Category Archives: Mixing it Up

Using the Visual Modality for Directions

Once every chapter or so I do a dictation in my classes. It is a great listening assessment that helps to get in some grammatical practice. There is a bit of a process to learning how to do a dictation and it is somewhat hard to understand from listening or reading instructions. I have found that after the second or third dictation that the students start to realize the process. This is after much pain and explaining the procedure too many times. In the past I just put up with it because I knew they would eventually get it, but I after I had that conversation with our art teacher I started thinking in terms of modalities. I am so glad I did!

I experimented with using pictures for instructions the next time that I did it and it went much better! The students were less confused and could actually see what they needed to do. I first thought about making a video, but soon realized that it would be way easier to just show a picture.

I am starting to see a new way in instruction keeping these modalities in mind. They are not just limited to content, but apply to everything we do in the classroom – even instructions.


Filed under Mixing it Up, Teaching Discoveries, teaching grammar Graphic Organizers


Filed under Assessment, Mixing it Up

Mixing It Up with Movies

One way that I have been mixing it up this year is by playing short segments of popular movies. I do this is because a lot of movies contain not only cultural things that we can talk about in the target language which adds more comprehensible input, but there is also  a lot of input they can read while watching the movie as well. I play the movie in English with Spanish subtitles for about 5-10 minutes and usually conclude with a short discussion about what happened. I find that when I have this short discussion in the end that it adds more comprehensible input and allows the students to think about the movie in a more critical way.  The reason that I play it in English with Spanish subtitles is because the students are not at a level where they can understand Spanish spoken at such a high rate and it is more profitable for them to read the Spanish rather than hear the Spanish at this time. Later on in the semester I will choose text that are able for the students to listen to and read at the same time.

The movie that I chose for this time of year is the American classic Grease. This year it is the theme for the marching band and I am trying to be a good, little ACTFL teacher by making connections to other classes  in the school.

You may be thinking that Grease is not exactly the cleanest movie for high school. Well, believe it or not Grease is actually rated PG and lets be honest these students surround themselves with much worse content. However, I can’t disagree that there is some questionable content within the movie.

One tip that I got from Joe Neilson on viewing questionable content is to  have discussions in the target language about right and wrong, what different opinions are and what makes a good person. We can ask questions like, “What does a quality guy look like or what is not a quality guy? Why?” This takes the edge off of the questionable content and it helps the class to step back a little bit. As the class we can take a look at life in general, rather than avoid topics that we know our students surround themselves with. If we don’t talk about it, who will talk about it with them? I hope parents, but we all know that not every kid has this option. I still like to be very selective about what I play in class but with this little tip from Joe, I can take a movie that might be questionable and make it appropriate for class.

During the movie I also have the students taking notes on appealing, new words that they recognized. This process sets up a scaffold for when they will learn a language outside the classroom. Stephen Krashen talks about this in his DVD The Krashen Seminar where he mentions that it doesn’t really matter how much we teach our students if they never continue learning the target language outside of the classroom. The fact is that our students will have more gains in the language outside of the classroom on their own than they will inside the classroom.

In a nutshell:

The movie is just a short way I can mix it up in my classroom and provide some input while having a meaningful discussion about life. It creates a relaxed atmosphere that makes acquisition a little bit more engaging and fun as well as gives them tools for acquiring a language for when they leave.

  1. Play 5-10 minutes
  2. Students take notes on words they know and new words
  3. Short class discussion on what you saw in the target language.
    Try to engage the students in deeper thinking about the movie.


Filed under Mixing it Up, Reading, Teaching Discoveries

Have Students Lead the Bellwork

Last week in class there was an excited student who asked if he could lead the Repasito [bellwork]. What was I going to say? No? So he lead the class through the Repasito and it actually went really well. Here are some benefits that I noticed.

  1. Students were more engaged and it went smooth.
  2. I was able to take a break. I was, of course, paying attention and making sure it went fine. But I was surprised how it let me rest for a moment.
  3. There were students that volunteered that I have never seen volunteer before
  4. It helped to Mix it Up! We were still doing the Repasito, but it happened slightly differently. We have to mix things up if we want to keep our students engaged and wanting more. Sometimes it can be something as small as writing with a different colored marker.

Joe Neilson told me once, “Students need to have a good experience in class once every two weeks to make the class engaging.” In other words if we do not mix it up with a funny scene, doing a routine task differently, or a new activity class will start to become mundane. When class becomes mundane and predictable we lose engagement, which means we lose acquisition. What are some of the things that you do to mix it up?


Filed under Mixing it Up