Chalk Talk: Character Traits of a Language Scholar


If you are NOT already part of the Facebook group for IFLT/NTPRS/CI Teachers, you must stop everything you are doing right now, (YES, stop reading this blog) and go and add yourself to that group. If you do not have a Facebook you need to get one JUST to be part of this. It is an incredible community of like minded, creative, passionate educators who share ideas and amazing curriculum EVERY day. I am constantly borrowing/stealing ideas from people off of that site. My most recent “borrow” was from a teacher who had created a brilliant bulletin board that said “A Good Spanish Learner” and then had 9 different “traits” like: Has Fun with the Language, and Doesn’t Cram. I so wish I had written down her name and I have been searching for the post again and can’t find it! So, if you know who I am talking about please comment her name so I can put it in this blog and give her credit! It looked so appealing and eye catching and I knew I had to make something similar.

That is what you see above! I call it my Sparkle Board of Magic. It reads: Supercalifragalisticexpialidocious Spanish Scholar:  Laughs, Creates with Language, Takes Risks, Isn’t Afraid to Make Mistakes, Sees Opportunities to Practice, Asks Questions, Uses Circumlocution, Listens. Thank you to the teacher who inspired me to make it.


One of the things I do with my students the FIRST week of school is talk about what they need to do, and behaviors they need to exhibit to acquire language in my room. This year, using these “traits” along with a strategy I learned from our “Making Thinking Visible” training, I created an activity for my first FULL day of classes with my students. IMG_4316

At the top of a GIANT sheet of purple butcher paper, I wrote “As a Language Learner, what does it mean to…….” then scattered all over I wrote the 8 different traits from my bulletin board. Each of my classes  came into the room and I quickly explained the rules and procedures of Chalk Talk in my room.

  1. It is a SILENT activity
  2. There are no right or wrong answers
  3. React and interact with what your peers write, by writing not verbally
  4. Be respectful of each others thoughts and opinions

I love Chalk Talk because it allows students to access their background knowledge on a particular subject, process that, and share it in their own words. The BEST part about this activity was since I had EVERY class do it on the SAME paper, by the end of the day it was absolutely FULL of their rainbow writing and ideas.  The students write what they think each of the traits looks like in a language scholar. They had so many AMAZING ideas. I have some incredible kids!IMG_4328The students all took the activity very seriously too. For those of you worried about that, it is actually not a problem. The silent part helps with this. If you are worried about a student or two, then you should kneel down and write with them too, near by that student. It will remind them that you are there and observing everything they are writing. Usually though, they are seeing all of the other students taking it seriously and it kind of pressures them into doing the same.


IMG_4367The final product is now pinned up outside of my classroom for everyone to see. The students absolutely LOVE how it turned out and I have caught many of them reading and rereading it. Many were excited to see other students had reacted to something they had written. It was a GREAT way to build our community and culture! Not only within our classroom, but throughout the Middle School.

Can’t wait to put all of these traits into action next week! The first week of school is the LAST week of English. WAHOOOO!!!!!


Until next time,



La Maestra Loca


  1. I am so stealing this one!! I can’t wait to see what my students are going to write!! Love it! Thank you!

      1. It went spectacular!! It was so great to see my Spanish II giving great ideas and thoughts that some of my Spanish I responded with little hearts or “I like” comments!! Today we finished and I posted on the hallway. I am encouraging them to respond to other while they walk in the hallway!! Thank you so much for your ideas!!

  2. Also love this – I’m trying to figure out a way to incorporate it into first day stations but also keep the silent aspect intact. Think it’s so important for them to think out loud with their pens!

    1. I have pretty great students in an independent school so silence was the expectation and that is what I got for 95% of the time. They enjoyed interacting with each other’s writing through more writing so that helped too… The few times students struggled, I got down and silently wrote too, and that helped!

    1. Angie, I will try and remember to do so next week! I just boarded a bus of 30 8th graders… we are headed to North Carolina for a week long field trip!!! They had great answers. My favorites were all around “taking risks” they said things like, “it doesn’t matter if you mess up” , “don’t care what people think” , “just speak”, “try”… So simple but so powerful. I only just took it down. I will bring it out again at the end of the year…

  3. What does the first square on the bottom of your Language Scholars chart say? And the third!! I am not able to read them! Thank you in advance!!

  4. I love this idea! I have a silly question, though. Where do you find a sheet of paper so large??!! Thanks!!!

    1. It is just butcher paper! I have never been in a school without butcher paper (because it is so so so cheap and the kids use it all the time!) I use Butcher paper every week!

  5. Thank you!!! Can you believe that I have NEVER used butcher paper and I’ve been teaching for 16 years!!!! I just bought some!

    1. Give them however long they need to stay silent and thoughtfully engaged. When they start talking it means they’ve run out of ideas so you should end the activity and move on to the gallery walk of reading what everyone wrote!

  6. I love the idea! I love ALL your blogs! Thank you very much for sharing. I really want incorporate this activity the first week of school. I have about 32 students per class and I have desks. Any advice?
    Muchas Gracias!!!

    1. Can you use another space in the school? or the hall way???? Can you tape up paper on the wall of your class or SEVERAL papers on different walls with a different trait on each??? They then circulate and move to all??? Do you have a library or communal space you can use that would be bigger? Can you go deskless?! haha! That is always the big question I ask! It is SOOO ideal for our CI classrooms! 😉 Let me know how it goes!

      1. Yep, but I can still hang it here!!!! Although, I’m thinking a different paper for each class… your thoughts on that? or do you do just 1 paper total?

  7. How do you introduce “Use Circumlocution” in the first week enough that they will have ideas and examples to write on this poster? I’m thinking of using this with new students next week.

    1. My old students fill this in enough that new students don’t have to. Perhaps you instruct them to don’t comment on that one, OR explain it in English and talk about how babies do it. Toddlers are constantly circumlocution because they have limited vocabulary. “Thing” is one of their most favorite words: ) If you only have new students maybe leave this one off of the chart entirely and just add it in later in the year.

  8. Hi Annabelle! OMG! I watched you in Denver this summer and I am so inspired by you! I am officially desk less for the first time in 12 years! My admin said yes to it! I am so grateful for all the ideas that you are willing to share with other teachers! A few questions about this activity. Do you think it would work well with as young as 4th graders? Do you give examples first of what they are suppose to do to help them brainstorm? Do you get a lot of repeat answers? We have a ton of new students at our school this year, so many of them have never had Spanish before, do you think this activity would be too difficult? And lastly, do you explain this is the TL or English?
    Thank you dear one!

    1. I explain it in English since it is still in the first week of school (look for that blog) and I would say you can do it with the 4th graders (especially if you see them more than 1 time per week). YES! ALWAYS MODEL MODEL MODEL! repeat answers are ok, but I would rather them READ what someone else wrote and write a heart next to it and say I agree…. or I agree because…… I model EVERYTHING I ever want ANY age student to do if I want them to do it well! They won’t know what I expect if I don’t show them explicitly.

      1. Annabelle! Thank you for answering my questions, I feel so honored that you would respond! Here’s another question for you…so today I introduced my points system to a group of 5th graders. I told them how competitive I am and how much I like to win! At the end of class a boy (he’s always serious and never smiles) comes up to me and says, “If your so competitive, why do you give us so many points? We are always going to win, anyways.” I looked at him, put my arm around him and said, “Because you guys are so awesome.” What I really wanted to do was punch him in the face ( I kid…) but what do you do when kids ask that question? ( hopefully in a kinder way, of course?) Like what do you do when they start to figure out your system on day one? I had yet to introduce the rewards part yet, by the way. Any help you can offer would be awesome!
        Thanks Annabelle! You’re truly a gift!

      2. I tell them that even though I am competitive, I really WANT them to win because it means they are doing what they are SUPPOSED to be doing. I think it is important to talk about the end goal right away too… Introduce that soon! If there is a class (or few kids) who refuse to participate because they are certain the class will win anyways, make sure you ARE giving yourself points. If you win ONE time even it is usually enough to get the kids on board and it encourages them to keep their friends in line too.

  9. We just finished 1st quarter and I’m getting a lot of pushback from my upper-level kids… kids who claim they have forgotten more French than they’ve learned in the past year (I switched to using CI instead of the textbook/worksheets/tears around November last year.). Do you think that it’s too late in the year to do this type of activity?

    1. No it is never too late to do it! 🙂 You should do a “free write” or fluency write with them to show them what they can do. I guarantee in the past they wouldn’t have been able to communicate fluidly like they will now.

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