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Teaching Foreign Languages K-12: A Library of Classroom Practices

Spanish: Food Facts and Stories Class Context

I think it’s important that we touch upon history, science, math, and all the other curricula in our Spanish class to show that these things are done in this language. In different countries that are Spanish-speaking countries, they do study science. They do study history. They study math. So do we. But when you put it in that kind of a context, the emphasis is not anymore on trying to acquire the language.

– John Pedini




Review of seventh-grade themes and grammar

El Ecuador: Talking on the Phone

  • Giving, accepting, and refusing invitations
  • Making suggestions

El Ecuador: Meals and Food

  • Ordering in a restaurant
  • Nutrition
  • Food in different cultures

Texas: Shopping

  • Clothing; Local shops
  • Art of bartering in an open market
  • Buying gifts; Giving opinions on purchases

Puerto Rico: Health

  • Mental health; Stress management; Feelings
  • Physical health; Visiting the doctor

Puerto Rico: Vacations

  • Past events
  • Making future plans

Final assessments and final projects for the full two-year course

School Profile

John Pedini teaches seventh- and eighth-grade French and Spanish at the Michael Driscoll School in Brookline, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. The school’s 400 students in grades K-8 are largely from the Washington Square community, a culturally diverse neighborhood with a large immigrant population. The school hosts Brookline’s Russian bilingual program, and all students in grades 1-6 study Mandarin Chinese. In the seventh grade, students can begin the two-year Spanish program — an equivalent of one year of high school Spanish. In the videotaped classroom, students had been speaking solely in Spanish during class since October of the eighth grade.

Lesson Design

The Driscoll foreign languages department determines their curricula using the Brookline Learning Expectations and the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks (see Resources). The Learning Expectations describes the topics and performance levels that students are expected to master at each grade level. For the Spanish program, the department also chose a textbook that addressed all of the themes they had selected and that supported their proficiency-based curriculum. When designing his lessons, Mr. Pedini customizes the curriculum to meet his students’ needs, and uses the book and ancillary materials to reinforce student learning.

The Lesson

The videotaped lesson was a culminating activity that got students actively involved with food and numbers vocabulary. One of the teaching methods that Mr. Pedini used was Total Physical Response Storytelling, in which he wrote an original, engaging, and age-appropriate story that built on his students’ previous vocabulary knowledge while introducing new words. To strengthen the activity, he used key elements of the TPRS formula in his story: an exaggerated narrative, a short list of new words, a repetition of key words, and three different scenarios. He also included opportunities for students to retell the story and to answer questions to demonstrate their comprehension.

Mr. Pedini began using TPRS after attending a workshop by Blaine Ray in September 2001. “I said, ‘Wow, this makes a lot of sense,'” recalls Mr. Pedini. “So, of course, I immediately went back and used it.” At another conference he attended, Mr. Pedini got the idea of using points to help motivate his students. He awards points to students based on their participation during activities, and takes away points if students speak in English. Students can then trade in their points at the end of the term to improve their grades.

Key Teaching Strategies

  • Acquiring Vocabulary Through Authentic Materials: The teacher uses documents from the target language to teach new vocabulary and to provide students with vocabulary practice.
  • Content-Based Instruction: The teacher promotes language acquisition and/or cultural knowledge through subject matter from a range of disciplines.
  • Providing Comprehensible Input: The teacher introduces language that is slightly beyond students’ current ability to understand and uses visuals, gestures, rephrasing, and/or props to establish meaning. The goal is for students to comprehend language through context.
  • Role-Playing: Role-playing is an activity in which students dramatize characters or pretend that they are in new locations or situations. It may or may not have a cultural element. This activity challenges students by having them use language in new contexts.

Series Directory

Teaching Foreign Languages K-12: A Library of Classroom Practices


Produced by WGBH Educational Foundation with the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. 2003. 2016.
  • Closed Captioning
  • ISBN: 1-57680-731-2