I often demonstrate to other teachers how I use a daily joke to provide input in Spanish class, and they say something like, “Oooh. I like that, but where do I find jokes to use for class?”
To which I usually reply, “Uh . . . I um . . . I just find them . . . I don’t know.”
The truth is that I’ve spent a few years looking online, in books and on Twitter for anything I could make into an appropriate, comprehensible and (sometimes) funny joke for class. Until recently, I’ve had the jokes scattered in different digital documents and on scraps of paper in my desk drawers.
I finally took the time to compile them into one resource. Below is a link to the document. It includes more than 300 jokes and a short introduction about how to use them in class.
For those of you who attended the Seamless CI workshop this morning at the Central States Conference, below is a link to the presentation with links included. Again, thank you for your attention. I enjoyed spending a few hours together.
Here is a story to be told in class with a bit of a twist in the delivery. Typically, my order is about the same. We begin by establishing meaning to new structures then move to personalized questions and then to an in-class story. This one is a bit different. The meaning of new structures and the personalized questions come up at different points of the story. I know that some TPRS teachers are good at always weaving PQA into stories, but I struggle with it. So for this unit, I deliberately created PQA breaks.
The plot of the story is pretty simple. There is an employee who has worked at a meatball company for many years and has been very successful. He is a meatball salesman and has sold thousands of meatballs in his years. However, the son of the owner of the company is also a salesman. He has sold very few meatballs but always wins employee of the month because his father is the owner. After so many years, the good salesman cannot take it anymore and decides to do something about the injustice.
Of course, the details (meatball company) can be changed and were different in each of my classes. And, most of our stories ended pretty violently, which would not be necessary.
I was pleased with the results. The actual plot of the story is pretty simple and boring. The switch in delivery was enough to maintain student engagement. One of my concerns was that it would be difficult to jump back and forth from personalized questions about real life to imaginary details of the story we were creating. However, the transitions were smooth in all classes.
There are two types of language students in a CI class. Well, there are many types of language students, but for this post, let’s divide them into two groups. There are those who actively listen and absorb the input we provide, and there are those who discover the meaning of words and try to think/translate their way through everything. The second group is full of students who say things like . . .
Me llamo es
El hombre era comiendo
Espalda en mi día
How do we move students from the second group into the first? How do we get them to buy into what we are doing? – providing them with the input they need to communicate without (much) thinking.
I’m going to start with this. It’s simple and lame, but so are some of the best classroom strategies I use everyday.
I’m going to hang it in my room after break or maybe even hang several of them in my room. We’ll discuss it, and then I’ll point to it when we need to refocus.
Of course, thinking and some translating are natural for any language student. And given the brevity of our time with students, extending concepts from one structure to another with which they have not had much input does require some thought. I’m not trying to eliminate that type of thinking. I’m trying to eliminate the frustration of standing in front of class everyday and saying “hace calor”, “hace frío”, “hace fresco”, “hace calor”, “hace frío”, “hace calor” . . .
And then hearing a student one day say, “Profe, es frío hoy.”
*If you are not a Spanish teacher, the sign simply says “Listen more. Think less.” Translate it to your language or in English.
Here’s another way to provide input while investigating target language culture.
I believe I borrowed this idea from someone a couple years ago, but I cannot remember for sure. I am in my second year of using it, and it works well. The concept is pretty simple. Once a week (usually on Tuesdays), I ask a trivia question to all of my classes. Each class comes up with an answer. The following day, I reveal the correct answer and award a point to the class that was closest. At the end of the year, the class with the most points wins.
The questions are always in the target language and usually contain a pretty thorough introduction. Although the students may be most excited about trying to answer and win, I am more concerned with valuable input at this point. As with many CI activities, I must fight the temptation to rush. There is great value in the process.
All questions are based on target language culture. I often get the questions from current news events. When I reveal the answer on the second day, we often look at an article or a video. Again, I care much more about this step than about which class wins, but the competition gets them engaged. Recent topics have included inflation in Venezuela, drug trafficking and Spanish speaking athletes and musicians who are currently active.
The questions work best when they are quantitative. If the answer is a number, there will always be a winner (the closest guess), and there will almost always be only one. It’s also a good way to provide natural exposure to using numbers.
Finding good questions can be difficult at times. Here are a few places to start.
Online newspapers and news sites (CNN en español, BBC mundo)
Online shopping sites. Show an item and description and ask what it costs. (mercadolibre.com)
Sporting events. Choose a target language athlete and ask how many points he/she will score in tonight’s game or who will win?
Celebrities. How many records has he/she sold? How much money did he/she make? What does a group charge for a concert?
History. What happened on this day? Find a question in a historical event.
Many of my questions from last year are scattered throughout different presentations, but I’ve done a little better this year at keeping them together. Below is a link to the file I’ve been using for much of this year. It includes many of the questions we’ve used along with descriptions and links to articles or videos. The last slide is a score sheet for my classes.
Feast is a Disney animated short that can be used for Movie Talk. The video can be found here and on Netflix as part of a collection of Disney short films. Below are two of the resources I created to be used along with the video.
Presentation – These slides include focus structures in Spanish (slide 2), images for the structures (slides 4-62) that can be used for games in class, a short paragraph to be read before viewing the video (slide 67) and slides to be used for Movie Talk (slides 68-149).
Evaluation – This document contains two assessments. The first is a sentence translate activity, which includes many of the focus structures. The second is a writing assessment to be completed in class with no resources. I collect the translation activity before distributing the writing assessment, so all written language is a demonstration of what has been internalized.
At a recent Northeast Ohio TCI event, I watched as Vicki Antequera and Sheryl Rawson demonstrated a story they use for level 1 Spanish and some of the activities they use with it. I was amazed at the simplicity and usefulness of the story, and I adapted it for my level 3 classes. I will post resources below in the order we used them in class (more or less).
ella estaba cocinando cuando él llego – she was cooking when he arrived (these type of sentences were a focus for much of the unit)
hermoso(a) – beautiful
“déjame en paz” – leave me alone (in peace)
Presentation of vocabulary – We used this presentation, Le dio el corazón, as an introduction to new structures. PQA activities included stating what was happening in photos, what others are doing at this moment, what each student was doing yesterday at certain hours and creating partner situations in which one student said “déjame en paz” to another. We also used gestures to review structures that would come up in this unit. I don’t often use gestures, but they worked well here.
Story skeleton – The skeleton story text was projected (again, not something we typically do) and read. The Spanish text can be found on the presentation linked in #1. Translated to English, it reads:
There was a man
He was in love with a woman
He called the woman
The woman was cooking when he called
The man said, “You are beautiful. I love you.”
The woman said, “Leave me alone.”
Story details and acting – We told the story with actors and filled in details. Who was the man? Who was the woman? How did they meet? Did she love him? Why not. We then advanced to part two of the story, which was similar but with different details. In part 2, the man went to her house. She was ___ when he arrived. She opened the door. He gave her flowers. He told her she was beautiful and he loved her. She said, “leave me alone,” threw the flowers and closed the door.
Predictions – We were near the end of day 2 at this point. With slide #26 projected, I asked partners to predict what would happen in part three. What did he take to her? What was she doing when he arrived? What did he say? How did she react? The slide gives enough structure to make predicting easy for students but still allows for enough input to make it a creative/fun activity.
Finish story – With actors, we finished the story. For his third attempt, the man gave her chocolate (or other student choice object). The woman again threw it and told him to leave her alone. For his final attempt, he took out his heart and gave it to her. She threw it down (in some classes, she ate it), and he died.
Reading – We used these slides, Luke Reading Intro, and then read this text, Luke y Liliana Reading. After reading the text, we did some speed reading activities and translating games that Vicki and Sheryl shared from a presentation b Craig Sheehy.
Here is an easy and fun activity, which can lead to great input and many reps of important structures. It’s great as homework or for a sub day. The teacher supplies the students with a slide presentation with several written phrases, and students must find images that correspond to each phrase. It’s really that simple. Finding images requires that students engage with the language, but the true value of the activity is the follow up. The teacher can project images from many students (there is never a shortage of volunteers to show their images) in the class and discuss/circle structures. Notice that in order for the activity to have strong value as input, the teacher leads the discussion of images. It is not a presentation assignment in which students each share their own. However, it can lead to some questioning of the student if desired.
Here is an example that I used recently for a day with a substitute while I was at the incredible OFLA conference. I received great submissions from students and we spent a lot of time discussing them in Spanish when I returned to class.
Here’s an authentic listening activity for Spanish teachers based on a recent event in Costa Rica. I used it in place of a song at the beginning of each class for a week. It is the script for the following short video:
Here’s what we did, using the documents linked below:
1. Start with the intro presentation. Read together. View the photos and the newspaper article, so students get an idea of what happened.
2. Watch the video. It’s 58 seconds long and will not ruin later activities to view it first. The images help establish context.
3. Turn off the screen and listen to the audio. Use the script. Students follow along as they listen.
4. Listen again with the script and stop it at random points. Ask students which word would be next.
5. Instruct students to fold the paper and look only at the bottom half. It has some incorrect words. Play the audio and instruct students to cross out the words that were wrong. Play multiple times if needed.
6. Play the audio again and instruct students to write as many of the the correct words as they can above words that have been crossed out.
7. Use whatever strategies necessary to read and understand the script.
If you are in Ohio or will be visiting Ohio for the OFLA Conference, which takes place at Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, OH April 16-18, you are invited to my workshop, The Seamless CI Classroom.
I will be conducting the workshop on Thursday evening from 5:30 – 8:30. The details are below. Sign up for it when you register. I hope to see you there. I’m sure we’ll have a good time. The OFLA Conference is always full of great opportunities for development and is especially strong in CI strategies.
The Seamless CI Classroom
Thursday April 16 5:30 – 8:30 pm
Discover practical methods for shifting from a rigid, predictable class to one in which input is provided from start to finish in a natural, smooth manner. Provide opportunities for students to acquire language without thinking about the process. Several techniques will be presented that can be applied to any language at any level. Teachers will leave with a toolbox of ideas and materials to make CI effective and fun.
Below is the video from Tuesday’s webinar on teaching remotely with CI. In the video, I present some principals and a few specific programs that have been useful for me. In short . . . Do what you normally do: For me it’s jokes, trivia questions, songs, stories, videos, personal questions and cultural readings. Reduce […]
Teaching remotely is not ideal, but many of us find ourselves quickly learning to become online instructors. Join us today at 1:00 pm EST as I share principles and specific programs I use to teach Comprehensible Input in a remote setting. Register here: Teaching World Languages Remotely with CI Comprehensible Input classes are built on […]
El Carterista de Pamlona, my latest Spanish novel, is now available from Voces Digital. For Arturo Lopez, the greatest pickpocket in all of Pamplona, the San Fermín festival is the best time of year. Thousands of tourists invade his hometown every July to run with the bulls, watch bullfights, dine in Hemingway’s favorite cafes, dance in the […]
On October 11, I’ll be presenting an OFLA sponsored workshop in Avon Lake, Ohio. We’ll discuss and try out several strategies to make reading compelling, comprehensible and varied. See the information below. I’d love to see you there. Reading is an essential source of input in all world language classes. Students who read well quickly […]
Here is the video of the webinar I presented for Voces Digital earlier this week. As I mention several times in the webinar, I believe a healthy classroom culture is essential for CI success. If you’d like to see the slides that I used and be able to check out all the links, you can […]