I often read on Twitter and Facebook about teachers who are trying to decide if their students can handle a novela such as El Internado. The response is often that anything below level three cannot handle it, that it would be a stretch. Personally I think that is not helpful advice.
On one hand, it is so important to stress to all teachers considering using El Internado in any level that it is their responsibility to make the show comprehensible. We know that second language acquisition is driven by students understanding messages, not by being “challenged” to hear better. Planning on showing an authentic resource in class with the idea that the “challenge” is good for your students is misunderstanding how languages are acquired. Being challenged by incomprehensible noise does not lead to language acquisition, even if they enjoy the images flickering across the screen. We must step in and work to make it comprehensible. Certainly that is easier (and requires less interruptions) in upper level classes, but that same work of making the show comprehensible can be done in lower level classes.
On the other hand, I believe strongly that when I come across something that excites students, I should not save it for the exclusive enjoyment of upper level students. That is a delayed gratification mindset; knowing that in a few years they will actually watch a cool show does not develop intrinsic motivation in the same way that actually watching the cool show in level one does. When I developed the approach so that El Internado was comprehensible to my level 2 students we saw a huge increase in enrollments the following year. Now I teach it to level 1, hook them as early as possible, and it has paid off. Several years later we are the department with the strongest IB scores in the school. I credit it to placing our highest motivation activities in the first year of our language program.
Many teachers cannot conceive of teaching El Internado in level 1, so I have looked through my files and found a short clip of myself teaching El Internado to my level 1 students. This clip was filmed in late November after about three months of teaching. We started the year carefully focusing on the sweet sixteen verbs and, among other stories, we did a two week unit retelling the story Caperucita Roja, targeting many words used in El Internado. Here is the video: