I would like to share an activity I used in a beginning-level Spanish class that fomented interaction between students while allowing them to put into practice specific grammatical constructions and vocabulary. The activity was such that each conversation was different, and yet each conversation practiced precisely the vocabulary and constructions pertinent to the day’s lesson plan.
After providing students with the necessary vocabulary and grammatical instruction, I put the following information on a PowerPoint slide for students to see what I would be doing for Thanksgiving:
- Voy a ir a Providence para Thanksgiving. Voy a visitar a una amiga. Vamos a vernos por primera vez en varios meses. Vamos a cocinar pavo.
- Voy a salir el miércoles por la tarde y llegar por la noche. Voy a volver a Nueva York el sábado por la mañana.
I then asked the students to pair up and ask each other what they were doing for Thanksgiving. Again with the aide of a PowerPoint slide, I prompted them with questions to ask:
- ¿A dónde vas?
- ¿Cómo vas?
- ¿Cuándo llegas?
- ¿Qué vas a hacer?
- ¿Qué vas a llevar?
Students were able to have conversations with each other about aspects of their real lives. In this way their was an authenticity to their interactions that transcended the decontextualized absurdity that can sometimes characterize “interactions” in a language classroom at the most basic level. As they conversed, they helped each other express themselves, and I offered myself as a resource as they asked grammatical questions. They were curious as to the answer because they were interested in communicating accurately the very specific and personal information they were trying to convey.
In this way students learned by doing. They learned, for example, to use the construction “Ir a + infinitive,” and to correctly incorporate the vocabulary of the chapter (such as tren, autobús, etc.) into their speech. They did all this through an activity that connected what they were learning in the language classroom to their own wider, current world beyond its walls.