Cottrell Family 2015-24Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell
B.S. Spanish Education / English Education
M.A. Linguistics (Second Language Acquisition)

Who’s behind Musicuentos?

I owe much of who I am and what I do to an amazing father who started inspiring me to think innovatively when he decided our local school system would not serve my education needs and removed me from school in the fifth grade.  I did not return to a traditional school setting until college, where I learned a lot about being a good teacher and almost nothing about teaching language.  I then fumbled through textbook teaching for 3 years before getting my master’s degree in the theory behind the practice.  My research then, a few workshops in Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling, and mentoring by some incredibly innovative teachers upended my teaching world.  My students and I embarked on a textbookless, web-based language experience that rocked with Latin music and authentic materials.  We quit homework, abandoned multiple choice questions, and banned words like “conjugation” from our classroom. We talked and struggled and explored and watched where our journey took us.

In 2008, my husband sat next to me while I exclaimed over all the things I was learning about how to improve my classroom and said, “You should start a blog.”  Musicuentos was born, making it the longest-running world language teaching blog that I’m aware of.

Why Musicuentos?  The two strategies that most transformed my teaching from a boring grammar class to an interactive, acquisition-rich environment were música and cuentos (stories).  Now, my goal as a teacher, blogger, and consultant is to share that journey with you. I do not primarily aim to provide you with activities, although I can and often do.  On the blog, you will find at least as many blog entries with advice and practical help as you will with specific activities.  I’d rather help you learn how to enrich and facilitate your classroom through the people inside it.

On a personal note, I am married to my best friend who also happens to be my expert webmaster.  We have been married since 2007 and we have three Cottrell-itos ages 3 to 7.  We enjoy spending time outdoors, reading, and growing in our faith in God.  We’re thankful for our life, family, talents, and opportunities and enjoy sharing what we’ve learned with others and learning from their journey as well.

What’s Sara-Elizabeth up to?

I spend most of my professional time developing teacher resources, teaching a group of amazing students in a homeschool co-op, and working as a curriculum specialist for Calico Spanish.  In the summer, I offer two proprietary workshops on developing curriculum and teaching with comprehensible input.  I also occasionally partner with schools and conferences to offer workshops and other professional development.  Feel free to contact me about my availability for services.  Here’s a run-down of some of what I’m currently working on.


March 9-11: Central States Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, Chicago, IL: session “Mining for (Elementary) Gold: Leveraging Language and Culture in TL Video”; session “Mining for Gold: Leveraging Culture and Language in Authentic Film”
Foreign Language Association of North Carolina, Keynote Speaker


Curriculum development and review, VIF Program Spanish
February 8: 
Remote curriculum review, New Castle County (DE) Vocational Technical School District
March 10-12: 
Central States Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, Columbus, OH: All-Star repeat session “Arming Students for a World of Incomprehensible Input”; session “Effective Storytelling with Consistency, Cartooning, and Cool Content”; workshop “The Best Laid Plans”; workshop “Social Media: The PLN You Always Wanted”
June 15-17: (Base)Camp Musicuentos, Louisville, KY
July 6-8: Camp Musicuentos Southeast, Chapel Hill, NC
July 14-15: The Brave Little Tailor comprehensible input strategies workshop, hosted by Liberty Christian School, Argyle, TX
September 15-17: Kentucky World Language Association fall conference, Louisville, KY; Workshop “The Brave Little (Storytelling) Tailor“; Session “Mining for Gold: Leveraging Culture and Language in Authentic Film
November 18-20: ACTFL Convention & Expo, Boston, MA; Session “Textbook as AID: Adapt, Incorporate, Ditch;” ImpACTFL Voice

And before that?