Lessons learned

This is my eight-year teaching and learning how to teach. Four years ago, I changed from a textbook-grammar based instruction to TCI. The first time I attempted this method I failed, I mean I bombed like a stand-up comedian who said a bad joke and nobody laughed. So what did I do? I went back to my comfort zone, the textbook. At the end of the semester, I gave my students an end of the semester survey . I was surprised when the vast majority of my students said they “really enjoyed when I told them stories and we did gestures.”

Lessons learned :

I  failed the first time I attempted TCI/TPRS but failure turned out to be a great teacher.

TCI/TPRS is effective even when it’s done poorly.

The following year, I was committed only to do TCI/TPRS, but I didn’t have the money to attend a workshop. So I googled, and I googled and then googled some more. I found Bryce Hedstrom’s website. I felt like I hit the jackpot! Bryce has so many wonderful resources some are free and some you have to buy. I spent about $15.00 that day, and I downloaded all the freebies. I used Bryce’s observation checklist to reflect on my teaching practice. (I still use it, and I gave it to my principal so he can use it during our formal observation.) Then, I clicked on all the people he follows, and I found a community of TCI practitioners willing to share lessons, materials, failures and successes.

Lessons learned:

There’s information is out there.

TCI/TPRS teachers are very generous.

 Bryce Hedstrom’s observation sheet is a great tool for beginners.

That year, I tried different activities some of those worked and some didn’t. I still made some terrible mistakes. I was telling stories to my students rather than “asking them stories” and I was also rushing my stories too much and trying to keep all the details of the stories the same. Still, my students were USING and remembering the language. I was doing this all on my own; I didn’t want anyone at school to know I wasn’t following the curriculum. Halfway through the semester, I was exhausted, but I was very happy with the results.

Lessons learned:

You will make mistakes but you will get better.

I still didn’t have any money for training. I discovered recorded lessons on youtube. In my opinion, observing teachers is what helped me to improve my TCI/TPRS teaching practice. The first video I watched was Michele Whaley teaching Russian. I have just read Ben Slavic book, but I understood circling and going slow after watching this video (I guess I,m a visual-experiential learner.) I found other videos by Susan Gross and Carol Gaab, I watched the videos, I took notes and then I tried what I learned with my class. Sometimes, I tried three different strategies all at once, and that was overwhelming to me and confusing to my students.

Lessons learned: 

YouTube allows you to observe teachers without ever leaving your classroom. 

Try one strategy at the time. 

I have to go to the Gym now, but later I will tell about the first time I met Jason Fritze.


What are infographics? 

Infographics are a visual representation of  complex data and information. Think of it as pie chart on steroids.

What’s so great about infographics? 

Infographics are very  engaging and help deliver comprehensible messages. Additionally, they  are a great tool for visual learners.

How can infographics be used in world language classes?

They can be used as text, as reading comprehension practice, as a Common Core strategy, as a hook to initiate discussion, to summarize a novel or describe a character in the novel and  to talk about culture. Additionally, students can create their own infographics to break down information from multiple sources.

How do I use it in my own classroom? 

I have used infographics mainly to introduce a topic and to talk about culture.An infographic provides  the visuals and the vocabulary to start a meaningful conversation. For instance, in chapter two of Problemas en Paraiso by Carol Gaab, the main two characters are preparing to go on a trip to Ixtapa, Mexico. So I used an infographic  I found online to initiate a discussion about vacations and family trips.


  1. Have the students read the infographic silently.
  2. Each student will write a question about the information on the infographic.
  3. Have students share their questions with a partner.
  4. Teacher will ask comprehension questions in the target language.
  5. Personalize by asking students in the target language: Where does your family go on vacation? How often do you go on family trips? Do you like to go to the mountains or the city? What do you like about family vacations? etc.
  6. Optional: Have students create their own infographic about family vacations or comparing vacations in the USA with other countries (in this case, it was USA vs. Spain) Here is my infographicinfografia-verano-445x1024

The Power of Storytelling

I don’t tell stories in my class but rather, I story ASK.That means that I co-create engaging and fun stories with input from my students by asking a series of patterned questions. Story-asking is a powerful tool that elicits second language acquisition. Even the business sector has recolonized the power of storytelling as a mean to transmit content that is engaging. Writer Rodger Dean Duncan of Forbes magazine wrote an article about the power of storytelling in the business sector. In his article Mr. Duncan states that:

“No doubt about it, the best speakers are good storytellers. The best writers are good storytellers. The best leaders are good storytellers. The best teachers and trainers and coaches are good storytellers. It might even be argued that the best parents are good storytellers.”

Since you probably don’t have time to read the whole article because you have to grade papers, or answer parents’ email or finish your lessons for tomorrow, here’s a cool info-graphic that sums it all up for you!the-science-of-story-telling


In my French 1 classes we have been watching Téléfrançais videos to hear others French speakers, to practice listening comprehension, to learn new vocabulary, and to practice speaking French . We watched episodes 1-15 and episode 2o (We skipped episode 16-19 because after Sophie left the show my students were devastated.)The show is very silly and yes it was created for younger children but still my students absolutely LOVE IT! Each episode last nine to ten minutes but teaching each episode can take up to 35 to 40 minutes of class.
Before we watch each episode students read a summary of the episode and or we review what happened in the previous episode. While watching the episode  and pretty much after each scene, I pause it and and we talk about it. Then I check for comprehension and asses vocabulary we’ve learned. In Each episode you can find a topic to generate meaningful discussion with your students. For instance, in episode 20 we talked about our dreams and our favorite video games.
Here is a sample lesson. Please let me know how to improve it. Ideas are always welcome!

Telefrançais 15


I confess, I dropped the ball with enforcing my number 1 rule:

In Spanish class we only speak Spanish

In French class we only speak French

I am good at staying in the target language myself. I was so good at enforcing this sacred rule with my students, but lately I haven’t been enforcing it. My favorite TCI trainer Jason Fritze, told me that this is the most important rule and under no circumstances his students are allowed to speak English without raising their hands and asking for permission. He gave me some very good ideas to stay in the target language 90% of the time. First, I need to explain to my students why this rule is so important. Then, I need to teach them a gesture for when they need to speak English. They will only use this gesture in an emergency situation. I will follow my own rule and ask the class “May I speak English?” Lately I’ve been teaching my Spanish level 2 students synonyms, so now every time they ask me what does a word mean I say this word is a synonym of this. Example:

¿Qué quiere decir alumno?

Alumno es un sinónimo de estudiante.

This strategy has been very useful and it allows me to avoid using English. Another strategy I learned from Jason Fritze is not to let the class turn into  the dreaded ¿Cómo se dice..? or  insufferable Comment dit-on?  game. In other words, students will communicate by  using the words that they have acquired  at the moment. Lastly, keep your class fun and positive by praising and rewarding those who follow the rules.  This will  encourage students’ participation and  use of the target language.



Hello/ Hola/Bonjour

This is Sra. Castro also known as Mme. Castro and during the summer I simply go by Dahiana. I teach French and Spanish in sunny Southern California. Ever since I discovered TCI four years ago, I’ve completely changed the way I teach. I am committed to help other World Language teachers switch from traditional methods to TCI. I love teaching and learning, reading, traveling, cooking and Latin dances.