“Awkward Conversations” to build emergent fluency and confidence in Spanish

Awkward, but fun!

Desperate to find ways for my students to interact in the target language without having experience and with limited input, I resorted to “Awkward Conversations.” I am sure there is a more technical term, if not-I coined it!  The activity is simple yet yields many dividends. It is part of my rebellion to in the box teaching.  My previous posts introduces creative ways I avoid direct instruction to put primacy on input, learning and constructive fluency.


This is the first year I have had to teach Spanish from scratch. I have always had students with some type of background with the language. Last  year, my incredible department chair had students take APPL placement tests and this really did the trick. As a result, I have real life first year Spanish leaners; and this has been a wake up call. The lessons are raw. I am constantly challenged with finding novel and engaging ways that teach the language, place a priority on authentic input while engendering output.  I am finding myself having to work muscles I have not worked in years.

Vocabulary Building 

We have been practicing greetings, introducing ourselves and learning about gender nouns. Students had to review about 15 nouns, placing the correct article in front of the noun. See the image on the right.  Naturally, the students worked with the vocabulary, wrote sentences and then it hit me. Why can’t they just share what they have written down? They don’t have to wait until they learning every little rule about mechanics or even wait for me to provide them with comprehensible input. They can have fun and play and experiment with the language. So we tried!

It was super simple. I used some of the basic words from our Descubre textbook (textbook is a bad word in some circles, but I use it as a resource). The did a preliminary exercise and then they were off about the class, being super awkward, these freshmen loved it!

Improv rule #1- Always say yes!

As students went around interviewing other students. Regardless what the students said, the other students had to respond by saying “Qué bueno.” I wanted to add ” Me alegro” but decided to leave it there. The result? Excited students, laughing and excited to speak the language. The script of this activity is below. It took about 15 minutes.

List of sight words I put on the board to facilitate sentences:

Several students combined some words: 

1. Hay un conductor en el autobus.

2. La señora Quiñones necesita un libro para la clase de español.

Sample Conversation

Greeting: Hola, buenos días

S1: ¿Como estás?

S2:  Estoy feliz (The first day they have three words to choose from Contento, Feliz, Triste)

S1:Cómo te llamas?

S2:  Me llamo Sara

SI: ¿Cuántos años tienes?

S2: Tengo 14 años y tú?

S1: Tengo 14 años

SI: Yo tengo un autobús

S2: ¡Qué bueno!

This was a super fun energizing activity. This was a total – lightbulb teaching moment.

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