Tag: activities

Bianca Nieves Chapter 5: El Juego Imposible

My Spanish IV class has been zipping through the novel Bianca Nieves y los Siete Toritos by Carrie Toth. It’s a little below their reading level, but it is rich in the uses of subjunctive as well as Spanish bullfighting culture. (Tangent: I am a huge believer in reading below level as long as the content is rich.)

After reading chapter 5, in which the villainous stepmother threatens Bianca with an impossible choice, I made up a slideshow inspired by Martina Bex’s ¿Es Posible? boardgame. I didn’t have enough time to create an actual game in class, nor did I have the classtime to devote to such an activity. I simply displayed each slide in order to generate discussion. This also allowed for a lot of authentic use of the subjunctive!

Paideia Seminar and Comprehensible Input

I teach at a Paideia school, which means that my school focuses on Mortimer Adler’s philosophy that “the best education for the best is the best education for all.” I find that CI methods dovetail nicely into this, because they support the widest variety of learners. Slow processors get the repetitions they need to make meaning from high-frequency structures, and fast processors can hone in on things like how different verb endings change the meaning.

There are three pillars of instruction in the Paideia classroom: Didactic, Coaching, and Seminar. In my classes, I spend the majority of time in the Coaching mode, modeling the use of target structures through Personlized Questions and Answers (PQA), Story Asking, and reading stories and novels. To an outside observer, this might look like I am just lecturing. After all, a CI teacher does a LOT of talking! However, what I am really doing is modeling correct language and administering constant comprehension checks, building up students’ auditory and reading comprehension so that it leads to producing correct language in their speech and writing. Also, by asking them to respond to input, I am giving them a chance in a low-pressure environment to practice their target structures.

The area where I have struggled most to incorporate CI methods is Paideia Seminar. A seminar draws on Socratic-style questioning methods to guide students to a deeper understanding of an idea or a text. It is a formal discussion in which students sit in a circle and do not raise hands to speak, but rather wait for an appropriate opening. The teacher functions more a a facilitator, with the goal of keeping the discussion on-task, but not deliberately leading the students toward any one conclusion. In my school, all students participate in both weekly school-wide seminars on a particular text and in content-specific seminars. As a Comprehensible INPUT teacher, how could I expect my students to produce OUTPUT at the level that Paideia Seminar demands?

As a result, I tend to use Paideia Seminar very sparingly, deploying it only after students have already received ample input and have something highly discussible to talk about. My most successful Spanish seminar happened earlier this spring, in my 8th grade class. We had been reading Noches misteriosas en Granada by Kristy Placido, and there was an activity in the Teachers’ Guide for chapter 7 (where the mystery really ramps up) in which students had to agree or disagree with certain statements about the text and support their opinion with text evidence. Well, in the world of Paideia, we are constantly hammering “text evidence” into their brains, so I decided to use that activity to prepare them for a formal seminar. Remember, we were seven chapters into the novel, and I had built up their vocabulary previously with stories containing key target structures that I knew would appear in the novel. My students engaged in a lively debate about the true nature of the mysterious Alfonso and Soraya, completely in Spanish. The words were just falling out of their mouths, with almost no effort, even from some of my students who struggle the most and have been the most resistant to my methods! I was truly amazed at what they were capable of. One of my strategies when conducting a seminar in a foreign language is to reserve a couple of deep-thinking questions in English to ask at the end of the discussion, but these students didn’t even need them. They were fully engaged in the target language, even asking questions of their own in Spanish. The very best Paideia Seminars are ones in which students take the lead in the discussion, and I never expected that to happen in a Spanish seminar.

Their success has inspired me to develop Paideia Seminars for other texts as well. When I teach Esperanza next year, I can see a having a debate about Alberto’s role in things. (My students this year had strong opinions about his seemingly cavalier attitude about leaving his family behind.) When I teach Robo en la Noche, I want my students to delve deeper into Cecilio’s role in the theft. Do his reasons absolve him from his crimes?

Paideia Seminar is such a great tool for exploring characters and themes, and with enough CI prep, students can do it all in the target language, too!

Problemas en el cine

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!

 

Story Extension Idea

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!

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Patito

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.

Patito Canta
Patito’s first misadventure in the chorus room.

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!