It’s Changed!


Recently I stumbled across a Spanish textbook for 3rd grade and I found some interesting ideas for story activities. In this activity, students get into a group and read a story. Then the teacher reads the story aloud. While reading, the teacher intentionally changes details in the story. You could change a character, the setting, an object, or a situation. The students have to pay attention to the story retell and call out “¡Está cambiado!” when the teacher says a detail that is different from the original version. Then they have to say what the change was and describe how the original version of the story differs. I think it would be fun to make this a competition and play it with individual or team whiteboards. I would give a point to the team or teams that call out “¡Está cambiado!” first. Then I would give a point to any team that can rewrite the part of the story that was changed so that it matches the original version of the story. They could even copy the original phrase directly out of the reading if you let them have it in front of them during the retell. This way they are getting additional input by having to re-read the original version over and over. I definitely plan on testing out this activity with my class and I will update you with you it goes when I do!

Source: Español, 3er grado, p. 113

Choral Reading

Just to give a bit of backstory before I talk about choral reading, my classes and I all started off the year with a common storytelling unit designed to assess where all of the students were at. I teach grades 5-8 and I wasn’t expecting them to know much more than colours, animals, some numbers, etc. I assumed the grade 8s would be at the highest level of ability, but I actually have some grade 6 classes that seem to know more than some of the grade 8 classes, so I’m glad that I have had this chance to assess them all a bit. You can read more about how I started off the year in my First Day post. After the first day of class, we moved on to some storytelling using the script I had written. Our characters turned out to be Justin Bieber and Will Ferrell in most of the classes, simply because I have some hilarious celebrity masks at school. They were a huge hit with every grade level. They also came up with some interesting pets for the two characters, including a mini-monkey, a giant purple frog, and a llama. Try circling the sentence “La llama se llama Justin Bieber junior” as many times as you can in Spanish! Yes, they not only had Justin Bieber as a character in the story, but several of my classes insisted that Will Ferrell’s animal was named Justin Bieber Junior.

Anyways, to get to the point of this post, after the storytelling we moved into a common TPRS reading technique often called choral reading. This was their first time trying it out, and it went really well. I created a PowerPoint presentation with the story broken up into various slides. I added funny or interesting photos to each part of the story that would help students understand it better and stay engaged. We went through the story together as a class using the presentation. On each slide, I read aloud the sentences in Spanish. Then I had the students chorally translate the sentences into English. I like to use my laser pointer for this, but you can just as easily point with your finger instead. I use the laser pointer to keep all of the students reading at the same speed. This time I was trying to get them used to the speed, so I was very strict about them only translating a word if the laser pointer/my finger was on that word. They had to pause until I moved to the next word. After we translated each slide, I circled the important sentences and asked a few questions about the content of the story. I also occasionally compared the content to information we had learned about students in the class or myself. (ie. Gabriela has dark hair, but I have blonde hair.)

As a final step in the choral reading process, I had students get into partners and translate the whole story (the last slide of the presentation). They each had to translate one sentence at a time, and they had to alternate. I walked around the classroom while they were doing this, and had very few students who were struggling. Afterwards when asked, the students told me how smart they felt because they understood everything in the whole story.

Picture Dictionaries

This year I created a new template for the picture dictionaries I have students fill out. I borrowed the idea for the format from a math teacher at my school who uses something very similar. So far I think it’s working really well. It doesn’t take them long to fill out, and doesn’t seem to be as confusing or hard to explain as the previous version I had created. Basically the students write the Spanish structure in the circle in the middle. The English translation goes in the top left box, then we write an example of a sentence in Spanish that uses the structure in the bottom left box. In the top right box they then draw a picture (using stick figures) of that sentence or of something that reminds them of the structure (ie. for “se llama” lots of students drew a simple name tag). In the bottom right box, students can either describe in English how to do the action associated with the structure, or they can draw a picture/diagram of it.


Timed Write Rubric

At one of my presentations this weekend, I was asked to post the rubric I use to grade timed writes. I have posted it along with the timed write handout that I give to my students. Basically for this activity, students write sentences with one word per line. They have 10 minutes to write as long of a story as they can. The rules I give them are that they cannot give a character more than two names (first and last) and they cannot repeat the same word twice in a row (eg. very very very very happy). Their sentences have to make sense, but spelling doesn’t count as long as I can figure out what they are trying to say. They are not allowed to ask how to say words or look them up in a dictionary because I want to know what they have acquired. Their options for the story are to rewrite a story we have told/read in class, write a similar story with different details, or write an original story. The most important thing I tell them every time we do this activity is to focus on using language that they already know. Sometimes students get stuck because they get a great idea for a story but aren’t able to write it with the limited amount of Spanish that they know. I tell them to repeat the structures we have learned in class as many times as they can and to add another character when they get stuck for ideas. I also encourage them to use cognates that they know as well as proper nouns, especially for places (eg. Walmart, Starbucks).

My favourite part of this activity is that it allows me to see where my students are at in acquiring the structures. It is very easy to tell when reading their timed writes which students have acquired the structures and which students still need more input. The first time I do a timed write, I have students write down a target for themselves. This number is the number of words they think they can write in Spanish in the 10 minutes. After the first timed write, they continue to set their own target but it must be at least equal to the number of words they wrote the previous time.

I love to have students do this right at the beginning of the semester and again at the end so they can see how far they have progressed in the language. Click here to see a French sample from a student who was halfway through the year of grade 10 French at the time.

Chayanne – Humanos a Marte

These past two weeks have been great for getting a head start on planning for this upcoming school year. I have decided to start off the year with my two older groups (grade 9s and grade 11s) with a few basic structures that we will need for storytelling. They haven’t had TPRS before as I am at a new school this year, so I want to make sure to challenge them a little but not make things really difficult. They are all at varying levels of ability (some have taken Spanish since grade 5 and others since grade 7), so we will see how this song works with them. It’s a little faster, but super catchy.

I’ve created a cloze activity for the song and I added some information about Chayanne as well as the Mars One project, since it seemed to tie in to the song. I also added a few questions about both topics. My focus structures for this unit are “tiene”, “mira”, and “quiere”, so I’ve tried to work that into the song whenever possible. I am also trying to limit the number of blanks they have to fill in until I have a better idea of where their level of Spanish is at.

I’m also hoping to post the rest of the unit that I created to go with the song, but I need to finish it up first.