I was going through some old blog posts the other day and happened upon one that reminded me of an activity that I learned from Carol Gaab at the first annual Comprehensible Midwest. I ended up using it as a lesson on Friday and it was one of the most fun days I’ve had this year so far!
I started with 5 phrases. We had already finished the book Brandon Brown Quiere un Perro and just done a story using the song Fotografia so I selected these 5 phrases to incorporate some of the key verbs we’ve been using lately and continued to expose my students to direct object pronouns in context (don’t worry, no grammar explanation was needed).
The 5 phrases were:
A) La busca en la mochila (He/She looks for it in the backpack)
B) La saca del closet (He/She takes it out of the closet)
C) Llama a su mamá (He/She calls his/her mom)
D) No la ve (He/She doesn’t see her/it)
E) Va a la oficina (He/She goes to the office)
The idea is to choose phrases that are vague enough that they aren’t necessarily linked to each other. The lack of a clear subject/person, as well as the inclusion of object pronouns, allow the sentences to be ambiguous. In these phrases, we don’t know what type of office it is. It could be a school office, an office in your house, or a doctor’s office. We don’t know if the person doesn’t see the backpack, something they are looking for, or their mom.
Step 1: I printed each phrase out on a paper so the class could read them. Then I used magnets to put them up on the board.
Step 2: I choose 5 students to act out a phrase. The class tried to guess what phrase each student was acting out.
After we guessed correctly, I had the students act them out again. I tried to prompt the students to re-act in a different way, perhaps by having the person take something SMALL out of the closet and then something BIG. Be sure to give the instructions in the target language so you are sneaking in as much repetitions of these structures without the students even realizing it. In the other phrase, have the student call her mom on the phone because she is far away, and then call her mom when her mom is in the same room. This allows extra repetitions of the phrases.
Step 3: I tell students that these phrases have been plucked out of a story and their task is to try to put them in order. I give them a quarter sheet of paper and have them work with a partner to discuss the order. They write the five letters on the paper.
Step 4: I then ask each group which letter they think comes first. I keep a tally on the board. I then ask the groups what letter they think comes second. I might continue this with the 3rd phrase.
Step 5: With each group having a different sequence, I tell them to talk it over with their partner again and see if we can come up with a consensus as a class. After a minute, I ask each group for their first three. As we see if any groups share the same order, I start arranging the sentences in order on the board according to their sequence. I then ask the student actors to show us what each sequence looks like. I can re-arrange the magnets and see what other sequences sound/look like.
I might try to justify why a group put it in a certain order by trying to clarify something. “Oh, va a la oficina porque su mamá trabaja en la oficina. Pero no ve a su mamá. No la ve.” I make sure to state that “¡Es possible!“, never saying one is “correct”.
I might ask students to try to make one final sequence.
As a follow up I might have students WRITE their version of the story. Although for this time, since we’ll be doing another writing activity, I am going to write several versions of a story with these phrases in different sequences and have students see which one matches what sequence they thought it was in.
Edit: Here is a copy of our STORIES. Have the students read it and see if that’s how they thought it happened. Then you can have them write their own.