Mitten CI 2019 – Slideshow

For those who attended one of the sessions at Mitten CI, you can access the slideshow from the following link.  Thank you for a great day!.

Mitten CI – Seamless CI Classroom 

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La Llegada de María – Spanish CI Lesson

original-4078552-1Here is a lesson based on a story I wrote for Nuestra Historia 3.

La Llegada de María is one of several short stories that make up Nuestra historia Level 3.  Nuestra historia Level 3 is a collection of culturally relevant stories with accompanying activities, authentic resources, assessments, and opportunities for further investigation. All units of Nuestra historia are based on AP themes, set in Spanish-speaking countries, and completely customizable.

La Llegada de María is set in Puerto Rico in 2017. It begins with preparations for the
coming of Hurricane María. While most Puerto Ricans are evacuating to seek safety,
Natalia, who is eight months pregnant, must remain. Her boyfriend, Enrique, refuses
to leave her on the island. He stays to protect Natalia and their unborn son from the
coming storm. When the baby decides to arrive a few weeks early, Natalia and Enrique must make their way through the flooded streets to the hospital, risking their own lives to save their child.

This action-packed story highlights the importance of loyalty and generosity, and
ends with a message of hope. The target structures, which are based on compelling,
high-frequency language that is useful for communication beyond the story itself,
are repeated several times to aid in comprehension and to help internalize the
vocabulary. The accompanying activities require students to engage with the story
and think critically about its themes and language use. The audio files can be used to
enhance the presentation of the text or activities.

You can find the lesson here:

La Llegada de María


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Nuestra Historia 3 & 4

Nuestra-Level-3-CoverI love to write stories in Spanish and create compelling content for Spanish students.  So far in 2018, I’ve had an incredible opportunity to do both.  It has been my privilege to serve as the lead author for Nuestra Historia 3 and Nuestra Historia 4.  Both titles are part of the Comprehensible Input based curriculum produced by Voces Digital.  If you teach Spanish, I highly recommend these materials.  I was contracted to write stories by Voces Digital.  I am not otherwise employed by Voces Digital and DO NOT receive more or less of a payment  based on sales.  Thus, these comments and recommendations are my own and do not represent any sponsorship or promotion.

The entire Nuestra Historia program includes levels 1 – 4 of Spanish.  One of the foundations of the program is specialized contributions from several different CI teachers.  My role was to write nearly 70 short stories for levels 3 and 4.  Other teachers and experts contributed other components, such as story scripts (Jim Tripp), activities and Movie Talk scripts (Rachel Emery, Kara Jacobs, Beth Gregones and Stacia Ford), communicative tasks (Diane Aretz), biographies (Dirk Esterline and Arianne Dowd), articles (Minerva Hurtado Requejo) and consultation for all materials (Allysen Clancy).

Nuestra Historia is NOT a textbook with a few CI components included in an effort to selldownload more copies.  It IS a collection of culturally relevant stories with accompanying activities, authentic resources, assessments and opportunities for further investigation.  It is created for and by CI teachers.  It is especially useful for teachers who are new to CI and need a structure as a starting point and for experienced CI teachers who want to include more cultural relevance in their lessons.

All units of Nuestra Historia are based on AP themes, set in Spanish speaking countries, digital and customizable.  Teachers can edit and adapt as they need.  The materials are available for student devices or to be projected and printed.

Here is a video tutorial I created for the first unit of Nuestra Historia 3.  The first four minutes are an introduction to the curriculum.   The rest is a quick demonstration of many of the components in a unit.

Want to try it out?  How about a full access free trial?

Nuestra Historia Free Trial 

Nuestra Historia 3 is available now, and Nuestra Historia 4 will be released soon.

If you have questions, you can contact Erin at



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Los Sobrevivientes: A TPRS Novel

BookCoverImageI am pleased to announce the release of a Spanish TPRS novel that I have written and published.  The novel is called Los Sobrevivientes and is available now Los Sobrevivientes is based on the incredible true story of the rugby team from Uruguay that was stranded in the middle of the Andes mountains after a plane crash in 1972.  Abandoned, forgotten and left for dead, several of the passengers endured the brutal conditions and found a way to survive for 71 days.  The novel was written for Spanish 2 or 3, but the compelling story will inspire students at any level.  Even my students who “hate reading” have enjoyed the story.  A plane crash, cannibalism, an impossible 40 mile journey through 100 foot deep snow and a triumph of the human spirit.  What more could you ask for in a 7,000 word novel?

Here is a trailer based on chapter 4 of the novel.  It can be used to generate interest before reading or add drama to one section of the story.

You can find the novel here:

Los Sobrevivientes

Please contact me ( if you are interested in ordering a class set.

Also, here is a resource with a variety of comprehension activities for each chapter.  It can be used in or out of class.

Los Sobrevivientes: Individual Reading Comprehension Assessment 

Here is a digital copy of chapters 1-3 to give you an idea of the level of writing used within the novel.

Los Sobrevivientes Sample (Chapters 1-3)


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Pre AP Spanish Units

I spent the summer rewriting my Spanish 4 curriculum.  My goal was to create a better bridge between my level 3 classes and AP level 5.  I wanted to create units that prepared students for the specific requirements and assessments of AP.   The result was several Thematic Units based heavily on authentic materials with resources and strategies to make them comprehensible.   I recently made four of them available.

Each unit is a 20+ page document that includes activities, assessments and links to videos and other resources.  They are designed to prepare students for the requirements of an AP course but with less intimidation.  They fit best in a Pre AP Spanish 4 class but can be used in AP classes or any level before.  Even if your school does not have an AP course, these can be useful.

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TPRS Units

I recently organized and released 12 TPRS Spanish units.  They can be found at the link above or here – TPRS Units.  Each unit includes a story script for in-class storytelling, a reading selection, comprehension questions, instructions for the teacher, speaking prompts and a writing prompt.  Most scripts work best in a level 2 or 3 Spanish class, and all can be adapted to fit your class.  There is a combo package at the bottom of the page which includes all 12 units.  Each unit description includes a list of the target structures and a summary.

These are some of my favorite stories, readings and activities.  I hope you are able to use them in your class as well.


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How Well Do You Know Your Classmates?

hands2The following activities are great way to provide input in an engaging manner, using your students as the context.   They work well for the first day back after a break but can be used at any time.  They are very easy to prepare and create a time in which the students say little, and the teacher provides a lot of repetitions and input without losing the interest of the class.

True or False

  1. Project a list of statements about different students from class.  The statements can be about anything – last weekend, yesterday, a focus on an emphasized structure (present perfect, preterite, imperfect, future).
    1. Carlos has never seen Titanic.
    2. Alicia ate pasta last weekend.
    3. Benito has a girlfriend.
    4. Manolo lied to his parents yesterday.
    5. Maritza has read every Harry Potter book
    6. Natalia has been on television.
    7. Marcos and Olivia spent time together yesterday.
  2. Using a small scrap paper, students take a minute to quietly read the phrases and write “true” or “false” for each.  They are not permitted to ask the students mentioned.  They base their responses on how well they know their classmates and simply guessing.
  3. Review each statement with the class.  Students keep track of how many they get correct.  Use each statement as a way to circle and ask several questions.
    • Class, has Carlos seen Titanic?
    • Carlos, have you seen Titanic?
    • It’s true.  Carlos has not seen Titanic.
    • Who has seen Titanic?
    • Ricardo, how many times have you seen Titanic?
    • Ricardo has seen Titanic 4 times.  Who has seen it more?
    • Have I seen Titanic?
    • That’s right.  I have seen Titanic but I have only seen it once.
      • (Notice that students only need to respond with “yes”, “no”, raising hands and saying numbers.)
  4. After reviewing all statements and discussing, award a prize to the students with most correct.

How many?

  1. Project a list of questions about how many students in class have done something or did something during the weekend, yesterday etc.
    • How many students went to the movies during break?
    • How many students cooked something?
    • How many students lied to their parents?
    • How many students said a bad word yesterday?
    • How many students have never been to Bob Evan’s?
    • How many students said, “I love you” to a mother or father this morning?
    • How many students have said, “I love you” to a boyfriend/girlfriend?
  2. Using a small paper, students write their guesses for how many in class did/have done each action mentioned.  The teacher should participate also.
  3. Review and discuss each statement as in the true/false activity.  It is possible to get several repetitions on each statement.
    1. How many  went to the movies during break? (Students raise hands)
    2. 17 students went to the movies.
    3. What movie did you see, Miguel?
    4. Was it good or bad? . . . etc.
  4. For each statement, students write the difference between their responses and the actual number.  At the end, the student with the least total difference between guesses and actual numbers is the winner.  If that system is too much math, you can simply award a point to the closest on each statement.
  5. Another option is to make the statements based on opinions or beliefs.
    • How many believe that art class is more important than history class?
    • How many believe parents should control what their children watch on TV?
    • How many believe that the drinking age should be lower than 21?

There are several ways to adapt these activities, but this should be enough to get you going.  The keys to success are that the the questions/statements be interesting, that the teacher do most of the talking and that each statement lead to much circling and questioning.  I love these activities and use them often.


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3 AM

jjtt I think you could build an entire Spanish curriculum on the latest Jesse y Joy album.  I probably won’t do that, but here is a three-day lesson based on their song 3 am, which includes vocals from Tommy Torres.  If you are not a Spanish teacher, there may still be some value in seeing how a unit can be developed by adding back story to a song.


  • Slides – A slide presentation used for several parts of the unit.
  • Documents – Text for the lyrics of the song, vocabulary structures and 2 versions of a story to expand the song (simplified and complete) in an embedded reading format.


  1. Distribute the documents packet to students.
  2. Play the song while students simply follow along with the lyrics.
  3. Ask questions about general comprehension.
  4. Read “El Cuento – Versión 1” – the first version of the embedded reading.  Use necessary strategies (translating, reading several times, retells) to be sure the content is understood.
  5. Use slides 3-11 to introduce and practice the vocabulary structures.  Students write definitions on the second page of the packet.  You may want to change your focus structures.  For me, the first 4 structures were emphasized, used and internalized more.  The last three were defined to aide in comprehension of the story and song.
  6. Project slide #12 and instruct students to discuss in pairs.  Then, lead class in discussion of questions.
  7. (Beginning of day 2 for me) Project slide #13, which contains phrases from the song translated to English.  Students search for the same phrases in Spanish in the song and mark them.  Play the song while students are searching.
  8. Read “El Cuento – Versión 2” on the second page.  Select three actors to act out the parts of Joy, Tommy and Joy’s mother.  They act and read lines as the story is told.  Slide #13 includes and image that can be used while explaining the “gato por liebre” line of the story and song.
  9. Comprehension quiz.  Before the story, I informed students that there would be a short quiz afterward that they would complete without using the text, so attention and comprehension were important.  This is the quiz I used: V2 Comprehension Quiz
  10.  (Beginning of day 3 for me)  Slide #16 contains a link to a lyric video.  At this time, I was not able to find an official video for the song.  The linked video shows lyrics and who (Joy or Tommy) is saying each line.  There are a couple errors in the text.  I hope a better video will be available soon.
  11. Slide #17 contains a prompt for a short writing assignment.  I instructed my students to write in the blank space at the end of version 2.  After writing, students shared with a partner and some shared with the class.
  12. In pairs, students translate sections of the song to English.  As they were reading their endings to each other, I marked a paragraph of the song for each pair to translate and be ready to share with the class.


Posted in Authentic Resources, Embedded Reading, Music, Stories/Storytelling | 5 Comments

Latin Grammy Awards 2016

lg16My friend and colleague, Ellen Roberts, recently sent me some ideas for activities to accompany the Latin Grammy Awards.  Using the resources she sent and ideas from other teachers about bracket challenges, I created the following presentation and activities.  They allow each class to vote for a song of the year.  But of course, there are several TL rich steps involved in selecting a winner.

These activities were completed at the beginning of each class during a span of 7 days.  The Latin Grammy Awards ceremony was already broadcast (November 17), but this activity can still be used to provide language input and cultural awareness.  Each class selects it’s own song of the year.  If the class choice is different than the single that actually won, no problem.  The last slide of the presentation includes videos from the ceremony.

Here’s what we did . . .

  1. I distributed the following document to each student.  One side contains the bracket for the 8 Spanish-language songs that were nominated for song of the year.  The other side is a chart, which students completed as we went.
    1. Las canciones (front)
    2. Las canciones (back)
  2. Using the following presentation, I provided information for each song in the first round (2 per day).  Students took notes on their charts.  For each song, there are images, information, a section of the lyrics and link to a lyric video of the song.  After we discussed each song, we listened to it.
    1. Las canciones (slides)
  3. After discussing and listening to two songs, the class voted for the favorite, and we all recorded it on the bracket.
  4. After 4 classes of information, listening and voting, we advanced to the second round.  For the second round, we quickly listened to the two songs that had advanced and voted.  Slide #50 in the presentation includes quick links to lyric videos of each song.
  5. The last day (day 7), we listened to the two finalists and voted on a champion.  After the class had selected a winner, I showed video clips (last slide of the presentation) of the actual winner and other key moments from the awards ceremony, including some of the same artists winning in other categories.  We also took a short quiz over the information from the charts.
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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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