How to get students talking in the target language the first day of class: A new twist on a routine strategy.
The first week of school is always exciting for freshmen students, especially those who have not taken a Spanish as a second language. From the very first day, I encourage students to speak only in the target language. Like most teachers, I start my stating my name in the language as a model and then by asking them to state theirs. We go around until we get the hang of it. Please note that this activity has been extended.
During the first week, I usually engage students in this About Me activity, which is all in the target language. The activity is loaded with simple at a glance cognates that really require no front loading. It is also a great activity for ESL students who would benefit from compound words and Latin roots.
Output Rich Activity play by play
1. First, students look a list of words, mostly cognates but some, such as película are not as familiar.
2. The most important thing is that students cannot use a dictionary! This helps them engage in incidental learning. Students read over the cognate vocabulary words and decide what they mean.
3. They complete a short warm-up cloze-text activity that gives them a sneak peak into the meaning of most words.
4. Here is the kicker- they read a simple interview about a Spanish girl who discusses her interests. Her interview contextualizes most of the vocabulary.
5. After reading the interview, students use it as a guide to complete their own questions. These questions and vocabulary words are provided in this About Me activity demo.
5. The questions are split into two section and students engage in a paired interpersonal activity after reading.
6. Complete a compare and contrast activity using their information and that of the girl interviewed.
This activity could be great for engaging students in inquiry, allowing them to learn basic vocabulary, cognates, interrogative words, sentence structure without a formal lesson!
Some modeling suggestions
To maximize and optimize input, teachers could also consider answering the questions for themselves prior to the interview. Research indicates that it takes interacting with a word 20 times before it becomes a part of our lexicon, so answering the questions beforehand gives them additional experience with the word. I usually answer the questions for myself to give them an example of how it’s done. For example, the question: Cuál es tu programa favorito, I’d respond by saying mi programa favorito es el Internado. Then I’d ask them cuál es mi programa favorito. This sets up the stage for me to then ask them their favorite program. After going over my questions and asking a few students, they can work on the Interview. I try to get as much bang as possible out of this buck.
After students have finished their activity (I have moved around class to make sure we are all on board), I have them engage in a little speed-dating activity, also included in the About Me activity document. This takes about 5-10 minutes of class time. They move around and interview one person or they could get into pairs. They begin by asking them one (or 7) of the questions. At this point they would also be practicing simple greetings such as hello, how are you, what is your name, goodbye, etc.
Not done yet!
After this activity students are of course excited to share about their one person. After this, I ask for a few volunteers to sit in the Hot Seat. Various students in the class ask them the same questions from the list. My the end of the period the students have acquired new vocabulary, incidentally learned something about the structure of the language, heard keywords several times in addition to being introduced to their year-long roommates!
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