All text in italics is a note to the reader for instructional purposes only.
1. The Set Up
- I first instructed my students to write "Mi familia" on the first line of a sheet of paper while modeling the action myself.
- On the board I had written the following:
- Mi familia es grande. (ORACION) - (SENTENCE)
- Mi familia (FRASE) - (PHRASE)
- Familia (PALABRA) - (WORD)
- I explained each expression using its label and using gestures to signify the size of each structure. The goal here was to teach vocabulary related to instruction rather than production. I need to be able to stay in the TL as much as possible, so I am laying the groundwork for them to understand instructions without having to prepare and hand out a list of "classroom commands" vocabulary. At the point I felt like the majority understood the point was to understand "sentence", "phrase" and "word" I let them clarify/confirm with each other in English so that all students would know those words. One of the things I am working on with my students is to train them NOT to expect what I say in Spanish to be super complex. Much of the frustration students have when their language teacher uses the TL is based on their thinking that the point we are making is much more complicated than what it really is. The only way to combat this problem is to keep putting them in situations where they have to keep listening to the language and make meaning from what they hear, but as teachers we have to start with simple things when it comes to instruction or we will lose them! Another important point is that the chunks of instructional phrases we teach them should be very small and be directly connected to the tasks we want them to perform during that lesson. Just like any other vocabulary, overloading them with too many words and phrases only leads to disaster.
2. The Actual Activity - Guided Writing
- At this point I gave the instructions that today's lesson is writing sentences about our families and I started the powerpoint on the first slide. I gave them instructions to write the number 1 on their paper and write one sentence that describes their family. I used gestures to distinguish between big, small and average (written in Spanish on the powerpoint). I then modeled a sentence to them by saying, "Mi familia es muy tipica." I then walked to various parts of the room to see which students were writing their sentences following my model and which were struggling with understanding the instructions. I continued to model verbally until each student could produce their own personalized sentence about their family.
- I then direct them to write sentences about the personality of their family and the closeness of their family (sentences 2 and 3). At this point in each class period different students started asking for words like very, a little, kinda, neither/nor, and also this is the perfect definition of self selected vocabulary. Now the students want the words because they want to communicate their own personalized messages so the words mean something to them. Connecting words and transitions are becoming important without my having to teach them deliberately! AWESOME!
- The last sentence I ask them to write for this slide is a sentence about the number of members their family has continuing to model by speaking about my own family as an example, so the verb in the sentence has changed, but the structure hasn't. This is an important moment in modeling. SIDE NOTE: This is also a great time to use the word "example" over and over again so it becomes familiar to them as you guide them through the lesson.
- I continue to guide them through the remaining slides in which the topic changes from dad to mom to siblings. Through each slide I model the type of sentence I want by speaking about my own family. In these slides I model writing sentences that include lists, negatives and the word for "also" and "but". SIDE NOTE: At this point the students start asking for more personalized vocabulary such as "annoying" or "hardworking" because they want to say what is true for each member of their family. Again, this is another example of how to teach self selected vocabulary. As you can see, I have only given options they can look at and figure out on their own, or that are high frequency words. This list is just enough inspiration to challenge them to reach for more, while giving them a comfortable place to jump from. I am now teaching adjectives and agreement without having to teach a lesson on it!
At the conclusion of the lesson, I open up a short discussion with my students to ask them what they were learning today. The answers will vary, so we made a list of all the things they were learning at the same time, but they had to decide on one that was the main point of the day. They all asked if the paper was a grade, and I told them, "No, it was for your practice and now you have beautifully written sentences to use as examples in the future." It was interesting to see how happy that made them and the comments about how it made them feel like they understood so much more Spanish after the lesson. BRILLIANT!
While it may not seem like it at first glance, this lesson is a POWERFUL one. There is so much going on cognitively speaking that it is mind-blowing! Give it a try and let me know how it goes!
Happy Thursday and as always...