I originally created this blog to share materials that I create for my classes. In that spirit, here is a simple reading that I wrote for the last semester of Spanish 1. The only new word that my students learn from this story is the word demasiado. I love that they are at the point that basically this is just free reading; it is so important that, rather than push forward, we take the time to read and chat using already acquired phrases. It just seems to consolidate everything better in their minds.
I started the class with three structures written on the board:
¡deja de hablar! stop talking!
sigue hablando keeps talking
habla demasiado talks too much
After establishing meaning I started with a little PQA about strict teachers: ¿Hay profesores que gritan deja de hablar en clase? Looking at one student I asked her: No me digas los nombres, pero… ¿qué enseña el profesor estricto? In a TPRS meet-up group that I attend we were talking about PQA and one of the group members (urg, who was it?!) mentioned that it is so much more engaging when you drill down on one student rather than ask the same question to a handful of students in class. I tried this out, talking just to one student who I know is pretty talkative, and I delved into her story about talking in class. Then I did a quick poll for the whole class: ¿Cuántos de ustedes tienen profesores que gritan deja de hablar en clase? Returning back to the first student, I continued the PQA and easily hit all three phrases multiple times. And, well, of course it was more interesting than simply asking every student in turn a few superficial questions.
The take-home point is that, as obsessed as I am about gaining repetitions, PQA has to be first and foremost a meaningful conversation. Drilling down is a good skill to prevent your PQA from becoming a mechanical exercise.
*** see note at bottom ***
After the PQA I passed out this story (download the .PDF here or, if you want to make changes, download a .DOCX here). It is about a boy who talks too much whenever he becomes nervous and, through a series of coincidences, he becomes a hero. There are references to the movie Snakes on a Plane as well as the Señor Wooly video about an evil dentist (in my story the kid never stops talking so the dentist cannot torture him). Finally the boy saves the day for president Obama. As it turns out, Obama has a secret fear of public speaking but saves face by the talking kid in the crowd who distracts everyone from a president paralyzed with fear. Hooray!
Like most of my stories, the very top section reviews key vocabulary that they already know… but I review it just in case. I let students read on their own for 15-20 minutes and if they finish early then there is a place for stick figure drawings. Before flipping the sheet to the questions I allow students to ask about phrases that confuse them. Grammar in my classes is unsheltered so many, but not all students, were able to piece together the phrase voy a pedir que salgas. They have seen everything expect for the word salgas, but once I pointed to the word sale on my verb wall they were able to put it together. In a 55 minute class most students finished the comprehension questions on their own and did the personal response questions at home to turn in the following day. A parent contacted me the next day to tell me that she thought my stories are hilarious! 🙂
The following day, after they passed in the completed story, we started with several paired retells. Then we added a few basic details to explain backstories, just as you would with any storyasking activity. When we built up a complex retell students did a five minute quick write including the new details and adding five more of their own choosing.
*** note 9/11/15: as I reread this blog post I realize that the advice to drill down was mentioned by Doug Stone, who was discussing advice given to him by Bryce Hedstrom