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Stories in upper levels

I just want to share a little teaching win from a couple weeks ago (from when I actually started this post:)

For a little back story, this is my first year at a new school where students are used to a very traditional textbook curriculum. We are also on trimesters and I started the year with the 2nd trimester of Spanish 2 & 3, meaning they ended at Thanksgiving. (Students take 2 trimester of each level of Spanish, meaning they can finish four "years" in three).  Those two groups have now just moved on to Spanish 3 & 4. My two classes of Spanish 2 have now combined, minus a few students to form my new large Spanish 3. The Spanish 4 is the interesting situation because half of them are juniors who just finished a trimester of Spanish 3 with me, and the other half are seniors who finished Spanish 3 last February. These means I have students who have not had Spanish in almost a year, who have never been a part of a CI class. Did you catch all that?

As a transition time and review between Thanksgiving and Christmas we spent 2 weeks on Martina Bex's El Secreto Unit, focusing on irregular preterite structures. While my current Spanish I is now on their tenth story unit and creates stories on a weekly basis, these new Spanish 4s had NEVER done a class story. Ever. This is mostly my fault, since at the start of the year I thought the upper levels would be "too cool" for stories, so we instead jumped right into novels. 

I was wrong. 

Everyone loves a good story. 

The 2 boyfriends fighting over their "girl."
It is always the boys who love being actors in my classes!


They especially love a story when you get out the prop box at the start of class and hype up how they get to go something new and fun. I asked for two volunteers to be out main characters and they loaded themselves from the prop box. (If you do not have a prop box, start one! Mine is a mix of ridiculous things I collected traveling, cheap Halloween costumes and the most important items, wigs!) The props and my great actors made for such FUN classes. With back to back levels 3 & 4 at the end of the day, it was one of those times I left school loving my job and thanking myself for making the switch to CI teaching methods. One of the actors left bouncing out of class saying it was the most fun Spanish class we ever had, and asked if we could do that every week. This is the same student who almost did not move on to the next level because he was failing Spanish. 

So as we move into one of the craziest times of the school year, never forget that stories can be a powerful, compelling, and fun way to get in a lot of repetitions of target structures in a comprehensible way to ANY level. In the middle of our upper level deep themes of immigration, racism, and the environment, we have to remember everyone likes to a break to watch students dress up, and act out stealing each other's girlfriends :)

Here's to a great last SEVEN days of school and not taking everything so seriously. 

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