Category Archives: Grammar and Structures

Shifting the Focus From Grammar to Language Functions

As we step into our classrooms each day, we look for ways to support students understanding the language and using it with confidence in authentic situations. That’s certainly not a simple goal, but one that we can work toward with the right approach.

Shifting the Focus From Grammar to Language Functions (French, Spanish)

The idea of language functions (how we use the language) has inspired a paradigm shift in our teaching methodology. Traditional (or “Legacy” as aI like to say) language teaching focused on grammar and structures. With a focus on functions teachers are embracing a more encompassing strategy—one that revolves around the idea of language functions, or what what students do with the language.

It’s a shift that fundamentally transforms the way we view language teaching, placing authentic communication and language functions at the forefront. Here are practical strategies and examples to support our focus on language functions.

Novice Levels: Making Language Practical

At the novice level, students are like linguistic explorers, taking their first steps into the language terrain. Traditionally, they might have been bombarded with verb conjugations and intricate grammar rules. However, the shift towards language functions allows them to focus on practical, real-world applications.

Novice Low:

  • Students can engage in simple role-play conversations, such as ordering food. They are encouraged to use common greetings, basic food-related vocabulary, and appropriate phrases.
  • The goal is not grammatical perfection but practical communication. Students learn to convey their preferences in an authentic context, laying the foundation for real-life interactions.

Novice High:

  • Students can participate in simulated scenarios such as traveling. Instead of overwhelming them with complex grammar structures, the focus is on enabling them to ask for directions, purchase tickets, and express basic needs.
  • This functional approach helps them interact confidently during hypothetical trips. They understand that language learning is not just about constructing grammatically accurate sentences but about using the language effectively to navigate different situations.

Intermediate Levels: Expanding Communication

As students progress to intermediate levels, they are capable of more substantial interactions. The traditional approach might have kept them confined to rigid sentence structures and limited vocabulary. However, emphasizing language functions empowers them to engage in meaningful conversations and express their ideas authentically.

Intermediate Low:

  •  Students might explore the function of persuading and giving opinions. Instead of fixating on intricate subjunctive forms, they engage in debates about topics like environmental conservation. Here, they use expressions like “I think that” and “in my opinion”  to articulate their viewpoints. They discover that language is a tool for expressing their thoughts and beliefs effectively.

Intermediate High:

  • Students can narrate and describe. Rather than being confined to formulaic sentences, they recount personal experiences, share anecdotes, and describe memorable events using a variety of verb tenses and adjectives. They understand that language is not just a set of grammar rules but a means to convey their unique experiences and emotions.

Embrace the Shift

As language teachers, it’s essential that we embrace this paradigm shift from a focus on grammar and accuracy to a broader emphasis on language functions and authentic communication. By doing so, we equip our students with the tools they need to navigate the multilingual world confidently. This shift ensures that language learning is not just a theoretical exercise, but a skill that can be applied in real-life situations.

Do Nows and Exit Tickets in the World Language Classroom

Are you using Do Nows and/or Exit Tickets in your classroom?  They sometimes have different names, but essentially Do Nows are quick assessments that students complete at the beginning of class to get their brains warmed up and ready to learn.  Exit Tickets are assessments at the end of class that provide teachers with valuable information about what their students have learned and where they may need more practice. Do Nows and Exit Tickets are effective tools for language teachers that help to track student progress, inform lesson planning moving forward, and provide opportunities for immediate feedback to students.

Do Nows and Exit Tickets in the World Language Classroom (French, Spanish)


Let’s look at Do Nows first.  

Why are Do Nows useful and what are some ways of using them?

  • Quick Assessment of Previous Class: Do Nows provide teachers with an immediate snapshot of their students’ understanding of a topic. This quick assessment helps teachers tailor instruction to meet the needs of their students right away in that class.  Maybe there needs to be a little more review before moving on to a new topic or perhaps that planned additional review won’t be necessary.
  • Immediate Engagement that Builds Confidence: Do Nows are short, focused activities that engage students and encourage them to be active learners. By starting class with a Do Now, teachers can create a positive and productive learning environment. Students feel successful because the material is not new, but rather reviewing or building on previous content.
  • Practice: Do Nows provide students with the opportunity to practice their language skills in a low-stakes situation. This regular practice helps students build confidence and develop proficiency in the language. Also an opportunity to recycle or review previous topics and content to keep it fresh.
  • Prep for Class Activity: Do Nows can be used as prewriting or to access prior knowledge on a topic. Maybe a new topic will be covered in class, but the Do Now focuses on prior knowledge and builds schemata. They can also be used to spark discussion or as a pre-reading activity.
  • Differentiation: By creating multiple versions of a Do Now, teachers can differentiate the activity to meet the needs of their diverse students. This makes it possible to provide students with a meaningful and challenging learning experience, regardless of their level of proficiency in the language.

Where is the prompt and where/how do students respond?

  • The prompt can be on the board and students record their response on a sheet of paper. Students can also do this in a notebook that they keep, either with them or in the classroom.
  • Instead of writing a prompt on the board, the teachers can hand out individual prompts, such task cards, slips of paper with vocabulary words, pictures, or a a quote.  This will make the Do Now more individualized.  There can also be a prompt on the board instructing students what to do with the information on their card or slip of paper.
  • Do Nows don’t always have to be written responses.  Students can read a short text or even engage in a short speaking activity using similar prompts.

resources for Do NOws:

Now Let’s look at Exit Tickets.  

Why are Exit Tickets useful and what are some ways of using them?

  • Formative Assessment: Exit Tickets provide teachers with an effective and efficient way to assess their students’ understanding of a topic that was covered in class that day. This regular assessment helps teachers identify areas where students need additional support and can adjust instruction accordingly. Not unlike a Do Now, but an Exit Ticket is focused on new content from class. A Do Now is typically more focused on previous material.
  • Reflection: Exit Tickets encourage students to reflect on their learning and think critically about what they’ve learned in class. This reflective practice helps students make connections between new concepts and prior knowledge, deepening their understanding of the language.
  • Practice: By completing Exit Tickets, students have the opportunity to practice their language skills and demonstrate their understanding. This helps students build confidence and develop proficiency. Build in previous content and material into the prompt so that students continue to build on their skills and proficiency levels with new and prior topics.
  • Feedback: Exit Tickets provide teachers with valuable feedback on the effectiveness of their instruction. Teachers can use this feedback to make changes to teaching strategies and improve their students’ learning outcomes the next day.
  • Planning: Exit Tickets can also help teachers plan for future lessons. By analyzing students’ responses, teachers can identify areas where students need individualized additional support and plan lessons that address these needs. This proactive approach to planning can help ensure that all students make meaningful progress.

Where is the prompt and where/how do students respond?

  • The prompt can be on the board and students record their response on a sheet of paper or a notebook, just as they might so with Do Nows. However, these papers or notebooks should remain in the classroom so the teacher can look at them after the class or as students are leaving.
  • Hand out individual prompts, task cards, vocabulary words, pictures, or a quote with a prompt on the card or on the board. Just like a Do Now, but an Exit Ticket is focused on new content from class. A Do Now is more focused on previous material.
  • Students can hand these Exit Tickets to the teacher as they leave.
  • Exit Tickets don’t always have to be written responses.  Students can speak to the teacher at the door as they leave, providing a spoken response.  If there are large numbers of students, mix it up with some doing verbal and others doing written responses.

resources for Exit Tickets:

Make Logic Puzzles in Any Language

I’ve been workshopping how to make logic puzzles so that I can engage students in various vocabulary topics and language structures.  This is yet another way to provide students with opportunities to see and use language in context.  These logic puzzles also require a bit of critical thinking skills as they follow the logic and figure out the answers.

Make Logic Puzzles in Any Language or Topic (French, Spanish)

I spent some time coming up with the “equations” and templates so that I can just add in the topic vocabulary and write the clue sentences.  I decided to create 4 versions that increase in challenge level.

You can download your own templates and get to work creating your own logic puzzles for your students. The link below will make a copy of the Google Slide™ temples in your Google Drive™.  Just follow the equations for the clues and you will soon have logic puzzles using the specific content that pertains to your students.

Make Logic Puzzles in Any Language or Topic (French, Spanish)

How does it work?

  • There are 4 versions of the logic puzzles for increased challenge. The directions are in English, but can be easily changed to any language.
  • Begin by filling in the boxes in the top row and the column on the left. This can be names of people, pictures, anything.

Make Logic Puzzles in Any Language or Topic (French, Spanish)

  • Use the data “equations” to write sentences that lead students to follow the logic and figure out the answers. “=“ means a positive statement and “≠” means a negative statement.
    • 1. C ≠ 2
    • 2. B ≠ 4
    • 3. A = 2
    • 4. D ≠ 3
    • 5. C = 1
  • Using the example above:
    • 1. C ≠ 2 :  Mateo does not have a tablet.
    • 2. B ≠ 4 : Lucía doesn’t have a computer.
    • 3. A = 2 : Laura has a tablet.
    • 4. D ≠ 3 : Julia doesn’t have a pencil.
    • 5. C = 1 : Mateo has a notebook.
  • The checkmarks are there to make sure you are following the equations. When finished, be sure to delete the checkmarks and the letters/numbers above and to the left of the grid.

Make Logic Puzzles in Any Language or Topic (French, Spanish)

  • The last thing to do is to add question below where the students will find the answers in the grid.

Have fun with these and let us all know what you come up with.

Make Logic Puzzles in Any Language or Topic (French, Spanish)

Practice or Review Activity for Any Language Topic

I came across an activity on called Nothing Ventured.  The wheels started turning right away as I thought of the ways that it could be used in a language classroom.  There are lot of useful ideas on the Teacher Toolkit website, but they are not specific to language teaching.  No fear.  I got you covered.Practice or Review Activity for Any Language Topic from vocabulary to language structures. French, Spanish, English, Italian, German, Portuguese.

I got to work creating a template to use with my students in the target language.  I also put together templates in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German and Italian.  You can download them all here and it also includes the directions for the doing the activity in your classroom.

Practice or Review Activity for Any Language Topic from vocabulary to language structures. French, Spanish, English, Italian, German, Portuguese.

Practice or Review Activity for Any Language Topic from vocabulary to language structures. French, Spanish, English, Italian, German, Portuguese.

Practice or Review Activity for Any Language Topic from vocabulary to language structures. French, Spanish, English, Italian, German, Portuguese.

I chose the title The Die Decides for my take on this activity.  I’m always looking for ways to incorporate different materials and that little die can be used for so much.  I’m happy to have yet another way to put it to use.

The Die Decides is an interactive activity that can be used for almost any topic in your language class, such as:

  • practicing vocabulary themes
  • practicing language structures
  • assessing understanding after reading or listening
  • reviewing before an assessment

The teacher creates the questions based on the topic being covered.

How the activity works

  • Individual students, pairs or small groups each need a six-sided die and a “The Die Decides” sheet.
  • Players (individual, pair or group) roll the die before each question is presented either verbally or in writing. They record the number rolled in the “Die” column of their sheet.
  • The teacher says or shows a question (perhaps projected). Students discuss, if in pairs or groups, and write their answer in the “Answer” column of their sheet.
  • The teacher says or shows the correct answer to the question. It can also be part of the projection slides or simply written on the board. Students check their answer and determine whether they were correct or incorrect. The teacher should be vigilant to make sure answer are not altered.
  • If the answer is correct, players get the points that they rolled prior to the question being asked. If they are incorrect, they lose those points.
  • Students then update their total as they continue on with each question.
  • The player (individual, pair or group) with the most points after all the questions have been asked wins the game.

Students enjoy this activity and use so much language as they discuss possible answers, listen to and read questions and react to their points changing as they progress through the game.  Remember that you can download templates in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German and Italian.

Practice or Review Activity for Any Language Topic from vocabulary to language structures. French, Spanish, English, Italian, German, Portuguese.

Use Google Slides™ to Create Interactive Stacks

Once in a while I see a post on or tweet and it sparks a new idea.  Maybe I don’t do it the exact way that it was shown, but it gets the wheels turning.

This happed last week when I saw a tweet from Meredith White, a Spanish teacher in Georgia.  She shared a Google Slide™ tip and I got to thinking right away about all the ways that I could use it to engage students with their language learning.

Use Google Slides™ to Create Interactive Stacks (French, Spanish)

Essentially, Meredith showed that you can pile up text boxes and then have students work through the “stack” and move the boxes around the screen.

Here is the run-down of how to do it:

🖱 Click image
🖱 Duplicate as many times as you want
🖱 To turn those into a stack, select all images
🖱 Click arrange, choose left
🖱 Click arrange, choose top
✨ Now students can drag & drop from a stack.

And here is a quick video that shows how to do this and an idea that I came up with that uses the stack:

I hope this inspired you in the same way it inspired me.

French & Spanish Digital Writing Activity: Moving Verbs

Sometimes students know the meaning of verbs. Sometimes they know the forms. But, isn’t it great when they use accurate verbs in the correct context?

Put that together with a no-prep, time saving activity for you and it’s even more than a simple win-win.

Simply share these digital activities with students and they will move through a seamless process of identify meaning and forms and then putting it all together and writing their own sentences

This no-prep-for-the-teacher activity makes sure that your students don’t just master meaning and forms. They will combine these skills and write accurate and meaningful sentences on their own.

Take a look at the French version:

and the Spanish version:


French or Spanish Speaking Activity (Starting Point)

Your students can recognize and say the the words on various vocabulary topics.  They can do the same with adjectives and verb forms in a variety of tenses.

But, the challenge is finding opportunities for students to use these language elements in context that moves beyond simply saying them as individual words.  We need to support our students as they level up their proficiency and strive to create language beyond novice level.

That’s where this activity comes in.

Starting Point (Point de Départ / Punto de Partida) is a partner speaking activity that is quickly and easily adaptable to any proficiency level. If your students are at the novice level (words and phrases), then they can add one or two additional words.

If they are at a higher proficiency level they can create discreet or connected sentences with connecting words, adjectives, adverbs and other vocabulary to form more complex sentences. For the activities with verb forms there are question words along with each subject/verb pair to guide students in creating sentences.

Your students will be speaking non-stop in French or Spanish without even realizing it, because the object of the activity (aka game) is what they are really focused on.

You’re probably wondering how it works, so here you go…

  • This activity is done in pairs. Each player needs a pencil or pen that is a different color.
  • The goal of the activity is to score the most points by filling in the most boxes.
  • Player 1 begins by connecting any 2 dots. Before connecting the dots the player identifies the picture or prompt or says the verb forms on either side of the line.
  • Depending on the proficiency level of the class, the players can also be prompted to use the vocabulary words or adjective/verb forms to create more complex phrases and sentences.
  • If the player is not able to complete the prompt the turn passes and a line is not drawn.
  • When a player draws a line to make a complete box around a picture, prompt or subject/verb pair the player fills in the box and records a point on the top of the board.
  • Once all boxes are filled in the player with the most boxes wins.

So, your students know the vocabulary and adjective/verb forms, but  you would like them to use these language elements in context to create sentences. Problem solved with Starting Point (Point de Départ / Punto de Partida)….and no prep for the teacher at all.


13: Diving into Comprehensible Input with John Bracey

In this episode we talk all about comprehensible input (CI), which you will see is a useful approach in teaching and learning any language.

I am joined by John Bracey, a Latin teacher who uses CI very effectively with his students.  He also makes a strong case for all teachers to try out CI, including Latin teachers.

John speaks about…

  • his journey with CI and how he discovered it.
  • the linguistic benefits of CI. 
  • using CI to personalize language and connect with and validate students’ lived experiences.
  • what CI looks like in his classroom.
  • why Latin teachers should use CI.

Connect with John Bracey:

Follow wherever you listen to podcasts.

French & Spanish Digital Verb Form Activities

I have done a paper version of this activity, but now I do them digitally using Google Slides™.  Students are actively engaged in their language learning with these interactive digital squares verb form activities.

To complete the puzzles, students begin with a subject/infinitive from the number column and locate the correct form in the letter column.  They then find the corresponding square in the grid, such as 1E, 5G or 7B, and drag a red dot to it.

Each completed slide creates an obvious pattern that can be quickly graded by the teacher. There is an answer slide included with the solutions for each slide.

This video shows how to do the activities.

These digital squares activities can be used in class or remotely for:

  • Quick review
  • Activity for students who finish other activities early
  • Do Now (individual puzzles)
  • Homework (multiple puzzles)
  • Classwork (individual, group, station)
  • Substitute lesson plans

The activities are ready to go right away. All you have to do is share with your students.

French and Spanish Verb Form Magic Squares (Digital, Google Slides™)

What is that you hope to find when looking for resources?  Do any of these sound familiar?

  • Digital files that I can easily share with students
  • Activities that can be used in class, remote or hybrid
  • Little to no prep
  • Self-grading or easy to grade
  • Provides students with effective practice with polishing verb form knowledge

Digital magic squares activities using Google Slides™ check all of the boxes.

The right side of each screen has 16 subject/infinitive pairs and the grid has the verb forms that correspond to each pair. Students type the number of the subject/infinitive pair below the verb form.

When all numbers are filled in students can verify their answers. The total of the numbers in each row, column, and diagonal is 34. There are 4 puzzles in this activity, an answer slide and a vocabulary reference page.

Absolutely no prep needed. Just share with students. Useful for distance, hybrid, blended or in school learning and teaching.

Digital files, Useful in-class, Remote or hybrid, Little to no prep, Self-grading, Effective practice

Get your magic squares activities now and share immediately with students.