Update: What I teach in each of my classes

Level 1:

I begin the year by spending a couple of weeks teaching basic sports and activities and build fun, personal, totally TL class discussions about the students in the class and what they do.  I integrate tons of adjectives, adverbs, some family vocab, girl/boy, friend/gf/bf, etc.  Maybe some animals.  It is not structured and totally student-driven.  Even the assessments are based on their knowledge of each other.  I make up little readings early on based on what they tell me about themselves.  My favorite and most magical time of my teaching process.

By about October, they are ready for some heavier reading than just a little paragraph a day that I type up .  We read 3-4 novels throughout the year.  We read:

El nuevo Houdini

Noches misteriosas en Granada

Piratas del Caribe y el mapa secreto

Robo en la noche 

For each of the novels I use the Teacher Resource guides available at www.tprstorytelling.com.  The resource guides essentially turn the novel into a complete cultural unit.  I also have my students listen to the audio books and they actually really enjoy this!

I also teach a new song about every 1-2 weeks.  The students get the lyrics, the English translation, some assigned vocab to learn, we do cloze listening, and finally a cloze quiz with some vocabulary matching.  They love learning the songs, the quizzes are easy for them, and many download the music on their ipods!  Check out my youtube channel for a sample of the songs we learn.  We also learn a lot of Justo Lamas songs and have fun with the karaoke on his website.

Another fun resource to use is the BBC’s Mi Vida Loca.  There are 22 episodes of an adventure/mystery filmed in Spain and it is wonderful!  The kids really like it!

Level 2:


Esperanza (I show the films La misma luna and Una mejor vida with this)

La Llorona de Mazatlán

Felipe Alou

Noche de Oro

For each of the novels I use the Teacher Resource guides available at www.tprstorytelling.com.  The resource guides essentially turn the novel into a complete cultural unit.

Video series:

Aventuras Vascas Available through Discovery Education streaming or on DVD through Amazon.com (currently unavailable).

Song packets
1st semester: 2CP 2013-2014 Paquete de canciones
2nd semester: Paquete de canciones Spn 2 2nd semester 2013-2014

Levels 3-4:

I have not taught these classes enough to say I have a “set curriculum.” However, I have tended to focus heavily on “social justice” issues and global awareness.

We still do tons of songs and lots of class discussions.  They do more independent reading at these levels and we incorporate more non-fiction at this point too.


La Calaca Alegre

La hija del sastre

Vida y muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha

La Guerra Sucia


El orfanato (with La Calaca Alegre as part of unit on the supernatural)

Voces inocentes; Sin nombre (with Vida y muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha)

La historia oficial, Cautiva (with La Guerra Sucia)

La lengua de las mariposas, El laberinto del fauno, El espinazo del diablo (during study of Spanish Civil War)


In addition to popular music, we often study songs that are related to a unit we study.  For example, when we watch Voces Inocentes we also learn the song “Casas de cartón.”  When we study the Spanish Civil War, we learn some period songs and discuss which point of view is represented.

Video Series:

We watch the TV show “El internado: Laguna Negra” every Friday

It is important to note that the main thread that runs through all of my teaching is Comprehensible Input.  The work of Stephen Krashen is the most important work ever done to advance the acquisition of languages and the eradication of monolingualism.  If you are a language teacher you need to become more familiar with his work and rely less on the ineffective ways in which you were “taught.”  Languages are not learned; they are acquired.

The missing link for me in Krashen’s work was TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling.).  Even though I don’t teach a lot of “silly stories,” I use TPRS methodology to promote language acquisition in my classes.  Pre-teaching key structures and vocabulary, personalization, repetition in novel and fun ways,  and asking circling questions are key elements in all of what I do.


  1. Just wanted to tell you thank you for the awesome unit on Una Vida Mejor. I did it a while ago and I am still seeing some of the mexicanismos recycled in their free writes! “La policia arresta a los ladrones y ahora estan en la pinta.”
    “Una chica habla con un guey.” jajajaja and my fave: “La chica quiere comprar un sandwich pero no tiene la feria.” Baahhhhaahhaa
    Thanks! 🙂

  2. I am trying to purchase your novel Noche de Oro for my son’s Spanish 2 class at school but having a hard time finding it. Do you know any ways that I can purchase this book ? Thank you for any suggestions.

  3. Kristy,
    I love your blog and the inspiration and ideas it gives me! Thank you for everything that you share to help other teachers be better! I really need help structuring my “day-to-day” lessons with my upper level students (Span 3; 4). Could you please share what your “routine” is, if you have one? I gather that you use the novels as a unit. Do you just use the Teachers’ Resource Guide as your plan and supplement with the films/music? How do you incorporate it all? I guess I get so overwhelmed by all that’s available and I can’t decide how to organize it so that it’s comprehensible to the students and logical.
    Also, how long are your class times? We have been on 4×4 95 minute blocks, but in 2014-2015 we’ll be going to year-round A/B but I don’t know how long the classes will be.
    Mil gracias de verdad!

  4. Kristy,
    Mil gracias de verdad! I really need help with structuring my “day-to-day” with my upper-level classes. How long are your class times? We will be going to a year-round A/B schedule next year- I’m still not sure how long our classes will be; currently they are 95 minutes long- a blessing and a curse. Can you please give me an idea of what you do with your upper levels on a day-to-day? I gather you use the novels and treat their topics as a unit, but how do you do this? Do you just use the Teacher’s Resource and supplement with the songs/movies? I’m curious as to your “routine” if you have one. I apologize for the barrage of questions, I just really need to connect with other CI teachers who work w/ upper levels.

  5. Thank you! Do you find the song quiz purpose is to practice listening or know vocabulary ? I use songs to focus on vocabulary but not sure that is the most valuable to assess. Also where can I find a complete list of essential vocabulary by level?

  6. I enjoy using movies as a vehicle for discussions, vocabulary expansion and even skill practice (narrative in the past, character perspective, etc); however, I don’t used often. When I do, my biggest struggle is a decision “to subtitle or nor to subtitle”. Ideally, subtitles in TL would work, but it’s not that easy to find movies subtitled in French these days. I even thought of ordering them from Canada… Without subtitles, students’ understanding is greatly diminished, even at the upper levels.

    You mentioned a variety of video resources that you use at all levels that you teach. In your classes, how do you handle “the subtitle” issue?

    Thank you!

  7. This is awesome! I’m working on building my own curriculum for school (I need structure/goals to function) and I know I want to use TPRS principles. This helps tremendously in thinking about what I want to be doing.

    Thanks for posting!

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