No hay ningún gato – Panqueques

ningun gatoA story unit appropriate for level 2 or above that focuses on the word ningún . It includes an illustrated power point story to tell as a whole class activity, a separate short story with comprehension questions that can be read alone or in pairs, and a power point of student-made drawings to prompt a retell of the story.

I find it especially dificult to find enough opportunities to use abstract words like ningún so that my students fully acquire them. I originally made this for my level one classes and we spent most of the week on these stories; in level three I might expect to spend less time, but of course the lesson won´t end until students respond to questions quickly, with confidence and with accuracy.

So how do I determine what is appropriate for each level? Frankly, if it can be made comprehensible and compelling, then it is appropriate. If your level 1 students have been super72fed a present-tense-only diet, then sweet16this unit is not the right first step. For my level one true beginners I start the school year with the super seven in the present tense, but by September I plan on doing retells using past tenses (last year I waited until after Thanksgiving break). Still working primarily with the super seven I will occasionally throw in an expression like como si fuera. My broad goal for the first semester for my level one students is to get them comfortable with natural language (i.e. unsheltered grammar) using the sweet sixteen verbs. This unit would come after that process is complete, sometime in the second semester, or earlier for a level two or three class.

Day 1: No hay ningún gato

Target structure:

ningún…: not a single…

Students expect some PQA  before the story, so I shake it up and we read the story together immediately after establishing meaning with our one target structure. We read this together, slowly, translating everything. Circle every sentence, ask plenty of questions. The pace of reading should be so slow that it is very easy for all students to read.

It is absolutely crucial that you replace the surprise picture at the end of the story with a photo of one of your own students! A quick, badly pasted photo using Paint is fine… in addition to using unicorns I have pasted students photos into cars, castles and once into the mouth of a frog. Click here to download a copy of the power point.

Days 2-4: Panqueques

Target structures

pidió: asked for
como si tuviera: as if he had
olía a: smelled like
ofrecía: offered

We spend a day establishing meaning, PQA and perhaps starting story-asking with the above structures. On the third day we continue story-asking and by the fourth day they are ready to read the story on their own. Click here to download a PDF of the story that they will read on their own afterwards. . I did not try too hard to develop a brand new story for the story-asking sessions, but clearly the main character could go somewhere else, looking for something else. It is a classic Blaine Ray style story; as long as the main character asks for X, and the place smells like X but there was not a single X there, then students should be prepared to read the story on their own.

A variation: last year we story-asked enough that I was confident that students could read the story on their own. On the fourth (or maybe fifth) day I gave them the story to read silently, answered questions in a whole group format afterwards, and only after the question period did I allow them to turn over the sheet and complete the questions on the back as an exam grade. The drawing section on front was to keep my itchy fast-processors busy while my slow-processors finished reading the story.

The following week: As a warm-up activity during the following week I present this power point and have students retell the previous week´s story in pairs . Of course, you could insert this earlier into the unit, but I like presenting this on the following week to encourage long-term retention of the structures.

Forever afterwards: After this unit whenever I am circling the basic facts of a new story and I ask a question that prompts a negative answer, such as Was there an elephant in the room?, after they all say no I respond by saying, Correcto, no había ningún elefante. And just for good measure, I´ll ask one of my weaker students to translate the phrase. If it was fully acquired, then this is not a question for the superstars.

This, I think, is one of the basic paradigm shifts that a beginning TPRS teacher must face. As a legacy methods teacher I would tell myself, gosh, my students won´t remember vocabulary from two or three units ago. As a TPRS teacher, the target structures should be burned permanently onto the hard-disk of student´s memory. If target structures are not so useful to bring back frequently in class, maybe they should not be target structures.

Carrie Toth recently published a blog post about backward planning with a more nuanced presentation of planning for enduring understanding…  click here to check it out.

The story Panqueques was inspired by an original Blaine Ray story. The story No hay ningún gato was inspired by Taylor T., one of my students who helped brainstorm the idea. I am still looking for a movie talk to complete this unit.


  1. “Primero ella hizo una lista de personas que quería invitar”. This is a sentence from your story. I am not a native Spanish speaker but wouldn’t it be ” a quienes not que?

    1. No… try doing a google search of “una lista de personas qu” and you will see that it will autocomplete all sorts of phrases that have the word que in it

  2. I think that for Spanish the list needs to include Dejar and Quedarse as essential verbs to begin using in level 1 (after 1st semester).

  3. Thank you for all your wonderful posts which I read with great interest. Please could you tell me the ages of the levels you refer to? I,m in the UK and don’t know!! What age is level 2 that you mention here, for instance? Many thanks

    1. Students in a US high school are usually between the ages of 13 and 18. Any student can be in any level (some do not take a language until their last year of high school, and some come with prior experience and start early), but in general most students in my level 1 are between 13 and 15, most in level 2 are between 14 and 16, most in level 3 are between 15 and 17, and most in level 4 are between 16 and 18. This is only in my school where we have a four year program; it is not uncommon in other districts to find 6 year language programs starting around age 11 and some districts have language programs that extend all the way into kindergarten.

  4. Pingback: elmundodebirch

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.