I am pleased to announce the release of a Spanish TPRS novel that I have written and published. The novel is called Los Sobrevivientes and is available now. Los Sobrevivientes is based on the incredible true story of the rugby team from Uruguay that was stranded in the middle of the Andes mountains after a plane crash in 1972. Abandoned, forgotten and left for dead, several of the passengers endured the brutal conditions and found a way to survive for 71 days. The novel was written for Spanish 2 or 3, but the compelling story will inspire students at any level. Even my students who “hate reading” have enjoyed the story. A plane crash, cannibalism, an impossible 40 mile journey through 100 foot deep snow and a triumph of the human spirit. What more could you ask for in a 7,000 word novel?
Here is a trailer based on chapter 4 of the novel. It can be used to generate interest before reading or add drama to one section of the story.
You can find the novel here:
Please contact me (email@example.com) if you are interested in ordering a class set.
Also, here is a resource with a variety of comprehension activities for each chapter. It can be used in or out of class.
Los Sobrevivientes: Individual Reading Comprehension Assessment
Here is a digital copy of chapters 1-3 to give you an idea of the level of writing used within the novel.
Los Sobrevivientes Sample (Chapters 1-3)
I spent the summer rewriting my Spanish 4 curriculum. My goal was to create a better bridge between my level 3 classes and AP level 5. I wanted to create units that prepared students for the specific requirements and assessments of AP. The result was several Thematic Units based heavily on authentic materials with resources and strategies to make them comprehensible. I recently made four of them available.
Each unit is a 20+ page document that includes activities, assessments and links to videos and other resources. They are designed to prepare students for the requirements of an AP course but with less intimidation. They fit best in a Pre AP Spanish 4 class but can be used in AP classes or any level before. Even if your school does not have an AP course, these can be useful.
I recently organized and released 12 TPRS Spanish units. They can be found at the link above or here – TPRS Units. Each unit includes a story script for in-class storytelling, a reading selection, comprehension questions, instructions for the teacher, speaking prompts and a writing prompt. Most scripts work best in a level 2 or 3 Spanish class, and all can be adapted to fit your class. There is a combo package at the bottom of the page which includes all 12 units. Each unit description includes a list of the target structures and a summary.
These are some of my favorite stories, readings and activities. I hope you are able to use them in your class as well.
The following activities are great way to provide input in an engaging manner, using your students as the context. They work well for the first day back after a break but can be used at any time. They are very easy to prepare and create a time in which the students say little, and the teacher provides a lot of repetitions and input without losing the interest of the class.
True or False
- Project a list of statements about different students from class. The statements can be about anything – last weekend, yesterday, a focus on an emphasized structure (present perfect, preterite, imperfect, future).
- Carlos has never seen Titanic.
- Alicia ate pasta last weekend.
- Benito has a girlfriend.
- Manolo lied to his parents yesterday.
- Maritza has read every Harry Potter book
- Natalia has been on television.
- Marcos and Olivia spent time together yesterday.
- Using a small scrap paper, students take a minute to quietly read the phrases and write “true” or “false” for each. They are not permitted to ask the students mentioned. They base their responses on how well they know their classmates and simply guessing.
- Review each statement with the class. Students keep track of how many they get correct. Use each statement as a way to circle and ask several questions.
- Class, has Carlos seen Titanic?
- Carlos, have you seen Titanic?
- It’s true. Carlos has not seen Titanic.
- Who has seen Titanic?
- Ricardo, how many times have you seen Titanic?
- Ricardo has seen Titanic 4 times. Who has seen it more?
- Have I seen Titanic?
- That’s right. I have seen Titanic but I have only seen it once.
- (Notice that students only need to respond with “yes”, “no”, raising hands and saying numbers.)
- After reviewing all statements and discussing, award a prize to the students with most correct.
- Project a list of questions about how many students in class have done something or did something during the weekend, yesterday etc.
- How many students went to the movies during break?
- How many students cooked something?
- How many students lied to their parents?
- How many students said a bad word yesterday?
- How many students have never been to Bob Evan’s?
- How many students said, “I love you” to a mother or father this morning?
- How many students have said, “I love you” to a boyfriend/girlfriend?
- Using a small paper, students write their guesses for how many in class did/have done each action mentioned. The teacher should participate also.
- Review and discuss each statement as in the true/false activity. It is possible to get several repetitions on each statement.
- How many went to the movies during break? (Students raise hands)
- 17 students went to the movies.
- What movie did you see, Miguel?
- Was it good or bad? . . . etc.
- For each statement, students write the difference between their responses and the actual number. At the end, the student with the least total difference between guesses and actual numbers is the winner. If that system is too much math, you can simply award a point to the closest on each statement.
- Another option is to make the statements based on opinions or beliefs.
- How many believe that art class is more important than history class?
- How many believe parents should control what their children watch on TV?
- How many believe that the drinking age should be lower than 21?
There are several ways to adapt these activities, but this should be enough to get you going. The keys to success are that the the questions/statements be interesting, that the teacher do most of the talking and that each statement lead to much circling and questioning. I love these activities and use them often.
My friend and colleague, Ellen Roberts, recently sent me some ideas for activities to accompany the Latin Grammy Awards. Using the resources she sent and ideas from other teachers about bracket challenges, I created the following presentation and activities. They allow each class to vote for a song of the year. But of course, there are several TL rich steps involved in selecting a winner.
These activities were completed at the beginning of each class during a span of 7 days. The Latin Grammy Awards ceremony was already broadcast (November 17), but this activity can still be used to provide language input and cultural awareness. Each class selects it’s own song of the year. If the class choice is different than the single that actually won, no problem. The last slide of the presentation includes videos from the ceremony.
Here’s what we did . . .
- I distributed the following document to each student. One side contains the bracket for the 8 Spanish-language songs that were nominated for song of the year. The other side is a chart, which students completed as we went.
- Las canciones (front)
- Las canciones (back)
- Using the following presentation, I provided information for each song in the first round (2 per day). Students took notes on their charts. For each song, there are images, information, a section of the lyrics and link to a lyric video of the song. After we discussed each song, we listened to it.
- Las canciones (slides)
- After discussing and listening to two songs, the class voted for the favorite, and we all recorded it on the bracket.
- After 4 classes of information, listening and voting, we advanced to the second round. For the second round, we quickly listened to the two songs that had advanced and voted. Slide #50 in the presentation includes quick links to lyric videos of each song.
- The last day (day 7), we listened to the two finalists and voted on a champion. After the class had selected a winner, I showed video clips (last slide of the presentation) of the actual winner and other key moments from the awards ceremony, including some of the same artists winning in other categories. We also took a short quiz over the information from the charts.
At the CSCTFL Conference in March, I promised a room full of teachers that I would make a video about how to use screencasts in class. It only took 6 months, but here it is.
A screencast is a video of everything that happens on your computer screen with the audio of your voice narrating. I have found them very useful for various applications in and out of class. The following link should direct you to a video that explains how I make them and how I use them.
As I continue to restructure my own resources for using El Internado in class, I’ve decided to organize many of them on this site. It will provide me a starting point in future years and allow me to share with other teachers who are interested in trying out El Internado in Spanish class.
I’ve created a page dedicated to El Internado resources. For now, it is located under the Resources/Links heading. It can be found here:
El Internado Resources
Currently, the page contains resources for three sections of Episode 1, which cover the first 24 minutes. There are slides with vocabulary, slides for Movie Talk and previewing sections, reading, listening and writing activities and instructions for using them.
I had a story I almost always used in class early in the year in an attempt to get repetitions of puede + infinitive (is able do something) and quiere + infinitive (wants to do something). The story was about a girl who was jealous of her sister. Her sister was popular and successful, and the girl wanted to be like her. At the end, she stole her sister’s money, hair, shoes, feet . . . etc. and became the popular one. It always seemed like such a good story, but I was never able to get it to work in class the way it did in my head. I told it in two classes this year with similar disappointing results before I realized I needed to make a change.
It’s incredible how a small change in a story can make a giant difference in class engagement.
Here’s the new version. In short, the protagonist wants to be famous (not popular), and he is jealous of several other people in the class (not just a sister). The small changes allowed me to include several characters and get several more reps of structures. It worked much better in the next class.
Roberto quiere ser famoso: (Spanish only – Sorry) This is actually a text I used as a reading for one of the earlier classes in which I told the older story, but it is essentially the same as the story to be told in class. Several classmates can be included as the famous ones. Be sure to get many repetitions on the puede and quiere structures.
Vocabulary Intro and PQA : These slides contain the vocabulary, PQA questions and examples of the structures in use.
If you’ve ever been frustrated because you feel like you’re not getting enough out of Movie Talk, the following may help . . .
If you’ve ever wanted to try using El Internado in your Spanish class but you’re not sure where or how to start, the following may help . . .
One of my goals for this new school year is to better utilize El Internado, which almost always means going slower than I tend to go. Mike Peto sums up a good pace as always going slower than the students want. Students from last year’s classes would laugh at the idea of going even slower than we did, but I think there is more we can do/get out of the program if we take our time.
As I was preparing to show the first part of episode 1 to a class this year, I used the following steps. I believe these steps can also be very helpful when applied to any video as Movie Talk. It’s a more scripted alternative to what I would normally do.
- Select a clip and write out the narration. I grabbed a pencil and a few sheets of paper and started the video. I paused the video often and wrote out everything that could be used as narration of the story. Even for someone who has used Movie Talk for years, this step revealed how much language was actually embedded in a short clip. I quickly filled 2 sheets of paper. This step may sound tedious and unnecessary, but I found it very helpful and was actually excited by how much I was finding that I would have otherwise disregarded.
- Evaluate the narration notes. I used different color pens and started marking any structures that would not be already known or not well-internalized by my students. I made distinctions between structures that could be gestured, structures that were high and low frequency, structures that were used often in the episode . . . etc.
- Create new vocabulary structures. Based on all my colored markings, I selected and formed three structures to be the focus. Because the structures were mostly nouns and cognates, they were easily internalized. For this particular episode of El Internado, they were:
- se escapa por la ventana – she escapes through the window
- sube un árbol – she climbs (goes up) a tree
- hay un lobo en el bosque – there’s a wolf in the woods
- Create a gestures list. Honestly, I do not typically do a lot of gesturing beyond some TPR actions at the beginning of the year for verbs that will be essential to all stories. However, I wanted to be able to get some other vocabulary into this MT without overloading the amount of language in the focus structures. For this clip, I chose
- se quita – she takes off
- se pone – she puts on
- se cae – she falls
- dice – she says
- salta – she jumps
- encima de – on top of
- debajo de – below
- sonríe – she smiles
- está preocupada – she is worried
- Create screenshots. This IS the tedious part. If you are using the first 5 minutes of El Internado, you can use the presentation linked below. I created a screen shot slide for everything that happens in the clip.
- Present the new structures. Now, it’s time to get the students involved. I presented the three focus structures and asked some personalized questions. We talked a bit about trees and forests and where there are wolves.
- Present and practice the gestures. I acted them out. Students acted them out. I said them without moving. I did them without saying anything, and students said them. All the TPR tricks.
- Watch the clip. We watched the first 5 minutes of El Internado. I paused to question from time to time. Some teachers get the bulk of their reps at this step. Sometimes I do too, but not for this version. We did some talking here, but the majority of the repetitions occur in step 9.
- Lead the students through a retell of the clip. Using the presentation linked below, we went through the first section of slides (no text) together with me asking and circling. This is a very important step, as it is where most of the input occurs.
- Students read aloud. We did this in partners. The second section of the presentation contains slides with narration text. Students simply take turns reading the text displayed over the images.
- Students fill in blanks. The third group of slides contains text with blanks. Students read aloud and filled in the blanks with the correct words.
- Students retell. The fourth section of slides (Yes, it’s a long presentation) contains no text. Students retold the events by just looking at the images. This step could be very difficult if it were the first task, but after input from the teacher and slowly removing text, students completed it with little trouble. It would be possible to even add another step between, in which more blanks are added if needed.
- Watch the second section. We watched the section section (5:00-9:05), and I paused, questioned and circled in more of a traditional Movie Talk style. I felt the second part worked better this way, and it allowed some variation in our process.
- Students read and complete. Using the following document, students selected the correct word in some sections and wrote in the correct word in others.
- El Internado Fill-in #1
- El Internado Fill-in #1 – complete
- Writing Assessment. Students completed a writing assessment in class with no resources other than images. The assignment is on the last page of the following document.
- El Internado Fill-in #1 – Writing Assessment
Here is the presentation. It includes an intro and link to the trailer for El Internado and the 4 sections of slides that were referenced earlier.
El Internado Intro and Episode 1-1