Always greet students at the door!

For the second year in a row, I participated in a local “Kids 2 College” program. It’s a day when local 5th graders visit the community college and take college classes so that they can see what college is like. The funny thing is that I teach the Spanish classes, and I am not the Spanish professor at the college. I think they’ll be in for a rude awakening in 8 years!!

If you want to see the lesson that I taught last year, click here. This year, I switched it up a bit. I don’t like to teach “wants” and “has” at the same time because the structures sound similar and are easily confused. Instead, I smushed together the first two units that I teach to my Spanish 1 students, “Dice” and “Camina o corre”. It went over well, but I decided later that I should have left out the words “boy” and “girl” in order to further limit the vocabulary. I trimmed out those words from the resources that I am sharing in this post because I think that this single lesson will be more successful without them.

Here’s what I did:

Teach a few basic “rules” of story asking:

I taught students to keep their eyes on me, listen to understand, how I would get their attention, how to respond to new information, and how to let me know when they don’t understand.

Introduce Core Vocabulary

I wrote each word on the board (well, I projected them actually) in black and blue (black for Spanish, blue for English) and said the Spanish aloud while pointing to the English, and I showed the students a gesture for each structure that they mimicked. The structures were “this is”, “walks”, “sees”, and “says”. I used “walks” instead of “goes” because in Spanish the two words are very similar (“va” and “ve”) and students mix them up easily if they are introduced in the same story.

I started by introducing the structures to students. I later decided that I shouldn’t have taught “boy” and “girl” today; instead, I should have just used names. Too much vocab for one lesson!


I used this script (I’ve shortened it since I decided that I should have left out boy/girl): This is Bobby. Bobby is intelligent.  This is Mary. Mary is athletic. Bobby walks to Mat-Su College. Mary walks to Mat-Su College. Bobby sees Mary. Mary doesn’t see Bobby. Mary sees a moose. Mary says, “Bobby, a moose!” Bobby sees the mooseBobby says, “Hi moose” and walks with the moose to Mat-Su College. If you want to know how to use a story script for story asking, please click here

There’s always one…this kid had a hilarious response every time that I “fished for a detail” during story asking
Using gestures is a great way to support comprehension–just make sure that you establish meaning FIRST! And…a cognate isn’t a cognate unless you can read it: write your cognates on the board, because an untrained ear can’t hear the connection between L1 and L2. In this case, I used the cognate “atlético”.
I had some great actors–the boy on the far right would have won a cheese award if this had been my real class!

Shared Reading

I projected the reading, “El secreto de Ramón” slide by slide. I read each slide in Spanish aloud, then I pointed to each word as students gave the English translation. I pointed to the words in the order in which it makes sense to read them in English, even though I pointed to them out of order in Spanish. For example, in the sentence “es una chica inteligente”, I would point to “es / una / inteligente / chica” so that it makes sense to the students and so that students learn that it’s okay to re-arrange the words in your head as you are trying to understand a text. As we read, I asked circling and personalizing questions, and I checked for comprehension. If you are unfamiliar with these three key TPRS®/CI strategies, please click here to learn about them.

I also left my handy dandy laser pointer at home, rats! It makes choral reading and translation so much easier because I am not tied to the board!

Sentence Flyswatter

I just read about Sentence Flyswatter on Keith Toda’s blog, and he learned the activity from Jason Fritze (of course–I think all great activities can be traced back to Jason!). Of course, in the rush of getting out of the house with the kids to drop them off with a sitter while I was gone, I forgot my flyswatters! I had to make do with these ruler-and-cardstock stand-ins. I just took the pictures from each slide of the reading, put four on each screen, and then described one in Spanish. Representatives from 2 teams had to race to the board to “swat” the picture that I described.

Running Dictation

I did this basic form of the dictation without the illustration extension. 

All in all, a super fun day that left me feeling exhausted and without a voice. If you want to try out story asking for the first time or are looking for a super simple review story for your beginning Spanish students, you can download the slideshow reading and game resources that I used in our Subscriber Library, in the First Days of School folder.

I sent the kids home with a printout of the reading. Click on the image to download the slideshow, games, and reading printout!

31 replies on “A simple story for beginning language students

  1. Very nice! I would love to see more videos of you in action! If you “asked” the story to the group of students, how can you prepare the games with pictures (Mc Donalds/Subway) in advance?

    1. You could use it for HS Level 1 as is! The story script works for any age. If you are already well into Level 1 and wanting to use it to push your students forward (vs review), you could add new structures and details.

  2. This is fantastic. Thanks for sharing! I’ve been teaching (volunteering) a lot of ESL this winter in Mexico, and trying to put into practice the TPRS I’ve been learning over the last year. Sure turns it up a notch when you are actually teaching. I was especially challenged using TPRS and CI with the true beginners. This is very helpful.

  3. Hi Martina,
    I’d like to reblog this very interesting post at my blog “Alike in TPRs Wonderland” ; do you allow me to do so and if yes, how can I do so? Thanks in advance for your reply! Alike

    1. Please do! You can re-blog it via WordPress or copy the content and include a link to the original post. If you have any questions, just email me!

  4. Martina, I have rewritten “el secreto de Ramon” in French – with a few minor twists to fit some structures I teach and also to give the female character the ninja power :). How would you like me to give you credit? “Adapted from Martina Bex”? I am going to teach it this week with my 7th graders. Once I get around to blogging about it, I will ping back to your very helpf post. Merci!

    1. Merci beau coup! Please include “Adapted with express written consent from Martina Bex” and the original link as you planned to do. Excited for French teachers to have that resource ready-to-go!!

  5. Zut! For some reason Google Drive is not showing my zombie facing the right way 🙁 But it is facing the right way in Powerpoint…Microsfot not agreeing with Google.

    1. I forgot about this! Just checked it out, and it looks great. My only concern for YOU would be that there are several images in it that have watermarks. Might want to replace them (like the footprints) with images that are not copyrighted! But the way that you credited me is just fine! And I like that it is a more challenging reading than my original one, so you could do a leveled reading of sorts if you translated the original directly into French too!

      1. Shoot I so carefully chose free characters but did not realize the footprints were watermarked. Will change that. Thanks! Let me know if you want it once I have fixed the footprints. PS: It is almost a direct translation from yours except for “she feels” “she does not feels” because we talk about how we feel everyday from day one in my class. These phrases can be easily removed.

  6. This is so great! Definitely going to do this on Day 1 next school year. Martina, what program or software do you use to create your slides?

  7. Hi Martina,
    Question about assessment… do you have students self-assess following this activity? For example do they self-assess their level of understanding? I’d love to do something like this story during a 30 minute observation but am concerned they will be looking for assessment and while my informal assessment would be storyasking, they are looking for something MORE. Any suggestions?

    1. A great, quick assessment is to have everyone close their eyes after reading and hold up the number of fingers that best represents how well they understood the text, a fist being not at all and five fingers being complete, everything!

  8. Hi Martina, I LOVE this story and think my Year 3 students would too! Problem is, I teach Indonesian! Would it be possible for you to send me an editable version to use in my classroom. Of course I would ensure that you were credited. I look forward to your reply. We don’t have many resources for Indonesian. 🙁

  9. So glad that I read this post! Last year was my first year of SOMOS with my middle school exploratory program. We met every other day for a semester, so some of my students this semester haven’t had Spanish since last fall. I only did two units in 7th grade as I also pulled in some other resources, so I was looking at how to transition back in with more than vocabulary review before jumping in to Unit 3.

    This was perfect. They were having a blast with our class story (with some wonderful actors, I might add!). I’m really excited for the running dictation this next week — perfect for rambunctious, enthusiastic 8th graders who need to be on the move! To be honest, they remembered all of their vocabulary and were speaking in complete sentences!

    Thanks for sharing this free resource, and thank you for all of the amazing products you create. They, and you, are the best, Martina!

Leave a Reply