Mixed-level Spanish Class– Day 1

In 2004, I was given a Spanish 1/2 split and floundered big-time. This year, our beginning Spanish numbers are up, so I have 1.5 blocks of Beginning Spanish plus Level 2s, and today I started with my split…and unlike in 2004, this split is going to be just fine, thank you.

Class composition:

— a bunch of kids who had TPRS with me last year (full mix– all verbs and grammar from Day 1. A few of these had me 2 years ago, then didn’t take Spanish last year (schedule conflicts)).

— 3 very low native speakers

— 3 total beginners

– 1 kid who has had 2 years of full-on grammar grind at another school. Super-low output but understands a bit.

— 1 kid who had the grammar grind at another school until November last year, and who then got full-mix TPRS with me for 1.5 months (about 30 classes). She did terribly on arriving– she had spent 2.5 months doing “units” on numbers, colours, etc– but her fluency grew after about 3 weeks and eventually she got around 75% on her final.

Today I paired the beginners with my proficient 2s and told the beginners “you are sitting beside a dictionary.” They are supposed to ask their “dictionaries” if things are unclear or I am busy. The dictionaries are my most-proficient students.

They filled out their class questionaires. This (idea from Ben Slavic) is great: they write down their real name, and then favorite colour, pet, celebrity girlfrind/boyfriend, where they live, and secret skill. They can tell the truth (fine…) or lie (much more interesting). The key: I told them that they have to be OK with me talking about whatever they write down. So Jas– err, Bee Once– has three boyfriends (Jake T Austin, Dave Franco, and Theo James), while Chelsea has a pet dolphin, and Breileigh lives in the Florida Keys with Ashton Kutcher and her pet koala. Fahim I told, not more than 5 girlfriends, please. Jürgen, who has a certain admiration for Walter White, chose as his nickname Heisenjürg. This stuff will be used in stories, where the various kids will be parallel characters.

I handed out course outlines, made my seating chart, then jumped right into pre-story PQA– personalised questions and answers. On my board was the following:

— has, wants, is
— are you…? I am…
— do you have? I (don’t) have
— what’s your name? My name is____
— what’s his/her name? His/her name is ____

— good-looking, ugly
— girl, boy
— girlfriend, boyfriend

I got Ace to come up and sit in the megachair, and started asking him questions. What’s your name? Are you a boy? Do you have a girlfriend? What is her name? Is your girlfriend good-looking? I went s.l.o.w.l.y. and then asked my other Level 2s the same questions. I did a LOT of pop-ups today.

The energy moment came when I asked the class “Is Jürgen a boy?” and Fahim said “no, she is a girl.” “Fine,” I said, “if Jürgen is a girl, so are you,” and I got my blond wig out, and Fahim became Fahima, answering questions in an absurdly high girl voice. Fahim is quite a ham and happily messes with genders. This would actually be an interesting idea: have a willing kid wear/take off the wig (signifying gender change) and answer PQA questions in 2 genders.

I was able to spend about 45 min in random PQA. The 1s at the end were able to answer yes/no to various questions, and they understood the questions (I directly asked them).

I am gonna start Adriana’s story “Los Gatos Azules” (the blue cats) tomorrow and today was basically setting up for the actor questions. I will do a bit more PQA tomorrow with gustar (“to like,” more or less), querer (“to want”) and ir (“to go”), then jump into the story.

So the operative principles are

A) the 2s are providing comprehensible input for the 1s. Since everybody is rusty right now (1 year since last Spanish class and in some cases 2 years), they are using the Q&As on board, but output, while simple, is flawless. Elicited output from the 2s is going to be sí/no questions with the occasional one-word answer.

B) I direct comprehension checks mostly at the 1s, since the 2s are mostly answering quickly and accurately.

C) The biggest challenge is going to be reading: the 1s will be slower, and know a lot less vocab, than the 2s. I have embedded readings for our asked stories, but the question– and I would love advice on this– will be how to keep the 2s engaged and the 1s not lost.

One comment

  1. This is my first year teaching period, so I don’t have any answers for you but am looking forward to hearing how it goes. My school has done Spanish 1 and 2 with a block schedule in one year in the past, but all the kids were in Spanish 1 with the same teacher for first semester and then altogether with the same teacher in Spanish 2 for second semester.

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