Ditch the stupid textbook.

Silvia Rosario recently made this comment about my blog:

  • I’m loving it for keeping it real. Now how you take that leap of faith and start your year without a textbook. What’s your first week or first month of school look like?

That sounds like a great idea for a post! When I was starting out, many teachers had blogs talking about how they scripted out their year, and I benefited greatly from that. To begin, I operate from a couple basic “Laws” that guide my thinking:

  1. I have to live within the realities of my school district and the administrators. Within those guidelines I do my best to get away with everything I can. I am the Loki of the Spanish Teaching World!

  2. I firmly believe that I have to do what works for me and my life OUTSIDE of school. I rarely plan elaborate activities that require lots of paper or spending an hour to create / set up. It’s what keeps me sane.

So, how *I* feel you should set up your year begins with the question: What do you want them to be able to do? And work backwards. For example, I know I want my students to read 2 novels as a whole class, have opportunities for more, get to know each other, and just flat out acquire as much language as possible, including rejoinders and academic vocabulary like DE HECHO or POR EJEMPLO. Here are some thoughts, in no particular order.

So, first thing is to pick the novels. Pick 2 level appropriate books. 1 a bit more complex than the other. Pull out the vocabulary from the teacher’s guides They are always a must buy – they have way more and way cooler activities than you have time to plan on your own. Trust me. Create a list of common vocab they must know to be confident when you get there and make sure you incorporate it through the year.

Otherwise, here are more suggestions:

  1. Hook ‘em hard with something personal or provocative right away. I like to start with Ben Slavic’s circling with balls, but instead I do it with pets. Some kid always has some weird animal. In contrast, I have a dragon. I like to get the fantastical element going right away as it breaks from the general seriousness of high school. I often segue right into a short video, conversation, and reading on Bullfighting. Is it art and tradition, or cruel and torture? They are now mine!

  2. Have a CI based curriculum to either be your backbone or to fall back on. Look, I can talk by TPRS Books or the SOMOS curriculum by The Comprehensible Classroom are my top two choices. I mix and match whenever students get used to routine. This often lasts me through Spanish 3. They’re inexpensive and worth it.

  3. Always, always do a Locura de Marzo (March madness) song bracket. Create your own if possible. If not, Señor Ashby does one.

  4. Speaking of music, there are phenomenal song activities from people like Kristy Placido and Martina Bex. I try to make 1 day a week a music day. Pick a video with a great story and movie talk it and do various activities that you can learn from the IFLT facebook group, et. al..

  5. FVR/SSR as described by Bryce Hedstrom. Low to no production.

  6. Do La Persona Especial. Also by Bryce.

  7. Every Thursday or Friday, talk about what you’re going to do over the weekend and get that future tense rolling. Every Monday, Talk about what you DID to practice the past. There are templates out there for these.

  8. Pick one day a week (I do Friday) and make it your movie talk day. Great ideas for this are Extr@ (youtube), Destinos (old but full of culture and CI), the move talk book from TPRS Books, and the Move Talk Database which is full of ideas.

  9. Find podcasts or youtube channels, and authentic resources such as NEWSELA and Martina Bex’s great newspaper articles.

  10. Señor Wooly and Textivate.

Just these things alone will fill an entire year PLUS. People are always producing free content to help out. Take it all, just make sure you eventually pay it forward. You know the textbooks suck – make the change. Pain is temporary, but acquired language is forever! As always, YMMV.

6 thoughts on “Ditch the stupid textbook.”

  1. You just described my entire year! It was amazing to have ditched the text book! My students are loving reading, and I am finishing my hear strong.


  2. I left the textbook behind this year, but ended up drifting without a clear path and feeling pretty discouraged. I really appreciate you outlining this approach, and it makes me more confident in the hodgepodge experimenting I did this year. Thanks for the post!


  3. Awesome! It just occurred to me that I’ve made it through almost an ENTIRE year without a textbook. Incredibly, the kids are still learning Spanish, imagine that. Haha


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