What does it look like to teach El Internado in a non-targeted manner with a Spanish 1 class?

Teachers often ask me about a list of target structures that I need my students to master before we can start El Internado. What do they need to know?

The legendary Susan Gross used to say that she could teach Pobre Ana on day 1, and there was no mention of target structures, just good TPRS skills that make each phrase comprehensible as students encounter them. I approach El Internado in the same way. I do start second semester when students have a firm grasp of the sweet 16 verbs and a few words that are high-frequency in El Internado, but for the most part we are just processing simple Spanish as we encounter it.

I have made videos of myself teaching but this post is going to be different. Every day, as I teach a little of El Internado, I am going to take a photo of the writing on the board at the end of the class and post it below. Some days (like yesterday) I spend much of the class on El Internado, but most days we only spend 20 minutes talking about one single scene. The writing will show you what students really have to understand in order to enjoy the show. These paragraphs are written quickly together at the end of a lot of oral conversation about a scene. Come back over the next few weeks and read new photos that I will post below. As you read each entry, ask yourself if you could lead your level 1 students through such a discussion. I bet that you could.

January 10, 2017
January 10, 2017
January 11, 2017
January 11, 2017
January 12, 2017
January 12, 2017


  1. Very useful. Thanks for posting. Sometimes we (I) try to tell too much, need to keep it simple.

    On Wed, Jan 11, 2017 at 2:49 PM, My generation of polyglots wrote:

    > mpeto posted: “Teachers often ask me about a list of target structures > that I need my students to master before we can start El Internado. What do > they need to know? The legendary Susan Gross used to say that she could > teach Pobre Ana on day 1, and there was no ment” >

  2. Do you find that having El Internado available on Netflix where students can go home and watch (even binge watch) with English subtitles has hurt your classroom presentation of the series? Does it hurt that some of them already know what’s going to happen?

    • Not at all. It actually helps because they anticipate cognates and the affective filter, already low, is even lower because they feel confident that they will be able to understand me. Nonetheless the class is in Spanish, as are their comprehension checks, their quick writes, any discussion. Being trained in TPRS circling skills helps keep the conversation unexpected so that they have to be following the Spanish. I am very clear to tell them that if they do watch ahead they cannot talk about it in class.

  3. This post is giving me the confidence I needed to start El Internado. I have been wanting to use the show for a while. Do you show the scene again after the class discussion? Would it be a good idea to start keeping a diary of what happens in each scene?

    • Sure, but not always. I do have students copy all of the summaries into their notebooks. These sentences are student-generated… after a lot of conversation I will write the first word and let them suggest how to finish the sentence. I also add transition words and correct as we write, but these sentences are very comprehensible to students as they go back and read (which you might have them do as a warm-up after a few days of recording. Tomorrow I will give them the first few pages of my student study guide to read, which is interactive and a step up in complexity, but still comprehensible (see the link above for “El Internado Resources” to see my study guides and supplemental resources).

  4. This is pretty much how I approached my level 1 class. I really wanted to show them El Internado to be able to grow the program in my school. (We only have my class). The kids loved it and learned a lot. We only watched it on Fridays and only got through one episode in the semester, but still! PS: it’s my first time teaching a language, I’m used to math.

    • Sounds great! My first year bringing Internado down to lower levels (it was level 2 at the time) we managed to get an entire extra section for level 3 the following year due to increased student interest.

  5. Thank you so much for doing this! I am teaching with non-targeted structures but often question myself about whether I need to develop something more structured. Please tell me – what do you do with the rest of class when you just spend 20 minutes on El Internado?

    • There are so many things we do, let´s see… (1) an untargeted quick story using Ben´s Invisibles method (starting with a student provided illustrated character, following a strict timeline with a student timekeeper so that the story lifts off, flies and lands within 20 minutes), (2) a short student interview like Bryce Hedstrom does (those interviews are not just for “beginning of the year getting to know them”!), (3) FVR, (4) a movie talk, (5) reviewing a reading from a story that we made in a previous class (re-reading if it was a while ago and/or using a website like Textivate), (6) breaking out one of my old TPRS stories that I used to make with target structures and that are still posted on this blog (“el sombrero” and “la sorpresa” are two of my favorite story lessons, while my unit on “ballenas grises” is a great change of pace from fiction), (7) a song activity, (8) a quick write (not more than twice a month), (9) play the card game 99 in Spanish, (10) teach them how to make a recipe… it is surprisingly easy to explain how to cook a tortilla española entirely in the TL, (11) do a quick map activity asking where things are speaking in Spanish of course (seriously, it can be fun for a very limited amount of time), (12) tell a joke (Bryan Kandel has a great joke book for Spanish class on his TpT store), (13) do a 5 minute running dictation, (14) read a story to them either kindergarten style, or having them draw as I talk, or simply have them sit and listen. I am sure that there is more, but those are my favorite activities that come to mind first.

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