All posts in Lesson Plans

How Teachers Stay Fit Without Ever Exercising, without breaking a sweat, how to lose weight without exercising

7 Ways to Lose Weight without Exercising: Teachers’ Edition

“How do some teachers do it?”, you may be wondering.  “How do they look so good and stay in shape, when they get up early in the morning, teach, come home tired and mentally drained, drive their kids to after-school activities, cook dinner, wash dishes, go to bed, and repeat the same process the next day?”

It may sound impossible to maintain your ideal weight and some semblance of muscle tone, but with some small changes, it is possible.  Check out these 7 ideas to help you stay on track. Read more…

Teaching Irregular Verbs and Tricky Grammar

How to Teach Tricky Verb Tenses and Grammar, Part 2

In the first 2 parts of this series, you learned how native speakers learn differently than language students and how to break down tricky verb tenses into manageable chunks by teaching only specific verb forms at a time.  This third part in the series talks about ideas for teaching irregular verb forms.

I previously mentioned that when learning irregular verb forms you need to practice, practice, practice. 

And by practice, practice, practice, I don’t mean conjugate verbs over and over.  Native speakers don’t do this and conjugating verbs doesn’t create fluent speakers, it creates speakers who conjugate verbs in their heads when they’re trying to communicate.

Teach irregular verbs in context with lots of repetition.

Introduce an irregular verb and create a small activity to use it in context, but within a structured environment so that students are guaranteed to use it correctly.  The idea is that you want them to hear it being used correctly many times.

Here are a few examples from my Spanish Preterite Imperfect Unit.

For those of you who don’t speak Spanish, students are playing the classic picnic activity to review the irregular verb “traer”.  What did you bring to the picnic?  Paco brought apples, Laura brought hamburgers, and I brought sandwiches.  Jen, what did you bring to the picnic? The next person repeats that list and adds another item.   This type of repetition helps students to learn this irregular verb so it becomes second nature.

Spanish Preterite Imperfect Lesson Plans

In this second example, students are practicing stem changing verbs.  They have to fill in the sentence which says, “Paco ordered _______ in the restaurant, but the waiter served him _________ and laughed.”  Students then share their sentences out loud and the class votes for the funniest sentence.  So they’re hearing the repetition of how these tricky verbs sound, but in the context of a funny, engaging sentence.

Preterite vs. Imperfect Lesson Plans

Again, (if you read Part 1 of this series), you’ll notice that we’re not focusing on using all forms of the verb conjugations.  We’re using just a few at a time.

Maybe now you’re thinking, “Sure, Sherry, these ideas sound great, but I don’t have lesson plans that go with your new teaching strategies and I don’t have time to create all this.”

No worries – I’ve got you covered.  Check out my new preterite, imperfect bundle (over 400 pages), everything you need to teach the preterite and imperfect tenses from start to finish:

  • 145 slide PPT explaining formation, usage, and how to differentiate between the two tenses
  • Games, songs, videos, speaking activities, writing activities, Internet practice
  • Quizzes, tests, regular verb flashcards, trifold flashcards, homework assignments.

Find other French and Spanish resources here for teaching grammar, vocab, culture, and more.

Stay tuned for future posts in this series on how to teach tricky verbs and grammar.

Happy Teaching!


World Language Cafe, engaging French and Spanish lesson plans for your class

Teaching Tricky Verbs and Grammar, Part 1

How to Teach Tricky Verb Tenses and Grammar, Part I

Don’t you just love teaching tricky verb tenses? 

Nope, not really!  In particular, the past tenses and the subjunctive can be so troublesome to teach.  But why are they so hard to teach?  Well, for the first thing, many of us aren’t teaching our students the way that native speakers learn.  If you’re interested, read the beginning of this series, “How Native Speakers Learn Differently Than Language Students” here.

To sum it up, it’s very difficult to replicate the repetition that you get as a native speaker with your parents speaking to you 24 hours a day.   As teachers, we often only have between 1 and 5 hours a week with our students.

There just isn’t enough time! 

For this reason, I’m taken some of the ways that native speakers learn and created a hybrid system so that even though we don’t have as much time with our students, we can still teach them effectively in native-like situations.  Here are a few solutions to get your students speaking more fluently instead of conjugating verbs in their heads.

  1. When you’re teaching a new tense, instead of teaching the full conjugation with all the subject pronouns, start with teaching just the “I” forms and then the “you” forms.  

Almost all of our natural communication is in these forms, so focus on them first.  Teach regular verbs, reflexive verbs and irregular verbs in just these two forms.

Here are a few examples from my Spanish Preterite Imperfect Unit.  For those of you who don’t speak Spanish, the first slide shows the formation of regular verbs in the “I” form, the second slide is practice (students click to see the answer),  and the third slide has fill in the blank sentences using the “I” form.

Preterite vs. Imperfect Lesson Plans


Preterite Imperfect Lesson Plans


Preterite Imperfect Lesson Plans

3.  Practice, practice, practice.  Have students ask each other questions and spend extra time with any irregulars.  Create small activities using especially awkward, but common irregulars so that students get used to hearing them and using them.

Tip:  Pick 3-4 irregulars to work on each day.  If you teach them all at once in a huge list, it’s much harder for students to learn them all (and remember, learning in lists is not how native speakers learn).

4.  Once students have mastered these, add the he, she forms, then the they forms, and finally, the we forms.  You’ll find that these are so much easier once students have mastered the first two forms.

Want more than just a few tips?  Find ready-made, teacher tested French and Spanish resources here including this 400 page preterite, imperfect unit.

Keep reading to find out more about teaching tricky irregular verbs in Part 2 of How to Teach Tricky Verbs and Grammar.

Happy Teaching!


World Language Cafe, engaging French and Spanish lesson plans for your class


How Native Speakers Learn Differently Than Language Learners

How Native Speakers Learn Differently Than Language Students

When I applied for a new teaching position this month, it made me realize how much my language teaching philosophy has changed as a result of raising my own kids bilingually.

Here are some of the differences that I have noticed from how native speakers learn a language and how many language teachers teach:

How Native Speakers Learn Languages

  • When we learn our native languages, we never conjugate verbs and we definitely don’t sit around the dinner table talking about verb tenses!  So why do we spend so much time doing this in class?
  • As parents, we don’t tell our kids that we can’t talk to them about what we did yesterday because they haven’t learned the past tense yet.  We incorporate complex vocabulary, grammar, and verb tenses in our daily language because that is how people speak naturally.
  • We correct our kids when they make mistakes in the language.  We don’t say, “I don’t want to hurt my son’s feelings because he’s saying it wrong.”  We just gently correct the child by saying it correctly and having them repeat it correctly.
  • Parents speak to the child all in one language (for the most part).  Some parents do a one parent, one language approach (one parent speaks one language and the other parent speaks a different language, but they are always consistent with the child).  Why is this?  Because it’s really hard for your brain to switch back and forth between languages (until you have reached a certain level of fluency).

It’s very difficult to replicate the repetition that you get as a native speaker with your parents speaking to you 24 hours a day when as teachers, we often only have between 1 and 5 hours a week with our students.

There just isn’t enough time! 

Read more about how to teach languages more effectively using my hybrid system (how native speakers learn, squeezed into 1-5 hours a week for maximum impact) in How to Teach Tricky Verbs and Grammar, Part 1.

Happy Teaching!


World Language Cafe, engaging French and Spanish lesson plans for your class

How Do You Use French, Spanish Interactive Notebook Flashcards

16 Guaranteed to Work French and Spanish End of Year Review Activities

You know you’re ready for the school year to be over when:

A.   You find yourself secretly daydreaming about your summer vacation plans.

B.   You started the daily countdown to summer way before your students.

C.   You stare longingly out the window while your students are taking quizzes.

D.   All of the above!

No worries, I’ve got you covered with 16 French and Spanish end of year review activities and games that require very little effort on your behalf.  

And the best part is . . . that the students will still be learning!

Check out this list – I’m sure you can find something so that you’ll have time to daydream about your summer plans.  🙂

16 French, Spanish End of Year Activities, Games

1. Instead of you creating French or Spanish end of year review packets for the final exam, have your students make them.

 Here’s how this review activity works:

* Divide students into groups of 3-4 and assign each group a unit from your textbook or a few topics to cover.  These students must then type up a few review pages which include:

– a concise list of vocabulary with definitions in English

– brief notes reviewing the grammar concepts

– notes about the culture from that unit

* The group prepares a review game of their choice that covers all of the material from the unit.  They will briefly reteach the grammar to the class and then lead the class in playing the review game.

What You’ll Need to Do:

Create a grading rubric, correct the rough drafts of the study guides, correct the final copies with their corrections of the study guides, make copies for the class, and grade their presentations.  Your rubric might include:  initial grammar, final grammar, grammar instruction (all in the target language, accuracy, class engagement), and review game (speaking all in the target language, creativity, preparation, grammar).

Why This Works:  

At this point in the year, your students really don’t want to listen to you, but they will listen to their peers.  Also, you know what they say, “You really learn a topic well when you teach it.”  At the very least, they’ll know one unit really well for the final exam even if they don’t study at all.

2.  Add Some New French or Spanish Review Games to Your Repertoire

By this time of the year, the kids are bored with the same games.  Throw a few new games into the mix to re-energize your class.  Most times, the students can run the games themselves – just pick a student to be the teacher and then rotate through other students during the game.  The kids love getting to be the teacher and this works well, because at this point in the year, they’re more likely to listen to a peer than to you.  Your students will be learning and reviewing while you are grading papers or preparing final exams.

And guess what?  I’d love to share some 50 of my favorite World Language games and activities with you.  Trust me – there are some really fun, engaging games in here that will really get your students up and moving.  And did I tell you that they’re free?

French, Spanish, World Language Games to Review in Class

3.  Assign a Fairy Tale Writing Project

I do this every year with my juniors and seniors – it’s a great way to put everything that they’ve learned throughout the year to good use.  You’ll be amazed at how much they learn.

Here’s How It Works:

  • Read a fairy tale or two in the target language to your students (or have them take turns reading one aloud).  Discuss the elements of fairy tales (description of the characters, fantasy, some sort of adventure/challenge that the characters face, a moral, etc.).  This will help prime them and spark them imagination for the project.
  • Students divide up into small groups of 2-3 people.  Let them pick their partners for this project because they’ll need to coordinate times to work together outside of school.
  •  Students write the fairy tales, then do peer edits, you check it over and highlight parts which need fixing, then they write a final draft and you check it over once more and fix any remaining errors.
  • They create the actual fairy tale book with illustrations.  You may be thinking that some students aren’t very good at art, but they really don’t need to be.  There are lots of ways to do illustrations without a lot of drawing.  I encourage my students to use everyday household items to make their illustrations pop.French Fairy Tale Writing ActivitiesFrench, Spanish Fairy Tale Writing Activities

Want detailed student instructions, a step-by-step teacher guide, plus peer edit sheets, grading rubrics, and 100 transition words to help your students write more fluidly?  You can get the French and Spanish versions for just $5.  Pretty worth it for 2-3 weeks of student work.

4.  Turn Your Classroom into a World Language Cafe

Spend one class period a week having a language cafe.  Each week, a few students prepare a traditional dish or treat from a country that speaks the target language.  They are responsible for bringing enough food, utensils, napkins, etc. for the whole class.

After everyone has their food, the students explain in the target language which ingredients they used, how they made it, and where it’s from.

Prepare themes/questions ahead of time and make a copy for each group.  Base the themes loosely around whatever grammar points, vocabulary you’re working on at the time.

For example, if you’re studying the future tense, one of your questions might be, “Imagine your life in 10 years.  Where will you live, what will you be doing.  If you’re studying the conditional tense, ” What would you do if you were the principal for a day?”.

They will use these as conversation starters for their discussion. Then divide the classroom into 3-4 groups to discuss different questions/themes.

One person in each group will be the recorder who makes a mark next to each person’s name that speaks, 1 point for answering a question, 2 points for asking follow-up questions.  This gives the students incentive to speak in the target language and to keep the conversation going.

Another person will be the moderator, in charge of keeping the discussion on track and asking questions of anyone who isn’t speaking a lot.

The whole point is to get the students speaking in the target language and talking in real life situations.  This is always a favorite activity in my classes.  We actually do it all year long because it’s such a valuable activity.  Love it when they can be learning and having fun at the same time!

5.  Try Some Interactive Notebook Trifold Flashcards

These are called interactive notebook flashcards (either regular style or Spanish trifolds or French trifolds), but they can be used with regular notebooks, too.  If you’re looking to review a certain vocabulary theme or verb tense with your students, check out these flashcards which can be used for games, for individual student practice, as sub plans, or for homework assignments.

How to Use French, Spanish Interactive Notebook Trifold Flashcards

Here’s a video explaining what trifold flashcards are and how to use them or you can check out my blog posts about them:  why traditional flashcards just don’t work and revolutionize the way that you teach verbs, vocab, and grammar.

6.  Conduct an End of Year Survey

It’s always good to get some feedback on your teaching throughout the year from the student perspective and the students love knowing that you care about what they think.   Make the survey anonymous so that students feel comfortable expressing their true feelings.  Ask questions such as:

*  What was your favorite game that we played this year and why?

*  What topic was the hardest to learn and why?  Do you have any suggestions on making it easier for future students?

*  What do you feel that your teacher could have done better to help you learn more this year?

*  What do you feel are your teacher’s strengths?

Compile the answers from that last question and keep them on a sheet called:  Here’s What My Students Say about Me.  This is an awesome tool to whip out during any future teaching interviews that you may have or to keep in your teaching portfolio.

7.  Play Their Favorite Game/Activity Again

Students love to do things that they know.  Use the results of your survey (or do a quick class poll to find out which game was their favorite) and try to incorporate it into your end of year review activities. This time, let them come up with the game questions or be the teacher for the activity.

8.  Have Students Do Spanish Speaking Countries Research Projects

In pairs, students research one of the Spanish speaking countries and prepare a presentation.  Depending on the age and level of your students, you can incorporate different activities such as:

Level 1:  Make a poster showing the flag, a map that shows where the country is in the world, a few photos, and some facts about the people or culture.

  • This food component can be used for all the levels.  Students research a specific recipe from the country, prepare it, and share with the class.  Perhaps you can even use the home ec kitchen so students can cook together.  Here’s a great post from Sarah Barrientos Svatos about cooking at school with students.

Level 2:  Pretend you just visited the country.  Describe your journey using the preterite.  Students incorporate information about landmarks, historical, cultural and tourist places, events, celebrations, and of course, the food they ate while they visited.

Level 3:  Same as above, but using the preterite and imperfect.

This amazing idea came from Lucy Garcia-Fischer.  She’s part of our World Language Cafe FB group.  Come join us in our online World Language Teacher’s lounge where we share ideas, humor, and teaching tips with teachers from all over the world.

9.  Create an End of Year Memory Page in Class

Kind of like a yearbook page except in the target language.  Here is a sample of the one I use.  You can get it in French or Spanish.

Spanish End of Year Memory Page

10.  Write Letters Giving Advice to Next Year’s Class

Students really enjoy thinking back on what they’ve learned this year and sharing it with future students.  This activity makes them feel like they are older and wiser and helps solidify study skills and good learning habits that they can use in next year’s class.  It’s fun to save these letters and show them to your new students next year.

11. Students Create Their Own Review Games

Divide them into small groups and give each group a few topics from the year to cover in their games. Have them prepare their own games for class.  Spend a day or two playing the games.

12.  Take Your Class Outside

At least here in the Northeast U.S., everyone is itching to be out in the nice weather.  Bring your class outside.  It’s usually just as easy to do whatever activities you had planned outside and the kids will adore you for it.  Or go on a walk and learn new vocabulary for what you see outside.

13.  Do a Photo Scavenger Hunt

Have students find photos or draw pictures of things they find around the school or outside.  For example, students can try to find:  something metal, something made of wood, something that’s alive.  Make the list in the target language and students must find the items and take a picture of them.  They write a few sentences explaining or describing what they found and then share with the class.

Tech Variation:  Students download the free PicCollage app and they take a picture of the page that has the hunt list and insert that as their background image.  Then they can layer the images on top to create their collage.  Afterwards, they can put the image in a PPT file and record themselves saying a few sentences about each item.  Another option is to have each group write a few sentences about each item and overlay the text on the photos.  Work through the editing process with them and then post these around the class.

14.  Let Your Students Teach a Topic

Let’s be honest.  At this point in the year, students have no interest in listening to us anymore.  So I say, “Let them teach”.  After all, they do say that the best way to learn is by teaching.  Now, I’m not saying that you should put your students in charge of teaching the subjunctive tense, but you can definitely put them in charge of teaching vocabulary or planning a mini lesson or review game.

15.  Do a Famous Hispanics, Famous Francophones Game and/or Research Project

Have students write 20 clues about a famous Hispanic or Francophone person.  Then they read their clues aloud one at a time and students try to guess who the person is.  You’d be amazed how well this activity works to review sentence writing skills.

For more advanced students, have them write a resume (curriculum vitae) for a famous person and present information to the class, along with an audio-visual component.

Want 20 clues for 25 famous people that you can use right away with your class and the rubrics and instructions to go along with them?  Get them here:  French version, Spanish version.  These also make awesome sub plans!

Famous Hispanics Activity, Game, Lessons

Famous Hispanics Game, Activity, Lesson Plans

Famous Hispanics Game, Activity, Lesson Plans

16. Incorporate a Music Project

Students divide into small groups and pick their favorite song in the target language and then learn all the words and either perform in front of the class or make a video for class.  Read more details about how to do this or how to host a World Language Lip Sync Night here.

How to Host a World Language Lip Sync Night at Your School

OR select a few songs in the target language for the students to transcribe and teach to the class.  Try to pick songs that are easier to understand, not too fast,  and that have some deeper meaning/culture to them.

Divide the class into groups of 2-3 and give each group a song to work on.  Their assignment is to listen to the song and write down the words.  Then they should select 5 vocabulary words from the song to teach to the class in the target language and come up with a gesture for each word so that when the class hears the key words, they do the gestures.  They prepare a presentation explaining some biographical information about the singer/band, 5 questions to ask the class, and an explanation of the meaning/significance of the song.

Hope these French and Spanish end of year activities make your life easier and keep your students engaged and learning these last few months.  

16 French, Spanish End of Year Review Activities, Games to Use in Your Classroom

Remember to get your 50 Free World Language Games to Spice Up Your Classroom.  Sign up here.

Happy Teaching!


The World Language Cafe

Using Trifold Flashcards in Your World Language Classroom

Why Traditional Vocabulary Flashcards Just Don’t Work (and What Does)

After using traditional vocabulary and verb flashcards in my World Language classrooms for years, I have finally come to the conclusion that they just aren’t as effective as they could be.  How many bizillions of flashcards have we forced our students to make, yet they still struggle to use the vocabulary and verbs correctly and fluently?

Read more…

How to Rock Cinco de Mayo in Your Spanish Class

Cinco de Mayo is fast approaching.  Are you ready to create a memorable Cinco experience for your Spanish students?  What?  You’re busy grading papers, writing final exams, and trying to figure out how to get that one tricky student, Pablo, to stop disrupting class?

Don’t worry – I’ve got you covered.  The World Language Cafe is hosting a 16 Day Cinco de Mayo Celebration on Facebook. Read more…

Connect with Me

Just added this post with all my social media accounts so we can connect with each other.  I love hearing what you have to say, so please get in touch.  Thought you might like to know a little bit about me.  Click here to see my welcome video and get to know me better.

Read more…

Day of the Dead Spanish Lesson Plans

Day of the Dead in the Spanish Classroom

Ever since my mom passed away, two years ago, Day of the Dead has taken on a new significance for my family and me. Hope these Día de los Muertos ideas inspire you to celebrate with your families and in your World Language classrooms. Read more…

Cinco de Mayo Spanish Lesson Plans

Cinco de Mayo Spanish Lesson Plans

Cinco de Mayo is coming up and as Spanish teachers, it’s our chance to set the record straight.

1. Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day (which is actually Sept. 16th), but is instead the celebration of the Battle of Puebla when Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza led a poorly armed group of mestizos and zapotecs to victory against the French (Napoleon III’s forces).   Read more…