Wednesday, April 8, 2015

"Fiesta Fatal": A novel adventure

Photo by Christopher Michael license
What do you get when you combine a Mexican fiesta de quince años, a spoiled teenage girl who constantly fights with her mom, and a drug cartel? 

Fiesta fatal, obviously! 

I came across this TPRS novel by Mira Canion last spring and thought it would be perfect for my mixed middle- and high-school Spanish II class this year. The language is easy for novices to understand, and the plot is action-filled. There are many opportunities for students to understand how the two main past tenses in Spanish, the preterite and imperfect, are used, while facilitating comprehension by employing a relatively uncomplicated use of vocabulary. My students enjoyed it a lot: they called it "funny," "suspenseful," "interesting" and "fun to read." Here's how I used the novel in class. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

My students love playing ____.

(Answer: Verba!)
UPDATE! The Verba Kickstarter campaign has started! You can get a set (or more) of Verba by donating to the cause. If you're curious about Verba, watch the video below and send a few bucks to  help get the project off the ground. Thanks! 

Original post follows:

Fill-in-the-blank activities have a bad rap.

When I was a student, I remember filling in endless blanks. Endless blanks. For no good reason that I can remember other than to practice a grammar point (nominally) or just to complete the assignment (closer to the truth). 

As a teacher, I use fill-in-the-blank, or cloze, items sometimes, mostly in listening comprehension activities. They can be useful scaffolding tools when students aren't yet proficient enough to produce whole sentences on a certain topic. Cloze becomes more fun when the activity resembles Mad Libs, where students can plug in silly or creative ideas. But I'd never call cloze wildly fun or exciting. 

Oh, but there IS a wildly fun and exciting way to use cloze in the classroom...