Describing People

It’s been a while! It seems like since the “new” factor of the new school year and my new school have worn off some, I’ve had my nose to the grindstone! I’ve definitely been working hard, and I’m starting to see it pay off! My super quiet Spanish 3 class is starting to open up a little with me. I think we could have a great time together, if I could just get them out of their shell a little more! My Spanish 2 students are starting to realize that this whole CI thing might actually be working. I had some pretty good feedback from our first performance assessment, and although we’re still working to weed out stray English, we’re getting there!

My Spanish 1 students are zipping right along, just like Spanish 1 students tend to do at this time of the year. We just finished up our first unit and are moving into one that’s all about describing ourselves. Last year, I definitely made the mistake of going in with too much vocabulary all at once. I did it as a story, but it was definitely not a story that resulted in much (if any) long-term retention of new words. If we’re being honest, it was really just a fancy vocab list that I gave with pictures and gestures instead of English translations.

This year, I wanted to go more slowly and hopefully generate a little more long-term retention at the same time. My students are already pretty good with some descriptions – they’ve been telling me eye color, hair color/length/curliness for weeks now. I decided not to get too detailed with those phrases, since we’ve already had lots of reps in many stories. So last week, I started with a quick story that introduced the words “tall” and “short” as well as the phrase “I am” and, for those extra ambitious students, the word “also.” We practiced a little bit, I asked them which people in the class were tall and short, then I asked which teachers were tall and short. Then I asked what a particular teacher is like (“Is Mr. Smith tall or short?” etc.) Then we did a color review activity, and at the end of the class, I told another quick story with the focus being simply the word “smart” (and got a little more “also” in for some of those super ambitious ones).

Today, I told another quick story for the words “hardworking” and “lazy.” I’m not totally psyched about how they went. First of all, is “hardworking” really the opposite of “lazy?” It’s always in the textbooks, but suddenly I’m wondering if that’s a word we really need. Next, we went through this Google Slides show. I simply projected a picture, asked for the person’s name, and as a class, we made a list of adjectives to describe the person. I threw in a few more, easy words here – athletic, artistic, fat, thin – as well as the word nice (which I defined in Spanish as “good friend” with a big smile and a thumbs up, but also gave them the English at the end of class. Next year, this one is going in a story!). The kids got to review all the words we had done so far, including the physical words they were comfortable with like “brown hair”, “blue eyes”, etc., and practice some of the newer ones. We also got to practice “¿Cómo se llama?” since we named everyone – their real name if we knew it, or one we made up.

After we went through the first three, I gave the kids about 2 minutes to make their own list about the next person

When I threw this together, I decided to end with two familiar faces (Channing Tatum and Demi Lovato) and that turned out to be an excellent idea. The kids had people who they actually knew a little bit about, and in every class, those ended up being the longest lists. When we got to those people, the kids also started asking for more words, some of which were future goals for this unit (good looking), and some of which were not (rich). The adjectives were coming so quickly on these last two that I could hardly keep up writing on the board. They were into it, they were using words they wanted to use, and they were getting lots of good reps in of useful words.

We finished up by playing 20 questions (with people only), which was a hit last year, and went over well today, too.

There are still a few words I want them to know that we didn’t hit today – no one was “funny” today, for example. But I could easily add a picture of Kevin Hart for next year! We also haven’t hit old and young yet, either. But hopefully these sometimes “tricky” words will be a little easier this year, since I’m not introducing 15 other words at the same time!

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