Gran Hotel: teaching tips & resources

Here are the resources that I have developed for teaching Gran Hotel. Keep in mind that I teach Gran Hotel in my advanced classes and, while the texts are simplified, the grammar is not sheltered. Take a look at the previews to see if they are comprehensible for your classes.

Episode 1: Essential student guide

Episode 2: Essential student guide

Episode 3: Essential student guide

Episode 4: Essential student guide

Episode 5: Essential student guide

EPISODES 1-5 BUNDLE (30% DISCOUNT)

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Copied below is the introduction to the guides with teaching tips.

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Thank you for purchasing this study guide. This is the first fruit from what I hope to be a lengthy collaboration with the incredible Kara Jacobs. I think you will see that Kara´s guidance has pushed the text to be more appropriate for an upper level class while maintaining the elements of simplicity and comprehensibility that make these guides so effective for language learners. You can, of course, use this guide any way you like. However we have a few suggestions on how to make the most of this highly compelling video series. Take a look at this example of a scene from episode 2:

GH ep 2 example

First you will notice that we have numbered the scenes from 1-19 and provide exact Netflix time stamps for each set of scenes. We recommend that you teach one set of scenes at a time, planning on spending anywhere between 10 and 20 minutes on a single set. Or more, if you act out the scenes. When I teach an episode of El Gran Hotel I usually plan on spending the last 20 minutes of class, three or four times per week, so that we progress through the episode slowly.

Before watching a scene, I chose one of the bold-faced expressions within the reading to target so that my students thoroughly acquire it. In the example above I might choose quiere que le dé. Students do not have to have any prior experience with the subjunctive. In fact, do not use this as an opportunity to lecture about the subjunctive or how to conjugate a verb in the subjunctive. Just write the entire phrase on the board with a translation in English and start using the phrase with your class.

It is best to start with easy questions that can be answered with either a sí or no. The goal of these first few minutes is to get your students to process the target phrase quickly, not to get them to actually produce the phrase. I might pick up an apple that I happen to have on my desk and ask a student, ¿quieres una manzana? Regardless of how the student responds, don´t give her the apple! Now there is tension as I hold this apple that the student either wants or does not want. I hold it just out of reach; while staring at the student I ask, “clase, quiere (Student name) que yo le dé… una manzana?” Say the phrase slowly at first, pointing at the board and pausing before completing the question. A Spanish 1 student could answer that question! Modify your questions by using a variety of question words: ¿Quién quiere que yo le dé (point at the board and pause) una manzana? Increase the speed of your speech as students begin to respond with accuracy and without hesitation. ¿Cuál estudiante quiere que yo le dé trescientos manzanas? ¿Por qué Samantha quiere que yo le dé una manzana muy pequeña?

When you change the verb conjugation, casually write it on the board with an English translation. If I asked, ¿Quiero que tú me des un regalo?, then I would write me des on the board. I would probably even ask (in English) “What does the s on the end of the verb mean?” Immediately slow down if students show any hesitation or confusion; return back to the board and start again slowly. You will be done when students respond confidently, accurately and without hesitation without looking at the board. Watch their eyes; you will see hesitation in their eyes if they are not ready.

Mike´s comment: I believe that a 3 second question in English calling attention to the way form influences the meaning of a word is a powerful way to teach grammar. “What does the s on the end of the verb mean?” “What does the emos on the end of the verb mean?” “What does aste at the end of the verb mean?” Whether focus on form has any impact on language acquisition is still hotly debated among researchers and denied by some linguists. If you decide to use grammar pop-ups, use them sparingly. Your main goal before viewing the scene is to get your students to process the target structure at the speed of a native speaker, not produce it or analyze it.

You may have noticed that having acquired the bolded target structures are not required to actually read the text provided. You can substitute your own target structure appropriate to your class. Throughout the blog post quote 2series we have written the scene descriptions with high-frequency target structures that are appropriate to what we consider to be level three work. Our experiences, prejudices and biases lead us to emphasize high frequency idioms and a variety of so-called “advanced” verb constructions (such as perfect tenses, subjunctive phrases, future and conditional, si clauses). However the actual text of the scene summary is written in a simpler form to ensure that the text is easy reading for your students. It is supposed to be easy reading; if your students have to struggle to decode the text then you need to spend more time slowly discussing the scene beforehand. After having taught classes centered on novelas for several years, I am convinced that the reading is the motor that leads to truly profound language acquisition in the upper levels. While the video is compelling and grabs students’ attention like no other activity, I firmly believe that it is the repetitive, easy reading (accompanied by similar teacher talk) that cements the structure of the language into their minds.

While watching the scene I like to stop the video mid-scene whenever I can use the target structure to describe what is occurring. I allow a student to sit at my computer (a highly-coveted class job) while I stand next to the screen. I raise my hand and tap the screen whenever I want the student to pause the video. I have found this to be more effective than sitting in the back; students pay close blog post quote 1attention when I am in front and make eye contact. Being in the front also allows me to easily point at parts of the scene that I want to discuss. Sometimes I talk a lot, sometimes I talk very little, but the indisputable rule of watching a telenovela in class is that the teacher is in control of the pace. Students will want to move quickly through scenes, getting the gist by observing gestures and watching scenes with plenty of action. El Gran Hotel is compelling in part because it is visually appealing, but just watching large chunks does not aid language acquisition. The compelling nature of the show is a pretext to talk, talk, and talk about it in class. Highly comprehensible input drives language acquisition; do not fool yourself into thinking that the rapid, educated speech of the actors is highly comprehensible to your students. It is the teacher´s speech, spoken slower and simplified, that provides the CI.

After watching the scene I project the reading against the white screen (I rarely print out these packets). Often I will give a few minutes for students to read on their own before we read it together as a class. Sometimes we read it as a chorus so that no single student is singled out on the first pass through. In my classroom we have an agreed upon gesture, a punch to an open hand, which signifies that a student does not understand something. The moment I hear a smack I go back and clarify the last phrase read. After the choral reading I am free to ask anyone to translate any portion of the text, or ask pointed questions. I leave the text projected against the screen to encourage students to reread during the Q & A period. I might ask ¿Qué le gusta doña Teresa? and then either ask the entire class by saying ¿clase? or picking a specific student, who would respond el título de nobleza. Circling through the question words quickly allows me to effectively exploit the text before moving on to the next scene or activity: ¿Cuántas personas con títulos de nobleza hay en la familia Alarcón? ¿Es Alfredo un hombre común como Diego? ¿Qué tiene Alfredo que a doña Teresa no le gusta? ¿Dónde está doña Teresa? ¿Quién es débil, Diego o Alfredo? Be careful with questions that begin with ¿por qué? as these are the easiest to ask and hardest for students to answer. Instead seek a quick, easy rhythm to your questioning so that students experience a lot of success understanding this novela.

I personally never watch two scenes in a row without pausing for discussion. Even if the post-scene discussion is limited to twenty seconds, skipping straight to the next scene is a slippery slope that will train students to whine in order to always watch multiple scenes! There is always something to say, even if it is just a physical description of the background. If students insist on whining then I pull out a pre-printed set of the cartoon assignment at the end of this packet, which I keep for emergencies and substitute plans. It can be used at any point and takes my students between thirty and forty-five minutes to complete in silence.

Other activities that you can do after watching the scene include writing a summary as a whole class activity; I describe how I do that in the last several paragraphs of this blog post: https://mrpeto.wordpress.com/2016/01/26/internado-episode-3-student-guide-now-posted/. Occasionally I will ask students to complete a 5 to 10 minute fluency write about a recent part of the show. The best description of how and why to assign fluency writes was written by Judith Dubois on her blog, TPRS Witch: http://tprs-witch.com/fluency-writing-2/.

A few other useful blog posts illustrating how I use these guides include this one: https://mrpeto.wordpress.com/1a-tips-on-how-to-teach-el-internado/, as well as this one that discusses whether you should use subtitles while watching the scene: https://mrpeto.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/should-i-show-the-subtitles-while-watching-el-internado-in-class/ and this last one even includes a video of me teaching El Internado (a different Spanish tv program) to one of my Spanish 1 classes: https://mrpeto.wordpress.com/2015/12/17/nothing-is-a-stretch-for-your-students/.

Finally, the last two resources in this packet can be used as (easy) final assessments, substitute assignments or, in the case of the crossword puzzle, a twist on the running dictation activity that I describe on my blog: https://mrpeto.wordpress.com/2015/12/06/crosswords-lame-or-fabulous/

Further resources: The techniques that I have described are not unique to me! If you have not heard of TPRS, or if you dismissed it years ago before it had developed into the powerful method it now is, you should join the thousands of second language instructors who have been formally trained at a TPRS workshop. Look at Blaine Ray´s website for a list of workshops (http://tprsbooks.org/tprs-workshops/) or consider attending one of the national week-long conferences during the month of July (NTPRS or iFLT), or even one of the international conferences (google “TPRS conference Agen France” or “TPRS conference Netherlands”).

30 thoughts on “Gran Hotel: teaching tips & resources

  1. Hi everyone,

    Does anyone know– if I order the whole series of gran hotel on amazon, does it come with Spanish subtitles? Watching it with Spanish subtitles, I have found to be the most engaging!!

    Gracias- Becca

    1. Mine did. I agree, Spanish subtitles make it a lot more engaging.

  2. Any ideas where we can find Grand Hotel now? I saw the region 2 DVD sold on Amazon, but that’s the only way I’ve seen it so far. I guess it’s not on NFLX anymore.

    Thanks

    1. I have never seen Gran Hotel of Internado DVDs designed for region 1. Instead what people do:

      Buy a DVD player that plugs into your computer via USB and you can play region 2 DVDs on your computer regardless of where you are. I see at BestBuy they are selling for around $30: https://www.bestbuy.com/site/sony-dvd-player-black/4790684.p?skuId=4790684

      As for software, I use VLC media player, free software that you can download online, which makes it easier to to use videos in class.

  3. Hi there,
    I’m finishing up your Episode 1 guide (last scene from the 9th page) – and realized that the study guide ends after about 47 minutes of the episode, but there are nearly 24 minutes left of the episode to watch. Am I missing something? Did you intentionally leave out those last 24 minutes? Thanks for any feedback!

    1. These guides were originally written using the Netflix versions– neither Kara nor I even were aware that the original episodes (which you get on the DVD) are longer. The episode 2 guide picks up where the last guide left off, at the very next scene. I have been trying to find time to consolidate them so that they follow the timings of the DVD rather than the old Netflix timings. Once I do, I will change the price to reflect that each packet has more in it so if you decide to buy episode 2 now, you will (a) be able to freely download the new revised packet once it is available and (b) you can use those guides now, it is just that the time stamp is wrong.

  4. Hola Mike! Wondering if you might consider adding to your episode guides for Gran Hotel? I bought the series, since it’s not on Netflix anymore, and am using it in AP when we need a break from all the less-interesting test prep. Students LOVE the series, as do I, but I’m still learning the CI ways. Thanks for providing so much instruction for how to do this!

    1. Sorry I missed this comment!! We currently have episodes 1-5 posted, but they are for the Netflix shorter episodes. You can still use them with the DVDs, but the time stamps are off. We have episodes 6 and 7 partially complete, but that work will be added to the rewrite of all of the guides to reflect the DVD length. If you bought the Netflix episode guides then you will get a message from TpT for a free download once the DVD versions are ready.

      1. Hi Mike! My students and I LOVE Grand Hotel and use your materials to aid in comprehension. They are perfect and really compliment the series. Any idea of when you might have episodes 6 and 7 available for purchase? I’ll but them the minute they are available!
        Sincerely,
        Profegomez

      2. well… honestly that has been placed on the back burner while I work on a million other projects. This summer I plan to expand the Gran Hotel offerings significantly.

  5. Netflix plans to stop airing Grand Hotel (Gran Hotel) Nov 15, 2016. If enough of us call in or follow the instructions here, they might renew the program. I thought that if your students wanted to continue to watch, you could let them know that. Just an FYI! My students have just begun watching and we have a long ways to go! I would love to have this available still.

    How to help online: Go to help.netflix.com. Sign into your Netflix account. In the Quick Links column at right, click on Suggesting TV shows. It gives you three lines to suggest 3 shows. Type Grand Hotel into each of them. Repeat. Please share! Type the title in English.

    I found the link on my account in the HELP CENTER. There you can REQUEST TV shows. Please REQUEST GRAND HOTEL 3 times and repeat often.

    Thank you!

  6. Thank you! Thank you! I binge watched Gran Hotel last night and I bought your episode 1 materials today. (Waiting for District Approval to show video in class to buy the rest of your episode guys. Don’t even get me started…

    I’m running into logistical problems now. I can’t show it from Netflix at school, it’s blocked and forbidden. I searched amazon.es to buy the DVDs. There’s a seller who sells the Season 1 DVDs but they don’t ship to the US. I found the entire series DVD, but the reviews say that it does not have subtitles. My plan was to show a scene with English subtitles to ensure comprehension, then show it again without subtitles, then discuss, read, and discuss some more.

    How do you show it? DVD? Netflix? If I can’t find the dvds without subtitles, should I still go for it? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    1. I think the ideal would be if you could request that your IT dept unblock Netflix for your district credentials… perhaps your principal would be convinced and make the argument for you? The most important thing, however, is that kids are processing and understanding your Spanish… very few students will be able to use just the episode to acquire Spanish. I like how you have so many layers of activities planned so that, even though they will see the episode with English subtitles, the focus is really on processing the Spanish that you present. I would go for it… as long as you can train kids to answer your questions, it sounds compelling to me! Tell me how it works out.

      1. Thanks for responding. Do you show it through Netflix? Do you have a back up plan if Netflix takes it off “watch instantly” or whatever they call it?

      2. I do watch it through Netflix, but I also bought it on DVD years ago. I like that Netflix remembers where we were.

  7. There is NO way I can spend three weeks watching one episode of Gran Hotel in class at my school. Do you think I could effectively do this in half the time? Or is that just pointless in your opinion?

    1. Is it the idea of spending three weeks with nothing but Gran Hotel in class? Because I don´t do that! I show one sequence of scenes at a time in the last 20 minutes of class, but I have other things going on during the first 35 minutes of class. Take a look at this essay to read about how I do it: https://mrpeto.wordpress.com/2016/07/12/ep-2-gran-hotel-student-guide-more-soon/

      1. Another idea occurred to me: in your school do you have to pass in weekly lesson plans? If that is the reason showing El Gran Hotel for three weeks would never fly in your school, perhaps you could instead label the last 15 minutes of class (3-4 times per week) something more generic like “Working with authentic resources”. You can copy some of the text from my link below if your dept chair or principal wants more detail, but that way it does not look like you are just sitting back watching movies all of the time.

  8. […] *Gran Hotel (Netflix): kind of like Downton Abbey with a murder mystery thrown in. Lots of actors from Internado & other shows on this list.  Could be used in some classes; show has ended.  Find episode guides for class by Mike Peto here. […]

  9. Hi, I’m very interested in the information you have shared thus far for El Gran Hotel – I was wondering if you have completed your Student Guides & Supplementary Materials for the rest of the series??
    Gracias!

    1. This summer I have teamed up with Kara Jacobs and we are working on the study guides– episodes 2 & 3 are well on their way! I plan to use them next year, so we will probably complete several more.

  10. My question is this: is it worth showing something like this if they don’t actually understand what is being said and I simply movie talk it to make it understood? I know the first rule of CI is that it must CI but does the film content need to be comprehensible or can I provide the reps of CI and use the film as a sort of backdrop for the structures that I am reinforcing?

    1. Exactly! I have argued that we should not assume that the video provides any CI, the teacher provides the CI. My analogy is that if the teacher is not careful it can be like when you fly on a plane and view a movie in the seat next to you, understand the whole thing but never actually hear the audio. That is a good story, but does not help acquire language. The real use of these is supplying really compelling content, but if it is truly that compelling you should know that students are going online and watching ahead on Netflix. Nothing you can do about that, but the plot is not really the focus of your class anyways. It is the constant questions and answers that verify that students are understanding Spanish. I have summarized my approach here, and I am very clear that a “let´s watch 10 or 20 minutes and then talk” approach is far inferior to a “let´s talk for 10 minutes, watch two minutes and then talk for another 10 minutes” approach. Here is the link: https://mrpeto.wordpress.com/1a-tips-on-how-to-teach-el-internado/

  11. I’m anxious to see these resources! I’m thinking about doing a trial-run of something like this for the last quarter of the school year for my Spanish III class. I’d love to do El Internado, but I’m worried about the quantity of foul language.

    1. Consider Gran Hotel instead, or at least check out my Teacher Warning List (in the free supplemental materials) to see about all of the questionable moments in episode 1 of El Internado. I have an episode 1 study guide for Gran Hotel posted above.

  12. But why do the Spaniards have to talk so fast?!

    1. Gran Hotel is a step up in complexity from El Internado! Today I am finishing the first guide for Gran Hotel and, even though the episodes are much shorter, I am writing a lot more to make sure that it is comprehensible.

  13. I suppose the answer is obvious, but are you still working on adding the links to these resources? Looking forward to them! Love your work, and I love Gran Hotel!

    1. I love Gran Hotel too!! I will write a new blog post when I finish the first episode, so if you follow my blog you will sure to get it in your inbox.

      1. Woo! Genial! Gracias. I can’t wait to show my Spanish II class who has been watching El Internado with me the evolution of Yon Gonzalez.

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