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The Advantages of Posting High Frequency Verbs

Lately I have been becoming more conscious of how much I use the high frequency verbs posted on my wall.

word walls

I originally posted them for students, and some of my students still do occasionally glance over at the wall. This is especially true during quick writes when someone is looking for inspiration, but it happens also while I am speaking if I point to the wall while speaking slowly.

More importantly, however, I use the posters while circling to keep my questions fresh and interesting while maintaining comprehensibility. For example the other day we were working on two phrases, pide una coca-cola and le ofrecen un pepsi. There was a guy who could not drink Pepsi because he was allergic to the secret ingredient in Pepsi, but the employees kept trying to give him a Pepsi instead of a Coke because there was no Coke in the store. As I was circling these phrases I went through the list of high-frequency verbs:

¿Puede beber un pepsi el hombre? No, no puede beber pepsi, por eso pide una coca-cola. ¿Los empleados salen para comprar coca-cola? No, le ofrecen un pepsi porque no quieren salir. ¿Por qué no quieren salir? Porque quieren ver su programa favorito en la tele. Entonces, ¿qué ve el hombre en las manos de los empleados? El ve latas de pepsi, pero no ve una lata de coca-cola. ¿Le ofrecen una lata de coca-cola? ¡Qué va! ¡Le ofrecen una lata de pepsi! ¿El hombre pone el pepsi en la boca? ¡Claro que no! Él puede morir si bebe Pepsi. El hombre pide una coca-cola. ¿Los empleados saben que el hombre quiere coca-cola? Sí, ellos saben. Saben muy bien, pero son flojos y quieren ver la tele…

I know that the strength of circling comes from the repetition of new structures, but circling gets very old very quickly if the teacher limits him or herself to just the new structures. Once those high frequency verbs have been acquired there is no reason to not continually sow them into your circling. For me, the posters really help me come up with questions during the heat of the moment, unscripted but perfectly comprehensible.

Here are my full basic verbs that my Spanish 1 students master by the end of first semester:



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Spanish 1 basic story: cómo hacer amigos

taylor y sus amigas

This is so simple that it might be useful as substitute plans

Here is a very short story that I wrote so that I could focus on the verb hacer for a few days. Look at how many friends Taylor Swift has made! Taylor knows how to make friends…

Conjugations of the verb hacer can be difficult for beginners to hear, so there really is nothing new here for my level 1 students… just a lot more practice of words they have already seen.

Today I spent the day with PQA asking my students what they did over the weekend and what they did over Winter Break.

Tomorrow I will more or less ask the story that you can download here.

On Friday they will read it (I am sure it will be different from the one we actually create as a class story) and, if I feel like they really need to reread it, I may ask them to create a cartoon version of the story over the weekend.

By the way, the story actually has a sweet ending. No vomit, no bathroom humor, no exploding heads. Brains crave novelty, right?

Update February 6, 2015:

Homework for a level one class is tricky; when I assign homework it is almost always reading that they can easily understand. Having students make cartoons from the story is one way to get students to reread the story at home. Here are a few examples of cartoons that students made (at home!) after reading this story. Click on each image to see a full size version, click again to see an enlarged version if you are really curious about details:






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Movie Talk: Un hombre triste se pone feliz

Movie talk on the fly

Recently a teacher asked me to describe how I do movie talk with my classes. I believe that Movie talk is most effective when planned out so that target structures are recycled, but thinking about Krashen’s argument for non-targeted CI has led me to feel better about all of the Movie talks that I do on the fly. Nonetheless, even with my impromptu movie talks, I am still recycling target structures by relying on the super sixteen verbs that are posted on my wall. Here is an in-depth (perhaps tedious!) description of how I stretched a 44 second video into a 55 minute lesson with my level 1 students… and we could have kept going!!

(1) Talking through the video
triste When students came in today they saw the frame to the left. I asked them ¿Qué ven ustedes en la foto? (What do you all see in the photo) and we spent a few minutes commenting on everything we could think of, including asking if the man were happy or sad and guessing what might be in the photo. My favorite student response was: es una foto de una hamburguesa y el hombre está muy triste porque comió la hamburguesa. Then we watched the first few seconds of the video; click here to view the entire video on youtube .

The first time through I stop it as often as possible, simply describing what we see. I stand in front of the classroom at the screen and tap on the screen whenever I want my student, sitting at my computer, to press pause or play. Simply standing up front is very important to keep my students focused and engaged; when I am in back behind my computer they tend to be less engaged.

I rarely write anything on the board the first time through (unless a student explicitly asks); I want them to hear the language first. While teaching I am looking at the list of sweet sixteen verbs posted on the wall, so it is easy for me to improvise drawing from previous learned structures. When the man in the video puts the photo on his nightstand, of course I say Pone la foto sobre la mesita de noche and then circle that phrase (drawing a parallel between mesita and mesa and then defining that explicitly in English to make sure everyone understood). I can also say ¿Oye un ruido? ¿Quiere otra foto? ¿Sabe que hay algo debajo de su cama? because these all come from past target structures. In all we spend about five minutes with me mostly narrating and asking pointed questions to verify student comprehension.

(2) Paired retells
retellsEarlier in the year I would not place a retell so early in a lesson so as not to intimidate students, but at this point in the year some of my students are demanding the opportunity to talk. In fact, with a quieter or less confident class I would place a whole class retell here (see step 5). With such a short clip we have the luxury to watch it again, this time in pairs. I stopped it at three places and just asked them to speak in pairs and describe everything they could. I spend less time on this step than on the first step.

(3) Personalization
This is the most enjoyable part of the lesson. I ask a student: ¿Tienes una foto en la mesita de noche al lado de tu cama? ¿Es una foto de la clase de español? ¿Es una foto de tu perro? We build a word image for several students, comparing their bedrooms and using the vocabulary from the video. ¿Hay una ventana en tu dormitorio? ¿Te gusta abrir la ventana cuando llueve? (we are in inland California where it hardly ever rains). When we find something interesting we could follow it using the storyasking process until interest gradually dissipates, but today I cut this off after 15 minutes.

(4) Questions
I asked students to write nine questions about the video using all of our question words. After about five minutes I started to ask for student volunteers: they read their questions aloud and I wrote them on the board, corrected. It is funny, in a TPRS classroom they hear many questions everyday but once they sat down to write their own questions many made mistakes with word order. It was interesting to watch the recognition on their faces as I rewrote their questions and they were recognizing proper word order. One even said, “oh yeah, that sounds better”, which is an appropriate response for their level of acquisition. Once we had nine questions on the board I asked those same questions to nine other students, allowing us to reread the questions again. Altogether we spent around 12 minutes on this section.

(5) Whole class retell
I write on the board: Hay un hombre que… (there is a man that…) and then students add suggestions. It goes without saying that this and all other activities are conducted entirely in Spanish, with the exception of when I write words in Spanish with their English definitions on the board. With the class retell we are trying to fill all three whiteboards (my handwriting is fairly large) with long, complex sentences. Hay un hombre que / mira la foto / de su perro / y el hombre está triste / porque su perro está de vacaciones en México. What I like about this activity is that students add what they can but learn how easy it is to construct a more complex sentence. After 8-10 minutes we have a student-generated (but teacher corrected) summary on the board.

(6) Quick write
We just barely had enough time for a quick write, although we could have just as easily extended the personalization part of the lesson. As a prompt I wrote on the board: Yo tengo una foto en la mesita de noche al lado de mi cama. The responses varied from goofy stories about a girl who has a family of cows to a touching one about the photo of one of my student’s recently deceased grandmother. Reading these quick writes helps me build a relationship with my students, and also reminds me that I need to explicitly write the yo forms on the board more often.