Let’s Go!

As the new year starts and the second semester gets underway, I am more committed than ever to using Comprehensible Input (CI) strategies to improve learning outcomes for my students. I gave up my textbooks a few years ago, and CI allows me the freedom to explore student interests and still teach vocabulary in context. For me, the key is “in context.” Vocabulary lists alone will not improve fluency. As children, none of us sat down to study a list when we were learning our first language, right?

It was hard to “let go” in the beginning, of course. Change can be really hard! Sometimes my students don’t even realize they are being taught. I know, however, that those repetitions of vocabulary and structures are working their magic. Time will tell.

My students have been using the CI novels in class. We generally read one as a class. Many times, I’ll have them follow along as I read and act out the story. In some classes, students want to act out scenes. Usually, hilarity ensues!

My plan is in place for my classes. I hope I’m up to the challenge.



I am excited for class tomorrow because I have a PLAN.  I have been writing a story to use that meshes well with comprehensible input.  I have thrown in some of the Sweet 16 vocabulary that my students already know along with some solid descriptions of our characters…I am ready!

Students will be drawing and coloring…yep, coloring!  Hay un hombre delgado y bajo.  Lleva pantalones negros….

New Books, New Plan

I was working in my classroom today, looking at my new Spanish novels and checking the new scope and sequence.  I have big plans, so I hope I can get this all pulled together. I cannot be the only teacher with this dream.  We, meaning teachers in my ESU (Educational Service Unit), are making a concerted effort to increase fluency using comprehensible input.

We all start a new school year with high hopes, but sometimes we get discouraged before Christmas. Let’s make a pact not to give up too soon this time.  Fluency is too important, even if we have trouble convincing parents and students of this.  I am lucky that I have the freedom to do what I know is right based on research.  Many teachers are not so lucky, so I do feel blessed.

I promise not to give up this year, no matter how challenging it gets.  My students deserve my best efforts, and I want them to experience that feeling of satisfaction that comes from learning more than they thought they could.


This school year has been different from last year in various ways.  The main thing I have changed is my way of teaching.  I threw out my book and have been concentrating on giving students tons of comprehensible input.  They were a bit scared at first—and so was I, to be honest.  They didn’t know what to expect without a book.

I am feeling much less apprehensive as I practice using a lot more Spanish in class.  I explained the goal to the students (90% or more in Spanish) because it shouldn’t be a secret.  I have had students share their feelings about comprehensible input lately.

One student said speaking Spanish is “becoming second nature” to her.  Another told me he thinks we are meeting the goal of 90% Spanish in class.  He also shared that he is understanding almost everything!  I of course, am thrilled that my students are learning and happy.

I can’t wait to see how much the students learn (and retain) by the end of the year!  Every positive comment from them encourages me more.  For more information about comprehensible input, visit Martina Bex.




For all of those people who don’t know how teachers roll, let me give you a bit of insight.  After the initial rejoicing at the end of the school year, many of us use our vacation time to attend workshops or take classes to improve our practice.  Those workshops may last one or two days, depending on the topic, but the thinking process lasts a lot longer.  Putting all of the learning and thinking together to create classroom activities takes even more of our vacation time.

That’s been my experience, especially after the Martina Bex Comprehensible Input workshop last week in Lincoln.  I’m sure I’m not alone.  I spent this week rehashing and rereading the handouts she provided for us.  Now I’m almost ready to start choosing vocabulary to use in my own stories.  Then comes the actual writing process.  I’m sure I’ll have a few false starts, but the results will be worth the time.

For more information about Martina Bex, visit her at https://martinabex.com/.


Meeting Martina

Before I begin, let me tell you that I wanted to call this blog post “My Brain is Full,” but I felt that was too long, and I like alliteration, so I went with the current title.

If you teach (especially foreign language), you probably already know which Martina—Martina Bex.  I have spent considerable time exploring her blog https://martinabex.com/ otherwise known as The Comprehensible Classroom.  She discusses the advantages of using CI (Comprehensible Input) when teaching.  After all, if the students have no understanding of what the teacher is saying, why bother?

Martina spent two brain-filling days with over 100 educators from Nebraska and surrounding areas.  (One teacher drove from Arkansas to take this training!)  The part that really blew me away was that we teachers didn’t have to pay to attend!  That never happens!  This time, however, it sure did, thanks to the hard work of Dr. Janine Theiler of the Nebraska Department of Education.  She had support people like Jessica and Jami who saved my bacon when I thought I was lost.  They made sure everything went smoothly so we teachers could learn and improve our practice in the classroom.

I was thrilled to get a copy of Martina’s presentation in addition to the handouts provided.  I will use them to create plans of my own as I work toward CI in my own classes.  Now I have the framework necessary to push students toward proficiency!

It was a pleasure to meet Martina.  She’s very approachable and thoughtfully replies to questions.  I took the picture below on a break from the session on the second day.  I asked Martina, “What makes you happy?”  Her response: “My children!”


For more information about Comprehensible Input, the research behind it and strategies for implementation, please visit https://martinabex.com/.


Berty Segal Cook, a phenomenal teacher

Berty Segal Cook, a phenomenal teacher

If I had to describe Berty Segal Cook with just one word, it would be….DYNAMIC. She is, however, so much more! Inspirational, dedicated, magnificent and amazing are all words that easily describe her. Honestly, you may not understand just how amazing she is unless you attend one of her workshops and experience language learning with her. That’s how several language teachers spent the day. I had been looking forward to it for weeks! Many of my colleagues drove hours for the privilege if that tells you how respected she is in the field of second language acquisition. Berty flew in from California last night to conduct the training. She has presented workshops in 22 countries. Jan Coone organized everything, including breakfast and a wonderful lunch! It doesn’t get any better than that! Words can’t describe how rejuvenated and refreshed I am. I feel like I can make it to the end of the year! (Excuse me while I happy dance.)

We began the day with coffee and donuts, always a good move when you’re dealing with teachers. Berty started promptly at nine because she had a full day of activities for us. She explained the differences between the left brain and the right brain. My preferences lean strongly toward the left brain, meaning I am more “linear” in my thinking, and I see details that make up the big picture. I need to take notes and figure out verbs! In many cases, this causes a lot of stress, especially for language leaners. Those “right brain” people can take in the whole of something and use the senses to absorb what is happening around them. I learned that by using right brain activities, intelligence is actually increased! Activating the right brain also determines long-term retention. Berty was able to prove that without a doubt. She indulged our left brains and cited the work of Asher, Krashen and Terrell. She allowed us to make a few notations in our handout, but not many. That was hard for me as a left brain thinker. When she started our lesson by teaching commands in Yiddish, I thought my left brain was going to have a seizure!

Yes, you read correctly—Yiddish (her first language). Berty would take breaks from the commands and let us stretch our legs and get coffee, discuss other aspects of language learning and come back to the commands. After three or four hours, all of us remembered what to do even without her modeling the command for us! She expected all of us to get immersed and involved, so we took turns throughout the day being examples for her lessons. I was chosen (along with four others) for the clothing description activity. I was first in line, so she started by describing my long hair, glasses and blue Cinco de Mayo shirt. Then things got exciting. She lifted my foot about 18 inches off the floor. I quickly grabbed the shoulder of Emily (to my left). My other hand landed on Berty’s back. She paused and asked if I had problems with my legs. My response: Not until today! She went down the line describing each of us. Then she asked the “class” to point out who was being described as she listed characteristics she had mentioned. All the participants were able to understand and be successful! Now we have to change our methods to reflect what we learned.

We were lucky enough to be able to order Berty’s books, and she was kind enough to have Jan copy lessons we can use as resources while we wait for our books. I don’t know about my colleagues, but I will be putting our text books on the shelf as of tomorrow. My kids and I need to have some fun with learning again.

To find out more, see Berty’s website (below). If you have the chance to sit in while she demonstrates her lessons, do yourself and your students a favor and GO! We need Berty in teacher prep classes at the college level! Jan Coone also has a great website for teachers. You can find it below as well. This was a day well spent.

Weekend Bloggy Reading