How I Teach
I teach first year Spanish (grade 9), second year Spanish (grade 10) and IB Spanish SL 11 and 12. From day one until, three years later, the day they write their IB Spanish exams, I teach only and exclusively using Comprehensible Input methods. I use a variety of strategies in my classes to provide comprehensible input to my students: I use TPRS, Storytelling, Movie Talk, Picture Talk, Personalized Questions, TPR, Novel Reading, FRV (Free Voluntary Reading), and scaffolded class discussions. Depending on the grade level, I use some things more than others, but one thing that is a constant in my classes is that I never, ever teach grammar explicitly.
We language teachers need to understand that second language acquisition is similar to first language acquisition. If we think about how we learned our first language, we realize that explicit grammar learning came after we had already fully acquired the language itself, never before. Our brains are built to decode and map languages in a particular way, not through grammar. When we teach grammar in our classes, students learn about the language, but not the language. Teaching grammar does not lead to language acquisition. If you are interested in learning more about this, I highly recommend that you read "WHILE WE ARE ON THE TOPIC" by Bill VanPatten.
So, everything I do in my classroom is an excuse to give my students more comprehensible input. We communicate in meaningful and unrehearsed ways 100% of the time. This is where you need to start feeling your gut and reading the energy of the class. For example, if you had planned 10 minutes of personalized questions, but the class is very engaged and the conversation is evolving, just go with the flow! As long as you are in the target language and continue to give them comprehensible input, you are facilitating their language acquisition. If a Movie Talk that was originally planned for 20 minutes is a hit with the class and you see that they are engaged and you can stretch it to 40 minutes, then go for it! In the end, that is what you want: engagement, attention, and comprehensible input in a meaningful way.
Because there is nothing more rewarding as a language teacher than to see in your students' eyes the joy of learning, understanding and being able to communicate in another language. I make them promise me that they won't study for my class. My promise to them is that if you come to class and actively pay attention and participate in the class dynamic, you will not have to study and you will do well. If they do their part and I do my part, going home and memorizing things is out of the equation.
Because you get students who hate learning languages based on their past experiences and after a month in your class they tell you that actually Spanish is easy and they learned more in a month in your class than in a semester in a previous class.
Because it is a different class, it is relaxing, it is fun, it builds community and success.
Because it works. You can actually become proficient in the language in a relatively short period of time, without suffering, without memorizing endless lists of words and grammar rules, and without studying.
Because you learn to feel the new language. You do not teach your students to think, but to feel the target language. They stop translating it and start feeling it.
Because it makes me a happy teacher.
In my TPT store you will find embedded readings, in both present and past tense, that go along several short animated films, which can be found on YouTube. These embedded readings are a great companion to your Movie Talks. To see Movie Talks in action (with and without embedded readings) please refer to my YouTube channel. There is a play list of videos of me doing Movie Talks with my students.
A great way to work on understanding and acquiring the language is through pictures and videos. Used well, they can be the tool that provides the link between form and meaning. The main activity in Movie Talk consists of narration. The main point is that you, the teacher, provide spoken, comprehensible input that your students can understand with the aid of an entertaining video. This narration can be made through embedded readings. Embedded readings allow scaffolding the level of complexity of a text, building up from scratch so students can work their way up to reading more complex versions of the original text. By putting both techniques together you can introduce more vocab and grammar structures; this will help you go from a 30 minute Movie Talk lesson to a week-long one.