Why El Internado?
I started teaching El Internado in 2009 and experienced immediate success. The series is so compelling that my students were giving me 100% of their attention, eager to understand. It quickly became obvious, however, that the time we spend watching El Internado could be much more effective if I limited the incomprehensible noise and made this series as comprehensible as possible. Over the years I have applied techniques that I learned through many mentors and have adopted an approach that is engaging and highly effective. My students not only understand the show, they also quickly develop a micro-fluency so that they can discuss the show with impressive grammatical accuracy. I wait until January to introduce El Internado to my Spanish 1 students; during the first semester we are doing One Word Images and lot of un-targeted stories. By January many are effortlessly comprehending subjunctive phrases, past perfect, irregular preterit tenses and other grammatical features that, some years ago, I would have barely introduced to fourth year students. Their written and spoken production is much simpler, but even here they are impressive. I blogged about teaching El Internado to level 1 students here. Take a look at an average student´s quick write (timed 10 minutes, no resources available to consult… they just write off the top of their head). This was written by an average-ability non-heritage speaker during April:
But… is it suitable for high school?
Maybe not. There are quite a few swears and some adult scenes. For this reason I have developed a resource called the teacher warning list, which lists the time stamp of every swear and questionable scene in the first episode. This is not worth losing your job. Another option would be to choose another show, such as Gran Hotel. There are far fewer questionable scenes and swears in Gran Hotel. You have to buy the DVDs for Gran Hotel, but that is a small investment for an excellent resource that you will be using for years to come. I also have guides made for Gran Hotel.
If I could communicate one thing about my approach, it would be…
Go slower than students want to go, focusing on one piece of language at a time (most TPRS teachers call them target structures) and using the video to help you teach that phrase. Do not feel tied to explaining precisely what happens in each scene: the video lures them in, but your goal is to have students process a target structure so many times that they go from processing it slowly to becoming extremely fast-processors. Little by little, while discussing something of highly compelling interest to students, these target structures form the backbone of fluency. If the teacher truly focuses on improving processing speed, then students will eventually use these target structures effortlessly, without any pause. It takes a lot of listening and reading first, though.
The other main elements to my approach
Key TPRS skills such as limiting vocabulary, circling questions and choral response, using actors and parallel characters, low priority on speaking and writing with high emphasis on listening and reading comprehension, focus on increasing the processing speed of students by teaching target structures rather than the memorization of vocabulary, teacher writing on board to summarize, and well-designed follow-up readings that lead to deep acquisition of the key language structures. The Write & Discuss activities as well as the reading guides are absolutely essential. Fast learners will follow the video fine, but when you see the slower learners easily following along you will recognize how important the scaffolded reading is to differentiate instruction.
Can I really make it 100% comprehensible?
The video, no. The teacher´s speech, yes. If you can maintain comprehensible teacher talk, then El Internado can be taught at any level. I teach the series to my level 1 students because I am careful to make my speech comprehensible. You will see that I do not shelter grammar; my level 1 students understand past tenses just as well as any other student who has heard a lot of past tenses.
What is wrong with playing 10 minutes and discussing?
Your students will get a lot out of the discussion if you make sure that the discussion is 100% comprehensible, but the video itself is not comprehensible input. Have you ever been trapped on a plane and watched the film that someone nearby was playing, without being able to hear the audio. I would bet that you could follow the plot. Same with El Internado: students will understand the gist (especially through images), but a lot will slip past. And neither on a plane nor in class will simply watching images help anyone acquire a language; it is the comprehensible discussion that leads to language acquisition. Watching one minute gives just as much to discuss as watching 10 minutes, plus gives you the focus necessary to use the language structure in an effectively repetitive manner. Do not get swept up in the show; although your students will want to press ahead and get to the end of the episode, the goal of the teacher should be to take advantage of every single possibility to recycle the target structure that you want your students to acquire.
Resources that I have created to help teach El Internado
You can purchase All 5 episodes bundle with 30% discount or purchase each episode separately (links below). All together there are 69 pages of student reading guides along with an extra 79 supplemental activities (power points, links to Kahoots! and quizlet activities, crosswords, writing activities, additional comprehension questions, key photo collages for discussions, and much more). This is the most complete set of scaffolding materials for El Internado that you will find anywhere… easily enough for an entire semester without having to search for materials elsewhere. Teachers have told me, “this has brought joy back into my classroom”.
I also have a free 2-3 week unit outline on Caperucita roja that I always teach before starting El Internado. The goal of this unit is to teach a lot of structures that are very common in El Internado. I highly recommend it.
Follow this link to purchase the 5 episode bundle at a 30% discount or follow the links below to purchase each episode separately.
Episode 1: Essential student guide and end of episode assessment
Episode 1: Supplementary materials: photo collages, ppt introducing characters & teacher warning sheet
Episode 2: Essential student guide and end of episode assessment
Episode 2: Supplementary materials: ppt review of episode 1 with emphasis on the verb DEJAR, an additional DEJAR reading (an advice column written for and “by” characters of El Internado), several ppt class readings focusing on the target structures ECHO DE MENOS, TE TRAIGO, TIENEN SUERTE, LO ECHARON, and photo collages to discuss specific scenes.
Episode 3: Essential student guide
Episode 3: Supplementary materials: Four high-quality “graphic novel” power points that help prepare students to view hard to understand sections, Five power points with screen shots from key moments to get students to review major plot developments, an power point that reviews episode 2 while providing repetitive review of some key advanced vocabulary and a story map activity to be completed mid-episode.
Episode 4: Essential student guide
Episode 4: Supplementary materials Includes an episode 3 review ppt, four graphic novels and one ¿Quién lo dijo? PDF. The essential study guide also contains the links to four interactive online activities and one link to a relevant cultural resource.
Episode 5: Essential student guide
Episode 5: Supplementary materials Includes 17 activities including 5 graphic novels, a PPT on el Ratoncito Pérez and several other activities to help your students master episode 5 (links to online activities are embedded in the study guides).