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#iFLT18: Language Lab with Paul Kirschling, TOY of Colorado!

One of the most powerful experiences of conferences like iFLT is that you get to observe master teachers teaching. It is particularly powerful if you observe someone of a language that you don’t speak because you are essentially a student and can appreciate how slow the teacher goes. We often feel like we are going slow as teachers but we do not realize the rigor of the processing that is happening in the students’ brains. After observing Paul Kirschling teach French to adults in the language lab, it was quite obvious why he won the Teacher of the Year award in Colorado. What an amazing experience! He included many CI strategies. If you see my tweets you can see Paul do TPR with the class. TPR is a wonderful way to teach vocabulary and as a comprehension check. Here is a tweet of Paul using TPR. One interesting connection that Paul makes to gestures for TPR is using ASL. He directly pulls up to find the ASL of the word. Students have the benefit of learning 2 languages as they are connecting ASL to gestures. I like how he and his class refer to the man who signs as “the dude” who becomes part of the class community.

Another key element to what Paul did in his class was express the importance of students gesturing when they did not understand. He would praise every and any student when they did this and express the importance of them stopping him when they were lost. This is something I need to establish better at the beginning of the year. Watching Paul helped me get a better idea of how to do this. Check out the video of this tweet for an inside peek of Paul praising when students did not understand.

Do you sometimes not give enough wait time? Well Paul has the answer. He uses a countdown when asking questions to his students. He counts down from 5 or from 3 to make sure that slower processors are getting that important time to understand, process and respond.

Another idea I am totally stealing from Paul is his percentage chart. Paul believes in using choral responses. When students do not have a lot of energy and few are responding, he points to his percentage chart of where they are and then tells them he expects 100%. Pauls says he is gauging their engagement. This is also another great way to recycle numbers! This leads into Paul’s opinion about wall space in his classroom. It is very similar to what Linda Li said earlier in the week. He uses the wall as another teacher. Here is a video to see what he uses for wall space. I like that he includes, “I am right” and “You are wrong” on his walls. This can lead to a lot of fun with your students.

Paul used the idea of Star Student with his level 1. It was amazing to see students at a novice level interacting with interpersonal communication. Paul created class community through personalization with this activity as he and the class go to know more about each person in the class. Here is a video of Paul using Star Student. Kara Jacobs posted a link to her blog post on Star Student if you would like to learn more about it.

I really liked how Paul referred to his planning as bubbles. I understood the term bubble to mean that each one had a theme but student input would drive where the class went. The beginning of class he began with “how are you?”, “are you sad or tired?”. When students said they were tired, he made them stand up, which got a big laugh. Next he did a review bubble from what he did the day before about “my name is” with Star Student. Then he moved into PQA (Personalized Questions and Answers) and finally he was going to get to a story or a OWI (One Word Image).

Thank you Paul for letting me and iFLT participants into your classroom to observe some master teaching! 🙂


Arianne Dowd has been a Spanish Teacher at South Brunswick High School for the past 18 years. She is committed to lifelong learning. She holds dual BAs in Spanish and Psychology with a minor in International Studies from Montclair State University. She has two Master’s degrees, an MA in Spanish Literature from Montclair State University and a MAT in Italian from Rutgers University. She is passionate about delivering Comprehensible Input in order to engage and interact with all learners. Arianne enjoys collaborating with colleagues through social media to create compelling and comprehensible units comprised of cultural knowledge. She has begun documenting these activities on her blog.


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