A simple story for beginning language students

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Introduce target structures: 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!
  • Storyask: I used this script (I’ve shortened it since I decided that I should have left out boy/girl): This is BobbyBobby is intelligent.  This is MaryMary is athleticBobby walks to Mat-Su CollegeMary walks to Mat-Su CollegeBobby sees MaryMary doesn’t see BobbyMary 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!
    I had some great actors–the boy on the far right would have won a cheese award if this had been my real class! Several students chose to “tap out” of acting once they got to the front and realized what was expected of them. If a student looks like he or she is hating it, give ’em an “out”! I whisper “Do you want to switch out with someone else?” in their ear if they seem uncomfortable.
  • 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!
    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!
  • DSC_0430
    Sentence Flyswatter: 
    I just read about this 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 the 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 by clicking here.

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

    31 thoughts on “A simple story for beginning language students

    1. Susie says:

      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?

      • Martina Bex says:

        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. Jolyn says:

      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. Alike Last says:

      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

      • Martina Bex says:

        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. cecilelaine says:

      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!

    5. cecilelaine says:

      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.

    6. Julie says:

      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. Brittany says:

      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?

      • Martina Bex says:

        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. Anne MacKelvie says:

      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. Melanie McQueen says:

      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!

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