A couple years ago, a fairly innocuous story script from the Realidades series developed into a story full of romance, action, and drama, in which a boy runs away from a movie theatre full of zombies only to find that his girlfriend has become… a zombie! I turned it into a story scramble activity the next day, and that worksheet languished in my Dropbox, until I came across it the other day and decided to expand it.
The story line naturally lent itself to an embedded reading. If you cut off at the right moments, you can build up quite a bit of suspense. This keeps students engaged in multiple layers of the same text, each adding more detail than before. One of my students almost fell out of her seat trying to keep from announcing the surprise ending!
Last fall I was doing a monster unit in a level 2 class, and I wanted to include Cienfue’s “El Cuco” song, which uses the high frequency word “viene” quite a bit. In researching the Cuco, I discovered that it was actually part of a traditional lullaby:
Duérmete niño, duérmete ya, que viene el Cuco y te llevará.
Duérmete niño, duérmete ya, que viene el Cuco y te comerá.
Inspiration struck, and a story immediately came to mind: a mother sings to her little boy who won’t go to sleep. In the middle of the night, the bad little boy hears a knock on the door. In the morning, the mother comes to find the room empty, her son nowhere to be seen.
This sort of twisted story is perfectly suited for an embedded reading à la Laurie Clarcq. With each version, the boy’s disappearance is a mystery until more and more of the lullaby is revealed and students reach the obvious conclusion: the Cuco came!
I just love embedded readings. They are a great way to trick students into reading the same text several times, thereby getting more repetitions and cementing key vocabulary.
Last week, I used Martina Bex’s script “El amigo simpático” for my 8th graders. In her script, a nice girl helps three different friends. Well, we didn’t get to the third friend when telling the story in either of my classes. This turned out to be a good thing.
When I typed up the reading, I included a third paragraph about a friend who needs help because they can’t eat. I inserted blanks for the name, the reason they can’t eat, and how the nice girl helps. Working in pairs, students created new details and illustrated to show understanding.
I then spun this out even further. I chose five of the better story ideas and re-typed them with correct grammar. I copied their pictures as well. The next day, my students paired up and read the other class’s stories aloud to each other. Then, they got a stack of the pictures. They had to match the pictures to the stories first, then caption each picture in Spanish. What a great way to spin out a story and get more reps!
I have a very good vibe going in my regular Spanish I class this year. With just 16 students, I was a little nervous at the beginning of the year. Too few students can make for a dead class. I shouldn’t have worried — I have a great bunch of kids. This means I can do some fun things I’ve always wanted to try. One of those things is Patito.
In any CI classroom, props play a big role. I depend on my collection of stuffed animals to stand in as actors when kids are too shy, to be objects to throw around, and to give us something to talk about. One of my stuffed animals is a small duck named Patito. (Actually, Patito was stolen last year. ¡Qué triste! A kind student has replaced him with Patito II.) A couple of weeks ago, I proposed sending Patito home with a student every weekend. The kids were to take pictures of him doing a few things so that we could talk about him come Monday. They seemed game, but we got snowed out and had to wait until last Friday. Our online attendance system has a random student generator that I used to pick my first victim, but before sending Patito off on his adventure, I made sure to write my name on his tag. This proved prescient.
Later that day I got an email from a coworker: “Are you missing a stuffed duck?” I had been foiled again! I went to retrieve Patito and snapped some shots of him in the chorus room playing piano and serenading a very comely green ducky that happened to be there. I’ll show those pictures today and hopefully this Patito thing will catch on. Perhaps I should have started with a willing volunteer!