How to Write Effective World Language Lesson Plans- 4

How do you teach world languages effectively? In the previous posts, we discussed the important elements of effective World Language lesson plans: identifying the learning goal, building good tension into the lesson, and hooking the students into the lesson.  The next vital component is direct instruction – How am I going to explain, model, demonstrate? This is the, “I do; they watch” part.  The exhausting song-and-dance part.

How to Write Effective World Language Lesson Plans

How to Choose Resources and Strategies

After identifying what I want students to be able to do at the end of the lesson or unit, I must choose the strategies and resources I’m going to use to get them there and organize the material for optimal acquisition of the language.

So, how do I choose the resources and strategies?  Simple: the ones that will best lead my students to mastery of the learning objective while allowing me to conduct the class in the target language.

For example, if the learning objective is, “Students will be able to talk about their families and friends,” I ask myself, “What resources and strategies would work best to accomplish this goal?” In order to prepare students to hold conversations about their family and friends, without the use of English, or L1, students need to see visuals of the vocabulary, and hear and see it in context, with the use of authentic language when possible.

If I don’t adequately prepare in advance, I won’t have the necessary visuals and will be forced to use L1.

In my opinion, my main job as a teacher is to provide comprehensible input.

In order to do that I must prepare ahead of time to have an adequate supply of visuals and props. Yes, this is extremely time-consuming but necessary.  However, there are many ready-made PowerPoints  on TPT that eliminate the need to create the resources yourself.  I’ve used quite a few myself. Check out these resources for Spanish One on my website.

Visuals and Teacher-Talk

PowerPoints are the perfect tool to display visuals and teacher talk (talking about my own family) is an effective strategy for providing the necessary language in context.  Before students can talk about their families, they need to hear ME talking about MY family so they hear the family vocabulary in context, repeated many times.  So, I model the language, grammar, and pronunciation I want them to use, slowing my speech, repeating often, and using cognates when I can. The students have the handout with the English translation but while I am talking, they are looking at my visuals. I show them photos of my family in a PowerPoint and talk about them, providing as many details as they can understand.  For example;

Aquí están mis hermanas.  Se llaman Henrietta, Gail y Anne.  Henrietta tiene 64 años. Ella tiene cuatro hijos. Gail tiene 61 años y  Anne tiene 50 años, etcétera.

How to Write Effective World Lesson Plans: Using Visuals

Aquí está mi esposo. Quiero mucho a mi esposo. Se llama Terry.

Aquí están mis padres.

Effective World Lesson Plans: Use visuals for comprehensible input
Effective World Language Lesson Plans: PowerPoints are great for displaying visuals.

Sometimes I model the input before I pre-teach the vocabulary and other times I do the reverse.  Often, I talk about my family, teach the vocabulary, and talk about my family again to provide the necessary repetition.

I also intersperse stories before, during, and after lessons on GRAMMAR so students can assimilate the concept.  The mind may “learn” the grammar rule but be unable to acquire and produce it without much repetition in context and meaningful messages.

Here is a sample of my Spanish Family PowerPoint.

This clip of my PowerPoint on Ser is an example of how I interjected a story into a grammar lesson. (Only the beginning of the story is shown here. To see the complete story, click on the link above.)


PowerPoints are my Go-to resource for most of my direct instruction because they display visuals so well.  Videos are another of my faves because they provide authentic language in context with subtitles in Spanish – even better than teacher-talk because you can actually read what the speakers are saying as they speak.  And instead of exhausting myself during presentation I can observe the students. Here is a FREE VIDEO with comprehensible input for the progressive tense and the subjunctive.

Here is an example of a video I use for input on La ropa:

Other World Language Instructional Strategies

For other learning goals I can choose from a repertoire of many strategies: Total Physical Response (gestures and dramatization), use of realia (objects from daily life), lecture, dialogues with puppets, sock puppets, storytelling with repetition, questions, and circling.  (¿Saca la foto Juan, sí o no? ¿Saca una foto o saca una F? ¿Quién saca la foto? ¿De quién saca la foto?  ¿Dónde saca la foto?  ¿Cuándo saca la foto? ¿Por qué saca la foto?)  For a great blog on circling, see Martina Bex’s blog.

It is also essential to ORGANIZE the presentation for maximum understanding and retention.  In order to to so, I must present it in small chunks, and immediately, check for understanding, then have students DO something with it.  Research is mixed, but you will be safe to introduce 8-12 words at a time.  Fred Jones calls this, “Input/Output.” No practice – No remember

This PowerPoint on Spanish Clothing and Colors vocabulary demonstrates how to present a short chunk and then have students immediately interact with the information:

This Saber Conocer PowerPoint  is another example of a small chunk of input with immediate practice.

Students will acquire the words better if they are associated with other words, so chunking the words into phrases or complete sentences will improve acquisition.  Vocabulary cannot be learned in isolation.  That’s why teaching with lists alone is ineffective.  Students use the list as a reference only.

Start at the Bottom

It’s also essential to organize the material into understandable parts starting at the bottom layer.  Many years ago when teaching a grammar concept and talking about adjectives I realized students didn’t know what an adjective was.  So, I taught them to recognize adjectives and we practiced.  Then I went on to talk about syllables, and… guess what?  I had to teach them what a syllable was. I try not to make assumptions about what students already know, starting at the lowest common denominator and working my way up the ladder.

Second-language learning is unique in that you cannot teach yourself a language alone.  You must hear someone speak it in meaningful messages (not the best subject for flipped classroom learning for this reason.)  Therefore, the teaching component is extremely important in the world language classroom.  This is not the learner-centered part of the lesson.  In fact, in order for students to move from recognition to production, there must be a HUGE AMOUNT of input first, especially in level one. (Be ready to explain that to your observing administrator.)

TO RECAPFor effective world language lesson plans: Choose resources and strategies that best lead your students to mastery of the objective; make sure you have all your visuals, realia, props, before you teach the lesson to minimize the use of L1; and organize your material so it sticks. 🙂

Writing effective World Language lesson plans is less anxiety-producing if you have a check list to follow.  At the end of this series of blog posts, I will give you a check list to ensure you don’t leave out any essentials. Here is the link to the next post in the series: How to Check for Understanding

Of course, if you decide you’d rather be at the gym or home with your family instead of creating lesson plans, use these instead:

Spanish One Lesson Plans and Curriculum

Spanish Two Lesson Plans and Curriculum

Spanish Three Lesson Plans and Curriculum

AP Spanish Lesson Plans and Curriculum

Did you know many schools are buying lesson plans for their teachers?  Ask your department or principal to purchase these for you!

In the next post, we will be talking about how and when to check for understanding.  Stay tuned!

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