The Advantages of Posting High Frequency Verbs

Lately I have been becoming more conscious of how much I use the high frequency verbs posted on my wall.

word walls

I originally posted them for students, and some of my students still do occasionally glance over at the wall. This is especially true during quick writes when someone is looking for inspiration, but it happens also while I am speaking if I point to the wall while speaking slowly.

More importantly, however, I use the posters while circling to keep my questions fresh and interesting while maintaining comprehensibility. For example the other day we were working on two phrases, pide una coca-cola and le ofrecen un pepsi. There was a guy who could not drink Pepsi because he was allergic to the secret ingredient in Pepsi, but the employees kept trying to give him a Pepsi instead of a Coke because there was no Coke in the store. As I was circling these phrases I went through the list of high-frequency verbs:

¿Puede beber un pepsi el hombre? No, no puede beber pepsi, por eso pide una coca-cola. ¿Los empleados salen para comprar coca-cola? No, le ofrecen un pepsi porque no quieren salir. ¿Por qué no quieren salir? Porque quieren ver su programa favorito en la tele. Entonces, ¿qué ve el hombre en las manos de los empleados? El ve latas de pepsi, pero no ve una lata de coca-cola. ¿Le ofrecen una lata de coca-cola? ¡Qué va! ¡Le ofrecen una lata de pepsi! ¿El hombre pone el pepsi en la boca? ¡Claro que no! Él puede morir si bebe Pepsi. El hombre pide una coca-cola. ¿Los empleados saben que el hombre quiere coca-cola? Sí, ellos saben. Saben muy bien, pero son flojos y quieren ver la tele…

I know that the strength of circling comes from the repetition of new structures, but circling gets very old very quickly if the teacher limits him or herself to just the new structures. Once those high frequency verbs have been acquired there is no reason to not continually sow them into your circling. For me, the posters really help me come up with questions during the heat of the moment, unscripted but perfectly comprehensible.

Here are my full basic verbs that my Spanish 1 students master by the end of first semester:




  1. Hello,

    Thanks for the post. I am curious about one of the verbs. In what context do you most often use volver? To return, to redo, etc.


    1. Funny, on my wall it is “viene” but I wrote vuelve on this post. But yeah, vuelve makes sense. It is a high-frequency verb… besides being high-frequency it is a bit arbitrary, these just happen to be the ones I chose.

  2. I’m making mine right now. Is there a specific organizing principle behind your sequence?
    Do you repeat the sequence in the exact same order on the posters for the other tenses?

  3. Hi Mike,
    I’m recreating my “reference” bulletin boards for students this year and love your posters. I used to do something similar but found I had way too much for kids and they got overwhelmed! I think I only see the he/she form posted? Thanks!

    1. Yes, it is enough to just having the third person posted and then, while teaching, asking the class what the s on the end means when using the tú form, the n when it is plural, etc.

  4. Thank you so much! I love reading your posts and other TPRS advocates are are helping to light my journey down this road!

      1. I can’t make out all the verbs in the poster pics–which I love!!!…am trying to recreate this for my room. Which ones do have below tiene and dice?

      2. Reading off my wall, I have puede, pone, quiere, sabe, va, ve, oye, viene, sale, es, tiene, trae, da, dice, está & hace.

        Good candidates to add to this list include hay, le gusta & vuelve.

  5. This is our first year teaching German with storytelling and we are just starting to mix in past and future tenses. Do you have more than one past tense posted? And subjunctive/conditional? In German one past tense is used almost exclusively in writing – there is no difference in meaning – is that the same in Spanish?

    1. There are several past tenses used frequently in Spanish. Although I do have examples of two of the tenses posted on the back wall, I rarely refer to them (see my response to Ben´s question). Mostly I just write the current verb (as it shows up in the story) on the board and the translation, sometimes I add a side comment like “XXXX is a past tense of the verb XYXYXY, which you already know”, but even that quick digression is too wonky for some kids. If it only shows up rarely, no side comment. If it is showing up frequently or was already part of a target structure then I am more likely to make the side comment (or grammar pop-up). But in most cases the minimum you can do to disrupt the story is the best option so that you resist the teacher urge to talk about grammar and keep the class focused on the story.

  6. Hola, My name is Ben Schrantz and I am new to TPRS so I am trying to get as much info before I start as possible. I read through the latest edition of the ¨official¨ book by Blaine Ray. I follow your posts closely and take notes, so please keep doing what you are doing!!With your word wall, do you ever label the imperfect tense in English, if not, then I can assume that you keep the two tenses separate through the context of your stories? Do you start past tense in first semester Spanish 1? ¡Gracias! Saludos, Ben SchrantzSpanish / ELL teacherLincoln High School

    1. When I get back next week I will take a photo of my new word wall. The present tense is spread out along the left wall, and that is the main tense that I point to in class. Even with Spanish 3 when I say tuviera, I will point first to tiene and then ask what tuviera means. The preterit and imperfect are on the back wall, and I occasionally point my laser pointer at it but students almost never twist around to consult it. Occasionally I turn all chairs around to face the back wall so that they are facing the past tenses, but for the most part they are learning them through context in stories. Never once have I had a student ask me about multiple past tenses (which sounds confusing), they just ask how to say “went to the store” or “was going to the store when…” or “used to go to the store” and I translate the exact phrase.

      As for when I start past tenses: I do shelter grammar for about the first month or so of Spanish 1 and speak almost only in the present tense. I slowly add a few very high frequency past tense verbs, like fue and estaba. By November I am not sheltering grammar. Some TPRS teachers do not shelter from day 1, others wait until Spanish 2 to use past tenses. Personally I think that the longer one sticks with the present tense, the harder it will be for students to hear multiple tenses and develop an unconscious understanding of the grammar of the language. I visited a class recently and asked a student Cuando tengas veinte años, ¿vas a tener un perro? Before she answered I asked her to translate what I said, and she did it without thinking twice although she had never heard the subjunctive before. Of course her output is shaky and 100% present tense, but on some level kids can process multiple tenses quickly as long as teacher and student are focusing on a comprehensible phrase.

  7. If you remove the English, when do you? Do you find students in level 2 and beyond relying on the posters when the English is there?

    1. Actually I have not removed the English, I just cover it occasionally during an assessment so I can be 100% sure that I know what they know… and the answer is no, even my level 1 students hardly ever glance at the posters. The idea that students would just rely on the posters, rather than “choose” to acquire language, is rooted in old methods in which students had to study and memorize in order to learn a language. When I am teaching for acquisition I have no problem having the words translated on the board or the wall because my goal is not to verify that they “know” the words; my goal is to speed up their mental processing of the new structures to the point that they respond quickly, confidently and with accuracy. Now, if I see any eyes darting to the left towards a poster or above to the question words, I know that those words were not fully acquired and I need to use them more.

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