Borrón y cuenta nueva: changing the way I teach
A few years back while teaching middle school Spanish, I would not have gone near the preterite and imperfect tenses in Spanish I. In fact, I am ashamed to say that we barely scratched the surfaced with the preterite. We did plenty of reading (before I discovered TPRS/CI). I had the Pobre Ana readers (which was one of the best units) or I just created my own resources, especially those that allowed my students to tackle global problems (IB curriculum) in Spanish I.
Although my views of language acquisition were heavily influenced by what I read from Krashen and another language theorists, I had this threshold in my head of how far we could go in the lower levels of Spanish (5-8). It really was a fixed mindset, a glass ceiling of student potential, which started to shatter over the years; maybe some of you can relate. However, the last few years, I have been experimenting with many different methodologies, and now, I can safely proclaim that my hashtag is now "#borrónycuentanueva."
Deepening my understanding of the nature of language learning has inevitably fostered more rich and robust experiences for my students. My project-based learning units go more in-depth and privilege the language and process over the final product. My classes have been more communicative and my lesson plans are stitched together more tightly around the core goal of receiving quality input and the emphasis on thinking skills such as inferencing as so forth. Now, I am on the cusp of another strategy that brings the best of all modes: MovieTalk.
Looking for more resources on teaching film? Check out the links below!
Free film unit starter kit- Movie visuals, questions, vocabulary and speaking engagements
Cine Colombia-Resources for the short film: El Almuerzo. Click here for the synopsis activities.
Film Unit Page- wide range of activities including trailers and short grammar/viewing activities for Spanish series
There are two activities I'd like to highlight in this post:
1. My Wanna-be-Movietalk activity (my-inching-approach to Movietalk)
2. Circumlocution activity we did with a Spanish TV series (this was very fun).
My expertise in terms of Movietalk is at about the Novie-low level, hence the graphic to the right of the text. The activity shared in this post is an approximation to Movietalk as stated above. It may not be cookie-cutter perfect but I got a lot of mileage out of it and my students responded very well to the activity, hence me wanting to share it with the language community.
Movietalks prizes itself on using animated silent films to provide controlled, quality input thus equaling comprehensive language to students. In these films, the focus is on the action and its sequence and less on what was actually said (hence the preference for silent animated films). Furthermore, the absence of dialogue frees the teacher to use the film as a blank canvass from which he/she has autonomy in focusing on selected structures. This is what I loved about my attempt to "Movietalk." I used the film: The Defective Detective (featured in the picture above). In the paragraph below, I'll plot out how I used this movie to practice the imperfect and preterite tenses (again, in the real MovieTalk, you are supposed to focus on one structure).
Click here for the activity!
Below are some very useful and bonafide examples of Movietalk, and they abound, are below:
Check out the Balcony Girl Movie Talk, the resources are amazing! It is a great addition to any unit highlighting reflexive verbs!
I really liked this activity and best of all it is free!
Background information on Movietalk- this really helped me to develop an appreciation for my new way of engaging students.
How to do movie talk
Last year's use of the Defective DetectiveWhen I used this movie last year, we simply watched it and I had students use the preterite and imperfect tenses to describe what was going on. Why is this not the most effective manner in using resources such as this?
1. I was forcing students to create based on limited input (completly wrongo!)
2. With the fast pace of the short film, it was difficult to keep up so this inevitably raised the affective filter and students were not ready to take risks.
This year's Detective DefectiveThis year, I did the same film but incorporated some of the elements from Movietalk. Again, this was not a bonafide Movietalk as prescribed in the TPRS community, but it was my attempt at using the film to create a safe class culture, providing input and eliciting responses that were aligned to our communicative goals for the day, and it was great!
Click here for the resource that I created. I did this Movie-Communicative activity with my Spanish 1 students, but this could easily be done with higher levels of Spanish. The lesson took about an hour.
What does this resource include?:
Warm-up activity 1
1. For the warm up activity, I had students look at the screen shot and then imagine that the main character was reading an event that took place in their Spanish class. They then had to write 3-5 sentences about what happened in class. This comes on the heels for several classes being exposed to input using the preterite and imperfect tenses. Activities such as building a story together and re-working the chapters of Agentes Secretos were several preparatory activities implemented.
The Prensa (the main character reads a newspaper, hence to connection to writing an article) activity included a “Reminder about the preterite.”
For the writing activity, a student example is provided: ¡El estudiante saltó sobre los escritorios!
This short vignette allows students another exposure to how the past tense is used in Spanish. In preparing for this activity, I read Martina Bex’s article on MovieTalk. Although this activity is more of a variation of Movietalk, the key takeaway was exposure to the language, and that is exactly how the activities were designed.
Click on Martina’s article here:
2. Activity 2: La prensa
Students write about what happened their class, using the preterite tense. They use the newspaper-like template to carry this out, which is included in the document.
3. Activity 3: El imperfecto
Students read a“Reminder about the imperfect.” For simplicity, I only teach a few forms.
4. El estudiante escandaloso revisited
For this activity students reread the vignette in the beginning, only this time with the imperfect tense sprinkled in. This mirrors what they will do for their short vignette. Students then rewrite the (fictitious) event that happened in class, only this time sprinkling in the imperfect tense (as done in the example).
5. El preterite versus el imperfecto
For this activity, students recognize the different forms of the preterite and imperfect tenses. This could be utilized as a previewing activity as well. They completed a preterite/imperfect activity. Many of the words were used during the "Wanna-be-Movie-Talk." They were exposed to these words again during our "input session" and then again with the information gap activity.
6. Guided Oral Questions for Movie
I used a script of questions to guide the movie discussion. I just wrote down what I was going to say because I'd forget. This was the most AMAZING PART! I could not believe how students, after about two classes of differentiated communicative activities with some basic instruction on the tenses, were incorporating the structures into their responses. Since I just read about circling by Martina Bex (I promise that I'm not name-dropping, she actually presented at our school in the beginning of the year and I am just getting around to using these resources).
At the end of the day, the students felt good. Some of my Spanish IV students dropped by to help them and were amazed that they were learning preterite and imperfect. This lesson was a natural progression because we had just finished Agentes Secretos. Some of the activities we did, had called for the preterite to be used. You can click here for those activities as well (they are all free).
7. Information Gap activity
I created a little story about the film, the premise is that the detective is seeing a psychiatrist two years later due to the paranoia-induced evening at his neighbor’s apartment. Students filled in the blanks with either the preterite or imperfect tenses. A word bank is provided as well a the answer key.
8. Alternate ending for movie
Alternate ending activity. Students wrote an alternative ending to the short film. Check out my website for student examples.
This activity may have a name, but in absence of it, let's say it "Circumlocution Fest." So, I decided to show El Internado, at least the first few chapters in Spanish 1. I use the series for Spanish IV and Michael Peto's website My generation of Polyglots is the go to spot! Allision Weinhold from MisClassesLocas also has some charming resources! When I first Allison's tweet about using El Internado in the lower levels, I was like "No way!" My vehement response was based on me using it exclusively as a Spanish IV series. However, after our Wanna-be-Movietalk and practice with the preterite and imperfect structures, I thought it would be an engaging activity.
We are only watching the first few episodes, but I recommend it because:
- The storyline is very engaging
-Completely accessible on Netflix
Here is what I had my students do:
1. View the trailer of El Internado
2. From the trailer, think about what the story series is about and make a list of ten words in the preterite they could use during our "Reacciones" segment.
3. They had to use only these words to discuss what happened in the segment. For example, one student chose "bailó." Since no one "bailó" during the first 15 minutes, she had to say that Nadie bailó. It was fun "making" our language work.
Thank you for reading! I really enjoy finding these new strategies and applying them!
Check out my novels and new resource page!
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Check out my TPT Store activities, informational historical texts, and video activities for class
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