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Lo que construimos

One fantastic resource for authentic Spanish music is Zachary Jones’s site, Zambombazo. Last month, he posted a worksheet for a Natalia Lafourcade song, Lo que construimos. The song itself is a beautifully sad breakup song, but the music video adds that something extra that makes for compelling CI: a twist ending. I decided to combine Embedded Reading techniques with Movie Talk strategies, creating two block periods worth of activities. My students were able to do this right after a dating/personal hygiene unit, so there is lots of vocabulary that I decided to recycle into the final reading.

Target Structures:
se acabó

tenía que acabar

After presenting the target structures, I showed students screencaps from the video and we read and discussed the story together.

After discussing the story, we listened to the song WITHOUT the video in order to complete the cloze of the lyrics and then discussed the meaning.

The next day, we watched the video, pausing many times to discuss the action, as in Movie Talk. For the first time, students noticed there was something strange about this boyfriend. What was that strange substance tracked throughout the house? Who is he talking about when he said “they have come for me?” What is that strange light shining down in the end? Is the boyfriend entirely human?

Finally, we wrapped everything up with a reading I had typed up.

Lo que construimos Reading


El gato apestoso

I’m a very structured story-teller. I like to have things well-mapped out, knowing that I am going to hit the target structures and get lots of repetitions in, which means that the first two episodes of a story will have a character trying to solve a problem, and the third episode will resolve the problem in some way. Students get a some leeway in naming characters and other little details, but I don’t usually give them free-reign until the end of the story, when they have built up some language from the previous two episodes.

“El gato apestoso” is a script I’ve adapted from Blaine Ray’s Look, I Can Talk More!. I have one class that can handle telling a story with actors, and one that, well, can’t. They are sweet kids who are very prone to chaos, so they get a short leash. On Monday, my one class helped create the story with actors, and I drew pictures to help review events. I recycled the pictures for my antsy class, using it more as a look-and-discuss. The pictures only told the first two episodes of the story, and after a listening quiz, I had students write their own endings to the story. I chose 8 different endings, typed them up and cleaned up the grammar, then the next day had those ready as a reading comprehension activity. Students read with partners, illustrated to show understanding, and then we talked about them in Spanish. It was a nice way to change up my normal super-structured routine, while still honoring student creativity (and getting in even more target structure repetitions!).

Here’s the initial script, along with my stunning artwork:

Target Structures:

  • lo olió                                        she smelled him
  • ¡Hueles mal!                           You smell bad!
  • se puso desodorante            He put on deodorant
  • ¡Ponte desodorante!            Put on deodorant!
  • todavía apestaba                   He still stank

Frances tenia un gato que se llamaba Jeffrey. Un dia, Frances lo olió y exclamó, “Oh, Jeffrey, ¡hueles mal! ¡Ponte desodorante!” Así que Jeffrey se puso desodorante Old Spice para Gatos. Frances lo olió otra vez, pero su gato todavía apestaba.

Así que Frances lo llevó a una experta en gatos que se llamaba Phoebe. Phoebe era experta en gatos apestosos. Phoebe olió el gato y exclamó, “Jeffrey, tú hueles muy mal. Cepíllate los dientes, por favor.” Le dio pasta dental Aquafresh para Gatos (con sabor de ratón), y Jeffrey se cepilló los dientes. Phoebe y Frances olieron el gato, pero todavía apestaba.

And here are some of the endings my students came up with:

El gato olía mal. El gato olía mal todo el tiempo. Frances no sabía qué hacer. La mamá de Frances le dijo, “¡Córtate la nariz!” Así que Frances se cortó la nariz. Jeffrey nunca apestaba otra vez.

Frances llevó Jeffrey a una experta. Se llamaba Kitty Perry. La experta exclamó, “¡Qué asco! Tu gato apesta.” Jeffrey estaba muy triste porque él apestaba. Frances no tuvo éxito con la experta. Por fin, Jeffrey se lavó con champú especial, y Frances dijo “Mmm. Jeffrey, ¡hueles bien!” Entonces Jeffrey tenía una novia y estaba muy feliz.

Frances llevó Jeffrey a Jack, un doctor en gatos apestosos. “Mi gato apesta mucho, necesito ayuda.” Jack miró a Jeffrey y dijo, “No es un gato. Es un extraterrastre de ajo.” A Frances no le gusta Jeffrey así que Frances lo tiró en la basura. “¡Hueles muy mal!”

Jeffrey todavía apestaba. Frances llevó Jeffrey al veterinario y el veterinario le dijo, “El gato no apesta, Frances, ¡TÚ hueles mal!” Frances volvió a casa con Jeffrey y Jeffrey le pasó su desodorante. Frances se puso desodorante y dijo, “Lo siento, Jeffrey. Tú no eres un gato apestoso. Hueles bien.”

Frances llevó Jeffrey a otro experto, que exclamó, “¡Eso no es un gato! ¡Eso es un oso! Para que huela bien el oso, tú necesitas comprar desodorante de oso.” Así que Frances fue a Wal-Mart y compró el desodorante. El desodorante no funcionó. Así que el oso se lavó con champú especial. El oso ya no olía mal después de lavarse con el champú.


First Day Exit Slips

Last year, I finally struck on a good way to start the year in a higher level class. As I’ve mentioned last August, I started my high school class (who have had at least two years of instruction in the present tense), with “Fue.” Students drew pictures of where they went (or wish they had gone), I wrote “Fui” and “Fue” with their translations on the board, and we were off and running. I compared my card with that of another student, fishing for details to flesh out the scenario.

Then it was time for a brain break. I had my kids get up and stretch a bit, then they had to move around the room to find people with the same height, eye color, hair color, and shirt color. After our break, I handed out the syllabus, along with Martina Bex’s syllabus homework. When I did this last year I found I had better buy-in with both students AND parents.

After explaining the classroom rules and my interpersonal communication rubric (borrowed heavily from Ben Slavic’s wonderful site), I reviewed the two cards we had been working on. Instead of a five question true/false quiz like I’ve given in years past, this year I tried handing out exit slips. They’re not fancy, just about a fifth of sheet of copy paper with a spot for name, date, and a few lines to write on. I asked them to write down two sentences about what we talked about in class today. Then on the back, they reflected on their learning in English.

The exit slips showed me which students might struggle with fui vs. fue, which are still hanging onto the present tense for dear life, and other areas that I need to work on when circling. I was really in it for the reflection part, though. Here are some things my students wrote:

“Mrs. Bas made the material pretty easy to understand. She also asked a lot of questions, which helped me understand. Everything was slow, even the way she conversed, which I liked. She also used a lot of examples, which also helped me understand certain terms when I was confused.”

“I noticed that it is hard to understand a different language even if you’ve studied it for years. I think it’s easier to understand if you mix English in it.”

“I understood most of what Mrs. Bas was saying so that was easy. The hard part though was speaking up to answer her questions.”

“It was all easy saying it and thinking it.”

“We asked a lot of questions in class. What is hard is remembering everything from last year.”

One of my goals this year is to use exit slips like this to get a quick read on what students are acquiring and where the gaps are in their learning, as well as have them reflect on HOW CI methods help them learn the language. If I can get them to understand my goals from day one, I think that I will be able to maintain better discipline throughout the year.

Casi llega tarde

As I was gearing my 8th graders up for their next novel, I realized that lots of the target structures I wanted to hit are already in Señor Wooly’s “Puedo ir a baño” video. If you are unfamiliar, it’s about a boy who barely arrives to Spanish class on time, only to immediately ask to go to the bathroom. (Not that any of our angels would dare to do such a thing!) So of course, he sings to his teacher about it.

I pulled out my target structures:

casi llega tarde

no puedo esperar

empieza a

no lo/la deja ir

And after asking the students who was a strict teacher, we came up with this:

Hay una chica que se llama Jakaylah. Un día, Jakaylah va a la clase de inglés. Necesita sus libros de inglés, así que va a su armario primero. Pero hay un problema: ¡hay una jirafa en su armario! Jakaylah no puede sacar sus libros de su armario porque la jirafa no la deja. Jakaylah le grita, “Aarrrgh!” y la jirafa tiene miedo. Jakaylah saca sus libros de su armario y continúa a su clase de inglés. Camina rápido porque no quiere llegar tarde. No corre. Correr en el pasillo es malo. Jakaylah camina rápido.

Jakaylah casi llega tarde a la clase de inglés. No está tarde. Llega exactamente a tiempo. La Sra. V es una profesora estricta. Empieza su clase exactamente a tiempo. Jakaylah se sienta, pero tiene otro problema: tiene que ir al baño. Levanta la mano y le pregunta a Sra. V, “¿Puedo ir al baño?” La profe le responde, “No, tienes que esperar.” ¡No la deja ir! Pobre Jakaylah piensa, “No puedo esperar. Tengo que impresionarla.” Así que Jakaylah se levanta y empieza a cantar. Jakaylah canta “Party in the USA” por Miley Cyrus. Canta con mucha pasión y energía. Pero la Sra. V está enojada. “Siéntate, Jakaylah. Tienes que esperar.”

Jakaylah se sienta en su silla y piensa, “¡No puedo esperar! Voy a hacer pipi en mis pantalones.” Jakaylah sabe que necesita impresionar a Sra. V. Pero su profesora no estaba impresionada con su música bonita. ¿Qué impresiona a una profesora de inglés? De repente, Jakaylah tiene una idea fantástica. Empieza a escribir ensayos. Escribe un montón de ensayos y se los da a Sra. V. “Ay, Jakaylah, ¡estoy muy impresionada! Tú puedes ir al baño.” Jakaylah está muy contenta porque Sra. V la deja ir al baño.

It’s fun coming up with ways to impress the teacher. In another class, three different students were almost late and tried to impress the teacher. The first two failed, but we let the last one succeed because he both solved math problems AND twerked at the same time. Impressive!

After a few days of inventing and reading the story, they were ready to MovieTalk the video. I highly recommend a Señor Wooly subscription, but “Puedo ir al baño” is free!

Noches Misteriosas en Granada: Revelations Activity

My high school classes just finished reading the novel “Noches misteriosas en Granada” by Kristy Placido. I usually finish up a novel with some sort of group mural/speaking project. For this novel, though, I wanted to try something different.

Because it’s a mystery, there are a few big reveals in the last chapters. I summarized each one in a single sentence, and my students had to look through the novel for clues that hint at the larger mystery. It was a great way to have them go back to parts they remember and realize that little clues have been sprinkled throughout the whole book.

Noches misteriosas en Granada Revelaciones (Spoilers!)