There are teachers who carefully plan every detail of a lesson, from circling questions to the story plot. Some people even write Movietalk scripts!
Then, there’s me (like this but not a woman).
Since beer, climbing, reading, ladies, bicycles, Go, writing and other fun things take up so much time (and I’m lazy and disorganised), I generally don’t plan much beyond thinking uhh we should probably work on quiere impresionar and is there a Youtube video where a dog goes shopping? (yes there is).
Luckily for people like me we have things like Slavic and Hargaden’s OWIs, untargeted stories etc. And thanks to a combination of my laziness and the epic powers of caffeine, we have some zero prep activities. These are easy on the teacher, they let us deliver loads of comprehensible input, and they personalise the class: we link kids to vocab.
For Class Team, Funky Venn, Comic Panel and Partner Diagram, we do the following:
- We solicit details from students.
- We draw– quickly— on the board, overhead or doc camera.
- We write key vocab.
- We ask and answer questions, circling style, but don’t beat things to death.
- We don’t introduce too much new vocab. 5-10 items for a 30-min session is lots.
The Class Team (or whatever)
For this, all we do is make some ridiculous drawings of various kids and group them into a team. Here, we made two soccer teams: No Lo Sé and La Mezcla. The players had superpowers. Saveena’s was rhat she could text at the same time as she played. El Chongo has only one leg but luckily has wings.
Q&A here would be things like who has five legs? That’s right, Jasraj has five legs. Whose superpower is being invisible? No, not Chongo: Hamza Dos is invisible! We would also personalise this by asking students these questions: Ravneet, do you have five legs, or three, or two? Sukhman, are you invisible? etc.
The Funky Venn
One day we were talking about dogs (actually, I talk about dogs constantly), and I asked the class what do dogs like to do? and they said dogs eat, sleep and play, and then El Chongo said sounds like me! 😜
So I made a Venn diagram comparing El Chongo with dogs. Here it is:
Both sleep, run, play and eat. But El Chongo uses the bathroom while dogs use the ground, and dogs don’t comb their hair, while El Chongo (Mexican Spanish for “Man bun”) does, etc.
My student Manjot (who goes by Muffin Princess in Spanish class) said I’m like cats, so we drew a Venn for her.
The Partner List
My beginner student Khushi, taking a cue from her Spanish teacher, said yo tengo seis novios (“I have six boyfriends”). So of course we had to draw and discuss them. For this, we first drew Khushi, taking some liberties (she is hideous, has three eyes, and two noses). Then we added five boyfriends and one girlfriend. Then we invented weird characteristics for each (Hairie has no mouth; Alberto has short legs, etc).
The Q&A here involves tiene, body parts, and the relationships between them. So Adam is scared of Khushi (even though they are dating) and Atam is scared of Alberto.
The Personal Story (with picture)
This was inspired by Beniko Mason’s Story Listening method, which is “pure C.I.”– no “activities” after input. Basically, you tell a short story about yourself (or somebody famous), and you use 1-3 drawings to illustrate
Here, we have vocab on the left and my Grade 8 math teacher, Mr McKay, on the left. I started by describing 13 year-old me, and school, and math class. Then I drew Mr McKay. Then I told how he both looooooved coffee and cigars and was blissfully unaware of the existence of dental hygiene. As a result, we didn’t ask him questions– he could kill bacteria from ten feet away with that dragon’s breath– so as a result I got a C minus.
Here, we just tell a one-scene story and we do Q&A about both the story and the pictures.
(By the way the art was inspired by Stephen Krashen’s famous C.I. demo.)
Here, we draw a one-panel comic and include basic dialogue. Khushi said I’m getting 90% or more in Spanish and we argued a bit and I drew this. Note that my art is so staggeringly bad that I had to label Khushi and me.
Again we will do Q&A here. We can also recycle by erasing dialogue and adding other words.
When I finished with these, I took these photos. They will be added to the class soap opera (pasted into an MS-Word document) and printed.
ANYWAY…I hope you can use and enjoy these zero-prep activities. Got any more ideas? Email me or leave a comment.