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!)

El Robot

Whenever you start teaching at a new school, there always seems to be a treasure trove of resources to discover, leftover from the teacher before you. One of the books I found a few years ago at my new school is called Realidad y Fantasía by Suan H. Noguez and Emily Boyd. It has a wealth of stories written in simple, comprehensible Spanish, along with workbook-type activities for each. It doesn’t seem to be in print anymore, but if you find a copy, hold on to it! Some of the stories contain valuable cultural and historical information, and others are just fun to read, with an irreverent sense of humor that captures students’ interest.

One story from the book is called “El Robot.” It’s about a robot who works in a house, cleaning and cooking and doing the dishes, but all the while wanting to do something else. He decides to invent another robot to do the chores, but of course that doesn’t work out! I’ve used the story on its own and rewritten as an embedded reading, but this year I tried it just as a story script, reducing it to the bare bones and letting students flesh it out. Here it is, with the variables underlined.

Key structures:

tiene que hacer todos los quehaceres

limpia la casa

lava la ropa

saca la basura

Hay un robot que se llama Stanley. Stanley vive en una casa con una familia. Tiene que hacer todos los quehaceres. Tiene que cocinar y lavar los platos. Tiene que sacar la basura y limpiar todos los baños. Es un robot muy trabajador, pero no está contento. Quiere tocar el saxófono. Así que decide inventar otro robot para ayudar en casa. Va a su laboratorio e inventa un nuevo robot. Se llama Dora.

Ahora Dora tiene que hacer todos los quehaceres. Dora limpia la casa, lava la ropa, y saca la basura. Por fin, Stanley puede practicar su saxófono. Toca en una banda de jazz. Pero hay un problema: Dora no está contenta. Quiere nadar en los Olímpicos. Así que Dora decide darles dinero a los hijos de la casa para hacer los quehaceres. Dora no tiene dinero porque es un robot, así que decide robar el dinero de un banco. La policía arresta a Dora, y ahora Stanley tiene que hacer todos los quehaceres.

Perros y Gatos, Oh My!

Zachary Jones has a weekly feature on Wednesdays call Miaucoles (get it?) that is worth checking out. He posts a cute cat meme or video in Spanish every week, and it’s a perfect pick-me-up for those dreary winter days that seem to drag on forever.

One recent video is a commercial about the value of adding some furry friends to a boring situation. It’s a great clip to add to your arsenal of Movie Talk videos. I haven’t used it yet, but I would probably teach or reinforce structures like works, boring/bored, and smiles. You could also get a lot of mileage out of describing the cats & dogs, talking about what they are doing and where, and discussing students’ pets.

El monstruo de la laguna

I’ve talked before about using Name Cards on the first day of school to get to know students and provide content for creating mini-stories in the first days of school. Favorite activities are a no-brainer for novice students, but what about second year students? I like to get the ball rolling with the phrase “tiene miedo.” Students draw pictures of what they fear, and we build scenarios of students finding clowns in their lockers or sharks in the bathroom. It’s very useful for reviewing past vocabulary, too.

A natural segue for “tiene miedo” name cards is this little comic strip I found on Zachary Jones’s site. The language is super-simple for returning students, but you can use circling techniques to build up a background story for the little green monster and the redheaded girl. I like to finish by having students draw what happens next, then displaying possible scenarios, discussing them in Spanish, and voting on a class favorite. Whatever my students decide, I write up into an extended reading for another class period.


You can extend this little comic even further if you have access to Señor Wooly’s fabulous site! His video for “Guapo” makes for a perfect contrast. After viewing and discussing the video and accompanying readings, I like to have students do a Free Write in Spanish on who the REAL monster is: Victor,  or this little green sweetheart.

OR you could connect the monster in the comic to Canticuénticos’ “Cumbia del monstruo,” a catchy little dance song with lots of opportunities to teach different body parts.

One of the things I love about teaching with Comprehensible Input methods is how easy it can be to link authentic resources from different sources. How could you use this comic in your classroom?


“Alma” is a fantastic animated short that was making the rounds in CI circles last year. It’s perfect for this time of year because of the weather and winter clothing vocabulary. I borrowed several ideas from around the web as I built my lesson plans around the video.

First, I pre-taught some vocabulary. “arriba del estante” and “escribió en la pared” are easy enough to TPR, and then I used PQA to circle the word “muñeca.”

Then, I used a shortened version of the embedded reading from Nina Barber, changed to the past tense since that is what my students have been using all semester, to do a Pictado. Students listened as I told the story and drew pictures of what they heard. I got a lot of repetitions from simply saying the story multiple times, then I circled some questions about it to make sure they understood. Then they used their pictures to practice saying the story back to a partner.

The next day, we reviewed the story by talking about a student’s Pictado drawings. I wrote the essential vocabulary on the board as we went, then added the words “gorra,” “guantes,” and “chaleco.” It happened to be a hat day in my school, so we talked about the different hats people were wearing. Then I copy-pasted version 2 of the embedded reading into IMTranslator, using their TTS Voice service to read the story in Spanish. Students listened to the Spanish and translated it aloud into English. (I love IMTranslator when I want to give my kids a break from hearing my voice!) Then I used the photo collage on Cynthia Hitz’s site as an informal listening assessment, with students holding up their fingers to indicate the number of the photo I was talking about.

FINALLY it was time to watch the film. The first time through, I paused it at different times to talk about what they were seeing in Spanish. I really liked how pre-teaching with the readings helped them understand the final film. I stopped right before she touches the doll and asked for predictions. Then we got to watch the whole thing through without pausing. After discussing the ending, I had them do a timed writing assignment about the story. (If students finished early, I challenged them to continue the story on their own.)

There are so many other different things to do with this video, I couldn’t try them all. Martina Bex even turned it into a midterm exam!


Or, How To Make Your Math Department Love You.

Numbers are so useful, yet so boring to teach. One thing that I have been using in all my classes throughout this year is a Matedictado, or Math Dictation. I originally got the idea from Ben Slavic’s blog (the source of many great CI ideas!), but have put my own little spin on it.

First, students have to practice the numbers. If they haven’t worked with higher numbers before, I like to drill them using Martina Bex’s Final Countdown Brain Break: I say “uno,” the next person stands up and says “dos,” and we see how high we can get without two people standing up at once or messing up the pattern. We get to do higher numbers if I start with a different number, forcing them to count by threes, fives, tens, or hundreds. Another way to practice numbers are to include them as details in stories. Some teachers use a Sesame Street-style Number of the Week for this purpose.

For the Matedictado itself, I teach operations vocabulary for plus, minus, or multiplied by, give five or ten problems. Students have to correctly hear and write down the two numbers for the problem, then solve it. Students get to hear the numbers again when they trade papers for grading.

The Girl Who Didn’t Know How to Drive

In order to pre-teach vocabulary for the upcoming Rio Movie-Talk video, I wrote a short script and did a regular story-asking session today. It worked out well, and I think the Movie-Talk will be much richer and more productive when students already know the core vocabulary.

Target Structures in this case are:

No sabía manejar   She didn’t know how to drive

Chocó con   She crashed into/ran into

There was a girl who didn’t know how to drive. One day, she wanted to go to her friend’s house. So, she got in her dad’s truck and tried to drive to her friend’s house. But there was a problem: She didn’t know how to drive. She crashed into a gas station, and the gas station exploded. The girl and the truck both died and went to heaven.

When she arrived in heaven, the girl was an angel. But there was a problem: She didn’t know how to fly. She was a very sad angel. Her dad’s truck was in heaven, too, but it was not an angel. It had turned into a Transformer. The Transformer knew how to fly. It taught the girl how to fly, and she was very happy.

Movie Talk with Rio (plus a novel tie-in!)

As my high school students have been reading Kristy Placido’s Robo en la noche this quarter, they keep drawing comparisons to the animated movie Rio. Now, I’ve never seen this movie, but I thought it would be a natural progression to do a week of Movie Talk with a clip. Pixar-type movies are usually good about posting clips that function as stand-alone shorts, instead of just the typical teaser-trailer. One short jaunt through YouTube got me a good clip for Movie Talk: It’s short (about two minutes), action-packed, and full of vocabulary that my students will be familiar with from reading the novel (aves, no puede volar, se cae, tiene miedo, alas, se pone nervioso). After viewing the video, I started writing up a comprehensible text, focusing on two target phrases:

no sabía volar
chocó con

Here’s the video, along with the accompanying reading.

Rio MovieTalk

Movie Talk with Monsters, Inc.

There has been a flurry of talk in the CI community about Movie Talk, so I thought I’d share some materials I’ve created to go along with a Monsters, Inc. clip.

Here’s the reading I’ve typed up to go along with the clip: Monster Unit

There are lots of good target structures in there, from TPR-verbs like “tropieza y se cae” and “agarra,” to high-frequency (and highly discussible!) structures like “le da miedo/tiene miedo.”

Beginning the Year with Name Cards

Although some teachers and students are still enjoying their summer vacations in other parts of the country, today was the second day of school in my neck of the woods! And it is running smoothly thanks to an adaptation of Ben Slavic’s Circling with Balls routine.

The original Circling with Balls has well, actual balls. The teacher takes a basketball, asks who plays basketball, and students hear all about how Susie plays basketball with her friends, but Johnny plays baseball with his brother. You introduce the structure “he/she plays” and circle it to death.  I have done this with likes/dislikes for years, but only ever with beginners.

Now, I have the same routine for all my classes, regardless of level. Students get a sheet of cardstock and on one side, they write their name. On the other side, they draw a picture. My 8th graders have to draw something they are afraid of. Then, I weave a story using a willing volunteer’s picture. On the first day of school, we spent almost 30 minutes talking about evil clowns. We were having such fun, I ran out of time to give them a supply list.

This activity (which I still call Circling with Balls though  it needs a different name) serves three purposes. First, it sets the tone for the class, and helps to establish classroom norms. Second, it is a diagnostic activity in which I can what vocabulary and grammar my students have acquired and where gaps in their knowledge is. Finally, it helps me learn their names and their personalities faster, adding to the sense of community that I want to cultivate.

There is very little planning that goes into Circling with Balls, because the students ARE the curriculum.