Spanish (slide 2), images for the structures (slides 4-62) that can be used for games in class, a short paragraph to be read before viewing the video (slide 67) and slides to be used for Movie Talk (slides 68-149).
  2. Evaluation – This document contains two assessments.  The first is a sentence translate activity, which includes many of the focus structures.  The second is a writing assessment to be completed in class with no resources.  I collect the translation activity before distributing the writing assessment, so all written language is a demonstration of what has been internalized.
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