Season 3, Episode 10: Activities for Stories with Carrie Toth

Welcome to Inspired Proficiency and thank you for joining us for the final episode of season 3, episode 10. As always, please tweet any takeaways and inspirations to #inspiredproficiency.

Download the episode here: or listen and subscribe on Apple Podcasts here or find it wherever you listen to podcasts!

Ashley has TONS of awesome opportunities for PD this summer in MA if you’re interested register here! See Ashley at MAFLA and ACTFL this fall.


Carrie was nominated by listeners as someone they want to hear from to learn HOW she juggles it all. Carrie teaches levels 2-4 full time in southern IL, authors books for Fluency Matters, and works for Señor Wooly. She is successful in juggling many tasks because she adds new things to do gradually and not all at once. She is working in her 25th year of teaching in the classroom and year 12 of not using a textbook. Carrie is a curriculum developer for Señ and is also involved at her local and state level when it comes to foreign language advocacy and instruction.

Her classroom is proficiency based so she does not bring home workbook pages, homework, or quizzes to grade. She uses her proficiency based rubrics to rate student’s proficiency levels in the classroom and there’s no need to bring home other types of assignments.

Carrie is lucky to have a family life that allows her so much time to work outside of her full time job. Her family likes to watch TV and she does not so she can work while they are enjoying themselves. Her family also likes to sleep late on the weekends and she has never been one to do that so she can get even more work done on the weekends without missing any quality time with her family. Her children are also older.

What is Wooly Week and what are some activities you can share for all teachers?

Wooly Week began as a way to appreciate teachers who are using Wooly videos already by giving them premade lessons designed around the videos. It gives teachers a great way to tell stories with great language and great music. Wooly Week morphed into a way to help teachers get the most out of the videos, stories, and lyrics to guide them towards acquisition. Teachers were provided professional development via video tutorials and premade lesson plans to help teachers see all of the ways that Wooly can be used in the classroom. It was very powerful for teachers to be able to see videos of teachers and students completing the activities in a real classroom. The activities were versatile and can be used again and again with other songs, stories, and whatever you’re doing in your classroom.

Activities to share

  1. Quiplash- listening/input based activity
    1. Listening skills are very important because these skills are needed for the AAPPL and other tests in their futures to demonstrate their foreign language proficiency.
    2. Fast moving “quips” from characters in the story.
    3. Students are put into groups and there are X’s taped on the floor. In the groups students have names of the characters in the story on strips of paper.
    4. When they hear a line from the story by one of the characters, they have to grab the paper and run to their team’s X at the front of the room.
    5. The same kids can’t go consecutively. It has to be different members of the group answering questions in a row.
    6. She plays with groups of 5-6 students.
    7. It sounds like an easy activity for us as the teacher and speaker of the TL but for students it is higher order thinking (HOT) activity.

Carrie thinks that teachers using Comprehensible Input (CI) get a bad reputation because people assume they don’t use any output based activities. Carrie believes that it’s really important to fill students up with input and then when they know what they’re doing then they are ready to output. Carrie doesn’t believe in teaching a verb and then practicing conjugating the verb or learning about restaurants and then practicing only using restaurant vocabulary. She wants students to be prepared with lots of input so they can output when they’re ready. These next three activities are all output based.

  1. Circle the Wagons- speaking/output based
    1. A way for students to retell stories. She plays sitting on the floor in a circle. She thinks it’s great to help students use more advanced language like transitions and upper level language they know.
    2. Students sit in a circle around images from the current story. They pick up a picture and describe something about the picture and before they can put it down 2 classmates need to ask the questions.
    3. This is usually a student run circle. Two students can say something completely different about the same picture and add on to each other. Teachers can help students by telling them more they CAN say about the picture OR teachers can just take the back seat and let students run the show.
    4. It really helps students notice ALL the details they CAN say about an image.
  2. Discussion Thursday- output based/ speaking activity
    1. She does this on Thursday because her classes are shorter because of teacher meetings in the morning but you can choose any day of the week to do this.
    2. She takes students to her reading lounge and she suggests changing the scenery so it feels less like class and more like a chat.
    3. Students lead the discussion about their lives- what they’re reading, watching, listening to etc….
    4. She says to be careful and don’t let it become a fact off of listing things they know how to say. Get students engaged in a DISCUSSION and ask each other question and listen to each other.
    5. They are given a rubric and they get points for speaking and more points for elaborating and more points for answering questions and more points for asking questions. There’s a section about stumping the teacher to make sure she is also listening. She uses Class Dojo to track her points and it’s a great online website to track points for a class.
    6. She does this fourth quarter with level 1 and the language is much different than her AP classes but it’s possible at all levels.
    7. Even students who are not participating with their words are most likely following along with their eyes and nodding and tracking the speaker. She has a threshold you MUST achieve by the end of the discussion for points so as long as you’re there and not sleeping her kids are passing.
  3. Yellow Brick Road- output/speaking activity
    1. Great end of the story activity to get students ready to retell a story.
    2. She takes 8 sheets of yellow paper and writes a sentence frame or sentence starter from the beginning and then sequence through the story to the end on the yellow papers.
    3. She pairs students and makes two brick roads so it’s not too clogged in her classroom. Students will stand with their partner with the yellow brick road in between them. The two roads will meet at an angle. She uses a timer so students know they need to talk and describe the story starting with the sentence frame on the brick you’re at. Students need to pay attention to the brick their at and THE next brick because they can only describe what happens from their brick UP TO the next brick. The timer will run for 60-90 seconds and then the next partner goes. Then they advance to the next brick or whichever brick you want students to go to.
    4. She often does this in the hallway so the brick roads can meet and it feels more special for students. She also can monitor easier when she can just walk up and down the roads listening to students.

Tips for teachers who want to teach with more comprehensible input

  • Start slowly and give yourself some grace on the journey. Teachers are way harder on themselves than they should be. It does not happen overnight for anyone. It’s a journey, not a race!
  • Textbooks don’t look at the students in front of you. Using CI allows you to look at your students and figure out what is best going to reach and interest the students in your classes.

Resources and links mentioned on the show:

Class Dojo

Fluency Matters to buy Carrie’s books (and others)


Carrie Toth on Twitter @senoraCMT and her website and Youtube account and on TPT: Somewhere to Share

Presenting Sponsor:

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