R and D Question

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben's Patreon at $10 or more
Already a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to access this content.



15 thoughts on “R and D Question”

  1. Polly,
    I read “Patricia va” with my 8th graders (who have had Spanish since 6th grade, so kind of like your level 2s) last semester. It took us almost an entire quarter, and we didn’t finish. Sometimes we would read together as a class, other times I let them read with a partner. The easier the chapter, the more independence I gave them. There is a website with worksheets if you feel the need to hold them accountable: http://achspanishclass.wikispaces.com/Patricia+va+a+California. I like that each worksheet has important terms defined at the top, rather than making kids flip through to the glossary.

    With one particularly slow-processing & behavior-challenged class, I wound up doing two straight weeks of R&D on the board. I displayed the novel– didn’t even let them have a copy in front of them– and we would read, translate, and discuss a paragraph at a time. Then they had a 5 question quick quiz about the content. Every day. I thought it was a little boring, but they looked forward to those quizzes, and I got much better discipline from them. So don’t feel like every day has to be NEW! and DIFFERENT! We get rewarded for that as teachers, and I think that’s sometimes to our students’ detriment. (One admin was praising a colleague of mine for having her students do 5-6 different activities in a 45 minute class, then wondered aloud why many of the students weren’t paying attention. Because it’s exhausting to have that many transitions!)

    There were some chapters that I would tell first almost like asking a story, except that students didn’t supply the details so much as parrot them back. Save this for chapters where students aren’t as familiar with the essential vocabulary.

  2. I had my Spanish 2 class read “Esperanza” starting in early October (class meets everyday for 90 min… condensed block schedule). I would do SSR for a few minutes, then I would read aloud a passage, then we would chorally translate. I don’t know if the choral translation was the most valuable. I do think that mixing up the reading activities is a good idea with R & D, choral translation, maybe some Reader’s Theater, and maybe some story sequencing with sentence strips. More power to all those who can do R & D for extended periods of time. That’s ideal. I’ve had the good fortune of doing R & D for 30+ minutes at a time, but only at the end of the semester here, this past week, when students are tense about getting their grades up.

    I know I wouldn’t be able to read “Esperanza” everyday. Students would tire real quickly. This might be because that “Esperanza” was a bit too difficult for many of my students. It might also be because I could have made the book more interesting with parallel questioning.

    As much as I wanted to finish the book by the end of the semester, I know it really doesn’t matter. At the iFLT in San Diego this past summer I remember seeing Mr. Mallaney (another Denver Public Schools teacher) teach young kids. When story time came around he’d engage students in Spanish in the process of sitting down and a bunch of other silly stuff. A number of minutes had passed before he read the first line. Then he TPR’ed these verbs (the story had a frog and a focus language structure involved “to jump”) and took them all outside to jump around. I don’t we got passed the 2nd page, with only 1 or 2 lines per page, before we had to move on to finish the class. So, I take from Mr. Mallaney the importance of engaging students with the language and using the novel to help that. At the same time, I think it is super important to teach our students to be still and sustain concentration on a storyline for an extended period of time.

    1. And, here is Ben saying, “*Many of us forget that the nature of our work is very simple in that it is really only about two things – getting reps on target structures and insisting on class choral responses from every kid in the room.” I certainly have to work on my discipline in this regard.

  3. I’m finishing Pobre Ana with my 1s. We also did Berto previously.

    I read aloud. I use wacky voices and I sometimes bust out the mandolin for some improv dialogue. I ask questions. Sometimes the discussion launches; sometimes they just say “si/no”. To me, if we are in TL, and they understand and are focussed, we are doing good work. It takes me roughly 45 min/chapter but one chapter is longer so that took 2 chunks of time. It’s taken about 9 classes.

    I don’t let them read alone cos I think the book too difficult. I am gonna get more easier novels for next year and also start using Kandel stories for FVR which I must confess I don’t do and I know I am A Bad TPRS Teacher 🙁

    1. Sabrina Sebban_Janczak

      Chris , there are no bad TPRS teachers, and I think it is Suzie Gross who said that bad TPRS is 10 times better than no TPRS.

      Can you send the link to Kandel’s stories. I think I saw it recently but can’t find it anymore.


      1. The key btw with music (IMHO) is that it has to be 100% comprehensible and repetitive. I learned “frere jaques” when I was 5 or whatever and when I was about 22 I finally realised what it was about. They just sort of assumed that if we could sing it we would get the meaning. (Mind you I am a slow learner).

        So when I bust out the mando, I will sing (I’m so bad at singing it’s funny…ie the kids pay attention 😉 ) something we are doing. Since I play Irish trad– rhythmically pretty simple, and it repeats lots of phrases– I can do something like “Rochelle and Chelsea are playing soccer/they are really good” and repeat it twice or 4x. I can get the kids to sing along. I can then circle the musical phrases (talking not singing).

        Here’s an example (the tune is the jig “Gander in the Pratie Hole”)

        “Chelsea no baila porque no le gusta (x4)
        (shift to B part)
        “Chelsea prefiere jugar al futbol
        Chelsea prefiere jugar”

        A kind of “musical R & D” I guess. Lots of fun if you can improvise.

        1. omg! that sounds amazing! i could totally picture myself doing that except i don’t play an instrument…but i betcha i remember enough random guitar chords that i could do it and make it super cheesy ron burgundy-ish. oh wow! thanks chris 🙂

          1. Why not? If it’s CI, and it’s interesting, it’s working. I can see some classes getting too excited bla bla though. I strictly limit this– say 5 min is lots.

  4. With my Spanish 1 classes I am reading Pobre Ana to them and doing R+D because I do not have a class set. We are having fun but in 7 days(not doing it the whole hour only 20-30 minutes) we have only done page 1 and 2. We also have skipped the book 2 out of the 7 days. One thing that I do know is that they can retell those 2 pages to each other. I figure to keep doing it this way until I have saved the money to buy a class set.

    With my other levels I have them change the way we read each chapter, unless it is really long and then I change it half way. I choose a scene from each chapter to act out as well. In my class that we are reading Viva el Toro we are also watching the movie chapter by chapter after reading that chapter and we pause the movie to have my students act the scenes out again.
    I love the movie and want to buy the other movies that go with the books.

  5. In my experience success with the novels is completely dependent on the group energy. More times than not, I have chosen a book that is too hard for them so that makes it a chore to read. When it is a chore, it is not relaxing and thus…affective filter right?! Preventing the CI from getting in, even if they “understood” it in class. Then, there will be that book that “everyone loves” and the one group that ain’t feelin’ it. Kind of a crap shoot.

    My current French 1/2 is howling with delight reading “Brandon Brown Veut un Chien.” (Brandon Brown Wants a Dog) It is a fun “prequel” to Houdini. It isn’t really a prequel, but I have 3 9th graders who read Houdini last year and they are having a blast noticing the “foreshadowing” with the friend Jake and his “great ideas.” Anyway, it is a huge hit with this particular group–predominantly 8th graders and young-ish 9th grade. I think it is super cute and goofy and funny but then again I am not the most mature person. But hey a book where a kid tries to hide a puppy in his room without his parents catching on…pretty awesome! I won’t give away the funniest parts 😉

    I don’t have class sets, so I actually did this one “kindergarten style,” reading aloud and doing lots of questions about pets at first, then we got into the story and they want to know what happens next. They are totally hooked because it is very easy reading, compelling and relatable since most everyone has a pet or 2 or 17 or 33 for the farm kids.

    At the other end of the spectrum is my Spanish class struggling with Felipe Alou. Mostly because it’s a bit too difficult AND we did not read consistently enough to keep them engaged in the story. I find it is a fine line…”snowplowing” through the book or taking more time to discuss, etc. For me, personally I want to read the book and keep it going more consistently rather than have it drag on. I know that “the text” is secondary to the process of communicating in L2 and enjoying our students, but for the novels I say read something that is at least one level “lower” or even 2 than what it says. I think that gets into that zone of where kids can read it almost as if it were in English. There is also the satisfaction for a kid “I read a whole book in Spanish.” Just my 2 cents.

  6. Bryan Kandel’s AMAZING spanish stories is here. Story uideas, scripts AND readings.


    People should help the guy out…if you ask one of his, and get a decent story out of it, maybe send him your written version as a thanks so he has more readingas for his kids (I did this). Ideally there would be a massiver Google page somwhere that we could share stories etc on.

    To me it doesn’t matter if we “finish” or not. If we are in TL and they understand,t hey are learning. Blaine said “my goal is to never finish a story.” However the KIDS like the feeling of “I read a novel in ___ language.”


  7. Thanks so much! I really appreciate the ideas and I love the “chanting” phrases. Even though I don’t play an instrument, I am crazy enough to break out in song if need be.

    As for the novels, I do like the advice of starting easy and giving the kids confidence. I would rather they enjoy it than dread coming to class each day.

Leave a Comment

  • Search

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe to Our Mailing List

No spam, notifications only about new products, updates.

Related Posts

The Problem with CI

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to

CI and the Research (cont.)

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to

Research Question

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to

We Have the Research

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to



Subscribe to be a patron and get additional posts by Ben, along with live-streams, and monthly patron meetings!

Also each month, you will get a special coupon code to save 20% on any product once a month.

  • 20% coupon to anything in the store once a month
  • Access to monthly meetings with Ben
  • Access to exclusive Patreon posts by Ben
  • Access to livestreams by Ben