Unfortunately for me, ‘backward planning’ usually means doing things backward: as in the wrong order. I have never had a systematic way of introducing past tenses to my students, and so their knowledge of it is always somewhat spotty. They leave my Spanish II class able to interpret the past tense with ease, but their production of it lacks accuracy.

This will change. At least, that is my goal.

Update, 2018: So funny for me to read this now! Now, I know that my students were exactly on the right track. Of course they weren’t producing the verbs accurately! Interpretive ability always precedes productive ability, and it takes time for a language learner’s brain to build a complex mental representation of language.

We’ve already read El Nuevo Houdini, and I taught them a unit using El que se enoja, pierde, but I think that my students would have benefited from some more sheltered lessons before jumping into those things (more lessons like “said” and “went“). And so now we will spend the fourth quarter back-tracking, looking for opportunities to communicate using more concentrated repetitions of fewer verbs at once.

Click on image to access lesson plan

After Spring Break, we’ll start with a lesson that works with the verbs “I/he saw” and “I/he came” using a Caesar sentence lesson (click on the image to download it in Spanish; click here to download it in French). I’m excited because it will also give us lots of opportunities to work with other preterite verbs, all chosen by the students. Then, we’ll jump into lessons that focus on sets of -AR verbs, -ER/-IR verbs, and I-Y verbs.

Back to basics, baby!!

17 replies on “Introducing the Preterite

  1. I love this! Thanks for posting! I use past tense from day one in Spanish 2. I never offer a grammar explanation on the difference of preterite vs. imperfect and by the end of the year they get it! They can’t tell me why, but they know when to use fue vs. era etc… At the end of the year I always have a few students (future language teachers) make the connection, “ok so aba/ia is ongoing and o/io is one time? (Sorry there’s no accents, just got a new phone and haven’t figured that out yet).

    1. That is encouraging!! I think that I just need to do MORE exposure before we jump into texts. You can never have too many repetitions: this I have learned while TPRSing! I want to do verb charts this last quarter because of a request made by former students to help them transition better into high school Spanish classrooms where it’s required….the ongoing dilemma of a CI teacher, right? But I second guess myself about every five minutes when I start thinking about it.

      1. I use all those traditional things (verb charts, foldovers, etc) as choices on their 12 activities select your own homework packet. It amazes me how many of them love doing charts. What the heck, they’re doing Spanish…

      2. Verb charts are the devil! Lol… No really, I have sts that come FROM the middle school wanting them at first but I hold my ground. It’s hard but better for actual acquisition, of course, you know that better than me. It’s just so hard to say know. I keep thinking, there are NO verb charts on the AP test. There’s no way anyone will approach them when they’re studying abroad to ask them what the irregular TU form of saber on the imperfect subjunctive is in casual conversation. You’re amazing! Thanks for the time you spend sharing on your blog!

  2. I teach 1-2 splits and I’m feeling like I’m letting one group of particularly able 2’s down. The ones in that group are total beginners (no luxury of 3rd time’s the charm repeaters even). So, my usual mo is to teach the same vocab, and just teach verbs tenses as they occur. Since my ones are very slow, I’m really beating myself up over the 2’s pacing. I have some I would love to have in my 3-4-5 split next year, as they’re highly motivated, will do my summer work and might be future Ap takers. Normally I’m laid back about pace, but these kiddos deserve an honors level two and I can’t for the life of me figure it out…

    1. The never-ending saga of mixed level classes! Michele Whaley has always seemed to have great success with them, but she is about the only person I know of that doesn’t feel completely down and out and frustrated about them. I’m fortunate to not be in that situation, but pacing even with a single level class can be difficult when you have high and low students together. It’s very hard to match the pace to your ‘barometer’ student when that student is sooooo far behind his or her classmates. I know that it works and that it’s beneficial for everyone, but I can’t help but feel like I’m still holding kids back. I guess that it’s the plight of teachers of all subjects, everywhere. Sigh.

  3. When I taught “dijo” this year it was embedded in a story, so the very first time I introduced it I taught the phrase “le dijo”, soon followed by “le dio” (and later stories featured a lot of characters talking to themselves so that we could compare “se dijo” with “le dijo”). Being able to constantly pretend I was confused and ask “Who gave her that ring?” or “Who told her the truth?” gave me lots of reps.

  4. Hey! WHEN do you teach this??? Do you teach it BEFORE a story using the preterite or in the middle of a story or at the end? I cannot figure out where to fit all of these great ideas in without staying on one story for weeks?!? (i.e. Movie Talk, comprehensible worksheets, games to reinforce, etc.!!!???) Such great ideas. You are terrific!

  5. It’s a ‘story’ in and of itself, really…I taught Caesar Sentences after teaching ‘dijo’ and ‘fue’ (each as their own ‘story’…more PQA style than story style though).

    1. I have a question about the graph where they write and draw the actions. You said another student draws the third picture that the class comes up with. Do you give the original student’s paper to another student? Why doesn’t the original person draw it? Does it matter? Thanks, Berit

  6. Hello Martina! A quick question. I want to start these 3 activites before I start the preterite. How ever I am confused with how to implement it. Is this assuming that your SPA2’s have a wide vocabulary? I have inherited some students that are very behind but have to take a end of year exam from the state. Any ideas of how I can start the unit with these given the students I have?

    1. Students don’t need a huge vocabulary to do this; just encourage them to use proper nouns and cognates and work with whatever vocabulary they DO have. If they throw in words that the rest of the class doesn’t know, you can translate them for the class and then work them into your discussion!

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