I wanted to review Ser and Estar with my students this week, but I didn't want them to focus on grammar. I wanted the focus to be on having the students work together on a goal to communicate something that, coincidentally, called for sentences that used Ser and Estar. After a little thought, I came up with the following activity.
When a major bookstore closed in my area, I bought these state books for $1 or less, packed with large photos of people and places.
I found a photograph of a man at a flea market and tore it out of the book. On Day 1 of the activity I posted the photo on the board next to several questions that the class needed to answer about the man. The rule was they had to speak only in Spanish (that's a standard rule) and their answers had to be creative.
Some of the questions they had to answer were:
- ¿Qué está haciendo el hombre?
- ¿De dónde es?
- ¿Dónde está? ¿Por qué está alli?
- ¿Cómo es el hombre?(características; cualidades inherentes)
- ¿Cuál es su nacionalidad?
- ¿Qué hora es? ¿Qué día es?
- ¿Por quién fue sacada la foto?
- ¿Cuál es su profesión?
- ¿Es miembro de qué organizaciones?
The students were focused on creating an identify for the man that they didn't realize that all the sentences they were using had either Ser or Estar. It the students 30+ minutes to come up with an identity that they agreed on. That's 30 minutes of discussion in the TL, concentrating on a communicative task and not listing rules. At the end of the class I asked them if they knew why I had them to the activity. They gave answers such as: "you wanted us to use our imaginations", "you wanted us to work together", "it required us to talk through our suggestions in Spanish", etc. I told them that they were good reasons but not the underlying reason for the activity.
The next day we continued the activity, but this time students worked in groups of 2, I gave each group a new photo, and they worked to create an identity for the person. I told them they would have to share with the class about their person so it was totally up to them if they wanted to write notes or not. For today, I put the questions/facts that they needed to address in English. We only had time for 2 groups to present and those two groups did not have many errors on their descriptions. I asked them again if they knew why we were doing the activity. I got the same type of answer as yesterday.
On the 3rd day, the remaining groups talked about their photos and I needed to make some restatements when they used the wrong verb in their answers. Finally, a student turned to me and said, "Señora, I think I know why we're doing this." After some prodding by me about the activity, several more students figured out why were did the activity. One girl answered, "so we know the difference between Ser and Estar.
I'm convinced that by using the language to create an identity, the students made more progress than by memorizing a list of reasons to use Ser and Estar. How much better for them to focus on communication than on grammar. The assessment today was similar, with students writing about a person in a photo, in full sentences.