Season 4, Episode 9:Reaching All Students with Jade Collins and Ebony Thornton

Welcome to Inspired Proficiency and thank you for joining us for season 4, episode 9. As always, please tweet any takeaways and inspirations to #inspiredproficiency. Don’t forget that Ashley and her podcasts are also on Facebook in the group “Inspired Proficiency Teacher Collaboration” with lots of great ideas for the classroom.

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

Today’s episode is shorter than normal but last week’s episode was longer than normal so it’s all evening out today! Ashley had a blast at ACTFL and was overwhelmed by the support or fans she met who listen to the podcast. She is invigorated to finish season 4 and is officially announcing there will be a season 5. Ashley needs you and your ideas and suggestions! What do you want to hear about on the podcast next? What do you do well that you can offer to a future panel? What do you want to hear more of if the topic was already covered? Tweet her (@profeashley), email her (, or find her on Facebook! Send your ideas and make your mark on the world of Inspired Proficiency Podcast!

Today’s Panel on Reaching All Students:

Panelist #1: Jade

Jade Collins is originally from South Carolina but now lives in North Carolina. She teaches Spanish 1 and has experience teaching levels 1-3 and IB. 

Why is it important to reach all students:

  • Students enter class with this preconceived notion that they can’t speak Spanish
  • Must support students that they can do anything, especially speak Spanish

How do we create this comfortable climate:

  • Jade is not a native speaker, someone who will make mistakes, like most teachers
    • She won’t know everything so neither will you, she doesn’t think that about you or expect it
    • Lead by example with mistakes and being OK with not knowing
    • Be a lifelong learner and improve your language so students know it’s a process and they will have the same journey over time
  • Confidence building
    • Use cognates so they can figure out what words mean
    • Use pictures to help discern vocabulary definition
    • They don’t need EVERY word understood to convey a message
    • Early in the year AND early in the class period to get them feeling good about themselves and their abilities before they get pushed harder with new vocab or structures
    • Weekend chat
      • Lots of sentences and pictures to show what they are saying or being asked
    • Don’t correct and make them feel stupid
      • Model it the correct way for them without saying “You said it wrong!”
      • Encourage them to keep trying so they don’t shut down and give up
  • Have fun!
    • Let them see your personality to know they can enjoy learning the language
    • Doesn’t have to be fun and games all the time but weave it in
    • She tried a One Word Image (OWI) and it was such a community builder within the class
      • Similar to story asking but focusing on an object
      • Can become a story character later or can remain just a character
      • Students choose object to depict
      • Choose name, colors, details, everything up to students and bring it to life
      • Student draws but the drawing is hidden while they draw and decisions are made
      • Big reveal of creation at the end
      • Highly engaging for students
    • Everybody feels better about using the language if the atmosphere is something the teachers and students want to be a part of


Panelist 2: 

EbonyEbony Thornton is a Spanish 1 and 2 teacher in Georgia. She is in her 17th year of teaching and also has experience with ESL teaching.

How can we reach all of the students in front of us:

  • Take the time to show you care
    • Get to know the students
    • Ice breakers
      • Not all students had a great summer so teachers need to be aware of trauma and some student history when picking ice breakers
      • Pick a low stakes one to help build a community within the classroom
      • Lower that affective filter
    • Flipgrid
      • Ask them to share something open ended
        • One word that’s important to them and explain it on a Flipgrid video
        • Not academic, just a get to know you something with low pressure
    • Do something to let kids know that at the end of the day you have their best interests at heart
      • You are not an adult that’s out to get them
    • Ask the kids what you want to learn and what you want the teacher to teach
      • Students feel involved
      • They picked this, they’re interested
      • Hook their interests if you can
        • Football fans? Find a game recap in Spanish
        • Soccer fans? Find a game recap beyond GOOOOOOOOOOL for kids to listen to and watch
    • Be intentional with your planning
      • Instead of just adjectives and likes, extend it
      • Why is your friend your friend? What makes them a good friend to you?
    • Rigor, a common buzzword
      • Increasing rigor does not mean increasing level of difficulty
      • Activity can be rigorous even if task is simple
        • Take what you want to say but it’s in a second language, already rigorous
        • Students connect to work and put as much as they can into it

Reactions when students feel seen in the classroom:

  • Thank you notes from students
    • “We have so much fun that I forget that I’m learning.”
    • “I felt like you’re the only teacher that likes me.”
    • Students will tell you they feel seen and build a bond
  • Be real as a teacher
    • Sometimes you need a minute as a teacher so get the kids started on something so you can have your minute and not lose it on a student who doesn’t deserve it
    • Model that everyone needs to take care of themselves to treat each other with kindness and respect
  • Don’t take everything personally
    • Students have a lot of academia going on so they will have bad days and lots of work to do and lots of stress and they are human and can only behave so great under the circumstances
  • Engagement and progress
    • Looks different for all students so get to know your students so you know the expectations for each kid
      • Not every kid can sit still for a whole period
      • Not every kid can write a page of Spanish at a certain point in the year
    • Celebrate ALL the progress of your students at all the levels
    • Engage does not mean entertain!


  • Ebony started this hashtag on Twitter
  • She noticed that not a lot of teachers looked like her, a Black Female
  • Not a lot of teachers of color represented in the World Language setting
  • Hopefully it’s helping others connect with other teachers of color teaching more than just Spanish, hopefully other languages too
  • She hopes to start some conversations and uplift some voices of minority teacher groups
  • Ashley noticed this hashtag on Twitter and wanted to help increase opportunities so ALL voices are heard from everyone who wants to share
  • Uplifting people starts with listening to them and encouraging them to lead something
    • Start small and build bigger if it’s something interesting to you
    • Some people feel they don’t have anything worthwhile but YOU DO have something to share!

Game Segment with Sarah Breckley:

Photo Chain

  • Advanced Classes
    • Story they don’t know at all
  • Beginner Classes
    • Story they know really well like one we created together or something from the news but they’re familiar
  • Make some simple pictures or use pictures kids already created from an earlier comprehension activity
    • Photo represents something that happened in the story
  • Pictures distributed face down on clipboards or in folders to a group of 5 students
    • Each member of the group gets 1 photo each but no one else can look at it
    • Student can look at their own photo but no one else’s
    • Student looks at their OWN picture and describes it in all the ways they know how
      • Novice learners are doing something they learned how to do throughout the unit when it comes to written and spoken output
      • Advanced learners are creating this language and trying to rebuild a story they don’t know based on the descriptions people are saying. A leader might arise who can help bridge the whole story together
  • Students bring their pictures to the front of the room and do a grand big reveal with their written descriptions and it’s fun to see if that makes sense for their picture and their story
  • Could be used to put a fun video in order to help the story make the most sense
  • Every group could do a different story or the same one and see what orders they create
    • Groups could rotate and do this for a long time
  • Every group could have the same story and it doesn’t have to take so long
  • The more they do this, the more engaged the students get into it so it’s easier for them to retell these stories

Resources and links mentioned on the show:


  • Jade Collins on Twitter @lasecundariajac and Instagram @lasecundaria_jac and blog and TPT
  • Ebony Thornton on Twitter @EThorntonGHS and Instagram @senoritathorntonGHS
  • Sarah Breckley on Twitter @SarahBreckley


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1 thought on “Season 4, Episode 9:Reaching All Students with Jade Collins and Ebony Thornton

  1. Pingback: Our Commitment to Justice – we teach languages

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