Part IV: How I plan without a textbook; Comprehensible Input and Authentic Resources

This post is part of a series about how I plan without a textbook. The first part discusses how I decide what to teach, then how I decide on goals and finally assessments. Today, I will look how I plan a unit to include both comprehensible input and authentic resources.

I believe that as teachers read blog posts or participate in Facebook groups, it can appear that teachers pick a side: authentic resources OR comprehensible input readings/stories. That can be true (there are plenty of posts that indicate why people think one or the other are ineffective); however, I would add that MANY teachers teach with both. And I have seen some great lessons/units/plans that include both resources. It has also worked for me and my students.

First I want to explain why I use comprehensible input:

I have found that comprehensible input truly facilitates acquisition because students can understand so many words, and the sources are purposefully repetitive. You would be surprised what words resurface after your students are exposed to enough comprehensible input. (One recent example in my class was when a student used the word renunciar correctly after discussing the president of Bolivia stepping down.) Since I can also make the resource accessible to all students, we have been able to discuss everything from conservation to art to political ideas.

Also, let’s examine the positive benefits of authentic resources:

Students will run into various authentic resources while they are using the language in the future. Many times these resources include words that aren’t in a textbook but are actually used in every day speech. It can be used to acquire some vocabulary however, not as much as comprehensible input based on research. Also, at times, the easier resources might not be as compelling as some other topics that I want to discuss. But finally especially based on what I have been reading recently: these resources are not altered by teachers. There have been many discussions on Twitter and Facebook about whose voices are we highlighting. When I create a resource, it can be valuable for students’ acquisition, but it still edited by me, so my opinion and perspective will be overshadowing it. An authentic resource will represent culture in ways that I never can. This comes to how I see both comprehensible input and authentic resources:

Comprehensible input can be used to help students access authentic resources.

Therefore, this also decides how I plan my lessons. I start with comprehensible input and then move onto an authentic resource that reinforces the input that students have used. I continue to put my emphasis on comprehensible input and use 1-2 authentic resources. Below, I will detail how I plan, but if you are interested in examples to see how I have done it, I recommend:

For more of the nitty gritty, I start with whatever authentic resource I want my students to be able to access (a tv show, a commercial, a song, a reading) and pull out the important vocabulary words. If it is more of a unit, I will look at a series of authentic resources (to find the most appropriate one), but I will note the key words that I see consistently in these resources. This is important as I am developing the comprehensible input section.

From then, I turn the resource into a comprehensible story or explanation. I replace some of the key words (that I can) with cognates. I take out details that aren’t crucial to understanding the story, and I weave in the key words that I pulled out from the resource. Since those are new to my students, I try to find creative ways to repeat them as much as I can. I will also research a bit to include more information such as any information about the country that we are discussing.

I come up with a variety of ways to introduce the vocabulary that I chose. We might discuss questions about it. Students might draw pictures of the words. I like to have students use mini whiteboards to write and draw what I say. My upper level classes can use them in sentences- or even try out PearDeck vocabulary with a combination of sentences and drawings. We can also play Quizlet Live. In addition, students can play Crayon War. I like to build up to this, so I can describe the word instead of say it in English. Less frequently, I will have students translate sentences with the vocabulary words.

I will also make the authentic resource comprehensible. To do so, I typically make a Google slides presentation. This allows students to complete either a PearDeck or write their answers on a whiteboard. It also allows me to put in pictures and symbols on the slides to help students understand. I also like to embed videos and pictures throughout that also demonstrate parts of the story. As we go through the presentation, I also add both comprehension and extension questions. I will also ask personalized questions to recycle some of the vocabulary that is new and students will see in the resource.

I realize that some people like to circle throughout to get more repetitions. I will do a bit of that, but I have found most of my repetition through activities during and after. After I tell the story, I like to get more repetitions of it. For example, I will split up the sentences to match in Quizlet Live if we haven’t done that before. I also like Quizizz to review the answers as well. For non-tech options, I like to do a quick true/false sentences or turn it into a game with papelitos. Each pair of students is playing against each other with a sticky note. If the statement is true, the students grab the sticky note. The first student to grabs it earns one point. If the statement is false, the students leave the sticky note alone. If they don’t, their partner gets a point. Another fun no-tech activity is draw-write-pass. Students should start with sentences from the text. But really, any way that you would normally review a story would get more repetitions and be useful.

Once my students have practiced the vocabulary, seen the modified story and then have reviewed the story, they are ready for the authentic resource. You probably don’t need to do too much pre-reading or pre-listening activities, but it would be worth it to do a I see, I think, I wonder type activity with either any pictures from a reading or a scene or two from a video. You could also give them the title of the video or reading and have students make predictions about the reading/listening. For novice classes, give students sentences to predict if they are true or false before reading. (Then, they can read to determine if they are actually true or false.)

You then have to decide what to do with the authentic resource. For music videos, many times my students will just watch it, enjoy it and put together what parts make sense based on our original description. For reading or listening, students can answer typical interpretive reading questions: vocabulary identification, main idea and supporting ideas, comprehension questions and inference questions. This can also be turned into a game where students answer questions for points. In addition, students can match up parts of your original story to the resource. From there, they can expand on what else they understand or what new details there are. Students can also sort the facts into categories.

After this, I like to tie in either an interpersonal or presentational component into the authentic resource. Students can express their opinion, make connections to other topics or explain what surprised them. I typically provide sentence starters to help students form these statements, and they can also refer back to the story or resource for more language.

Whew! That was long! To make it a bit shorter, I will provide what the structure of lessons would look like without all of the options and discussion:

Let me know if you have any questions or ideas as to how I can extend it!


3 thoughts on “Part IV: How I plan without a textbook; Comprehensible Input and Authentic Resources

  1. Hello Maris,

    THANKS for everything you share in your blog. This blog and the other parts of this topic are VERY IMORTANT for me at this​ moment.

    This is my third-year teaching. Y decided this school year to abandon the textbook and dive into CI/TPRS and authres. In two weeks, I have a meeting with the other 7 teachers in my district because is time to change our old textbook (Así se dice). I am the only one not using the textbook and is for sure that our district wants to adopt one. I am a little anxious with this meeting. I would like a little bit of advice on how to have this conversation with colleagues.

    I am planning to present a budget with readers from Fluency Matters thinking that we can teach 2 novels per year and have our FVR on all classroom (I started my FVR program this year). Then I want to show the cost of adopting a new book. I do not have the numbers yet but for sure this will be cheaper.

    I will also suggest summer conferences and the online conference that is coming soon. I saw you last year and I will see you this year as well!

    I would like to know your opinion and how to manage this “textbook issue” with colleagues that teach in a traditional way.



    Mrs. Solarte.

    Spanish Teacher

    Coconino High School



    CHS strives to build upon the tradition on Panther Pride – A positive environment that honors yet unifies all cultures and work in partnership with parents and the greater community to encourage each student in his/her pursuit of academic excellence and to instill a lifelong enthusiasm for learning.


    1. I am so glad that my blog can help! (To be frank- sometimes I worry that my longer blog posts are too wordy for people!) I would encourage you to think about adding in the cost of the teacher’s manual as well. I think this can be the most daunting thing (not having much to guide you!) to leaving a textbook. Plus, every time I have used the Teacher’s Guides they are phenomenal. Then you could probably put together a list of units that are already available online for free. Luckily in Spanish there are so many shared (I have shared mine, as has Kara Jacobs, Carrie Toth, Allison Weinhold and Kristy Placido to name a few). I think the biggest fear is not having a guide that the text provides. If you can show a print-out of a curriculum that doesn’t rely on textbooks, that may help as well.

      I would also not be too discouraged if they want to adopt another textbook but allow you to do your own thing. That is a big step! I think I mentioned this in my other post- I was only one of three (and eventually four) teachers- out of seven in my school that didn’t use a textbook in the Spanish department. Some teachers continued to use the textbook.

      As you move forward, I would focus on the needs of the other members to find some common footing. Do they need a way to introduce vocabulary? Show how you do it with CI (maybe use the term or not!) Are students failing traditional assessments? Show them an IPA. That will help them (hopefully!) see a way to change the tide bit by bit. Let me know if you have any other questions and feel free to email me marisdemosthenes AT

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