Skip to main content

The naughty little brother

December 13, 2015

I have a pile of lesson plans in my office that were all created using resources that other teachers, bloggers, and presenters have shared over the years. My intention is to track down the original creator for each one and ask permission to share what I did with their resources on this blog, but mostly the papers just sit there. Well, last week I was hit with a very short blast of motivation, and I tackled one of the plans!

When I first made the switch to TPRS® after visiting Michele Whaley's Russian class, I spent hours searching the Internet for story scripts and free resources that I could use in my classes. One search brought me to Jalen Waltman, who not only offers complete storytelling curricula for Spanish Levels 1 through FOUR (oh yes, a Level 4 curriculum! I couldn't believe it either!) and English Level 1, but also free, downloadable samples from each! Click here to visit Jalen's website, view her curricula, and subscribe to her teaching blog!

One of the resources that I found, used, and loved on Jalen's site was the story "El travieso hermano menor" (The naughty younger brother) from her Spanish 1B curriculum. The story is about a boy that has...go figure...a naughty younger brother that keeps pestering him. With sixth, seventh, and grade students at the time, I knew that my students would be able to connect to the story either in the role of the older sibling that was annoyed or the younger sibling that was doing the annoying! My suspicions were accurate: my students loved the storytelling unit! With Jalen's permission, I am sharing the resources that I created to supplement the story that I downloaded from her site. My hope is that you can use this to help you see how you, too, can take any story that you find online and turn it into a TPRS® unit!


First, I looked at the story and sorted vocabulary into three categories: (1) words that my students already know/cognates that they can identify without difficulty, (2) words that my students will need to learn in order to understand the reading, and (3) words that are footnoted/can be footnoted because they are not high frequency/super essential to the overall comprehension of the story and will not likely be used in subsequent units, so I don't care if students learn them. Carrie Toth has a great post about vocab sorting that I recommend reading HERE.

Although I didn't do it with this story (it was easy enough for my students to understand), you might want to "adapt" it for your students before you do the vocab sorting: look through it and re-word/re-phrase/simplify the reading so that it better fits with your students' body of knowledge and the direction of your instruction. If it is significantly advanced for your students, you could turn it into an embedded reading and tackle it in scaffolded layers.

After I identified the new vocabulary that my students would need to learn and understand in order to read the story successfully (six total), I wrote two story scripts. Each one targeted three of the story scripts, and in this case each script was a parallel story in some way to the final story that we were planning to read. (Story scripts used for pre-teaching vocabulary can be completely unrelated to the final story, but I didn't know that at the time. However, using a parallel story script is certainly an excellent way to support comprehension!)

Once I had the story scripts, I planned follow-up activities for each one. Well, realistically, I probably didn't plan these since at this point in my TPRS® teacher life I was flying by the seat of my I probably chose the activities after the story asking was already done and I needed to find something to do in class the next day...

I'd also like to say that I planned assessment/follow-up activities for the final story at the beginning of the planning process, as all good backward planners do, but that probably happened at the last minute, too. I knew that I wanted students to understand the final story and be able to respond to reading comprehension questions about it, of course, but I didn't want the culminating activity for the series of two TPRS® class stories and a reading to end with a reading assessment, so I created a few follow-up activities for the final story, as well.

Okay, okay, so what would planning have looked like for this unit in a dream world?

  1. Adapt the final story, if needed.
  2. Plan assessments for the unit: how will students demonstrate their comprehension of the story and the target structures, and what (if anything) will they need to do to demonstrate their comprehension of the story and acquisition of the target structures? Will they need to read, speak, listen to, and/or write something? What?
  3. Identify target structures that students will need to learn in order to be successful on the assessments.
  4. Plan stories and activities to help students acquire the target structures.

So here is what I came up with:

Click on the image to access the folder that includes all handouts and slides that I used in this unit

DAY ONE: Introduce vocabulary and ask TPRS® story "El hermano menor travieso"

  1. La Campanada (bell ringer): Responde en español: (1) ¿Quién es la persona más traviesa en tu familia? (Who is the naughtiest person in your family?) (2) ¿Qué actividades traviesas hace él/ella? (What naughty things does s/he do?) *give students the translation for travieso/a - naughty so that they understand these questions! The projectable slides that I use for the Campanada are in the slideshow included in the folder for this unit.
  2. Click on this link to access the first TPRS® script for the unit in Spanish and English. When you do, you'll see a list of "leading questions". At the time, I used leading questions as survey questions--in English--as "entry tickets" to class. So, as students came to the door, I asked them one of the leading questions and they needed to respond in order to enter. It is a great activation exercise to get students thinking about the ideas that you'll be working with in class, but I don't like that I typically did it in English. Now, I use personalized questions after I establish meaning for the new target structures, and we discuss them in the target language. Click here to read about how I design and use story scripts now. I used to introduce the target structures and ask the story in the same class period, but now that I do much more personalization of the structures through PQA and other hooks before we actually start story asking, this is probably a two-day process.

DAY TWO: Follow-up activities for the first TPRS® story

  1. La Campanada: Translate to English: «Mi hermana menor es traviesa. Ella grita y yo le digo, «¡Vete de aquí!» Ella sale corriendo de la casa.» (My younger sister is naughty. She yells and I say, "Get out of here!". She runs out of the house.)
  2. After we finished story asking, I had my students create a class storybook (because that was what we did after almost EVERY story at that point...I didn't know of many other activities to do!). Click here to read about how to create a class storybook, and click here to download the storybook that I typed out for one of the classes. I later printed the storybook and pasted student illustrations into it--you could print this storybook and have your class illustrate it to add to your class library!
  3. We read the class story together (I typed it up and projected it) to satisfy "TPRS® Step 3: Read".
  4. I did a basic sequencing activity with my students: I printed out a list of scrambled events from the story and had students number them in the correct order.
  5. I didn't do any additional follow-up activities for this story, but now that I am older and wiser and know that students need lots and lots of repetitions of target structures in order to acquire them deeply, I would have chosen at least one more story activity to get in more repetitions and allow students to use their higher order thinking (HOT--thanks Carol Gaab) skills.

DAY THREE: Introduce vocabulary and ask TPRS® story "El bebé travieso"

  1. La Campanada: Translate to Spanish: "My little brother is naughty. He sits on the cat and yells at my mom!"
  2. The second story script starts at the bottom of the first page of this scripts document  

DAY FOUR: Follow-up activities for the second TPRS® story

  1. La Campanada: Translate to Spanish: (1) Don’t be mean to your little brother; he is a baby! (2) My sister grabs the dog. (3) Carlos is angry and leaves his bedroom running.
  2. I honestly don't remember which activities I used for "El bebé travieso"; I probably had them make another storybook, although I don't have a finished copy. At the time, I also did a lot of running dictations, although I didn't add the twist of the illustration until several years later when Julia Stutzer came up with the idea! At some point, we would have read a typed version of the class story together.
  3. I do know that I gave students a dictation as a formative listening assessment to make sure that they were ready for the reading, which I counted as an assessment, tomorrow.

DAY FIVE: Read "El travieso hermano menor" by Jalen Waltman

  1. La Campanada: Translate to Spanish: "My little sister is naughty. She jumps on my bed while I am sleeping. I yell, “Get out of here!” and she runs out of the room."
  2. I gave students copies of Jalen Waltman's story, "El travieso hermano menor", and they read it individually and completed the comprehension activity (circling pictures of things that happened in the story and labeling them). Click here to download the story from Jalen's 1B curriculum and the comprehension activity that I designed for it.
  3. After collecting the papers, I projected the story and we read through it as a class. Whenever you do a choral reading, it is important to employ essential TPRS® skills like circling, checking for comprehension, personalizing, and popping up grammar.
  4. Then, I put students in small groups and had them complete several comprehension activities together. Click here to download the group activity that I designed for students to complete after reading "El travieso hermano menor".

And there you have it: that's one way to turn 'random' readings and other content that you find online into lesson plans. You could do a lot more with the story from here, but at the time I was just working through stories like a machine because I didn't know any different! To find more great lesson plan components and full lesson plans, check out the comments section in this recent post: readers shared some of their favorite, successful materials that they have found or created and posted online. Thank you SO MUCH to Jalen for posting the original story and for giving me permission to share what I did with it! Please check out the curricula that she has developed for Levels 1-4 and subscribe to her teaching blog!!

All files for this story (including projectable slides with bellringers and the reading) are in this folder.

Join our newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter and get instant access to 150+ free resources for language teachers.

Subscribe Today