Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Creating a mini-unit from El Banco

Sr. Wooly's song, El Banco, has been one of the songs that I share with my Spanish 2 students for several years.  When I first started using it, it was basically to show the students the video for them to enjoy the song and hear the Spanish.

Now, however, since it is part of the Spanish 2 curriculum (that means I'll be subscribing to his website for years to come), there are readings and activities in place to introduce structures and vocabulary BEFORE watching the video, AND, activities that we do directly related to the video. It's not haphazard as it was in the past (which by no means took away from the enjoyment of the video), but rather a meaningful, well-planned component of the curriculum.

I added a two new activities this year (see #4 & #6) 

1. Rumors activity by Martina Bex
    Introduces structures: ¿Quién dijo?, no lo creo 

2.  A variation of the Thief Activity by Martina Bex. 
    Target structures: soy inocente, no hice nada, no lo creo.  Student A takes 10 things out of their bookbag and puts them on a chair; then leaves the room.  One student is chosen to take and hide one of the items.  Student A returns and has to guess who took the item. 

Student A: ¿Quién robó mi ____?  Daniel, ¿robaste mi ___? 
Daniel: No. Soy inocente. No hice nada. 
Student A: No lo creo.

3.  Movie Talk of Mercedes commercial of blonde lady in library

      Target Structures:  se acercó, miró
This short video helps me to introduce se acercó, which is a structure students will hear again in El Banco. It is also a good way to recycle previous vocabulary and pull in more examples of verbs in the past such as miró, vio, pensó, etc.)

4. Draw diagram on the board of the police station and interrogation rooms. Explain the main characters in the story and their actions, (in the TL of course!) referring to the diagram on the board.

5a. Distribute and read EL BANCO script
Note: I used to have Sr. Wooly's name at the top of the script but then the students knew that there was a video to accompany it.  I like to surprise them with the video, so you will notice that the paper below does not mention his name in order to keep the video a secret.


5b. Listen to recording of native speaker. My friend Nelsi, is from the Dominican Republic. I recorded her reading the story so my students can hear the beautiful Dominican Republic accent. 

6.  Act out the story.  (A day with acting in class is always a good day!)
You will need the following:
   - Margarita
   - Federico
   - el detective
   - a 2nd detective
   - two students to be the doors  (hold arm against your body, bend the arm at elbow, and extend the forearm).  The detective must pass through the door to go from one room to another.

El detective interroga a Federico.
Props:  tie for el detective; two desks and four chairs (each interrogation room had two chairs and a table); folder; two pieces of white typing paper - one with a sketch of Margarita and one with a sketch of Federico and scribble lines to look like information about the two suspects; a plastic cup (can be water in it); a styrofoam cup, pen,

The teacher should be the director while the students act. Insist that the students are dramatic. Insist that the detective walks through the "doors" to enter the interrogation rooms. When you say, "Había una mujer que se llamaba Margarita", pause and allow time for Margarita to look at the "audience" and acknowledge them.

7. Watch "El Banco", MovieTalk the events in the story. This video is always one of the students' favorites.

8.  Describe El Banco characters on the board. (A double T-chart) List the 3 characters:  Margarita, Federico, and el detective.   I ask the students to tell me the actions that the person did or describe the person (what s/he was wearing, physical characteristics, his/her feelings, etc).  Teacher writes on board:  Margarita, Federico, & el detective.  Students tell teachers sentences to describe the person or to tell what actions s/he did.  Students write sentences as teacher writes them on the board. Students form inside/outside circles. Student A reads a statement to Student B and Student B says which person it describes. Continue with 2 more statements then switch or Student B is reading from the list of statements and Student A responds.

9a.  El Banco script on Textivate - This is a public link
Variations: create a sequence for homework; or create a Challenge activity with the script instead of a sequence.

9b. Order the dialogue. I projected a scrambled dialogue that used the same structures and vocabulary but not related to El Banco video, on the board. Students worked with a partner to put the dialogue in a logical order.

10. Comprehension questions. I have some questions that I verbally ask the students about El Banco.  (Ex: ¿Dónde estaban las personas? ¿Qué bebió el detective/Margarita?) The purpose of the questions is to give students more input so they hear the vocabulary and structures in a different format. 
During these questions, I insist that students have two choices on how to respond: 

    (a) they raise their hand - they know the answer;
    (b) they place their first in the palm of their other hand - this indicates they don't understand the question, and/or they don't know the answer after they have referenced the El Banco story script and cannot find the answer

Passively sitting in the class and not choosing one of the above actions is NOT an option.

After the flood of input on these song and text activities, I give students a quiz which is a short story to read (it is NOT El Banco story), but it contains the same major grammar structures and vocabulary words.

Sr. Wooly has expanded his website immensely... so if you haven't checked it out lately, you will be in for a pleasant surprise. It is teacher-friendly and packed full of readings and online activities for teachers to assign online for students to complete. 


  1. How many days did this mini-unit take you? Would you share the audio file of your Dominican friend reading the story, and the quiz too?

    1. Hi Susann
      If you send me your email, I can send the files to you that you asked for in your message above. I've never sent the audio file by email before. I'm hoping it isn't too large of a file to send.

    2. Susann, We have 70 minute classes and the above activities took us 4 1/2 class periods.

  2. Hi Cynthia!

    Love all of these ideas! I was wondering if you would be willing to share a copy of your end of unit short story quiz that you mentioned. I would love to see how you set it up, as this seems like an awesome idea.

    Thank you!
    Jen H

    1. Yes, I'll gladly share it with you as long as you send me an email address to which I can send it.

    2. Hola Cynthia,

      I was wondering if you would also mind sharing it with me. I am coming back to school after a 3 week unexpected absence and am feeling overwhelmed and need some ideas. I had my students work on El Banco while I was gone, and need to give them an assessment soon. If you are willing to share, my email is m.monter@svlocal.org

      ¡Gracias! -Maria

  3. Hi again! Thank you so very much! My email is st_jhasebein@smfcsd.org. Thank you again!

    1. I sent you two files with several examples of quizzes. Let me know if you have any questions.
      Cynthia Hitz

  4. Good morning! Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful ideas!!! My apologies if this is the 2nd time you have received this request from me, but I didn't see my post above. If possible, could you email me (jrooke@glnd.k12.va.us) the quiz that you created and the audio file?
    With warm regards,

  5. I love these ideas! Would you please send me any materials/quizzes you made for this at kmcgrath8@gmail.com? I am doing El banco right now with students. Thanks so much!

  6. I love this entire post! I am just wrapping up el Banco after coming back from a prolonged absence. Could you also send me your quizzes and the audio file? My email is m.monter@svlocal.org. Thanks!

    1. Yes. I will aim to send them out tomorrow.
      C Hitz

  7. This is great stuff, especially using Bex and CI. Can you share the quiz you mention at the end?

  8. Could you please share your audio file and quiz for this Banco unit? I am wrapping my unit up tomorrow and that would be a time-saver! spaterson@kgcs.k12.va.us