My First Successful “Staying In The TL” Lesson

“Woohoo! I did it!”

“Finally an idea worked. Finally, a lesson that helped me successfully stay in the target language for a long amount of time!”

It’s a simple lesson that I came up with before I started staying in the target language. It can be modified to help learners of all ages and proficiency levels.

All you need is crayons (for each student) and a worksheet that looks like this:

rainbow spanish class


For Novice Low or Novice Mid

Walk around the classroom. As you give one worksheet to each student, say sentences like these, “Here’s a paper for you. A paper for you. A paper for you. And one for you. Here’s a paper for you. For you, and you and you.”

Then, pass out crayons in the same way: “Crayons for you. For you. Here are some crayons for you…etc.”

Once the materials are passed out, display a sample worksheet at the front of the classroom. Hold a box of crayons in your own hands. Take out a red crayon and hold it up in the air. Motion for the students to do the same. As students are taking out their red crayons, say things like, “Good! Good Aiden! Good! Yes, red. Red. Red. The red crayon! Good Jessica…etc.”

Once all students are holding up the red crayon, have them repeat the word, “red,” after you. Then, turn your back to the class and start coloring in space #1 on the rainbow with the red crayon. When you finish coloring that section, start walking around the room saying, “Good Aiden! Good. Yes. Red. Good.” Hold up a few papers of students who are coloring in space #1 correctly.

When most students are done, hold up your red crayon and say, “Goodbye red!” and put the crayon back in the box. Keep saying, “Goodbye red,” until all students have put away their red crayon.

Go back to the displayed sample worksheet and say, “Okay. Number 1…red,” or, “Okay. Number 1 was red.” Point to space #2 and say, “Number TWO. TWO. Number TWO is orange. Take out orange.” (Hold up the orange crayon.)

Make a coloring motion with the orange crayon and say, “Class. Color #2 orange.” (You may want to say the sentence a few times.) Turn around and start coloring space #2 with the orange crayon.

Repeat this pattern until the rainbow activity is finished. If you want (and if your students would like it) make up a little tune that you can sing while the students are coloring using ONLY the L2 color and number words. (i.e. “Number 1…red. Number 1…red. Number 2…orange. Number 2…orange…etc.”)


For Novice High or Intermediate Low

Follow the same pattern (as with Novice Low or Novice Mid) except substitute the simple L2 words for L2 phrases and/or questions.

After the materials are passed out, hold up a crayon and say things like, “Aiden. What color is this? Is this color red or is this color orange? Aiden. Point to something else in this class that is the color red.” (Aiden points to something red.) Teacher says, “Good Aiden. Yes. That flag is red.” Teacher turns to address the whole class and says, “Class. Take out the color red.” As students are taking out the red crayon say things like, “Not the blue crayon. NOT the green crayon. Don’t take out the purple crayon. The RED crayon. The RED crayon. Take out the RED crayon. Good! Yes! Yes! Like Jessica. Good Jessica! Yes class. Take out the RED crayon.”

Ideas For Interpersonal Mode

After you’ve done the rainbow lesson as a whole class, pass out blank worksheets and give instructions for students to work in pairs. Tell the class that they will color the rainbows with mix-matched colors. “Space #1 WON’T be RED. It will be a different color. It will be the color that your partner tells you.” Pass out a small piece of paper to all the Partner #1s in the class and tell them to keep it hidden. The paper will tell them what mix-matched colors to use for all the rainbow spaces.

#1 – Green

#2 – Red

#3 – Purple


Walk around the room and make sure each pair of students is speaking only in L2 and coloring according to Partner #1’s instructions.

Intermediate Mid – Advanced Mid

Pass out the worksheet and the crayons. Instruct students to color space #1 RED, space #2 ORANGE and space #3 YELLOW. Tell them not to color spaces 4-6. Write your instructions on the board and have them start coloring.

While they are coloring, SECRETLY change your written instructions by erasing the word, “yellow” and replacing it with the L2 word for “purple.” On your page, color space #1 RED, space #2 ORANGE and space #3 PURPLE.

When all the students are done, start walking around the room with a confused look on your face. Take one of the students’ rainbows (choose a student who is confident and NOT easily embarrassed) and say things like, “Tyler. You colored #1 RED, #2 ORANGE and #3 YELLOW! Yellow!? Why did you color it YELLOW!?” (Let Tyler answer.) Then say, “No, Tyler. I did NOT say to color it YELLOW. I asked you to color it PURPLE! See! Look at the instructions I wrote on the board!”

Let the students start venting their frustration at you in the target language. Encourage them to say things like, “No, Miss. You did NOT say to color it PURPLE. You must have changed your instructions!” Argue back and say, “Why?! Why would I change something like that!? And we all know that the third color of the rainbow is NOT yellow. It’s obviously PURPLE. All of you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Continue the argument for as long as you’d like. Repeat the incident with instructions for coloring spaces 4-6.

Ideas For Presentational Mode

Ask the students to write a story about a mom/dad doing this rainbow activity with her/his child. Tell the students that their L2 narrative must include dialogue. Have them model their story after the frustrating experience they just had with following your rainbow-coloring instructions. Give them some sample sentences like, “Son…you shouldn’t have colored #2 YELLOW. I told you a thousand times that it was supposed to be ORANGE. I told you that #1 was supposed to be RED and #2 was supposed to be ORANGE. It would be better if you listen more carefully in the future.”

Señor Howard

Señor Howard – – @HolaSrHoward

Caleb Howard – – @calhwrd

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