Saturday, April 1, 2017

The MANDATO Challenge: Spanish Commands

Have you ever thought of how often you hear commands throughout your day or how often you say a command? It has to be one of the most used features of a language.

The language of mothers and fathers, especially those with young children, are packed with commands. Are you a fan of cooking shows or DIY shows? Think of the amount of commands you hear during those programs. 

Likewise, teachers' days are full of commands as they instruct their students and give directions.  I doubt teachers realize how often they say a command.

Last semester, I wanted to make my Spanish students aware of how often they hear commands during the class period, so I proposed a simple listening competition. When I say a command in Spanish, I will listen for the first student to call out Mandato!". Then I write the student's name on the board with a tally mark. 

I am repeating The Mandato Challenge again this semester. I started it two days ago and the tally marks are growing. Interestingly enough, some students that are usually quiet in class, are among the high scorers! In other words, the fact that they're quiet does not mean they aren't listening and acquiring the language, but rather that their comfort zone in the second language classroom looks a little different than the students that want to answer every, single question or even comment on things without a question. (To be clear, I do like having those that are like a fountain of language that doesn't have an off switch in class because they add energy and content to our discussions.)

If I can't discern which person said ¡Mandato! first, it's a draw and nobody receives a tally mark. A new addition to The Mandato Challenge this semester is if I say a command and nobody hears it, which usually happens if I am speaking to only one student or a small group of students, then I receive a point. I've earned a few points, but I predict next week I'll earn a big 'ole goose egg because they are s-h-a-r-p!

Side benefits of The Mandato Challenge
An unexpected benefit to this challenge, is that sometimes to avoid saying a command, I say Quiero que ustedes pongan sus papeles en mi escritorio (I want that you all put your papers on my desk) instead of Pongan sus papeles en mi escritorio (Put your papers on my desk), which provides input of the subjunctive in context at a time they are paying close attention

Eventually students notice that many times the words (verbs) are the same when I say "I want that you..." as when I directly tell them to do something. 
Sometimes when I say a command and one or two, (or sometimes 10 or more), students call out ¡Mandato!, and I add a tally mark, there may be a student that didn't hear it and will ask, "¿Qué dijiste?" (or sometimes they blurt that out in English - we're still in the real world here folks). They asked, so I write what I said on the board for them to see it in print. It's like "pop-up grammar" but they initiate it! Other times after I add a tally mark I'll ask the class to tell me what I just said and then we quickly move on to what we were doing.

It adds energy to class because the students are waiting, listening, ready to shout ¡Mandato! which captures everyone's attention.

If you want to see how this works, give The Mandato Challenge a try in your classroom. Have FUN with it! 

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