Friday, December 30, 2016

Borrón y nueva cuenta Short reading about a famous saying in Spanish speaking



Borrón y Cuenta Nueva 

Borrón y cuenta nueva, is a common expression around this time of year. It is slowly emerging as my New Year’s Mantra.  As I started to sift through different posts on social media, I became very intrigued as to the origin of this frequently used expression. It made me think about the word Palimpsest that I had learned in graduate school while studying the Chronicles of Columbus. Since Spanish was not Columbus’ first language, Bartolomé de las Casas, transcribed and rewrote 75% Columbus’ journals. The process was compared to a Roman Palimpsest as Columbus' observations were superimposed by those of the Spanish Priest. 
          For the first day back to school after Holiday break,  all my classes will be engaging in some form of  "Borrón y cuenta nueva" goal setting activity. 
This past year, our staff engaged in a considerable amount of PD on resilience, so why not allow it to take root in the language class. I have created two activities below to get my students (and hopefully yours) on the road to starting the year off strategically, thoughtfully and with a bit of cultural context.  The goal setting activities have the aim of making students mindful of their goals, setting objectives that will, Ojalá, guide them through the year. It also serves as an authentic real world activity in where they will use language in a dynamic and goal-oriented way. 

There are two activities below to guide your mindfulness practice. 
  • The first activity is for Spanish 3 and beyond. I am using it for my Spanish 4 students. 
  • The second activity is for Spanish 1, it is totally comprehensible and doable. 

New Year Mindfulness Activity: Spanish 3 and beyond activity (Activity extends well beyond the New Year)




Borrón y Cuenta Nueva for Spanish 3 and beyond. This activity features a 3 -page reading (14 font sized and 1.5 spaced for easy reading) 

Themes included in the text (reading)
Setting New Years’ Goals 
Reference to the 12 grapes tradition 
Short history on the origin of the expression (and its relevance to today)
Statistics on why people don’t stick with their goal (discussion engendering) 
Smart Goals and how to create them
Goal setting worksheet 
Comprehension questions for text (discussion as well)
Footnotes for unfamiliar vocabulary to facilitate reading

Age-appropriate text highlighting the following: 

Language structures: Preterit, Imperfect, some imperfect subjunctive

Vocabulary: Nochevieja, Tradición, Metas, Planificar, Estadísticas etc.  


New Year Culturally Mindful Goal-setting  Activity: Spanish 1 & 2 
Borrón y Cuenta Nueva for Spanish 1 & 2 

Themes included in the reading:
Setting New Years’ Goals 
Short history on the origin of the expression (very comprehensible)  
Smart Goals and how to create them (scaffolded and scaled down)
Goal setting worksheet (samples and structures included) 

Comprehension questions for text (in Spanish and English)
Age-appropriate text highlighting the following: 

Language structures: Tenían (this structured is used to convey most of the information regarding scribes), tener que, -ar, -er and -er verbs. querer+ infinitive, Tener+ infinitive   

Vocabulary: Nochevieja, Tradición, Metas, etc.  

Click here for Spanish 1 & 2 Borrón y cuenta nueva Goal setting activity.

Using Idioms to Gauge Understanding in the World Language Classroom 

        I am a huge fan of idioms. If you have read any of my short stories, El Muerto en el Armario (Spanish 3 and beyond) or La Clase de Confesiones for Spanish 1, you will notice that I squeeze in those lovely yet impactful idioms and the students love them. In La Clase de Confesiones, the teacher in the story said repeatedly << más te vale>> and guess what? They used it so much afterward (along with Patán and Mosquita Muerta).  This New Year, I have decided to incorporate three basic native expressions for students to communicate to me their level of comfort with the material. 


1. Es pan comido- It totally get it!

2. Poco a poco- I am getting it little by little/ slow down

 3. ¡No entiendo ni papa! - I am totally lost or like they say in Colombia- Está más perdido que el hijo de Limbergh. 


A five finger system would probably be more efficient, but I am thinking about the culture and level of discourse when students internalized these expressions. If you have a recommendation for number #2, please let me know. 

Organizing

Scenario 1 (see scenario 2 below). 

S: Mrs. Q, I turned in my homework, but I have a zero in the Gradebook (this kid, knows he did not turn it in). 



My old routine in response to the scenario: 
I look and am suddenly overwhelmed by a sea of white papers divided into sections. I cannot find his section because they all look alike. The bell rings, he needs a pass, the next class is coming in, “what are we doing today?” one student asks. Now I am flustered and have lost valuable time. I may have mala leche with this upcoming class. 


This continues to be a huge problem for me. I just want to sit, write, create and teach. But that is not possible because it is always the little foxes that ruin the vineyard, case, and point, my whole day could be thwart due to not having things nicely organized- I know I am preaching to the choir and maybe even a few priest here! 

 Long gone are the days with when schools hired teacher helpers- at least in the city-cash-strapped school districts, like mine. Contemplating pilas de trabajo day after day urge me to hacer de tripas, corazón.   I took action. I created a color-coded grading system. It is a very simple system, but for hyper-visual people like myself, it works like relojería Alemana. 

Specs: 
I teach five sections of Español (or Castellano if you live in Argentina or Spain) 
2 sections of Spanish 1 
3 sections of Spanish 4 (ayúdame)

Making Grading Visible 
-I cut up half sheets of different color card stock paper (this lasts longer). 
-I assigned a color to a class: Green- 1st period, Red 2nd period, etc. 
-I wrote “Graded” on one side of the paper and “Collected” on the other side (this makes it easy to flip)
-I purchased  4 trays: 2 trays for Spanish 1 and 2 trays for Spanish 4 (forgot the Tax Exempt for again!).
- divided the trays into-"Pass Back" and "To be Graded/Collected." 

Case revisited: 

S: Mrs. Q, I turned in my homework, but I have a zero in the Gradebook (this kid, knows he did not turn it in). 

I look at my board (I have all the colors with the class periods posted). Then I walk over to my trays as the second class is coming in. 

T: Oh, here is your class. I look through and do not see the paper. 

S: Oh, I thought I turned it in. 

T: No, all the papers are here. I have not graded them yet, do you see that big green sign? That is the color for your class. It's all here!

S: I think it’s at home, did you even put the HM on Google Classroom? (last ditch effort, you got to give this kid some credit).

T: Yes, I did! Half credit buddy!

I can now breath! If you have a better system, comment below!



My next task is to go “all minimalist” on the file cabinets.  This book just came in the mail!




Wednesday, December 21, 2016

New Year Tradition in Colombia and Venezuela



New Year Celebrations in Spanish-Speaking Countries




This year, my goal is to better immerse my students in the traditions and celebrations of the rich cultures of Spanish speaking countries. I say "cultures" to honor the wide range of traditions from Latin America, Spain and Spanish Africa.  We are a few days out until Winter Break and these activities were an attempt to bring in meaningful, comprehensible and fun activities. I have outlined my lessons plans below at the end of this post.  

For both classes, I will be doing the "Maleta" activity. I have seen this ritual in action and it's pretty fun. My husband is from Colombia and last year, at the brink of the New year, many people were running around Cedritos, the neighborhood in which his family lives in Bogotá, the capital.  The activity is pretty simple; you take an empty suitcase (although I would pack it with clothes) and you run around the block. Running about the back is called "dar una vuelta a la manzana." You do this in hopes that you will travel the following year.  ¡Me encanta!



For my Spanish 1 students, they will read the blurb about the tradition and then use the construction "querer" ir "or "quiero ir, quiero visitar" to say where they would like to go. 

Examples: 
Yo quiero viajar a Australia. 
Yo quiero ir a Panamá. 

We just finished reading a short story La clase de confesiones, where many of these verbs were emphasized, so they should have a good handle on them. Even if your students are not familiar with this construction, they could use it for this activity. 


New Year Celebrations in Spanish-Speaking Countries- Upper grades 

For my Spanish IV class, I am basically implementing the same activity, however with a twist. Students will use the imperfect subjunctive and the conditional to say where they'd like to travel, if they could. 

Dando la vuelta por la manzana... en la escuela. 
The last part of the "Maleta" activity will be actually going around the block... or the pasillo.  I am actually going to take my students to the hallway in our school for us to walk around a few times. This will be a good activity for them and also for our school community. 




With my upper grades, we will to the Maleta activity and the Monigotes- ridding- ourselves- of- bad habits- activity. See my previous post about the Monigotes. Instead of burning them... we'll just snowball them into the garbage. 
I am actually looking forward to work these next few days. 




Free Reading Card 

To accommodate for all the traditions and celebrations, I am having my students do Free Reading of holiday celebrations. I am printing out some articles I got from MaryGlasgow- we have a subscription (there are also some good ones on TPT). 

Students will use this "Tarjeta Bibliotecaria" that I created for quick reads. 

Please share your holiday lesson plans!

Check our more celebrations below!
Interesting article


New Year's Borrón y cuenta nueva short reading and goal setting activity

New Year's Borrón y cuenta short reading and goal setting activity (Spanish 1/2)


New Year's Borrón y cuenta short reading and goal setting activity (Spanish 3-5)












Check out other curriculum resources below: 

Click here: http://bit.ly/2pzd1SZ

Check out my TPT Store activities, informational historical texts, and video activities for class 

Click here: http://bit.ly/2pAnP33

Monday, December 19, 2016

Las tradiciones de habla hispana- Activities for Spanish 1-4


This is our last week before break and I wanted to share some short but sweet activities for teaching holiday celebrations at this time.

Resource for Spanish 3 and beyond.
Navidad Hispana and Lotería resource- Spanish 3/4

Resource for Spanish 1
Navidad Hispana and Lotería Short film

The Navidad Hispana resource is by Sergi Martin, the video link is included in the documents. Click here to see the video.  I stumbled upon it this past week and quickly developed some activities that my students could connect to in addition to providing them with an overview of important cultural practices. The video is 14 minutes long,  but I only created resources for the first three minutes.  In an attempt to streamline,  the activity has the same formatting but is differentiated to suit the different levels of students.

Celebraciones de América Latina Videos and resources.

Resource for Spanish 3 and beyond.
Navidad Hispana and Lotería resource- Spanish 3/4 

Resource for Spanish 1
Navidad Hispana and Lotería Short film 




Activity 2: Short Film about "La Loteria Española" (3 minutes)

Anuncio de la lotería

for Spanish 3 and beyond.
Navidad Hispana and Lotería resource- Spanish 3/4 

Resource for Spanish 1
Navidad Hispana and Lotería Short film 

This film is very heart-warming. The Abuela, has dementia (at least that is what it seems like) and thinks she has won the lottery. Her family and townspeople go along with the script to make her happy. In my view, this film shows how we must engage sometimes in "La Bella Mentira" to preserve the dignity of others.  If you do this activity for Spanish 1, you will see a question about La Bella Mentira. They just finished the short story, La clase de confesiones, around that topic (hence the question at the lower level).


¡Más Recursos!

El Regalo: Short Film (2 minutes)
El regalo cortometraje

This video is super short about a granddaughter giving a gift to her grandfather. The vocabulary for the Navidad Hispana and La Lotería Spanish 1 activity dovetails perfectly.


Los Monigotes
I love this activity, we do it every year. We watch videos, discuss the traditions and then students engage in a New Year/ Leaving Monigotes behind. Click here for the video.

Click here for the PPT 
Click here for the New Year Activity

Click here for the New Year activity








Thursday, December 1, 2016

Internado Episodio 4:10 Freebies- Edición Escándalo- Gossip Column



5 Activities for processing chapter 4 of El Internado 

Chapter 4 of El Internado is one of the craziest and most scandalous in the fist suite of episodes. We learn the deeper secrets about the characters. We learn about el descaro de Elsa, la conflictividad sentimental de Carolina and, well, a fin de cuentas, somos de barro y no de hierro, en otras palabras, Iván as feelings too.

I created these resources for my students (free to you) because I wanted to capitalize on four things, hence this post: Discouraging students from speaking in English, Keeping them accountable for what they watch, Writing a Gossip Column about events, but with their own unique twists, reviewing by way of dialogue (I created a dialogue of two students talking about the steamy Internado episode). I found the dialogue to be a much better way of reviewing! 

1. I was so irritated that students kept talking in English during the episode, so I gave them this 
Expressions placemat sheet."  It can be used with any episode. As I listened to them shout out in class, I jotted down some useful expressions they could integrate naturally. I am old-school, so I had a clipboard taking notes, giving a point or two to those who used them. They all did at the end! 


Students had to use these, instead of English, while watching. It was pretty fun and it kept them in the language.

2. Accountability sheet. Every 15 minutes (90-minute class sessions) I'd stop and they would do the following:

1. Record new words
2. Write about something they liked, or did not like using " me choca que + subjunctive and me preocupa que+ subjunctive
3. Something  "Escandaloso"... plent there.

The accountability sheet helped them to contextualize and understand more deeply this awesome and regarded part of speech. I thought they were more motivated to engage in discussion.  

3. Students wrote a Gossip Column (in pairs)  using the words highlighted below in the Quizlet link. They could take any event that happened at El Internado and expand on it. It was more like Enquirer style writing.  They had the liciencia artística to do so.  Instructions, rubric and example are all included.
















4.  I also had so many students missing from class when we saw the first part of the episode (election trauma), so I created this dialogue sprinkled with expressions such as Ni te cuento, ect (and questions) between two students talking about what happened. The dialogue uses vocabulary from our unit.  This could be a good review, especially if you are watching every other week.



Vocabulary from unit  (I am sharing this por si acaso, eh) 











Previous Post on El Internado (Chapter 2)


Reading Passage and Grammar Activity: Killing Two Birds with One Stone! 

This month in my Spanish IV class we are exploring the Relationships. I deviated from my usual Art unit a bit since we started El Internado in the beginning of the year. Turns out that the next few episodes of the Spanish series (Mar de plástico is by the same creator) are centered on relationships. What a juicy coincidence that my students get to discuss relationships and to see some of those complications play out on screen with their most adored characters.

Reading passage for El Internado and Subjunctive Activity 


So I have been trying to incorporate more reading that would have the dual function of highlighting the nuances of language while promoting interest. I created this synopsis, marrying the two that sheds light on the complicated world of relationships, expresses how we feel about relationships (subjunctive) in the midst of a high-interest context (El Internado).

Click here for the synopsis and five activities

Here is how you can implement this free resource:

1. Invite students read the one-page summary.
2. Activity 1: Ask them to reread and highlight the subjunctive tense. 
3. Activity 2: Write the sentences with the subjunctive and determine which function of WEIRDOS is being applied.  
4. Activity 3: Respond to subjunctive triggering questions. 
5. Activity 4: Use subjunctive sentence stems in order to write about the characters.
6. Activity 5: Respond to general questions about the episode.

Every year that I have used this series, I have a slightly different focus. This resource fits right into the unit we are doing on relationships.   Since this time around we are discussing what is the key to a good relationship in addition to complications that may arise, this episode of the Internado was perfect.


How to increase input, output and "enchular" tu clase de Español!

I am a true Telenovelera y de pura cepa. Despite having a packed schedule and busy life like most of my fellow soldiers out in the  trenches of academia, I still make time for my most beloved pastime- Telenovelas. While washing dishes or preparing meals, I have my iPad tuned to Netflix where I have access to the vast array of drama-land. Consistent with the Comprehensible Input theory, I realized that watching these 40 minute drama-drenched conundrums my vocabulary had improved both dramatically and incidentally. I learned a host of new expressions from other countries and now I am "weird" one speaking at home (Spanish is my second language but my husband's family is from Colombia).  I often have slip ups of rarely used word and phrases and I am puzzled as to "where did that come from". So, this got me to thinking more seriously about the relationship between the use of media and one's receptive and productive vocabularies. Furthermore, if these content rich series have produced this native-like outpouring of language in my own life, couldn't the result be same for my students?   I put this theory to the test!

Everyone is watching El Internado and so should you!

Every one is watching the Internado nowadays. If you are not, then you should be! The boarding school series laced with drama was hook, line and sinker for my Spanish 4s this past year. I actually stumbled upon it on Pinterest and decided to check it out the summer before presenting and then- I was hopelessly hooked. I was going to bed thinking "Pobrecitos, que serán de Marcos y su hermana." This series had me on the edge.  I started showing it in class, having given students a peep at the Gran Hotel the semester before. They were immediately enamored with the plot and its Ronan like twists and turns. However, I did not know quite what to do with this.  I swam in the vast ocean of the internet and found some very promising blogs. To my surprise, there where other Internado life forms out in the blogosphere. I'd like to share a few blogs I consulted and then one way in which I have totally absorb this new resource into my curriculum.

The Internado Specialist 
My Generation of Polygots a fellow educator, Mike Peto, has spent quite a lot of time crafting activities the first season of the Internado. The vocabulary along with other worthwhile activities can be found on TeacherPayTeachers.  Although the bundle is approximately $7. It is totally worth it for the first episode as it sets the tone and primes students to engaging in this cultural phenomena. Click here to see his product.  He has up to season 4. Interested in Mike's insights about the series, you can also click here for his blog.

 *Please note that  I will be uploading more bits and pieces throughout the year. The bulk of the content created really came later in the year once I realized its potential. I am still formatting (to make if better for you) the vocabulary lists, expressions list, PPT and dynamic Chat Stations that revolutionize my class and my relationship with my students.

Internado- This Is How I roll 
So to fully integrate the Internado into my class, I made sure to align the episode with our thematic lessons and grammar focus for the unit.  Here is the run down:

1. First I show them this PPT of the main characters. We talk about where they live and the students make predictions of that they think the show is going to be about. I got this PPT online at some point, but cannot remember where. Since I start in the beginning of the year, this is a pivotal time to lightly review descriptive adjectives and all of the indicative tenses. There is a lot here you can do in the first viewing of the characters:

- Compare and contrast the groups of friends with your group
-Compare and contrast the school setting with yours
-Judge a book by its cover- based on the character's appearance determine a list of personality traits.
Reparto del Internado

2. Then I pass out this Character Grid for watching the Trailer. It has the main reparto of characters. I cooked up really quickly before one of my classes. As students watch they have to make annotations about the relationships between the characters. They use this as we view the trailer. Click here for the Internado trailer.
Character grid. 

After whetting their appetites with the  Internado trailer, I have them get into small groups and discuss the questions below:

Few ideas to do with the questions: 

  • Students can respond individually and then get into groups 
  • Place questions throughout the class and have students walk around. When the music stops they have to sit and speak with a partner. 
  • Chat Stations- I got this idea in general from the Cult of Pedagogy.  I type out the questions 1 by 1 in 70 size font. I print those copies and then each one is taped to a  8X16 piece of construction paper and spread throughout the room. 
  • Power Point- I also just enlarge the questions and flip through the PPT. They can move around or sit in a group and discuss. At the end, I also cut the questions (regular size additional copy) into strips and then these are exit tickets. Each student has a different question. 

Internado Preliminary Questions 
1. ¿Te gustaría vivir en un Internado?  

2. ¿Cuáles son las ventajas y desventajas de vivir en un Internado?  ¿Para los estudiantes? ¿Para los profesores?


3. ¿Cómo serían las relaciones entre los estudiantes y profesores?


4. ¿Por qué crees que los padres ponen sus hijos en Internados? ¿Crees que son familias con medios o personas de clase media?  


5. ¿Cómo serían las relaciones entre los estudiantes?


6. ¿Por qué crees que los Internados están muy apartados de la sociedad?


7. ¿Cuáles son algunas situaciones locas que podrían pasar en Internado que no podría pasar en una escuela regular?


8. Las drogas hoy en día es un gran problema en las preparatorias y las universidades. ¿Crees que este problema sería más controlado en un Internado?


Critical Thinking and Making Predictions 
Questions and those similar to these get students to think about implications of attending a boarding school and prepare them for the input.

 I'd love to have a whole year dedicated to watching and analyzing El Internado as the content definitively stretches. One of the most important things I do is to bend its content to fit with our thematic unit. This makes watching a movie fun but still feels like school. It also helps them to make connections.  During the first viewing, we were working on our Las Relaciones unit so naturally, the first two episodes centered on Relaciones.  We used the content of the Internado to:

1. Describe relationships and people
2. Discuss love and relationships
3. Jealousy (Ivan and Marcos)

The grammar point emphasized throughout this unit was the present subjunctive so many of the questions and how they engaged gave them an opportunity to use this language function. This function was a good fit.  I created this contextualized activity for chapter 2.

Part of the chapter 2 activity

Students use the subjunctive to describe how everyone wants life to be.
The use impersonal phrases as well. 

 Students used the questions in groups. Although the activity is in the form of a worksheet, I usually write the questions in big form, spread them throughout the room and students engage in a 1 minute speed dating activity. This last class I had loved it. They could not wait to get to the Internado. In fact, I had one student who had missed a unit assessment. The only day she could take it was the day we'd watch El Internado and she decided to come after school. She said "There is no way I am missing the Internado."

Check out the series. It is available on Netflix. Until we meet again!





 More to come- stay tuned!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Diversity and the politics of Identity- Last of a four part Identity series for Spanish 4



 The Politics of Identity 

This week the plan was to engage in a topic that has been sweeping the country and framing many political debates: the fluidity and diversity of identity. At my school, this has been a very heavy topic. We have been knee- deep in discussion about identity for this unit and this was our last week.  Students have learned from each other about their respective identity and the pluralistic ways in which they express who they are.  In addition, our school district crafted a new policy on All Gender bathrooms, so this unit, at this juncture was very timely, to say the least.   Although we did not get the activities below, (my summative assessment was the speaking task at the end of this post), I have outlined how to implement the last segment with your students. 

The last leg of the unit on identity consists on watching two videos that discuss La Ley de la Identidad and reading the text: Los Chicos Trangénero (please note that "transgénero" was singular in most of the articles I referenced regardless of the noun being plural).

Check out my store for free resources related to this unit at my Teacherspayteachers store. Activities tailored to the videos as well as a modified, slightly re-written piece (for my students) are all part this 45 -page Identity Unit.  



Ideas on how to implement this in class: 

Small group discussion
 Prior to watching the videos and supporting resources, these anticipatory question could potential prime students' thinking. 



1. What does La Ley de La Identidad mean? 

2. Who is the intended audience for this law? 

3. Who would it affect? 

4. What social issues would call for a law of this nature? 



After responding to the questions, students could watch the video of the Argentine Identity Law newscast. This video captures different voices and opinions on La Ley de la Identidad. 


After watching the video of the newscast, students could view this second video resource put together by the Transgender community. This video discusses the personal impact of the law on their lives.  No matter what side of the debate you are on, the video is very impactful and highlights how this community feels marginalized. Students could watch the video and complete related activities such as: 




  • Writing definitions/ their take and/ or opinion on some of the words used in the video
  • Respond to personal questions about related to the video. For example, one of the men in the video (not all people are from the Transgender community) says the following:  Las costumbres son difíciles de romper." Students could discuss what this means and give examples of other "costumbres"  propia de nuestra cultura" that are difficult to part with.  
Video activies are part of the Teen Identity Unit 





Six-years-old and Transgender 


The last of the activities was an article about Transgender kids in Argentina. La Ley de Identidad Case that took place several years ago in Argentina. The text talks briefly about the decision of parents to allow their 6 year -old boys to change their identity. Last year we did this text while studying the past subjunctive, so much I modified much of the text (added some other details) in order to exploit that language function.  Student read the text, divide into groups and debate one of the three questions below: 










Speaking Assessment 

Click here for the free resource: Speaking Task Questions

The speaking assessment draws on the videos and texts we explored through the entire unit. Check out the first three posts at the bottom of this page for those links. 

I gave students the list of questions beforehand.  On their sheet, they had three categories of questions. The students had to choose one question from each category; then I choose one additional question. During the interview, I sometimes asked them an extension question on one of their choosing. 


I thought this choice motivated them significantly. I noticed that most of them were very prepared for the task. If I had to do this again, I would give them a voice as well; I would enlist some of the questions they thought should have appeared on the assessment. I did this last year for my Art Unit, and it went pretty well. In fact, students generated better questions in some instances.  Although this is the end of our unit, I am sure may of the elements touched on in this unit such as digital identity and cultural identity will resurface in my Frida and Technology Unit. Although I did not get to use the Transgender Debate pieces, I am planning on recycling them for my Global Issues unit. 

Comments and resources

Please note that the author names are pseudonyms in the Identity Unit Text. The articles referenced in all texts are listed on the last page).


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

100% in the Target Language?



¡Auxilio! 

Teaching 100% in the TL? 



This year I am struggling with staying 100 % in the target language. Although I slow down and try as much as possible to make the input comprehensible, I still hear students asking- what did she say?  Many students are still shy to ask questions, they want to look "cool" in front of their peers. Many times I just feeling like tirando la toalla and just giving them simple instructions in English. However, I am manteniendo la calma; I don't know for how much longer. I have thought about stopping and making it mandatory for them to ask me questions, but I have doubts about this method as well. How much of class is directed in the target langauge?   


Teaching Grammar?

My other question concerns teaching grammar and providing instructions for projects.  I rarely teach grammar, but when I do mini lessons or give them "flipped" homework, they come to class with questions about the grammar. I struggle with should I stick in the target language or do I provide instructions in clear English? The problem with the former is that I think that it provides a heavier cognitive burden and now the brain has to work overtime to overcome a language barrier in order to get their question answered. I see so many blogs and people discussing 100% usage of the target language, but I am questioning its utility in some cases.

I had originally written this blog post after a rough day at school. I had a girl ditch class that day because she claimed she does not understand what I am saying. This was disheartening.  I had many students looking confused and I was just at my wit's end. I felt that there was something that I should be doing as a teacher to facilitate comprehension. I called my friend Sonja. She is a CI teacher from the Chicagoland area. She illuminated me. She gave me some real brass-tacks advice on how to use the target language appropriately in the class. One of the simple techniques she recommended was writing structures in addition to words in English on the board and then referring to them throughout the class in in the TL. I implemented the very next day in Spanish class to much success. 


What are some techniques you use to facilitate comprehension in the TL?