Grades K-2: Storytelling (Interactive)
- Combine new and old knowledge of the target language.
- Repeat key phrases and vocabulary and create movements/gestures to match each one.
- Follow and comprehend short stories in the target language.
- Apply words and phrases in everyday conversation (spoken).
- Read lines of mini stories in the target language.
Students experience immersion in the target language and learn about The Adventures of Pato (my stuffed animal duck). Some of these stories are class conversations and wordplays and have ridiculous outcomes! Keep reading for a few examples.
Kindergarten: Pato starts the year off in a more low-key than not fashion, calmly singing a song to learn the names of the colors in Spanish. This quickly turns more exciting when he brings food coloring and coffee filters to the next class, so that kindergarteners can make their own designs. There is a lot of comprehensible input here: “How many drops of blue? Two more of red? Where? Which color over there? No, I don’t have purple, but is there a way we could make it? What happens if we mix blue and red?” etc.
The following class, Pato brings both vinegar/vinagre and water/agua, and students take turns smelling the identical-looking liquids, and commenting on whether they like the smell or not (me gusta/no me gusta). The story/conversation just keeps growing, complete with wordplays (a boy named Kai became the caimán, or alligator, in a mini story, where Pato is out on a boat with pirates looking for treasure when he is suddenly surrounded by alligators and must learn how to fly in order to escape (cue pulley/polea lesson and up/down directionals).
Grade 1: While some lessons evolve into crazy, unanticipated projects that span several classes, other silly stories are intentional class projects, as a means to an end. For example, when Pato wants to visit Spain, the class is divided into small groups and has to build him Popsicle stick boats with paper flags; this becomes a mini unit on floating and sinking objects (flota/se hunde).
Students later take a faux plane ride to Spain, have to go through customs/aduana, take off their shoes, show their pasaportes/passports, etc. When they arrive in Spain, Pato wants to see La Alhambra, the famous red fort, so first graders actually ended up painting huge swaths of cardboard red and building a very cool kid-sized model of the actual fort and gardens. They made tickets to visit and charged euros to enter the large fort. Wow!
Grade 2: A memorable day was when Pato thought fútbol, or soccer, was “food-ball”; this became a class joke and new sport, called, “Comida-ball”, wherein students took turns rolling [raw!] eggs on a soccer type field on the floor of their regular classroom (rompe el huevo). You lost if you cracked the huevo/egg, of course.
Somehow the class ended up building Pato a massive zipline outside and we experimented to see if the raw egg could make it down in one piece (it did, miraculously!). This led to the creation of a papier-mache hot air balloon. Pato was pretty fixated on modes of transportation that first quarter.
Grades 2-3: Storytelling (AIM)
Students experience immersion in the target language via the AIM methodology.
Grades 3-4: Storytelling (TPRS)
Students experienced immersion in the target language via TPRS methodology. We co-created (as teacher and students) a number of mini-stories in the target language. The teaching style of these stories evolved over the year, in that some were pure TPRS, others were more script/play/ acting/theater style, and yet others were more AIM (gestures and repetition, but less of a focus on PQA). The latter seemed more effective for this age, mostly because processing levels (of reading and written translations on the board) varied significantly, based on their L1 reading levels.
**Note that students did not do much, if any, writing during this unit; the focus was on using language in meaningful contexts and encouraging them to apply words and phrases in everyday conversation. Students were exposed to proper spelling and punctuation/reading on the board, of course, but I did not require any written output. That said, I framed the TPRS story more as a class play, so that students had the opportunity to volunteer and read their lines aloud if they so desired.
We also incorporated well-known song classics into the story/play; for example, when an actor had “lost all hope” and was crying, the class would sing, “Ay yie yie yie, canta y no llores” (sing and don’t cry) and hear a short clip of Cielito lindo. They won’t know the name of the song, but they will recognize that line! Freewrites in the target language on a regular basis will be a goal for next year.