As a Spanish teacher for over 15 (!) years now, I have often struggled with the lack of motivation that my students have had when it comes to speaking and using the language. As any language teacher, I LOVE hearing my students speak Spanish. We spend a lot of time in my classroom building community, I praise them for their efforts, but at the end of the day (or at the end of the class period), there are 30+ of them and 1 of me…and I struggled with the desire to hear them speak Spanish more and speak with purpose.
From that frustration, the Yo Puedo was born.
Here’s what happened: I had to start small. I also decided to do this after attending the Michigan World Language Conference (MiWLA) – because that’s when my creative juices get flowing and I start thinking about how I can find new ways to encourage my students to speak. I mean, after all – isn’t that why they’re learning another language? Who wants to fly to Spain and write down what they need to say to someone?
I began by looking at my Spanish 1 units. I looked at what I was teaching in each unit and asked myself what the goals were for each unit. This happened years ago when the shift began with admin asking teachers what their unit goals were and requiring “I can” statements to be posted in classrooms daily.
I decided that in order to get my students speaking more, I had to require it. Bye bye, random participation grade! It never really made sense to me anyway…seemed more like students were getting credit for not disrupting class and saying a word here and there. It just wasn’t enough in my book.
I made 4 categories based on what I wanted to accomplish every unit: vocabulary, grammar, review (recycling the old stuff back in!) and culture. I had to ensure that students weren’t forgetting the previous topics while learning new. I also wanted them to be motivated to find culture pieces on their own and report back to me about what they found. Most of all, I wanted to hear them speaking EVERY DAY. This required a daily routine shift!
I set the Yo Puedo up with 3-4 boxes per topic (vocab, grammar, review & culture). Inside each box, I started each with “I can…” and finished with what I thought was an appropriate statement about what I wanted for each task. I tried to let the students have choice when possible. That gives them ownership of what they’re learning. Here are some examples of each category:
VOCABULARIO: Let me start by saying that I give vocab lists. Some people love it, others hate it…whatever! So, I look at each type of vocabulary that I have, and create 3-4 tasks for vocabulary. For example, in a food/restaurant unit, I would make 3 or 4 boxes: 1. I can list at least 5 fruits/veggies. 2. I can list at least 5 drinks. 3. I can name at least 4 things/people that you’d find in a restaurant (menu, server, table, napkin, etc.) Notice that students have a huge list of words to choose from, but I’m giving them a choice of what to present to me. Also notice that I say “at least”…I don’t want to limit them – they can exceed my expectations any day! 🙂 The “Vocabulary” section of my Yo Puedo is by far the “easiest” section…but in a new unit, I want to build their confidence and encourage them to work harder to put this vocabulary to work for them…building blocks to sentence form! Also – muy importante – I need to hear how they’re pronouncing words…something that you can’t catch in a whole class activity!
GRAMÁTICA: Time to build sentences! This is (en mi opinión) the most fun section – because it’s where everything comes to life! I will look at a unit and ask myself “What do I want my students to be able to SAY/TALK ABOUT by the end of this unit?”…and that’s what goes in my grammar boxes. For example, we’ll stick with the food/restaurant unit again…1. I can order food & drink from a waiter in a restaurant. 2. I can talk about how my food tastes (we talk about es vs. está with food taste & temp in this unit…) 3. I can talk about what I eat and drink regularly (practicing verb conjugations – yo como, yo bebo…etc) 4. I can ask questions as if I am a waiter in a restaurant. The list goes on! I would probably stick to 3-4 of these per unit.
Think about what type of grammatical structures you’re teaching for the unit, and put them to work for you in the unit Yo Puedo.
REPASO: This is the section for review. It’s important for students to build upon what they already know/learned, so bringing that back will remind them of how far they’ve come and continue to keep that grammar/vocabulary alive. Look back at some of the grammar/vocabulary that you have covered in previous units, and bring it back again.
One topic that I reviewed for the entire school year is Spanish-speaking countries, capitals, and their location on a map. I alternated between countries & map and countries & capitals. This is a huge struggle for students at first, but so important – I strongly believe that students must know and be aware of their surroundings, and the Spanish-speaking countries of the world. There are SO many things that you can connect to this knowledge: what types of foods are popular in these countries, landmarks such as Machu Picchu, Easter Island, etc….the list goes on!
CULTURA: Finally, a little culture piece or two for the unit! This can be tricky. I want students to complete this section (and ONLY this section) in English…I’d rather not have them Google Translate a bunch of stuff that they don’t understand in order to communicate with me 🙂
I will give 1-2 boxes of cultural pieces in each unit. These may or may not connect directly with what we’re studying…although I usually have 1 that will…This is a chance to give them cultural exposure to the Spanish-speaking world. Explain who Roberto Clemente was, where he was from, how he died (what was he doing??) and why he’s important. Who are César Chávez and Dolores Huerta? Where were they from? What did they do that was important – who were they fighting for? Knowledge is power!
Want to read more about the Yo Puedo and how it works in my classroom? Read Yo Puedo – Part 2.
Questions or comments? Leave them below!