Four Steps to Better Grammar Instruction

This is a post for traditionalists, CI enthusiasts and everyone in between. Let’s face it: grammar is the little engine that keeps most foreign language curricula moving down the tracks, and regardless of how we keep our locomotives running, mastery of grammar is a skill that influences our students’ ability to express themselves at the level of detail, accuracy and comprehensibility that they want.Read More »

DIY FVR Library

Free voluntary reading can be a great way for students to get the variety of comprehensible input they need to succeed. It’s also a great way to get students reading in the target language, period, so those long passages at higher levels seem much less intimidating.

However, building a FVR library is a huge task. You need a book for every student. You need a variety of books for them to pick from. You need books that are 100% comprehensible at your students’ current level. That’s a tough checklist that can cost tons of time and money.

There’s an easier way, though! It still takes time, but it’s time well spent. It comes at a fraction of the cost compared to buying pre-published readers, and gives you the opportunity to ensure that your library contains stories that your students actually want to read. The DIY FVR library is an idea that I’ve seen tossed around online, and here’s my take on it.Read More »

Return on Investment

I feel like I’ve spent all summer talking about methodology, instructional planning and curriculum development! That’s not a bad thing, though. I’ve been working Google to the bone, exploring all the ways other teachers and schools handle these broad issues. Oddly, in the midst of it all, I came across a LinkedIn article that really got me thinking. I’d cite the article here, but the title is a little less family friendly than I’d prefer. (And let’s be honest, that’s what caught my attention.) It had nothing to do with language pedagogy and everything to do with return on investment. What kept me reading?Read More »


My new teaching position has introduced me to a lot of new challenges in finding harmony between CI-based methodology and a textbook-based pacing guide. Our French 2 textbook is especially heavy on irregular verbs, and although my students are working their hardest — engaging actively in CI practice during class and completing a wide variety of practices at home — we’re still struggling to the meet the goal of mastering all these verbs forms. As usual, the textbook considers a set of verbs like dormir, partir and sortir to be one “rule” because all the verbs have similar irregularities. The reality is that acquiring all the present- and past-tense forms of these three verbs solidly enough for confident production is far beyond the scope of one week’s learning, and that doesn’t even take into account the twenty or more additional lexical items to be covered in the week. It’s also far more than can be sensibly addressed totally through CI activities.

Enter Conjuguno. I developed this activity to give students some kind of purpose for using all these verb forms that’s hopefully enjoyable enough to at least trigger a few good neurochemicals and boost their retention.Read More »