Intentional Untargeted Teaching TAKE ONE!


As a follow-up to what I learned and saw at CCFLT, I’ve been intentionally allowing my classes to have conversations that are completely untargeted and that follow the natural stream of conversation. For me, this has been extremely successful. Not only have students been focused and engaged, but it has also been fun for me! I’m going to give you a play-by-play of what a couple of these conversations looked like. However, in reflecting on these play-by-plays, I recognized how INCREDIBLY NECESSARY my background in CI and TPRS strategies were to the success of these lessons. I was able to click to slides from previous lessons and units and connect our conversations to high-frequency, target vocabulary!

*The quotations (“ ”) are the translations of my questions because the conversation happened entirely in Spanish! 🙂

 Spanish 1

I asked for answers to the Do Now question, “Who is your favorite actor?” > One student answered Vin Diesel, while another student answered some actor that I’ve already
forgotten. > “Which actor is better?” (we voted for Vin Disel) > “Is Vin Diesel bald or does he have ftghhair?” (bald) > “Is anyone in the class bald?” (One of the girls with a buzz cut said that she was almost bald.) > “Which teachers in our school are bald?” (There are no current teachers at my school that are bald, but a teacher who retired last year and is a frequent sub is somewhat bald. One student mentioned him.) > Another student filled in that he has “peach fuzz” for hair (in English). > I opened one of my slides with a bilingual joke from last week. > We discussed the joke and the other translation for “peach.”

 This class can be a challenge because of the multiple levels (mixed level class that includes 1a students and students who formerly went to dual-language schools but who are continuing to build fluency). In general, the dual-language students’ listening and reading abilities are at or above Novice High, but many of them speak and write only at a Novice Mid level!!!  Therefore, I know for certain that they still need repetition to increase their fluency! This can be a difficult concept for them to grasp because they often feel that the class it is too easy because they understand the stream of conversation.  I often refer to Ben Slavic’s Rigor Poster to aid me in talking about this.   But, as I heard Carol Gaab say at CCFLT 2017, there is another way to conquer these feelings which is through engaging, compelling, comprehensible input!!!!!!  The conversation above was so engaging and compelling that even the dual-language students weren’t worried about it being too easy or too hard or whatnot!

The following day of class, I again allowed the stream of conversation to guide our class. Here’s the play-by-play:

 Spanish 1

I asked for answers to the Do Now question, “What are you going to do tonight?” > Student answered that she was going to study Spanish > “How are you going to study?” (writing) > I drew a letter on the board for visual support, and asked, “Are you going to write a letter?” > A different student asked, a love letter? > I asked about 6 students if they write love letters. > When I felt like it had gone on long enough, I went back to the original question and asked someone else “What are you going to do tonight?” (play on my phone) > I went to my prop closet to get a “phone,” and pulled out a plastic hand (Halloween prop) to act as a phone (middle schoolers love this stuff!!!!) > Discussion led to body parts and kids needing a new foot, brain, etc. 

Exit quiz:

  1. Write 1 sentence about the body parts section of class.
  2. Write 1 sentence about us talking about the letter
  3. Write on a scale of 1 to 10 (one = hated it, 10 = loved it) how much you liked the different style of class today.

 Check out a few responses including one that gave it an 11! (Note: Although my focus is communication, I occasionally correct grammar on the dual-language students’ papers to continue pushing them!)


Very high 2nd language learner (started Spanish in August)


One of my “barometer” kids


Very high 2nd language learner (started Spanish in August)


Very high level former dual-language student (should be in another class but schedule conflict doesn’t allow it)


Former dual-language student


Former dual-language student


So awesome!  I definitely feel like my success in this type of conversation comes from my  background in CI and TPRS!!!!!!! I still used questioning strategies (similar to circling and parking), and I was able to pull up images and resources from other lessons and units.  Having this background knowledge was invaluable.  I will definitely continue to experiment with untargeted language teaching as one of the many tools in my bag of CI strategies!!!!

6 thoughts on “Intentional Untargeted Teaching TAKE ONE!

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