Workshop 2

Pam Kaatz dba Color Connection–2826 Robinson Road–Denton, TX 76210
Texas Education Agency–CPE Provider # 902-292

SCHEDULE: (Changes may be made to meet specific needs of participants.)
8:30-10:00               90 minute session                        12:45-2:00                 90 minute session
10:00-10:15              15 minute break                          2:00-2:15                   15 minute break
10:15-11:45               90 minute session                       2:15-3:45                  90 minute session
11:45-12:45               60 minute LUNCH


Workshops may be arranged…
1.  …by the District LOTE Coordinators—for their teachers and others.
2.  …by a teacher who can host in his/her school.
         Host attends free and receives the Spanish Verb Wall kit.($150)
3.  …by the local Education Service Center–with enough teacher requests.
         You must let them know you are interested.
Price for the workshop will be determined by the individual group circumstances.


(1) The 6 hours may be scheduled for 2 different meetings of 3 hours, or 3 meetings of 2 hours.
(2) The workshop may be extended to 9 or 12 hours. In which case, concepts would be reviewed and additional interactive lessons would be demonstrated.
(3) This workshop may be blended with the VERB WALL workshop for any target language, including English for Speakers of Other Languages.

Like most Spanish teachers, I spent the early years of my career teaching verbs as I had been taught: rote conjugations. In 1979 while attending a workshop presented by the well-known linguist Connie Knopp, I experienced a revelation. Her words that struck me were: “Use colors, symbols, visuals—anything concrete that will give physical form to abstract thoughts and concepts.” In that moment the basic plan for the Spanish Verb Wall started forming. I tried to share it in 1980 with other teachers who simply laughed at my idea that you should NOT have to teach verbs in a set order—that you could expose the learners to the whole system, allowing them the opportunity to figure out how to communicate their English thoughts in the target language.

I tried again in 1990 and presented the Spanish Verb Wall at the TFLA conference in El Paso. Over those 10 years, times had changed and my ideas weren’t so weird! Teachers responded very favorably, and it all just grew from there. In 1998 I was commissioned by the San Diego County Office of Education to create the English Verb Wall. The other languages’ versions were made at the insistance of teachers of those languages.

As with the Building Artificial Reality idea, I saw a quotation on the internet that explained why what I had been preaching for so long about the Verb Wall actually worked. David Halstead AKA “The Brain Guy” said:

The brain likes and looks for patterns. It doesn’t have to work as hard when it recognizes a pattern.
Patterns are one of the brain’s primary ways to process new information.
It looks for information it already knows to “make new information fit.”

I realized that just like the photograph on the puzzle box, the Periodic Table of Elements in the chemistry class, the Verb Wall provides a MAP of the structure of the language.


►►display the entire map of the language without “scaring” or “overwhelming” the learners

►►make them understand that they will only be responsible for knowing the information required by the “curriculum” or “textbook”

►►help them see that when things come up naturally in a real life situation, the Verb Wall can give them clues to the “pattern” (real life can be: the coming football game; an important news item; the lyrics of a song; useful phrases in class, such as It wasn’t me! (I KNOW technically that “me” should be “I.”)   I didn’t do it! OR I don’t have my book, but if I had it, I would open it.

►►avoid explaining the pattern directly, giving the students enough clues and opportunities to figure things out for themselves

►►praise the learner for at least trying to figure something out, even if it is wrong. Explain that he/she did great, and it was a wonderful, logical guess.*

►►let the students understand that the textbook people don’t think they are smart enough to start communicating “above” their level.

►►give extra credit for saying something new–not taught in class (i.e. The dog ate my homework.)

►►understand that they–-the participants–are not being pressured to purchase the VW kit. They are welcome to make their own, as I did my original version. It is a MASSIVE job.

*I cannot resist giving this example:

It was a Spanish I class. We had done a few “excursions” into the imperfect. Having entered the phase of life known as senility, I made them comprehend imperfect phrases such as: ¿Qué decía? ¿De qué hablaba? Yo tenía mi libro; estaba aquí. ¿Dónde está ahora? One day we were all in different “Places in the City.” Each student had a sign representing where he/she was and a verb infinitive naming the action he/she was going to do.   Estoy en el mercado. Voy a comprar vegetales para mi familia. So we answer questions such as ¿Dónde está? ¿Qué va a hacer?   etc. etc.

After class, a girl came up and asked me: “If va a comprar means he is going to buy, would he was going to buy be vaba a comprar?”   I was thrilled with her effort to express the thought in the past tense.   If habla becomes hablaba, then va should become vaba—was a wonderful, logical guess. I expressed my joy at her attempt. We walked over to the Verb Wall, into the Imperfecto, and I indicated the three irregular verbs. She apologized and then said iba a comprar. I very firmly explained that no APOLOGY was necessary!!! She had done a great step in language learning. Use the patterns you know. If they are “broken” you will find out, but you TRIED, and that is the most important thing!!!!!