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.
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.
“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!
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.