Level Two Spanish Results: First Picture Description

Spanish 2 has been running for three weeks.  We have read a couple of easy novels, and have done one story cycle: el restaurante, which included reading, storyasking, Movietalk (Mr Bean videos RULE!) and Picturetalk.

Today’s first writing assessment: describe this photo.

Here are four writing samples.  The kids had 5 minutes, no notes or dictionaries.

First, Janelle, the top student. Amazing how she mixes past and present appropriately.


Next, we can compare two Level Two students who are not top performers. Hassan went to another school last year, where he had traditional grammar-and-textbook-based teaching.  This is garbled and nonsensical.  Hasan has some learning challenges and struggles in other classes.

Next, Abbas, who like Hassan has some challenges and struggles with school.  This is not awesome…but we understand, and he has built in a bit of a backstory.  Abbas had only TPRS in Level One.

Based on results, C.I. clearly helps the challenged kids more than does a traditional text.

Finally, Amneet.  This is not very good writing.  What is interesting here is that Amneet is probably the best speaker in the class.  I have found this kind of thing typical:  while most of the kids can undertsand everything (the scores for reading and listening quizzes are all between 80-100%), production skills vary dramatically from kid to kid and medium to medium.  Writers are not necessarily speakers, and vice-versa.

Amneet arrived late in Spanish 2, has missed a bunch of classes, but did well last year (over 80%) so I am expecting her written output will pick up.



  1. Chris, Thanks for showing the wide range of output your students are producing. It is so important to keep showing over and over that while CI really does improve their proficiency, that individual results will vary, that students will acquire language at different rates. Striving for perfection is what pushes teachers to go back and include more grammar and help the students out with direction instruction rather than giving them more CI. Very cool stuff to see!

  2. Chris,
    How do you decide on a picture to choose and what is your process for finding that? I know this should be obvious but I actually feel kind of lost. Let’s say your story is gatos azules. What would be your process for finding a picture that they would describe for that? How would you choose a picture talk photo for that as well? Would I pick a blue cat photo? Would I just grab a photo from the internet of someone doing something and expect them to describe that person? I understand the process in the sense they need to see and describe a photo that ties to the unit and that they can use the Target Structures with but I don’t know how you choose that photo I guess.

    1. Hey Russ–

      I just google a picture that is fairly simple, and has the “stuff” from the story in it. If you google “blue cat(s)” you will find a few pics. These could also be of other colours (if you have taught the colours). Could be a photo or a drawing or even clip art. I do Picturetalk (and Movietalk) a few times during the story cycle, so the kids will have heard a zillion reps of the vocab I want them to use.

      I tell them a few things re: discribing the picture:

      1. Use present tense (“the cat is…the girl has…the cat wants…” etc). This is because (in my class) we use fully unsheltered grammar from Day 1. Stories are narrated in past tense, and most (but not all) PQA is in present tense. I want them to see & hear loads of lang in whatever verb tenses are situationally appropriate.

      2. You must describe what is actually *in* the pic factually. E.g. if there is a boy, you have to say something like “there is a boy” or “there is no girl.” You can’t make up things that contraditc what is visually present in the pic.

      3. Things that are not obvious, you can make up e.g. name, age, location etc.

      4. No English. If you don’t knwo the word(s), figure out another way to say it.

      OK I hope that helps.


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