Shake it up (with novels) by Kristy Placido

Shake it up (with novels) by Kristy Placido

It is mid-February! YEAHuuuuhhhhhh….Nahhhhhhh. It is THAT time of year. The boring blahs, the down doldrums, the epoch of ennui, the month of melancholy. Post holidays and still a million years until Spring Break. Yes…that time of year. We could just push through it, hammering through the academics until spring fever sets in to distract us, but in my school, this time of year also happens to be scheduling time! If we want repeat customers in our language classrooms, we definitely don’t want to let down our guard now! We need to keep bringing the comprehensible input, but we also must make an extra effort to bring the COMPELLING comprehensible input! And sometimes it is a great game-changer to throw in a little bit of fun output and problem solving into the mix too, just for variety.

the copier game

“The Copier,” an activity recommended by Cynthia Hitz, shown in action in Kristy Placido’s classroom

I’ve been teaching Spanish 2 for so long I feel I could teach it in my sleep. But I need to remind myself that for these kiddos, this year is their ONLY year to ever experience these things. I am teaching the novel Robo en la noche, which I wrote, and since I wrote it I have a really vested interest in making the kids love it! I was feeling a bit listless lately and decided to do a little blog surfing for inspiration.

My first stop was one of my all-time favorite blogs and honestly one of my favorite teachers on the planet. Cynthia Hitz, a Spanish teacher at Palmyra High School in Pennsylvania is one of the most reflective and generous teachers you’ll ever find and she blogs some pretty amazing ideas. This post led me to try the activity Cindy calls “The Copier.”

For The Copier, Cindy recommends groups of 6 or even more. I agreed with her on that. Once divided into their groups, each student needs a dry-erase board (you could use a white piece of paper inside a plastic page protector, or you can go to a home improvement store and have shower board, a.k.a. tile board cut into 12 X 12 or larger squares for a cheap alternative), a dry-erase marker (low odor – you’re welcome!), and an eraser (or buy a cheap set of black socks or cut up pieces of black felt). Cindy recommended that you have each group write a sentence of at least 6 words about the novel you are reading. I took this a step further and gave the students a word or name from the novel and they had to write their sentence using that word or name. The group all had to write the same sentence, all of their sentences had to be correct, and all of them had to be identical. This activity required some creativity and cooperation!

Another activity I used this week was a tried and true game shared by Martina Bex: “Running Dictation.”

For this activity, Martina recommends teams of 3, but no more than 4. Prepare some sentences based on the novel you are reading. In my case, as I mentioned earlier, we are reading Robo en la noche now (we have read through chapter 7). I made 7 sentences that were easy to put in order if you had read the novel. I wrote each sentence on a sheet of paper and taped the sentences on lockers right outside my room.

Each team of 3 needs a secretary (who doesn’t leave the room and who writes everything), and 2-3 runners (who write nothing but go individually to the hall to look at the posted sentences).

When the team thinks they have all 7 sentences right, they call me over to check them. I told the teams which ones were right and which ones still needed work.

Both of these activities were fun, active, cooperative, and required no technology at all. And in a school with lots of screen time, low tech can be so refreshing! I hope you will try one of these activities soon and let me know how it goes. And definitely spend some time on Cindy’s and Martina’s blogs, you will not be disappointed!

We’d like to share a copy of the Running Dictation activity that I (Kristy) created for my students to use. This is designed to be used after reading chapter 7 of Robo en la noche.

Robo running dictation ch1-7

Kristy Placido is the editor of CIPeek.com. She is the author of several novels for Spanish learners and presents workshops for teachers on on teaching with comprehensible input. She has been using TPRS and comprehensible input approaches in her own classroom for 18 years. Check out her blog at kplacido.com and follow her on twitter and facebook!