New Year’s Reflection #2 – Spanish III


My second New Year’s Blog post will be my reflection for Spanish III for the first semester. I have not taught Spanish III in three years, which was my first year in my current school setting. That year my expectations for what students should have known and been able to do in Spanish were way too high and it was a year of growth for all of us. But this year, I am so pleased to have had a different reaction because all of the work our department has done since then with greater focuses on language performance and proficiency. Now our students are speaking and writing in Spanish with more confidence and so many more are at an Intermediate low/mid level in level III. This being said in my small class of 17 there is still a great mix of student abilities and desire to actually be learning Spanish. Since it is my newest prep, it has been a lot of trial and error but overall everyone seems happy and to be growing.

Since I have not taught all of these students in the past some have never experienced teaching for acquisition with comprehensible input and/or traditional TPR and TPRS. So I have had to set the groundwork and expectations for them while they must train their brains for a new way of learning.

I have also had to find a great balance of helping move novice students to intermediate while still moving my intermediates ahead. In Spanish III, we take a thematic approach but I find within the themes I am able to use a variety of TCI strategies that benefit all. For the first semester, I tackle three themes. For me I must start the year with a time to get to know my students so I build upon the context of Personal Identity & Interests followed by Cooking & Food Preparation and then Healthy Living & Medical Emergencies. Even though a third prep has been a lot more work for me as a teacher I do love the challenge of developing new and rich comprehensible input contexts. I am going to reflect on some of those today and also give shout outs and thank you’s to so many other teachers who have inspired or provided the materials that I am using.


Spanish III 2017 Semester One


This year I have found MovieTalks to be a great way to provide input to my mixed group. I used the following four source videos. For two of them I have noted some of my target structures that helped my telling and questioning and for the other two I have provided where you can buy already developed lessons that are ready to go.

1. Android Commercial: Paper, Rock, Scissors

I used various high frequency past tense verbs and worked with the following structures: fight, sheet of paper, rock, scissors, he (they) put, he (they) fell, he (they) helped him, he (they) smiled, he (they) cried

2. Bomba Estereo’s song and video: Soy yo

I used Kara Jacob’s story, which is available here on her TPT site. When you see great resources that are already developed, I suggest spending the little bit of money and buying them. Not only is the work done for you but you will learn so much as you work through the materials. Shhh! Don’t tell anyone but I feel the same way about textbooks for new teachers – this is one way we learn our craft.

3.   The Wallet

Kristy’s Placido’s fun lesson and story are available on her TPT site or through this link. Overall this was a fun lesson that I paired with my telling of La Llorona only because of some of the structures that worked for both like lost, was looking for, found.

4.    Pixar’s Inner Workings (available via Itunes) – Thanks to my colleague Emily Hazzard for suggesting this film.

Structures ~ we had been working on a Top 20 list of present subjunctive structures too

  • He feels – se siente
  • He has fun – se divierte
  • He is going to have fun – va a divertirse
  • He calculates the risk – calcula el riesgo
  • The brain (does not) want(s) that he – El cerebro (no) quiere que él (I used verbs from my Top 20 list that they now knew or through the video they were comprehensible)
  • The heart suggests that he – El corazón sugiere que él (From the TOP 20 list)


LIVE ACTION SPANISH – my new “older” Resource

This summer while at NTPRS (Boston July 9-13) and IFLT (Cincinnati July 17-20) (amazing conferences if you are not familiar with them – check them out and get to one this summer), I was checking out Contee Seely’s resources through the Command Performance Language Institute and found this gem: Live Action Spanish or Viva la acción. This book provides lessons that help teachers extend traditional TPR actions and gestures to a contextualized situation or story. The book, written by Contee Seely and Elizabeth Kuizenga Romijn, has more than 60 contexts of very common scenarios and themes we teach in many world language classes. In the Spanish version, each scenario is written in both the familiar “tú form” and the formal “Ud. form.”
So far I have used the following scenarios in the Ud. commands as all class TPR lessons and/or for reading homework and they have worked wonderfully. I will use more of these in the “Tú form” with my Spanish II classes next semester as we prepare for our quarter on travel.

Cooking & Food Preparation Unit – Scrambled Eggs, Toast, Cereals, and Typical Central American Breakfast

Medical Emergencies & Healthy Living – Medical Appointment, Vitamins, and the Bloody Knee (which made for a great class story)!

These Live Action books can be purchased in Spanish, French, English, Italian, and Japanese through the Command Performance Language Institute’s site.

Practicing Circumlocution

I know that my students must work on circumlocution – frankly I have to work on it too. I personally love games like Taboo and Catch Phrase, so I try to play games like this every once in a while. My students do love to play Bryan Kandel’s Silla Caliente/Hot Seat, read about it here on his blog.

This year to also help my Spanish III students, and what I would like to think to help move more of them to an intermediate Spanish level, we created this circumlocution sheet. If you look at it, you will see that I embedded many “rules” of using ser and estar). Download it on my resources page.

My Confession: Free Reading

This year we started out the first month doing Free Reading every week using the wonderful novels written for language students, but after the first month I must say I fell off the wagon. This is a bummer because my colleague who teaches the other sections of Spanish III has found great value in the free reading experience for the students and she has consistently done it. So I am not proud of this and I am confessing, but starting in 2018 we will free read our novels weekly. I must carve out the time and assure that I have our shared library cart in the room. A shout out to all of the authors of the amazing new novels that are being published, including Jennifer Degenhardt’s “Los tres amigos” with, to my knowledge, the first gay identifying character in a language learner novel. My LGBTQ students will feel very affirmed that this is a new option.


I now have Textivate and I have enjoyed exploring the possibilities. I have created a few assignments and my Spanish III students have been the guinea pigs, which did include 2 very lengthy homework assignments. In class we did a challenge day which seemed to go over better than well the 2 very lengthy homework assignments. My mishap with Textivate has been that my stories are too long and detailed, so I think if I use shorter pieces then it would make for a more doable and better experience for students.

Picture References: Two more fun days in Spanish III

Reading with 1st Graders – Students are reading children’s books in Spanish to 1st graders studying Spanish in our district elementary school.

Gozadera Break Out Winners – Check out Kristine Keefe’s great Online Breakout for La Gozadera here


As I reflect on Spanish III, teaching only one section is like teaching was for me in my small private school for the first 11 years of my career. I only had one chance every day to present a lesson and then I would have to wait until the next year to improve upon or completely change the lesson. Most of my career was built upon this reality with the exception of ironically Spanish III, which for many years I had two sections. My level III was always a very solid course even in my more legacy thematic approach but thinking about it now how was a moving novices to intermediate then or was I? Of course, I was for some of my students, but today I am able to articulate and define so much more thanks to all of the resources we now have and did not then. This is enough reflecting for this New Year’s post – God willing my Spanish IV reflection will be ready for January 3, 2018.


2 thoughts on “New Year’s Reflection #2 – Spanish III

  1. Vicki A Antequera

    Gary, thank you so much for posting these reflections! I appreciate your willingness to share what you are doing in your classes, including the successes as well as activities that may not have turned out as you had hoped. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who has worked hard to implement an idea, only to discover it didn’t work as well as I had hoped. I feel like I have lost my ‘mojo’ and reading your reflections will hopefully help me get it back! I hope to see you at NEOTCI next month.

    Liked by 1 person

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