We have another story for you!

While at a conference I asked my students to email me some Spanglish story scripts. They had to state a problem, suggest three ways to solve it, and create an interesting ending. All stories needed editing in order to meet my students’ language needs, but it saves a lot of teacher time, and their stories are mucho más interesting than mine.

This story was written by Shelby of 7th hour: This traveler has been backpacking around the world for months, and has finally grown tired and misses her bed. She decides to return home, but she discovers that she has lost the key to her house somewhere along the way. In order to find her key, she must first complete three missions, which are actually just entertaining tasks that are chosen by the class. After every mission she finds something useful, but only after the last mission does she receive the key.

Some likely TPRS (Blaine Ray) steps:

  • Before class I edited the story, deleted out some elements to allow for student input, taped the main lines to the back wall as my cue cards, wrote some new vocabulary on the board, and gathered a couple of props.
  • Before we started storytelling I taught some key vocabulary via translation, gestures, and personalized questions.
  • We reviewed how to participate during a story.
  • We selected a student actress.
  • We told the story together. I made sure to do a lot of repetition, circling, and comprehension checks, although a lot has been cut to make the video watchable.
  • I answered pop-up grammar questions.
  • We wrote the story on the board.
  • We did a choral reading of the story in Spanish.
  • I asked questions about the story while they could still read it on the board. I highlighted key points with a laser.
  • We read the story together in English.
  • Students completed a timed writing and wrote down every single detail they could remember in Spanish.

Storytelling is so powerful for language learning, so have fun and stay-tuned!


Tell me something!

  • Thank for sharing! Amazing as always! I was curious what level this is? ¡Gracias de antemano!

  • Hi Sarah,

    Firstly I have to say that I have watched many many many of your videos on Youtube and think you are fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing!

    Your students have so much vocabulary and I was wondering if you had any videos of the very first lesson of the year, when students don’t know any Spanish at all? i.e. How do you get them from knowing nothing to knowing so much?!

    I also wondered just out of curiosity how many lessons you have each week with each class and for how long? Where I teach in the UK, with some of my classes I have only 35 minutes 2 times a week!

    And finally, in the US, do all students across the country sit the same Spanish exam before they graduate? By this I mean, in England, all students in Year 11 (age 16) sit GCSE exams in their chosen topics, therefore we have to teach them a specific syllabus so that they can pass the exam (which is not always the kind of thing they will actually use in the real world nor encounter in interesting stories!) So I wondered, how tied are you to teaching specific vocabulary/grammar/structures etc and how much freedom do you have?

    Thanks again for sharing your brilliant classroom antics! Your students are a credit to you!


    • Thanks so much for message!
      When you say that they ‘have’ so much vocabulary, do you mean that their comprehension or their production is high? I wish I had some beginner videos, but I haven’t taught year 1 in a long time. As a rule, I try to act-out and cognate everything new I do, so that there’s never a question. This increases input and then output.
      35 minutes 2 times a week?! I wish you could have more time! I teach 50 minutes a day for 3 days, and then 1 X 90 minute block. So, 4 days a week with each student for a total of 4 hours.
      There are no mandatory standardized high school language exit exams. Teachers might have to give the same tests in their city’s district, but that’s up to the individual districts. Each college has a placement test for retroactive credits and placements, but even universities create their own. We do have the ACTFL OPI and the APPLE, but the are usually only used for teacher testing or chosen by the districts.
      Teacher autonomy and the freedom to select specific vocabulary and structures varies from district to district and state to state. To me, it plays a large role in my ability to be effective or not, which is why I believe I am in a great district. We have to have similar final exams at the end of the semester, but how we get there on a daily basis is up to the individual teacher and his/her strengths and personal teaching philosophy.
      Thanks for the feedback and super important questions. I try appreciate you, Lisa!

      • Thank you for replying so quickly!
        Both comprehension and production seem high; virtually everything you do is in Spanish and at a natural pace (not super slow like some teachers do) and your students clearly understand what you are saying! Impressive!

        Thank you for all the interesting info you have given me – I didn’t realise UK and US education systems were so different!

        I meant to ask also – when and how much do you ask students to write? EG: Do they do a piece of writing every week, do they ever do a few quick translations at the beginning of the lesson, or do they only do extended writing in assessments?

        I may be pushing my luck asking more questions but it just occurred to me!

        Thanks again for getting back to me!

  • Thanks for these great questions!
    How to get unique students participating: A. Pass out whiteboards/papers and make all students share their ideas. Pick the ideas from the students who are less likely to talk or collect the papers and have a class vote on the best ideas without telling who wrote them until after the vote B. While kids are entering the class before the bell rings – tell the quiet kids that you want them to begin to think about an interesting location for your skit today because you are going to ask them for it in 5 minutes without surprise.
    Storytime: We probably tell about two stories a week (20-30mins a story with circling/PQA beforehand), and then we do many different kinds of activities (reading, matching, comparing, reworking, games, drawing, role-changing, singing) using similar structures, vocabulary or themes.

  • Thanks for this idea! I love that you can gather props ahead since you know the story. I am new to TPRS and such a beginner at the storytelling. I remember seeing one of your videos where you wrote the choices for the variable story parts on the board and pre-filled them out with the students before telling. I like this approach. Thanks for modeling that. My classes are small and so far the toughest=worst part of doing a story for me is that it seems like certain types of students always seem to drive the variable story parts which I do NOT like. Because we are a small school, it’s clear to see that it’s not just in my classes that these personalities dominate (for various reasons.) Any other recommendations for steering around this yucky dynamic? Also – what percentage of your class time (per level?) do you estimate you spend on storytelling? Thanks so much!

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