Friday, November 30, 2012

Free Winter Activities from RLRA!

Happy Holidays from Real Language right away!

Three years ago, we offered you these free conversations to get your students talking before winter break.  This year, we decided to build on those and create some nice supplemental activities to go with the conversations.  We hope you will enjoy using them with your students!

Here are the links to the activities:
For the Spanish Conversation, click here and for Spanish Supplemental Activities, click here.
For the French Conversation, click here and for French Supplemental Activities, click here.

Here are some ideas for how to use the materials:
To begin, distribute the Winter Activities Partner Conversation to your students.  If you have a Smartboard or LCD projector, be sure to put it on the screen as well.  Model the conversation for your students and then have them practice it with their partners.  Remember to have them switch partners often, and give them rewards (high fives, stickers, etc.) for practicing well and even memorizing the conversation.  You may want to ask them to practice it a certain number of times.  Remember, you can bring in your own vocabulary—let the students brainstorm other things they like to do in the winter, and write other options on the board!

Next, do the Winter Activities “Find your Friend” mixer.  Copy this page enough times so that you have one card per student.  Give each student a card, and encourage them to mill around the classroom and have the conversation again, using the response given to them on the card.  Explain to students that when they find the person with the same card, they can sit down; they always enjoy being the first to find their match!  This is a great way to help students find new partners and keep mixing things up.

After the “Find your friend” activity, give your students the drawing and writing activity.  They will draw the activities that they want to do in winter and some that they do not want to do (you may want to give them some other ideas for this!) and then they will write a short paragraph describing their pictures.  Send this activity home with students so their parents can see what they are doing in French or Spanish class!

Once the students are very comfortable with the vocabulary, you can give them the simple matching quiz.  After so much practice, each student is likely to be very successful.  Put a fun stamp or sticker on their quiz if they do well; they will feel so good seeing the A+ on their paper! 

Bonnes fêtes !
¡Feliz Navidad! ¡Feliz Año Nuevo!
Elizabeth and Denise

Thursday, November 29, 2012

¡Más boletos!

Happy Winter to all of you from Real Language right away!  To celebrate this season, we thought we would provide you with some more boletos and billets.  To learn how to use these to keep your students speaking in the target language, make sure you read this post.  To access the winter activities boletos and billets, click on the images below.  Enjoy!


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Free Halloween Conversations and Supplemental Activities!

**Update** : we have moved our blog and a new and improved version of these activities are now available here.  They are also available in Mandarin Chinese!

Can you believe it’s already October?  Last year, we posted some free Halloween Conversations.  This year, we thought we would step it up a notch and give you some supplemental activities to go along with those conversations that will allow your students to move into a sense of ownership of the language.  While these activities and conversations are not published in our Real Language right away programs, they follow a similar format, and they will give you an idea of how the curriculum works.

So, first, the Halloween Partner Conversations, in French and Spanish.  (The links to all of the documents are at the end of this post!)  Model the conversation for your students and then have them practice it with their partners.  Remember to have them switch partners often, and give them rewards (high fives, stickers, etc.) for practicing well and even memorizing the conversation.  Remember, you can bring in your own vocabulary—perhaps your students are afraid of dogs, of homework, of their little sister—be creative in the way you present the language & encourage your students to be creative, too!

Next, the Halloween mixer.  Copy this page enough times so that you have one card per student.  Give each student a card, and encourage them to mill around the classroom and have the conversation again, using the response given to them on the card.  Have them switch cards and practice different vocabulary.  They will move toward spontaneous production of the language!

After you do the mixer, you can give your students the Crossword Puzzle to help them reinforce the vocabulary!

Finally, give your students the fun drawing and writing activity.  They will draw the things that they are afraid of and not afraid of, and then they will write a short paragraph about it.  Put them up around your classroom or school to show off your students’ work!

Here are the links to all of the documents-- Enjoy!!


Remember, if you would like to have access to similar activities, you can purchase our curriculum at

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Need a lesson for the first day of school?

We hope that you had a refreshing summer and that the beginning of the school year finds you energized and inspired to teach!  To that end, we thought we would share with you a free sample lesson from REAL FRENCH tout de suite Level II and REAL SPANISH ahora mismo Level II.  It would be a great activity for kicking off the school year and getting your students to speak right away!

Here are links to the PDFs that will allow you to do the activities :

French : Partner Conversation, Student Activity Book, Teacher's Guide.

Spanish : Partner Conversation, Student Activity Book, Teacher's Guide.

You may print them out and make copies for your students.  Remember, you should be able to do this entire lesson in the target language!

Here are some instructions :

Start with the Partner Conversation.  Model it for your students until they are very comfortable with the pronunciation.  Then, let them practice with their partner.  You can mill around the room and listen to different groups, aiding with pronunciation.  After a little while, have them switch partners.  You may want to have everyone stand up in two lines, facing one another, and then the students can cycle through and practice with many different partners.  Once students are comfortable, you may choose a pair to perform the conversation for the class.  If you need an idea for rewarding participation, please check out our post on boletos / billets.

Then move on to the activities in the Student Activity Book.  You will see that after the conversation there is a little written activity where students identify the months of the year.  Have the students complete it, and correct the activity together.  You might want to have a little impromptu discussion (in Spanish or French, of course!) of which month of the year each student prefers and why.  Next, you can move on to the second activity, where students ask each other the questions from the conversation.  Once they have had their discussion, you may want to ask the questions to individuals in the class to get to know them a little better.  You may also have the students practice asking you the questions (if you are shy about revealing your age, feel free to fib!).  The third activity is an oral presentation.  Give your students time to fill it out, and let them know that they will be responsible for memorizing and presenting it in a future class.  Give them some time to prepare and memorize it during class.

Finally, once the students feel very comfortable with the vocabulary and structures in the conversation, you can use the mixer from the Teacher's Guide.  Photocopy the mixer, and make sure you have enough copies to give one card to each student.  Cut them out, and distribute a card to each student.  Encourage the students mill around the room and talk to as many people as possible, asking and answering the questions from the conversation, taking on the identity of the person on their card.  Ring a bell, and have them switch cards with someone and repeat the activity.  Have them take a seat, and ask the questions again, finding out the name, age, and birthday month of the student's "persona."

During the next class, you may have the students practice the conversation and do the mixer once again.  You will also want to have them present their oral presentations, and you can use the simple rubric in the Teacher's Guide.

We hope that many of you will find this a useful sample lesson; we think you will enjoy seeing your students communicating so effectively in Spanish or French!  Please don't hesitate to contact us with any questions, and if you would like to receive future emails of this sort, you can sign up for our regular email list in the box at the top of our blog.

Have a great start to the school year!
- Elizabeth and Denise

Friday, August 17, 2012

Les billets / los boletos: your back-to-school gift!

Denise and I are gearing up for another school year, and to celebrate, we thought we would share a very useful tool with you-- billets or boletos are extra credit tickets that work wonders in our classrooms to keep students motivated and speaking in the target language.

The system is simple.  We print off many pages of billets at the beginning of each marking period and cut them out.  Whenever a student answers a question correctly, performs a dialogue in front of the class, or shows particular enthusiasm for learning a new language, we give him a billet.  It is also a great reward for winning a game, practicing a conversation especially well, or singing a song with enthusiasm.  We are extremely generous with our billets, and we find that students will do just about anything to earn one.  Once the student earns his billet, he writes his name on the back right away and stores it in an envelope in his folder.  (Also, to keep students from counterfeiting, we print the billets on the color printer or on colored paper.  Another trick is to photocopy them and stamp them with a rubber stamp.)

Students are responsible to keep track of the billets they earn, and at the end of the marking period, they turn them in.  Each billet is worth one fifth of a point, so they need five billets to earn one extra credit point on their grade.

This is an especially nice system because we also implement a strict "Liste d'anglais" system.  If a student is caught speaking English, his name goes on a list and he loses a point off his grade.  The generosity with which we distribute billets provides grace when we take points away, and students always know they have a chance to earn their points back if they accidentally speak English.

For those of you looking to increase your students' use of the target language or wanting to find a fresh way to motivate your students, please give this system a try!  The billets and boletos we have provided you reinforce the language in Conversation 1g of Real French tout de suite Level II or Real Spanish ahora mismo Level II.

If you would like a free copy of our French "billets," click here to download the file.

If you would like a free copy of our Spanish "boletos," click here to download the file.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Why use Real Language? Part Three : It’s accessible to everyone!

This is the last post of a three-part series about the benefits of implementing the Real Language right away program.  We have already discussed our students’ increased motivation and improved proficiency, but perhaps the most unexpected change we have seen is how Real Language right away has opened up successful language learning to learners of all types.

When I began teaching 8 years ago in our K-8 French program, the lower school program was focused on vocabulary and the middle school program was guided by grammar study.  When we evaluated the middle school students, quizzes often involved filling in the blank with the correct verb form or writing the adjective that agreed correctly with the noun.  Students who weren’t strong spellers weren’t strong French students, because the majority of evaluations involved correct spelling.

The result of this type of evaluation was that the weaker students sometimes fell through the cracks.  They did not feel successful, and sometimes they would decide early on that French just was not for them.

The variety of activities in the RLRA programs caters to many types of learners, and the Partner Conversations have strong visual and auditory components.  Many times, we bring in a kinesthetic aspect as we do charades or make up gestures for vocabulary.  The evaluations in the program are balanced, and students are assessed on many different aspects of language : grammar, writing, speaking, and listening. 

Something else that is much smoother now is integrating new students into our program.  For more on this, you can read more here.  RLRA allows language learning to be intuitive, and students can jump in easily at different points.

For those of you using the program, we hope you have had similar successes.  If so, you can always share your experiences with us at

Friday, June 1, 2012

Why use Real Language right away? Part Two : Students have Better Retention, Comprehension, and Production

In our last post, we discussed how our students’ confidence and motivation have grown since we have implemented the Real Language right away program.  A key factor of this improvement is that they actually have become more fluent; they feel freer using their French because they can understand and produce more of it!

Better Retention.
Our lower school program used to be a very focused on vocabulary.  Class time was often spent playing vocabulary games and asking students to recall vocabulary.  I remember standing at the front of the class with my set of flashcards, asking “Qu’est-ce que c’est?” over and over again.  Once we decided to present the vocabulary within a conversational context, we found that students retained it better than ever.  They had something meaningful to which they could attach the vocabulary, and they had interacted with it in a personal way.  Denise did a little test of our new method as we were developing it, having second grade students practice a conversation using transportation vocabulary for 20 minutes the first day, and giving the students a quiz over the vocabulary the next day.  Nearly everyone had a perfect quiz, and she could tell that the retention was much better.  It has come as a surprise to us that as we become less focused on vocabulary recall and more focused on useful structures, students retain vocabulary with greater ease!

Better Comprehension.
Keeping class in the target language is easier and easier as time goes on.  Because the Partner Conversations provide English translations for abstract expressions (bits of language that cannot be represented by an image), all the students are able to follow easily.  I remember doing my best to speak only in the target language knowing all the while that there were a significant number of students who were not following.  Because the students have a unifying curriculum, classes at any level have a common vocabulary.  I recently took a group of sixth graders to the Alliance Française in Chicago for a field trip.  The native speakers who were presenting the cooking and film workshops were astounded at our students’ ability to follow their presentations.  They were also struck by how accustomed to the immersion atmosphere our students were; it did not phase them when people addressed them in French.

Better Production.
In our middle school classes, we have a system for keeping the students in the target language.  We keep a “liste d’anglais” where if we hear English spoken, students’ names are written on the list, and they lose one point off of their grade.  This is counter-balanced by the fact that we are very generous with our little extra-credit tickets (“billets” worth 1/5 of a point).  There is a lot of grace in the system, and students have completely bought into it.  On our field trip, I gave everyone thirty participation points for the day, but if I heard them speak English, they lost two points.  The people at the Alliance Française were also very impressed that the students were continually talking to one another in French.  The reason that they are able to carry on a conversation all day long in French is because they have truly acquired the structures and vocabulary present in the Real French tout de suite conversations.  It is a joy to hear them pulling out fun expressions and vocabulary from the curriculum—they truly own it!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Why use Real Language right away? Part One : It will motivate your students to learn more.

Since Denise and I have been using the conversational model in our classrooms, we have seen a dramatic change in our students—especially in terms of their confidence and motivation.  This change has spurred them on to reach new levels of language competency, and it has increased overall student success.

We decided to take a step back and ask ourselves why these changes have occurred.  For this post, (the first in a series of three) we will focus on the question of motivation.  How has the Real Language right away program made our students more confident and eager to learn?  Here are a few reasons:

Students practice the language in a low-stress atmosphere.
Students practice with a partner, and they become increasingly comfortable using the language.  Everything they need to have a meaningful exchange is provided for them—compelling graphics, English translations, and a dialogue.  Students learn better when they are having fun and feel relaxed.

After much practice, students feel ownership of the language.
The situations are often funny and easily modified.  Once students are comfortable with the basic structures and expressions, they naturally begin to create and piece together what they want to say.  It doesn’t take long before we see them adding bits of language to their everyday speaking-- it's beautiful to see them spontaneously use new expressions and vocabulary!

Expectations are clear and reasonable; evaluations are focused.
The oral and written evaluations provided in the curriculum give the students a sense of satisfaction.  In Level I, the written evaluations focus on vocabulary recognition.  If the student can match up the image to the word, they have succeeded.  For a young elementary school student, there is no greater satisfaction than seeing an A+ on his or her paper—and nearly all of our students do.  We believe that the progression of the evaluations in our program mirror the process of learning a language, starting with recognition and moving on to production, in both oral and written forms.

It has been a joy to see the students grow in their language learning.  The positive reinforcement they receive builds in them a sense of accomplishment.  As their confidence develops, they increasingly believe that they are capable of learning the language and want to learn more!

Here's a little evidence of confidence and motivation with my 6th graders :

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Homeschooling with Real Language Right Away

We have several home school families using our materials, so we wanted to post some information about how homeschoolers can use our materials.  Here are some answers to key questions:

It’s a communicative method for teaching French and Spanish.  The foundation of the program is a series of partner conversations, so children encounter the language within a context.  No vocabulary is presented in isolation, and children are given everything they need to practice!  The conversations are meant to be a starting point for encountering the language, and the activities in the Student Activity Book and the Teacher’s Guide help the student move toward ownership of the language, so that those expressions, structures, and vocabulary can be used spontaneously.

How much French or Spanish do I need to know to teach with this curriculum?
Of course, knowing the language well is ideal, but your high school French or Spanish will suffice.  This may be a great chance for you to learn along with your children!  For those parents who are less confident in their pronunciation, the Audio CD can guide you and your children. 

At what age can I start the curriculum?
As soon as your child is comfortable reading in English, you can start teaching them French or Spanish with Real Language right away.  Level I is appropriate for beginners ages 6 through 9, and Level II works well with children ages 10 through 13.  If you are starting at age 10 or above, you can start with Level II.

What should homeschooling families purchase?
Your children will enjoy practicing the conversations from the color Partner Conversations book.  The Student Activity Book will give your children a chance to complete written activities that will reinforce the language.  The Teacher’s Guide will give you many supplemental activities, important information about how to use the program, and oral and written evaluations to track your child’s progress.  If you need help with pronunciation, the Audio CD will be a helpful tool.

Questions?  Feel free to comment here or email us at