Monday, April 30, 2012

Tweet provides material for class

Twitter can be a great resource when searching for materials and websites to use in class.  However, it also is a good place to find stories for Comprehensible Input.  Last night when I was on Twitter, I saw the following tweet:

@ransomtech: "Guy In a Cow Suit Shoplifts 26 Gallons of Milk From a Busy Walmart ...

I checked out the website and read about an 18-year old that entered WalMart wearing a cow costume and later managed to leave the store with 26 gallons of milk inside his costume without paying for them.  (Here is the link for the article.)

Today, instead of spending the first part of class talking about our weekends, I wrote the following words on the board:  Walmart, vaca, leche, robar, dar, policía (cow, milk, to rob, to give, police).  Then I put the students in groups of 3 and told them they had 5 minutes to use their imaginations (I always encourage creativity on these type of exercises) to formulate a news story that describes the event that I read about in the news article.  All communication in their group needed to be in Spanish. 

One student in each group told the class about their group's prediction in Spanish.  These storytellings provided several opportunities for pop-up grammar and for opportunities to introduce new words.  One group even used a sentence with the subjunctive so it was a perfect time to review it.  We also discussed ahora vs. ahorita, learned the relation of the words horno and hornear; shared the fact that cows will actually drink milk if it is offered to them; saw an example of por used in context; and the new word galón, to name a few.

After all the groups had shared, I told them the real story in Spanish and we discussed that for a short time.  At the end of the activity, I gave each student a quarter sheet of paper and asked them to write 1-3 things they learned from the activity.  I wanted this information to better help me see how it was or wasn't useful.  

I know the words that we used in the activity are not acquired yet, especially the brand new vocabulary words such as to crawl, but the activity was a different way for me to provide Comprehensible and Compelling Input.

If I were teaching Spanish 1 or 2, I would have told the story TPRS style.  It's perfect for that because it already is strange enough to keep student interest.  I wouldn't tell them it is a true story, but rather keep that for a surprise after they know the story and can repeat it and read it.

Friday, April 27, 2012

A Friday Communicative Activity

Marisol listens to Víctor & Miguel describe the video.

It's Friday and definitely time for another one of the students' and my favorite activities - describing videos.
I found this ad for a sport utility several months ago, called.  Below are the steps for the activity, with the goal of having the students communicate in L2.

1.  Before class, I watched the movie and made a list of the events from the story that students would later need to match.
2.  Students form groups of 4.
3.  One person from each group leaves the classroom.  (My room is down a short hallway so it doesn't cause any problems with the students in the hall.)
4.  I show the video to the students 2 times.  
5. The students return from the hall and sit with their group.  The students that saw the movie must  describe the events in the video to their member that was in the hall in SPANISH ONLY. The students that were in the hall are allowed to talk in English and ask questions in English, but those that watched the movie must speak only in Spanish. (I allow the students that were in the hall to speak English to take some of the pressure off of them.)
6.  After the groups have described the video in Spanish, I send the students back to the hall with a sheet of paper and they write the events in the video either in Spanish (L2) or English (L1).
7.  I collected their papers and groups earned 1 point for each fact they have that matched mine.  The winning group received one extra credit point.
My list of events that students need to match to earn points:
- man and woman in bed
- it's morning
- she takes shower
- there is a hair dryer on the shower floor
- she gets an electric shock
- man looks out the window at vehicle
- window falls on man's neck/head
- man and woman see/pass each other in the hall
- bowling ball falls on woman's head
- torch burns man's hair
- man puts his head in a fishbowl
- man trips over wire at top of steps and falls down stairs
- woman flosses her teeth
- woman steps over man at bottom of steps
- man and woman fight/push each other outside of house
- man has keys
- woman goes into house
- woman smells gas in kitchen
- a pan is in the microwave
- man drives the vehicle
- house explodes
- woman is on top of vehicle
The next time I do this activity, I'll follow it with an activity that includes the words the students didn't know when they were explaining the activity.  
I hope your students enjoy it as much as my students did.  Let me know if you have other ideas how to use this to encourage even more communication in the target language.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"La Hija del Sastre" (a book by Carrie Toth & Carol Gaab)

My students are currently reading "La Hija del Sastre".  We read chapter 7, "Mentiras (Lies)" together and then, to add some variety, the students acted out the 2nd half of chapter 7.  We needed someone to play the parts of: Ignacio, Emilia, Diana, la abuela, a narrator, and we threw in Camila just for fun.  In an effort to keep sts involved that were not assigned to any roles, I asked them to call out "Mentira, mentira, mentira" each time someone in the chapter lied (since the title is called "Mentiras"). 

I had minimal props: paper plates, cups, & plasticware, for when the family eats dinner; 2 smaller plates for when it says the mother's eyes were as big as two plates, and a suit coat and trousers cutouts from construction paper, and a tape measure.  

It was fun watching the story played out, plus it helped to concrete into the students' minds what occurred in the chapter.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Taking Advantage of an Interruption

For my second day back with my Spanish 4 classes, I was ready to share a story about a boy whose father buys him a magic carpet. I introduced the new vocabulary, asked some questions to practice the vocabulary, and then began to set up the beginning of the story. It was then that I noticed a student in the front row (the desks are arranged in a U formation so there are many students in the "front" row), slyly reaching into his bookbag on the floor. Inside the pocket of the bookbag I saw a shiny wrapper - you guessed it, chocolate wrapped in yellow foil, most likely from Easter.

Suddenly, my story wasn't so important any longer. What had my attention, and in short time, the attention of many of the other students, was... What was José reaching for in his bookbag? I continued asking questions as I walked towards José, both of us smiling knowing he was caught red-handed, and sat down in the student desk next to him, all the time continuing my questions, now directed to José, about the first few sentences of the story. As I asked the questions to José, I continued to look at him and then at the bookbag, then back at him. It was a little unrehearsed game and I was enjoying it, José was enjoying it, and the other students were enjoying it. By the time I stood up and moved away from José, everyone in the class knew that José would not be reaching into his bag again to snack on candy.

But, the best part was when I added a new sentence to the story, only to glance at José to see him licking his fingers. I couldn't help but zero in on José again and ask him what he was doing. He explained, in Spanish of course, that there was "chocolate en mis pies". ¿en tus pies? What a great time to review parts of the body, fingers and toes, and all the while with the attention of the whole class. It was at that point that I realized that this was "flow" that some TPRS teachers mention. The students in the class, including José, were so focused on what was happening with José and his bookbag and the chocolate, that the emphasis was not on Spanish, but Spanish was being used to follow and narrate the events. Personally, I didn't care that the whole chocolate episode took 4, 6, or 8 minutes out of my planned story, it was communication in the target language and they were focused in on the action.

Turns out, José said (in Spanish again, of course) that he was going to give me the candy when I was seated next to him, but I stood up too soon. Naturally, I sat next to him again, he gave me the candy, and I placed it on my desk for later.

Let me assure you that I know, without a doubt, that José wasn't embarrassed nor did he feel put on the spot, at any point during this interaction. He is a great student with a super, super, SUPER personality and I knew this little "game" was just as fun for him as it was for anyone in the room. He helped create the "flow" and nobody else, at that particular point, could have drawn the rest of the students' attention into the conversation like José did. Was it an interruption - certainly. But it was time well-spent. There's time tomorrow to continue the story. THANKS JOSÉ for helping with the lesson.

Just one of those days I have to ask myself, "and they pay me for this?"

Los Pompillos (un programa de Perú)

Today (Tuesday) was the first day back from Easter break and the first day that I took back 25-35 minutes at the end of my two Spanish 4 classes. (I have a student teacher and I am gradually taking back classes to allow her time to finish a project for her college, but more so because I WANT to teach my students. This is definitely the hardest part of having a student teacher - handing over my students and not being able to interact with them throughout the class period.)

I had originally planned a TPRS story for today, but then I saw the lyrics paper for this song sitting on the corner of my desk. I found this song two weeks ago and when I saw it used the subjunctive, which is what Spanish 4 is studying now, mixed with a catchy tune, I was hooked. I enjoy using songs in class, but I am not disciplined at regularly adding them into my classes.

The music video can be found HERE and the lyrics are HERE:

The steps I followed are basic:
1. Give examples of how you can use "que" with the subjunctive (I compared it with "ojalá que...")
2. Students listen to the song one time through to enjoy it - no filling in the blanks.
3. Students fill in the blanks as they listen to the song.
4. Go over the answers together - pop-up grammar as needed
5. Divide class into 4 groups. Make sure the students in each group are seated in close proximity. Give each group a letter "A, B, C, & D". Group A is assigned the first line in each stanza. Group B the second line in each stanza, etc.
6. Allow a few minutes for the groups to practice their lines.
7. Tell the students the 3rd time you play the song, they should practice saying the lyrics in their heads, silently. Play the song the 3rd time.
AND FINALLY, you're ready for some entertainment...
8. Play the song the 4th time. When it is Group A's turn to sing the lst line in the first stanza, they stand up and sing it, along with the music video, and then they sit down. Group B stands up as they sing the 2nd line in the first stanza, and then they sit down. Group C stands up as they sing the 3rd line in the first stanza and then they sit down. Group D stands and sings the 4th line in the first stanza and then they sit down.
Since each stanza is repeated, the groups get a second chance to sing the same line.
7. Continue this for the remaining stanzas. Everyone can sing the last 3 lines "La lluvia bendita, La lluvia bendita, ¡LA LLUVIA!"

I confess the student's favorite part was the break in the middle of the song when the little blue puppet sings "eh, eh, eh", but their participation in singing was more than acceptable and full of energy. Not bad for high schoolers, not bad at all!

This was incentive to remember to add a new song at LEAST every other week.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Hit and Run - Video and Discussion

Yesterday was technically my first day back to teach my Spanish 5 class after they were taught for three weeks by my student teacher. But yesterday was all about making Cascarones, one tidbit of culture that the students always enjoy that I can't bring myself to take out of the curriculum, so really, today was my first day to teach again.

I was definitely ready to teach using one of my favorite methods - a discussion that leads into a video. The students were so ready to have a group discussion that we ran short on time and could have used at least another 30 minutes.

Our discussion was on small, fender-bender type car accidents. Here is an outline of the steps in the lesson. Unfortunately, we did not get through all of them and today. Since it was the last day before Easter break, I probably won't go back to this next Tuesday, our first day back. Next time I'll have to plan this as a 2-day activity because I hate, hate, hate, to cut discussions short.

1.Start the discussion about accidents, women and men drivers, etc. with questions in the target language (below is the English version for those that don't teach Spanish).

2. Students describe photos at this website to their classmates. (directions how I did this are on download).
3. Put students in groups of 3 & they discuss the pictures on my Notebook activity (see download) and decide what they think is the correct order of events.
4. Students share their predicted order with class. (see download for link to use with interactive boards or interactive projectors). Two weeks ago I was the happy recipient of a new interactive projector so that makes this activity possible.) OR...There are many activities, verbal or written, that you can include at this stage, depending on your time and how comfortable and willing your students are with verbal activities. Maybe your students could write the dialogue in the video.
5. Watch the video. (Yes, unfortunately there is dialogue in English.)

6. Discuss, retell, write...your choice.

The full lesson can be found below:
If you have any ideas for other activities on this theme or with this video, please feel free to share them with me!