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



      • 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!!

  1. 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!

    • 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!

    • 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…

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

    • 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!

  3. 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!!!

    • 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!

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