Retelling a Story

Last week in Spanish 2, we started a unit in which my major goal is for students to be able to narrate in the past. We learned the past tenses (pasado súbito and pasado descriptivo) several weeks back during a travel unit, but we then switched to a health unit and didn’t do much with them. I really just wanted to expose them before – now I want them to really start using them. So here’s what we’ve done so far:

Thursday, I let them choose any (Spanish) story from BookBox (sidenote, I think that website is going to go on the homework choice list for next year). We watched and then, since we were short on time, recapped the story in English to make sure they followed. Friday, I let them choose a new story, which we watched once, recapped briefly in Spanish, and then watched again and wrote down new words we saw. We watched one more time and they wrote down their best guesses to the new words they had written down before. Let’s just say that by that time, they knew the story.

Monday, I gave them sentence strips (El elefante volador; Zippi la cebra) to put in order based on the story. We watched the story again to check, and then went over them as a class just to be sure (Lots of reps of “Están de acuerdo?” during this). We talked about the message of the story and made some applications to our own lives and the world.

Tuesday I was sick. I left plans for them to choose a sentence strip and draw that scene. The sub said they didn’t understand the instructions…oh well, moving on.

Wednesday, I gave them about 7 minutes at the beginning of class to outline the main details of the story. Next, we reviewed the story together to make sure everyone knew all the important parts. I had them get into groups of 2/3 and tell the story to their partner(s).

After that, as a group, we reviewed all the characters in the story. I made a list (with the heading “personajes” at the top to introduce that word) and we described each character briefly. Next, I told them that we’re going to reenact the story. My classes are small, so in my 11-student class that chose El elefante volador, we have 1 agricultor, 1 Indra, 1 narrator, 1 esposa, 1 elefante, 3 aldeanos, and 3 empleados de Indra (a group I made up on the spot so that we wouldn’t have 6 aldeanos). My 8-person class that watched Zippi la cebra has 2 groups, each with a Zippi, 2 birds, and a narrator. We watched the story again and I asked them to write down things they think their character might say.

Yesterday, I told them I’d give them one work period (which is actually a shortened period because of things going on in the morning) to work on their script. I did allow some English – they may be able to tell the story more or less all in Spanish, but planning a total reenactment seems like a pretty difficult task for my Novice High/Intermediate Low students. If I want the story to be reenacted somewhat accurately and for them to have fun and realize that, because this is a different medium, I don’t just want the narrator to read everything, I think we’re going to need some English.

Today, we reenacted. I recorded them so that on Monday each class can watch the other class’s final product(s) (and the original story. I’m hoping for some good comparison discussion).

Overall, I was pretty happy. We’ve never done something like this before, so when one group left out a couple of fairly important details and another group’s final product was almost word-for-word the story we watched without much movement or action, I couldn’t be too disappointed. They basically got the point of the story across, and I think they had fun doing it. I also think that (most of them) realized the importance of planning and practicing before it’s actually time to tape. I think in a few weeks we might do a quick 2- or 3-day version of this again to compare, after we have some more practice telling stories.

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