Friday, May 31, 2013

Fotos Gratis de Alta Definición

If you are like me, you find yourself spending a lot of time online looking for royalty free photos and those under a creative commons license to use in your projects.  Honestly, I think I spend more time looking for images, requesting permission from photographers, and researching terms of use than any other thing I do.

So, with that in mind, it's with great joy I tell you about my latest find: morgueFile free photos.  They are high quality, high definition, and free to use - even in commercial products!  It is good manners to credit the photographers anyway, but it is not required.  The photos are honest-to-goodness free.

And there are a LOT of them too!  The above are some samples I found when I did a search on Spain.  (There were over 900 photos tagged with "Spain" by the way.)

I hope that morgueFile will be as useful to you as it is to me, amigos.  And have a great weekend!

Hasta pronto,


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Portavasos Con Mapas

I saw a DIY post on Pinterest today showing how to make coasters out of maps.  Personally, I'm not a coaster kind of girl.  My furniture is old, scarred up and shows the years of wear and tear that pets and kids have inflicted upon it - a moist drink is hardly going to make a difference.  Nor do I need coasters in my classroom . . . obviously.

Still, my teacher brain is telling me that I can use these coasters somehow.  For classroom use, I'm thinking they would have to be made with sturdy material that is not prone to breaking, so plastic would be good.  (I bet I can find plastic coasters at the dollar store.)

Then I would need to print maps of Spanish-speaking countries, maybe from Google Maps, and modpodge them onto the coasters.  Finally I would need to spray polyurethane or some other sealant on them to make them heavy duty for repeated classroom use.

Then what?  What to do with them?  How about . . .
  • Drawing one out at the beginning of class each day:  ¿Cuál es la capital de . . . . COSTA RICA? ¿En el mapa, dónde está . . . BOLIVIA?  ¿Cuáles países tienen frontera con . . . MÉXICO?  ¿En cuál continente está . . . ECUADOR?
  • Pairs Matching:  Los dos que tienen el mismo país trabajan en pareja.
  • Extra Credit Research: Del país seleccionado busca la siguiente información: un tribu indígena, el nombre del presidente actual, una artesanía típica, el plato más famoso, la bandera . . . 
  •  Game: Empareja los mapas y las banderas tan rápido como posible.  (Need to print flags, of course.)
Mind you, I realize that you don't need coasters in particular for any of the above activities - but the maps will help students to recognize where the countries are, the shape of their borders, the countries (and bodies of water) they border, and their capitals.  I think I might put this on my summer project list!

If you think of other map coaster ideas, please leave a comment.  I'm always looking for new ideas!

Hasta pronto,


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Romeo y Julieta

Romeo and Juliet - a timeless love story . . . except this version has a definite time period.

I did not create the art myself, nor do I think the picture needs a caption.  It's funny on its own but I figured some Spanish I kids in 8th and 9th grade could probably use a nudge in the right direction so I put on the caption.  Plus, it's a good opportunity for them to use the context to guess the meaning of the word época, right?

I hope your students get a laugh out of it.  For that matter, I hope mine do too.  :-)

Hasta pronto,


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

GeoGuessr - Vamos A Explorar El Mundo

So, have you heard of GeoGuessr yet?  If not, it's just a matter of time.  My brother-in-law asked me for a quick lesson in Portuguese linguistics the other night and I gave him my suspicious face.   (Nobody EVER asks me to talk about linguistics on purpose.)  He needed to be able to distinguish written Portuguese from written Spanish.  Why?  He explained it was for an online game and I was suddenly very interested.

GeoGuessr is the new game that uses Google Street View panoramic photos and your own knowledge of geography.  When you start the game, you get a street view of an unknown spot in the world and you explore around until you feel comfortable making a guess at where in the world it might be.

Road signs, vegetation, and the landscape are the big clues.  Then you learn to look for little things like which side of the road the traffic is driving on, whether the signs are in metric or imperial measure, the language on advertisement on the sides of passing trucks, whether the ocean to the east or the west, etc.  A game of GeoGuessr lasts for five locations/guesses and will present you with a score and a map when you're finished.  The best score I've gotten so far was in the neighborhood of 13,500 - but I'll admit to a big bit of luck when I caught sight of a "Welcome to Utah" sign on that one!

Below is one that I did without benefit of welcome signs.  The score on this map was 12,300 . . . but of course, the idea isn't to get a high score so much as to explore the world and learn while you are doing it.  Still, I am so competitive that I can't help myself.  (Doggone it, Canada!  Why do you have to be so big?  LOL)

In short, it is a lot of fun and it is such an amazing learning tool.  So far the Google Van hasn't made it all over the Spanish-speaking world yet.  However, there are extensive maps of Spain and Mexico and a good start in Chile.  My head is spinning with ways this could be used in the classroom, but I'll let you explore it some for yourself and then I'll sprinkle my ideas in blog posts for the next couple days.

Enjoy yourselves, amigos.  Explore!

Hasta pronto,


Monday, May 27, 2013

Una Historia Fotográfica del Amor y Valor

Several weeks back I was looking for a story in pictures as a reference for my AP students to do an oral presentation, and I came across the story of Taylor Morris in the photography of Tim Dodd.  For those of you who might not be familiar with his story, Taylor Morris is a veteran and a hero.  He is a quadruple amputee as the result of surviving an explosion while deployed to Afghanistan.  But the pictures do not focus on war, instead they focus on the love that is shared between him and his wife - before and after the accident.

My students did a good job with their oral story-telling but I was thinking that, with some scaffolding, late Spanish II and early Spanish III students could do use the pictures to narrate in the preterite and imperfect.  However, having my students look online at photographs is one thing . . . making a lesson and publishing it online with copyrighted photography is quite another.  So I wrote to Tim Dodd and asked him if I could have permission to use his work in this lesson and he generously agreed.  So thanks for this lesson go in large part to his kindness.

The lesson is three and a half pages and features pictures in order that tell a story, vocabulary, writing instructions, and transitions.  At the end there are several extension activities that you might want to offer to students as well.  There is no specific discussion of preterite vs. imperfect on the sheet itself because I didn't want to turn it into a lengthy grammar lesson; I will leave that to your discretion as a teacher.  My personal plan is to use this at the culmination of our discussion on preterite and imperfect with an oral reminder as they begin the writing phase.

When I was in email contact with photographer Tim Dodd, he invited me to explore his website further and pointed me specifically to a story and a series of photos about a his friend Andy who has immigrated to the USA and has endured a great deal of hardship as the result of government mishandling of his paperwork.  I encourage everyone to read about it, just in case you know of someone or anything that can help.

Lastly, if I may just add, there is a great amount of discussion for and against when it comes to immigration, the conflict in Afghanistan, and other topics that are touched upon in this post.  I respect everyone's opinions but I do not wish for this work to become politically-charged.  If you wish to engage in anti-war or anti-American rhetoric, I humbly ask that you find another forum for that.

I hope the lesson is useful to you, amigos.  And may you all have a good Memorial Day.

Hasta Pronto,


Friday, May 24, 2013

Un Pensamiento Para Hoy

I cannot take credit for this image or for the idea behind it.  I saw the image by Risa Sin Más on Pinterest with the sentiment expressed in a comment.  It was a very profound comment that really made me sit back and think for a moment.  So I decided to caption it and repost it as a single image.

I think it would make a great starting point for a class discussion or even a resource for a writing prompt.  I know that Spanish IV talks about these sorts of issues and the new AP Spanish Language and Culture course has an entire strand called Global Challenges; this would tie into that perfectly.

I realize that solving world hunger is a very complicated matter that has to do with politics as much as it does with food, so I'm not trying to make a simplistic glib statement here.  I just believe the matter is worthy of thought.

With that, I hope everyone has a lovely weekend.

Hasta pronto,


Thursday, May 23, 2013

El Autismo Fotografiado Por Un Padre

I was over at BBC Mundo today looking for inspiration and I came across something unexpected.  There was this beautiful and thought-provoking slide show about autism.  The father of an autistic son has taken photos, originally as a way to make a connection with him.  Now he has published the photos in a book that will hopefully bring awareness and attention to autism, because it is a condition that makes people uncomfortable and is therefore difficult to understand.  The photos are both sad and lovely - and they do a remarkable job of highlighting those things that are different and those that are similar among children with autism and those without.

As teachers, we deal with autism more than most.  It can be very hard to work with a child who will never respond with affection or enthusiasm to what we teach, but those children need our attention and our talents as much as the others.  For me, as a "people person" I thrive on the positivity and excitement in my classroom and I work hard to draw out my shy students and build up their confidence.  But many autistic kids cannot be drawn out no matter what I do or how hard I try, and it makes me feel like a failure.  (Not accurate, I know.  But emotions are not concerned with accuracy or rationality.)

At home, my own kids are often all over me.  We will all pile up on the chaise together to watch TV, snuggle up, and enjoy each other's company.  I cannot imagine what it is like for parents when your child doesn't smile back at your or hug you.  It takes a special soul to raise a child with autism and I admire them.  I hope the rest of the world gives these parents the approval that they deserve for their dedication and abiding love, especially those with children who are unable to do so.  May we all keep that in mind when we have parent conferences.

Hasta pronto,


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Rúbrica Para Actividades Orales

"We're tired of worksheets," they said.  I had given them a total of two over the past two days and I had thought that they were a good review as we approach final exams.  But there you have it - no more worksheets were wanted.

So we needed to review the dreaded preterite vs. imperfect today and worksheets were out of the question.  We did a little practice activity and corrected it in class.  Then I pulled a song out of the archives and we used it to discuss preterite, imperfect, and the uses of both.  (See this old post on the brilliant song, Tu falta de ortografía.)  But there are discussion questions on the sheet and I didn't want to assign them to be written (because that would make it a "worksheet"), and I knew that if we did them as a discussion in the large group that not everyone would participate.

So I assigned the questions as an oral activity.  Students were given some time to prepare their answers and then I called them to my desk individually and asked them one of the three questions at random.  They were told that they would not be allowed to read their response.  They had to speak from memory.  I graded them with a super simple speaking rubric which I'm sharing with you here today.

This is a good activity because students prepare answers to all three questions and when they know they are being graded on their vocabulary, pronunciation, thoroughness, and grammar, they really go out of their way to prepare good responses.  The discussions I heard around the room made my heart all warm and fluttery in a good way.  (Is that ser or estar?  Don't forget to make it feminine.  No, you say it like this . . . because there is an accent mark on it.  Etc.)

Now here is where it becomes fun.  I let them roll dice to figure out which prompt they would have to answer.  Then somehow a classroom miracle occurred.  The oral response inexplicably turned into a game.  When it was their turn, a student would come up, take the die, go through their own personal good luck rituals, and roll.  Applause would erupt if they got the number they were hoping for (or the 6 - which allowed them to select the prompt they wanted).  They cheered for each other and they had an absolute blast with it!  Honestly.  I have never seen kids so excited by a speaking activity in my life and it made me soooo glad that I didn't give them another written review sheet!

The rubric is simple and easy to use.  There is a grading key at the bottom of it which sets a high standard for an A - but makes a B or a C very obtainable.  D and F grades really only apply to those students who are not making an effort.  This, in my opinion, is how it should be.

Two rubrics fit on one sheet of paper so you can cut the sheet in half and save copies.  And, because I teach so many different levels, I have a copy of the rubric in Spanish and one in English.  I'm sharing it with you today in the hopes that you can get your students speaking and that it might be of some use to you.  Have fun with it!

Hasta pronto,


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Merzco Las Vacaciones

La verdad es que no tengo mucho que decir hoy.  Hubo un sinfin de locuras y tonterías hoy y llego a la hora de dormir ya lista de acostarme para poder empezar de nuevo mañana.

Pero ya tengo muchos días consecutivos con actualizaciones aquí y no quiero poner fin a lo que he logrado.

Porque no tengo energía para inventar algo en este momento y tampoco tengo algo especialmente ingenioso ya hecho para compartir, voy a compartir algo que me hizo reír hoy.


Esto dedico a mis amigos que se quejan de mis vacaciones (incluso mi suegro que una vez me preguntó si me gustaba trabajar a tiempo parcial . . .).  Estoy completamente segura de que trabajo más horas que mis amigos. No cabe duda.

Ojalá que mañana traiga inspiración y paz interior . . . y algo para compartir con ustedes aquí.  :-)

Hasta pronto,


Monday, May 20, 2013

Pretérito e Imperfecto: Expresiones

We are in the last couple of days of Spanish II in my 6th period and, as always, the preterite and the imperfect is the scariest part of the final exam that looms ahead in a mere matter of days.  (For that matter, it might still be the scariest part of the final exam for some of my Spanish III students.) 

One of the tools I use to teach the difference between preterite and imperfect are the expressions that are commonly associated with each tense.  Expressions like generalmente, a veces, and siempre are usually followed by imperfect.  But expressions like una vez, de repente, and en seguida are usually followed by the preterite. 

I made a set of flashcards with some of the expressions.  One set in English and one set in Spanish.  They can use the cards to play Memory; they can draw them out of a bin and use them in a sentence; they can write the meanings on the back and study them . . . the uses are endless!

I'm sharing the file with you.  You can print them on heavy card stock and cut them out, or you could distribute them to your students and have them make the flashcards.  Whatever you like.  I went over the expressions with them ahead of time and we discussed in the large group why each one was associated with preterite or imperfect.  Then they took some notes and did some practice activities.  Overall, I saw a big improvement on the last Spanish II test - so it seems to be working.

It is not perfect.  I probably left off some important expressions and the ones I included might not be ones that you would choose.  Additionally, I can think of some examples where a speaker might say something that did not follow the paradigm like, "Una vez yo estaba en la cocina de mi abuela cuando vi un ratón."  That sentence is not incorrect - it just wasn't made for Spanish II students.

Though native speakers might not be so forgiving, I tend to be fairly direct with my final exams.  If it's a preterite expression, I'll have a verb that needs preterite.  I'm not going to switch it up on them and surprise them with an imperfect verb following a preterite expression - that would just be mean and wrong on so many levels.  (If they go on to study the language in more depth and deal with native speakers, they will learn the exceptions to the rules then.)

I hope you find these flashcards useful and may your Monday go by happily!

Hasta pronto,


Friday, May 17, 2013

Un Tatuaje Genial

I don't like tattoos - at all.  Honestly I usually find them vulgar and incomprehensible.  Of course, just because they aren't my particular cup of tea, that does not mean I judge other people negatively for having them.  And every once in awhile I will acknowledge the artistic value of one, even if I wouldn't personally choose to have it on my own body.

There is a growing trend toward hyper-realistic tattoos and those are a mixed bag that runs the gamut all the way from intriguing to horrifying.  But the tattoo below just leaves me wondering why.  I saw the picture online with an English explanation but decided to redo it in Spanish - because I know my students will be fascinated.

The artist did a great job, didn't he?  I don't think I'd personally like to have a permanent pen tattooed behind my ear, but I bet this guy gets a lot of attention for it.

I hope you all have a great weekend, amigos!

Hasta pronto,


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Sugerencias Para Una Cita

Following up on yesterday's post, I thought I'd share some student work here.  My 2nd period Spanish IV class is a riot.  Honestly, they are always cracking me up with one thing or another.  And, the best part, they laugh at all my jokes.  We have a great time in there.

So I was thinking I'd get hilarious dating suggestions from them and you would all be as enchanted with my students as I am.  Indeed, several of the dating suggestions were very clever and snortingly funny, but the students did something I didn't expect.  When I asked them to find appropriate pictures to go along with their text, many of them used personal photos (from prom, homecoming, etc.).  Since I can't share photos of my students online, I can't put those presentations here.  *sad face*

I did have one pair of students put together a presentation that used online photos exclusively.  It's not going to make you slap your thighs and roll around on the floor, but it's a fine presentation and a good example of the assignment.  Click on the picture to see it.

One thing I did notice, much to my chagrin, is that the students were focused so much on getting the grammar right that they didn't use the sort of elevated vocabulary that I normally expect from Spanish IV.  Of course, in normal parlance, individuals don't always employ their most eloquent lexical selections, so perhaps I am being overly persnickety.  (Did you see what I did there?  LOL)

And, who knew?  Jeans delgados is apparently acceptable in Spanish.  I was tempted to correct it since it is obviously a literal translation of American slang, but I looked online and found countless examples of the expression used by native speakers.  Who am I to judge?

The assignment, just to sum up from yesterday, was to use familiar command forms to give dating advice.  Three affirmative commands and three negative commands were to be used along with object pronouns.  (The students in the above example left out the pronouns.)  Next time I will probably have them include some "Spanish IV vocabulary" on each slide too.

The assignment would be approachable with Spanish III or even with a gifted Spanish II class, as long as you did a vocabulary generation activity ahead of time and offered a lot of good examples.  (Feel free to use this one if you'd like.)  And there are a lot of Do and Don't lists (other than dating) that would make for good topics.  Last year I had Spanish III use their exercise/gym vocabulary and those presentations were also hilarious.  (Levanta pesas en el gimnasio.  No las levantes en el océano.   Haz ejercicio con un amigo.  No hagas ejercicio con una tostadora.)

Please feel free to comment below and share if you have any good ideas to teach commands.

Hasta pronto,


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Reglas Básicas

Command forms . . . they are the grammatical bane of my existence.  An unholy mix of subjunctives, irregulars, and object pronouns that make learning and teaching Spanish a headache.  Why do they have to be so complicated? 

Today, while reviewing commands (again) in my Spanish IV class, I had a smart student give me that catatonic stare when I explained that ir was irregular in the affirmative command and was irregular in a different way in the other command forms.  I know we've been over it before, but every now and again students lose their grip on the rules and the irregulars, and we have to go over it all again.  At least there are some fun activities that one can do with command forms.  And here is a great list of commands from a photo I found online.  This is on the menu for tomorrow's warm-up activity!

The picture is crooked so it looks like the ones that I take!  Ja ja . . . and, of course, despídete and discúlpate could use accent marks.  I'll have my students see if they can spot the mistakes - always fun!

The culminating activity I like to do with my students when we finish the command forms is to have them compile a Do and Don't list in Spanish.  Then angel on my shoulder tells me to have them use their vocabulary to do this activity, but the other guy says "Just let them have fun with it."  Today I let Spanish IV off the vocabulary hook and let them write on a topic that I knew they would all find interesting.  (MUCH more interesting that the socially-relevant vocabulary that we have on our current list.  I know human rights and governmental restrictions are important topics and I will cover them thoroughly, but class doesn't always have to be so serious, right?)

The topic?  Dating Dos and Don'ts  I put them into single gender groups so the ladies could offer dating advice to the fellows and vice versa.  All over the classroom their were giggles and snorts as they worked, so they had a lot of fun while they were working.  Likewise I heard discussions about attaching the pronouns and using the subjunctive for negative commands, so I figure they are reviewing.  Here with less than two weeks of instruction left in the year, what more could I ask?

I will follow up tomorrow with some of their dating suggestions.

Hasta pronto,


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

¿Puedes Encontrar Al Gato?

I saw this funny picture on Pinterest yesterday with the comment, "Puedes encontrar al gato?"  And, I figured I'd just put a frame and a caption around it so I could make a mini game for my students at the start of class tomorrow.

Well . . . do you see him tucked in there?

Here is what I found interesting as a non-native speaker of Spanish.  I would not normally use the Personal A for a cat, but the Spanish speaker who left the comment did use it.  So I put it in when I made the caption, but I have to wonder if that represents a dynamic trend in the language? has the following to say on the matter:

"Many pet owners think of their animals as people, and so does Spanish grammar, so the personal a is used. But the a isn't used with ordinary animals.

Veo a mi perro, Ruff.
I see my dog, Ruff.  

Veo tres elefantes.
I see three elephants."

I suppose a similar trend in English occurred over the last 150 years or so.  In Victorian times, the correct pronoun for animals in English was always it - regardless of gender.  But over the years as we began to anthropomorphize animals more and more, we began to use personal gendered pronouns for themI looked around the Internet and found quite a bit of disagreement as to whether it is proper to refer to animals with gendered pronouns in English.  So I suppose the matter is still far from settled, though I'd say the handwriting is on the wall and it is just a matter of time before using it for an animal is considered an anachronism.  (Much the way whom is disappearing from the language, but don't get me started on that one.)

And, just in case you weren't able to find him, here is the solution to the puzzle:

Qué les vaya muy bien, amigos.  Hasta la próxima.


Monday, May 13, 2013

¡Celebremos la Excelencia!

So after writing here that I wanted to make a bulletin board to celebrate the students who scored well on the National Spanish exams I felt compelled to follow through with that.

I was at school until after 5:00 on Friday and still had a little bit left to do this morning at 7:20 when I got here, but I think it turned out well.

I took this picture with my iPad and then edited out the last names using a free image editing software.  So, it's not the best, but you can get the idea.  (Why are my pictures always crooked and blurry?)

I believe it is a celebration of those students who went out of their way to study Spanish and learn it well enough to place nationally on the exams.  It is also a visual reminder of our Spanish program to the rest of the school - so they don't forget that we're here and we're working hard!

Now here's the part that gets me.  I actually have five more red stars somewhere . . . I only count 25 but there should be 30.  Now I have to figure out where they got off to and how I'm going to fit them on the bulletin board.  Using tape or pushpins on the walls is a big no-no around here, but I'll figure something out.

Here's hoping everyone out there is off to a great week!  Please feel free to comment and let us know how your students did on the NSE too - and how you're celebrating their accomplishments.

Hasta pronto,


Friday, May 10, 2013

La Noche Cuando Perdí el Control

Sometimes I see funnies online in English and I think that I'd love to share them with my Spanish students - if only they were in Spanish.  Other times I gather the time and energy to recaption them myself.  My graphic software is not working with my current computer and that makes me sad but, with Picassa I can add a border and a caption without any need for all the bells and whistles in CorelDraw. 

And the great thing is that this joke is funny in both English and Spanish.  Well, I think so anyway.

I'm thinking I need to find a picture (or take one) with a missing escape key too.  I could caption it "No hay escape."  Funny, right?  That one would be especially poignant on the eleventh day of class - when students are no longer allowed to drop the course. 

Buen fin de semana, amigos.  Nos vemos pronto.


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Premios de Oro en el Examen Nacional

My school has all the foreign language teachers give the national exams every year.  I'm not exactly sure why, to be honest.  The material covered by the National Spanish Exam is very different than what we cover in class.  The grammar is right on target with what I teach from year to year but the vocabulary is unrelated to that which we cover in our textbook and far more extensive.  For example, I do not cover astronomical terms or celestial bodies with my Spanish III students but that material is on the test.  Nor do I discuss world religions, philosophy, and dogma with my Spanish IV students, but again that material is on the test.

It becomes a challenge every year to decide what to include and what to exclude from the list of NSE vocabulary.  I want to focus on pragmatic vocabulary to what extent I can and I certainly do not want to overwhelm my students.  So, do I include a lesson on astronomy or not?  It's the sort of question I have to repeatedly ask myself as I am lesson planning.

For years I've had students do well on the exam for the most part.  But, as the vocabulary gets more and more distant and my textbook series diverges from the NSE vocabulary from year to year, my students in the upper levels score lower on the tests than my students in the lower levels.

And in all my seven years giving this test, I've never had a student score in the top 5% of the nation and get a gold medal . . . until this year.  This year I had, not one, but TWO students score gold medals - both of them in Spanish III.  I also had a student get a silver medal, several students got bronze medals and there was a whole slew of honorable mentions.  I'm so proud of them I could just burst, honestly.

I think I'll make a bulletin board to celebrate them.  I think it is important to showcase academic achievements because not everyone is a star athlete or a brilliant singer.  And schools have a way of putting the spotlight on athletic and arts achievements while sometimes overlooking academic ones.  Probably because sports programs and band competitions are competitive and those students come home with medals whereas the students who are academic achievers tend not to bring home trophies and the like.  I already asked our local PTA for money for a pizza and ice cream party for next year but a bulletin board and an awards ceremony will be just the thing to make it a real celebration of excellence.

Hasta pronto,


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

¿Más Zombis?

Zombies.  They are everywhere, I tell you!

So I came across this delightful little zombie picture story on Pinterest and a fellow Spanish teacher suggested it would be great to have the students tell the story that goes along with the pictures.  The picture is rather large, so you will have to click on it to see it in its full glory.

Telling stories with pictures has a long and rich tradition in the foreign language classroom because it allows us to communicate in the target language without having to resort to translation.  But there are some challenges to overcome when we want our students to speak in a more sophisticated way.

Some of the pitfalls of storytelling with pictures that I have seen over the years are, 1) The students seem to feel a need to put things into order with ordinal numbers.  This makes a story less interesting in my opinion, and it also invariably breaks down when the students forget what comes after primero y segundo . . .  2) They insist on using the present progressive tense.  Stories are most often told in the past tense - not in little tiny tidbits of present progressive encapsulated in a numbered sequence.

Perhaps the best way to deal with the situation is to remind the students about various transitions we can use in Spanish to make our writing and speaking more fluid.  Maybe we could even give them examples in their own language of how writing sounds better with transitions?  This sounds like a good way include language arts instruction with the lesson.  Maybe an English teacher would like to collaborate with you?

Here are some of my favorite transitions in Spanish:

  • al principio - in the beginning
  • Había una vez. . . - Once upon a time. . .
  • entonces
  • luego - then
  • más tarde - later
  • mientras tanto - meanwhile
  • mientras - while
  • pronto - soon
  • dentro de poco - soon, shortly
  • tan pronto como - as soon as
  • en cuanto - as soon as
  • finalmente - finally
  • por último - finally
  • por fin - in the end, finally

I thought I'd finish up with a couple of assignment ideas.  I've written the instructions in English.  There seem to be two camps of thought on whether instructions go in English or Spanish.  Though my heart tells me it should be all Spanish, my head lives in reality and knows that some of my students (especially those with special needs) the parents, and special needs case workers need the English translations.  If you are in the Spanish-only camp, feel free to translate the instructions.

Assignment: Tell the story that you see in the pictures.  Do not feel like you need to address every single photo individually.  Instead tell the story holistically.  Do not use the ordinal numbers (primero, segundo, tercero, etc.); use transitional words and phrases to move your story along.  Try to use at least five of them in your narrative.  Use the preterite tense to talk about the action that occurs in the story and use the imperfect for descriptions and ongoing situations (was/were "verbing").  Be prepared to share your story with the rest of the class.

More Fun: Do the story together as a class and generate the list of transition words together as a group.  Carefully highlight the use of preterite and imperfect as you go along.  (Maybe highlight the preterite in one color and the imperfect in another?)  Then, put the students into groups and let them create their own story together.  They should have 5-10 pictures in sequence when they are done.  Let them share their pictures and their story (En español, por supesto.) with the rest of the class.  Fun, right?  Just remind them that their story must be school appropriate.  

Hasta pronto amigos,