In part 1, I shared what helps me teach using comprehensible TL in my classroom. Continuing on to part 2, I will share my lesson plans for the first two weeks of class with total beginners. These are 5th grade students that have zero experience with the TL. I do not always use 90%+ TL with these students right away, but we slowly build up to it. My goal is to always use as much TL with them as possible while still being comprehensible.
Here is what I do with my students the first two weeks of class. I use a combination of SOMOS unit 1 (a free unit from Martina Bex) and other activities. I will link what I can. If it is not a free resource, I will link where it can be purchased. Also, I will script out the basics of what I say for certain activities so you can see how I simplify language and give you ideas for your own classes. I will write the scripts in English because not everyone is a Spanish teacher (but of course I use Spanish when I’m actually saying it).
This is the first day of class and I use English so that I can be very clear about what I expect from students. We talk about class rules, how class starts and ends, what materials they need to bring, etc. I have them sign up for Google Classroom and their Señor Wooly account. If we have time, we also watch Sr. Wooly’s “¿Puedo ir al baño?” video.
This is our first day getting into content. I remind students of the class rules. My job is to make the Spanish comprehensible and their job is to focus on the source of the Spanish. Then we get right into the Spanish.
- TPR (total physical response) – The very first thing I do is teach them the gestures for the phrases “miren” (look), “escuchen” (listen), “levántense” (stand up), and “siéntense” (sit down). I say the phrase in the TL and do the gesture. Students practice those phrases as I give them commands (“The class looks at Bob. Bob looks at the class. The class stands up.”). Again, I am using the gesture every time I say that word. They have learned four gestures at this point. I also add in words like “fast” and “slow” so I can tell students to do something fast or slow. I also teach them the word “again” and twirl my hands in a circular motion for the gesture.
- Calendar Talk – The next thing we do is calendar talk. This is basically me using a familiar visual (a calendar) to talk about things like the days of the week, birthdays, weather, and important events. Here is what it looks like the very first day. I ask questions about the calendar (in Spanish) and they give me a group response. Here is what the conversation might look like.
- Me: Class, look at the calendar. This is a calendar. Class, is this a calendar or is this an elephant?
- Class: Calendar!
- Me: Fantastic. This is a calendar. Is it November?
- Class: No!
- Me: No. It is not November. It is not October. It is not August. Is it December or January?
- Class: January!
- Me: Class, it is January! Is it January 5?
- Class: No.
- Me: No. It is not January 5. What is the date? (I point to the word “fecha” on my white board).
- Okay you probably get the idea. It sounds very simple in English, but it is very engaging for students in the TL. They get excited seeing how much they can understand already. It’s also easy to do because the calendar is a concrete visual that students are already familiar with. We also discuss things like the days of the week, student birthdays and other events going on. I type in the events on our digital calendar as students mention them. Usually, we just add all the events on Monday morning so that we can see what is going on during the week.
- Popcorn game: I use this game to introduce some new words while also giving students a break. I teach them different ways to say boy and girl. We start with “chico” and “chica”. The goal of the game is for everyone to sit down. Everyone starts by standing up. They can sit down after they say either “chico” or “chica”. The challenge is that only one person can speak at a time. If two people speak, the entire class has to stand up and start over.
- Introduce “hay” (there is/there are) and teach the gesture (open palms up as if presenting something)
- I go through my “hay” slideshow to show students examples of the structure in context and to practice some questions.
- Animals slideshow: I will show students an image for a split second and they have to try to figure out how many animals they saw. They will write their guess out on a mini whiteboard. Then I will reveal the image and we will figure out the correct answer.
- Me: Class, look at the photo for one second. * show image for a second then change to a blank slide* How many elephants are there?
- Students will write: There are *their number guess* elephants.
Giving directions in the TL: I try to explain directions in the TL when I can, but it depends on the situation. If it will take me 10 minutes to explain something in Spanish can I can explain using 20 seconds of English, then I will use English. We don’t have a lot of time together and I want to make the most of it. If I do explain a game or activity in Spanish, simpler is always better. I will always ask for a volunteer to help demonstrate as well. When students need to grab classroom materials, I can easily say that in Spanish because there is a concrete visual. For example I will say “You need…. a whiteboard, a marker, and an eraser.” It’s very simple and I can hold up each item so it’s clear what they need. I also have a gesture for “need” that I teach them right away. To signal “need”, I hold out the palm of my hand and point to it.
- Calendar talk: We review the calendar each day. This goes very quickly at the start of class. I will ask them what the date is. Later in the week I will start asking them how they are feeling and what the weather is like. I have slideshows for these questions so they have visual support to answer.
- Introduce “se llama” (s/he calls herself/himself) “este/esta es” (this is)
- Gestures: “se llama” (I draw an invisible name tag on my shirt) and “este/esta” (I just point to whatever I’m referring to)
- Slideshow: Este/esta/se llama (here is the old version but I plan on updating it).
- I chose images of familiar characters and people. I will say what they are (boy, girl, animal, etc) and what their name is. For example “This is an fish. This fish is named Nemo.” “This is a mouse. This mouse is named Mickey.” It’s a way to show them the words in context.
- During this, I will also talk about the pictures in more detail. I can incorporate colors, numbers, body parts, and size. It easy to make it comprehensible because you can just point to the picture. I will also introduce the word “tiene” (has) and teach them the gesture. I can say things like “Class, Mickey has two ears. Mickey does not have three ears. Johnny, do you have three ears? No, you have two ears. I also have two ears. Class, does Mickey have big ears or small ears? What color is Mickey? What color is his shirt?”
- Play “popcorn” again to take a break
- Play “name game”: Students say “my name is…” and then throw the ball to the next student. When everyone has introduced themselves, we go on to round two. In round two, they say their name using “me llamo” and then the name of the person they are going to throw it to using “se llama”.
- Calendar Talk: I start to slowly introduce more words like “mes” (month), “día” (day), semana (week), etc. I also talk about what day was yesterday and what day tomorrow will be. I will try asking new questions in Spanish each day to keep it fresh: “How many days are in January? February? Do we have classes on this day? Why not? What is your favorite month? Why?”
- Mini readings: Peter Pan and Michael Jackson
- Introduce “dice” (s/he says) and teach gesture (index finger touching mouth then pointing outward)
- Read and discuss the slide: María y Roberto
- I have a slideshow to show the structures “hay” “dice” and “se llama” in context. There are some additional words included that students may or may not yet be familiar with, so I may have to adjust it.
- Song introduction: Los pollitos dicen
- All of the instructions for this activity are included in Martina Bex’s free unit called “dice” (linked above). Even though it is a children’s song, my classes love it. Even if some kids say they don’t, they still sing it throughout the year. Do not skip this song if you do this unit. It’s so fun! Spanish Mama also has some great resources to go along with the song that I will explain later in the post.
- Calendar Talk
- Review the song los pollitos dicen – We sing along with the song while doing the gestures. I lead the class in the gestures and will ask for volunteers to help me out. There’s always a handful of energetic, brave students who want to help out and are not afraid to act silly.
- This is the first time the difference between “dice” (s/he says) and “dicen” (they say) pops up. I take 10 seconds to explain how adding an “n” changes it to “they say”.
- Now that students have had some exposure to “dice” (s/he says), we play the famous quotes guessing game. This activity is included with the unit. I put a famous quote on the board and ask them who says it. For example, “Who says… ‘There’s no place like home?'” When they guess correctly I will say “Yes, class! Dorthy says ‘There’s no place like home!'” Students really enjoy this game and always ask for more quotes when it’s done.
- We will play the Unfair Game for the second half of class. Here are the original rules from Martina Bex. I also have a blog post about how I play my own version of the Unfair Game with links to resources.
- Calendar Talk
- Los pollitos dicen song
- Act out our class story – If you do not know what storyasking is or how to do it, read this post. Martina also has a video of herself asking a story with her class.
- Go over story asking expectations
- Tell story in Spanish using class actors
- Ask questions to check for understanding
- Write out our class story together; I type it on the Smart board as the class helps fill in the missing pieces. This is another way to check for understanding and gives them their first written version of the story.
- For example: Hay un muchacho que se llama… (“Clase, ¿Como se llama? Sí, el muchacho se llama Harold.”)
- Students create a visual for card talk. I tell them to write their name and draw 2-3 things that they like. When I want to explain things like this in the TL, I need to prepare a slide in advance with lots of visuals and examples. They will create their visual and turn it in. We will use it the next day. I set a 10 minute timer so they don’t waste time and get it done quickly.
- Introduce “le gusta” (s/he likes), “te gusta” (you like), “me gusta” (I like) and teach the gesture (thumbs up). I use the same gesture for all forms of the verb. I just point to the person it is referring to and show the gesture.
- Me gusta / no me gusta slideshow – I have a variety of pictures on a slideshow. Students will express their opinion by choosing a side. Students will walk to one side of the room if they like it and the other side if they do not like it.
- I like to use Martina Bex’s product “¿Qué te gusta?” as well. It is very thorough and I enjoy the three level reading included. I might print out the booklet and have my students read it in partners. As a whole group, I will stop and ask students if they like or dislike the items mentioned.
- Card talk – The day before, students created their visual showing what they like. Now that they have been exposed to the the verb for “likes”, I can start this activity. I will select a few papers each day to talk about. I hold up the paper, say the name of the student and walk around so everyone can get a good look. I will talk about what is on the card and ask that student questions so we can learn more. I also display some vocabulary on the board that tends to pop up during this activity. Here’s an example of what this might look like:
- “Class, I have Bob’s paper. Look at Bob’s paper. Bob likes pizza. Bob also likes dogs. Bob, do you like pepperoni pizza? Do you like pineapple on your pizza? What is your favorite pizza? Do you like Pizza Hut? What is your favorite pizza restaurant? You like dogs, too? Do you like big dogs or small dogs? Do you have a dog? What is your dog’s name? What color is your dog?”
- I cannot express enough how valuable it is to have the question words displayed in your classroom. I have mine in both English and Spanish so there is no misinterpretation. Whenever I ask a question, I point to the appropriate poster. I couldn’t teach without those posters.
- It can go on for awhile. It depends on the comfort level of the student. If I can sense that a student is very shy and doesn’t want to be asked a lot of questions, I’ll keep it short. If they seem more nervous, I’ll ask simpler questions (yes or no). Fast processors can handle more complex questions.
- Calendar and card talk
- Los pollitos dicen
- Read the story: Bob el vampiro
- Embedded reading: Me llamo Ronaldo
- Wildebeest movie talk
- This is one of my favorite videos to use for movie talk. If you are unfamiliar with movie talk, you can read about it here. The movie talk script is included in the unit 1 folder. I actually simplify it more than that, though.
- One idea I saw another teacher do is have your class name the two wildebeest. I tried this and my students loved it. It helped make it more comprehensible too.
- Calendar and card talk
- Los pollitos dicen
- Wildebeest activities
- There is a Google Drive folder with free resources that go along with the Wildebeest movie talk. We usually will start with a reading based on the video. After we will play the pencil grab game. We might do a listening activity where I describe a scene and they draw it. You could do this with multiple scenes and have them put their pictures in order afterwards to retell the story.
- Calendar and card talk
- Los pollitos dicen
- We focus more on the song los pollitos dicen with resources from Spanish Mama. She has a lot of free resources on her TPT that I plan on using. I’ll link them below.
- Los pollitos dicen (preschool unit) – Yes, it’s for preschool but I there are still some activities I’d use with middle school. I really like the mini booklet that comes with it. It includes different animals and what they say in Spanish. I also like the idea of playing “duck, duck, goose” as a brain break.
- Los pollitos dicen (song lyrics and activities) – I enjoy how this goes more in depth with the lyrics and learning phrases like “is hungry”, “is cold”, “sleeps” are all very useful for students.
- I also really like using the song “el pollito pío” (which might even work well for the next class period). There is this free resource another teacher made that students can complete while listening to the song.
Those are my lesson plans for the first two weeks when students have zero experience with Spanish! Like I mentioned in part 1, slower is better. Less is more. Rather than having 50 vocabulary words to cover for one unit, I just focus on a handful of useful verbs in a variety of forms. For the first two weeks, our main focus is on “hay”, “se llama”, “dice”, “tiene”, “le gusta”, “es”, “está”. Students see the structures in many forms but I use the same gesture. It doesn’t matter if it’s tengo, tienes, tienen… the gesture is always the same. I point to whoever it’s referring to and then do the verb gesture.
Thanks for taking the time to read this long post. I hope it was helpful and showed you how I am able to actually do more with less vocabulary words. I couldn’t do this, though, without the help of other teachers and their incredible resources. The SOMOS curriculum from Martina Bex is fantastic and has made it easy for me to teach my classes in the TL.
If you have any questions about anything I shared, please let me know!