What should I teach in my Spanish ELEMENTARY’S classes? (A2)

In the previous post I explained the fundamental pillars that we should teach to our Spanish students at an initial level, which according to the Common European Framework of Languages (CEFR) is known as A1.

For those who do not know about the CEFR, it is a European standard that serves to measure the level of comprehension and expression, both oral and written, in a particular language; Spanish in this case. In this post, I outline the knowledge that is seen in level A2 (elementary), which directly follows level A1 (beginner). Together, both levels complete the basic level.

 Marco Común elementary

Specifically, once the student completes this level they will be able to:

  • Understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment).
  • Communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and everyday matters.
  • Describe in simple terms aspects of their background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.

One of the teacher’s tasks is to adapt the content to the right level for each student. For that, it is essential to have sufficient experience in order to plan for the most suitable content at the appropriate time. Teaching the right stuff in the right moment will help our students to progress adequately, faster and internalise the knowledge better.

For simplicity, I have divided A2 into 3 sub-levels (A2.1, A2.2 and A2.3) where each sub-level summarises the vital information that we should teach in A2 to our Spanish students. Each table is divided into communicative resources, grammatical resources and lexical resources.

A2.1 – Some of the content to be studied at this sub-level is: the indefinite past; comparatives; how to ask for suggestions and recommendations; verbs such as “costar” (me cuesta) and “sentirse” (me siento fatal); possessive pronouns and talk about types of households. Expand the table to see all the contents.

TABLAS POST 36.001

 

A2.2- The outstanding content in this sub-level includes: the use of the gerund (regular and irregular forms); conditional; uses of the perfect past tense; how to excuse and justify, request and grant permission and vocabulary of weights and measures.

TABLAS POST 36.002

 

A2.3 – In this last part, we will study: how to speak about moods; how to describe pain, discomfort and symptoms; to argue and to debate; the imperfect tense; gerund; the expression “caer mal/bien”; diseases and important historical periods in the Hispanic world.

cuadro A3 aa.001
Ainoa Cano

What should I teach in my Spanish BEGINNERS’ classes? (A1)

One of the main queries that Spanish teachers have at the beginning of their careers, is how they should structure course content appropriately to match student ability and knowledge.

In my case, I keep track of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) which is a guideline used to describe achievements of learners of foreign languages. Moreover, it divides learners into three broad divisions (A, B and C) that can be further divided into six levels (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2). For each level, it describes what a learner should be able to do in reading, listening, speaking and writing.

In this post, I focus on the initial level A1, which I have divided in another 3 parts (A1.1 / A1.2 / A1.3) so that the information can be used in one large course or in 3 shorter courses. In either of these ways the Spanish student will have completed A1:

esquema MCEL

For better exposure, I have created 3 tables with some series of communicative, grammatical and lexical resources to implement in an initial Spanish learner. Before introducing the content, I want to highlight that I have taken as a guide “difusión” an editorial of ELE, the CEFR and my own experience.  Just to clarify, this is not the only way to teach Spanish. It’s just a guide, my guide.

In first place, I present the A1.1. This course has the peculiarity that it is addressed to students who do not have previous knowledge of Spanish, beyond “hola” or “amigo”. As I said, there is no wrong content but it is important that the content you present to your students is as useful as it can be. It is then much easier for students form a commitment and stay motivated.

Following the above notes, I introduce my proposal about what we should teach in A1.1:

cuadro A1.1.001

The below table puts forward the intermediate level within A1, which we have called A1.2

cuadro A1.1.002

Lastly, we have A1.3. Regarding this approach, once it is done, the level A1 is completed.

cuadro A1.1.003

Ainoa Cano

ELE – Online educational training

foto post ele.001If you’re considering developing new skills to improve your practice as a Spanish teacher, but do not have time to undertake classroom training, here are a number of suggestions regarding distance learning courses.

These educational opportunities allow you to continue with your academic training as a teacher of ELE, as you are able to choose a schedule that suits your needs and free time better.

There is a wide variety of online educational training: more or less number of hours, institution reputation, courses or master titles, etc. Therefore, it is important that you are clear about what kind of training you want and the specific purpose.

It is also important to know that there is no official certificate attesting teachers of Spanish as a second and foreign language, although the Cervantes Institute is currently working to offer a degree of Spanish teacher.

The only specialisation so far is the masters in Teaching Spanish as a Foreign Language, offered by different universities and other institutions. Therefore to work as a teacher in a private school, at a university or other institution, you must meet the requirements requested for that particular institution.

MASTER’S DEGREE

Universities which offer a master certificate in Teaching Spanish as a Foreign Language:

22.001

111

Institutions that offer training courses:

INSTITUTO CERVANTES

The Cervantes Institute is a public institution created by Spain in 1991 to universally promote the teaching, study and use of Spanish and contribute to the diffusion of Hispanic culture abroad. It is present in 87 institutions in 44 countries across the five continents.

What do I need to know about the courses offered by the Instituto Cervantes?

  • The program of courses for ELE teacher training is offered annually. In January they posted all courses on their website (dates, prices, type of courses, etc.) to be held during that calendar year.
  • If you are looking for the most suitable course for you, you must consider; purpose (start, deepen or lead) mode(classroom course, blended or online) and the date on which the course takes place.
  • In order to study these courses you need to be in possession of a degree, or undertaking the final year of university. In the case of participants of foreign nationalities whose mother tongue is not Spanish, the minimum level domain must be C1.
  • To apply for any of the Instituto Cervantes courses, you must complete the registration form and email it to the address infocfp@cervantes.es. You can receive a 10% discount fidelity if you take more than one course in the same year.
  • Online certificate courses have the same validity as the classroom courses.

FUTURE LEARN

It is a platform which works with leading universities and cultural institutions around the world, such as: University of Liverpool, University of Edinburgh, University of Glasgow, Lancaster University, Hanyang University, University of Leeds, University of Groningen, etc..

  • They offer a huge variety of courses with different topics. You also can find courses related to language learning.
  • All courses are free. You can access all the content without paying anything. Personally, I think it’s great to have free access to knowledge.
  • You can take these courses from your mobile, tablet or computer allowing you to plan your learning according to your lifestyle.
  • The courses allow you the opportunity to present and discuss your views with other participants and learn from the ideas of your peers.

Ainoa Cano

Icebreaker activities

IceBreakers

This time I want to gather a set of presentation activities; icebreaker activities. Those activities that languages teachers do when we meet our group for the very first time and we want them to get to  know each other too.

Our performance during this lesson, the first one, is one of our most important opportunities to gain the attention of our students. With these activities we have a great chance to make them feel comfortable and to involve and entertain them, which helps to ensure their persistence and dedication towards learning a second language.

Although choosing a good activity is fairly valuable – icebreaker activities will allow teachers to detect the level of their pupils – I should point out this alone is not enough for achieving success. There are other things which teachers must be aware of. For instance, the classroom management, group dynamics, time management and our body language. However, I won’t talk about this now. Let’s focus today on a variety of activities which help us  (students and teachers) to enjoy the lesson.

The proposed activities that I bring to this post are the different approaches that I have been using throughout my career or whilst studying.

Of course, there will be always the possibility of doing it in the usual way for those who are more conservative “Hello, my name is Ainoa. I’m from Murcia, Spain, and I’m you Spanish teacher”. But for those teachers who enjoy trying new things to make their classes more entertaining, here are my suggestions.

Activity 1: The ball of wool You, the teacher, start by saying your name and something that you like. Then you throw the wool to one of your students. This student has to do the same and throw it again to an another classmate. At the end, we get something similar to a spider web. This shows the future attachment of the group and the links that they will be created.

Activity 2: The clover The teacher introduces theirself showing a paper clover leaf where they have previously written several things about themself, one thing on each petal. For example, name, place of birth, nationality, favorite food.

The choice of topics will depend on the level of your students or what you as the teacher want to review. When everyone has written down their information, they should put them them in plant pot.

Once all the clovers are in, the teacher will take one of them and introduce that person (using third person singular). This person should stand up, greet everyone and pick another clover. This process will be repeated until everyone is introduced.

Activity 3: Who I am? The teacher presents a text, you can project it or photocopy one for each student. Throughout the text you present several sentences but giving several choices. For example, “My name is (1.María, 2.Elena, 3.Marta, 4.Lucía). One of the students has to start reading the first sentence and try to guess the correct option. If the student guesses it, continue reading. However, when the pupil is wrong, the turn will be for another student who should start reading from the very beginning. Therefore, all the students must be concentrating because they need to remember the correct option that has been chosen previously.

Actividad 4: Paper ball The teacher introduces themself, telling the students information about themself. At the same time, the teacher is writing down the sentences in a piece of paper. She asks the student to do the same, to write down a specific number of sentences about their lives. Once they have finished, they have to make a ball from the paper and put in a bag.

At this point the introductions are exactly the same as the second paragraph of the activity number 2.

Activity 5: My life in pictures. For this activity we must to prepare material. The idea is to present 6 images (submitted one by one) on which is shown something important to us that we are working on at that point, such as an important name, a place, a profession, a meal, etc. Our students should guess what is the picture about. For example,  on one of the pictures there are several firefighters (“Are you a firefighters?”, “is you husband a firefighter?”, etc) this picture will help us to introduce professions or a picture of our city to introduce nationalities and countries.

Once they have guessed the information that we were looking for, we will turn the images over to see the topic on the other side (“family members”, etc) and the question that we want to work on (“do you have siblings?”). It can be a good idea to stick the six pictures on the wall. Then we will ask the student to work with their partner, they have to ask the six questions.

Once they have done this, they have to introduce their partner to the classroom.

Activity 6: The start. We present to the students a 5 peaks start. In each peak we write down an idea about us, something that we want to remember or introduce later. Then, we ask them to ask us, to try to guess what those ideas are about, emphasizing that they can try as much as they want, there is no penalization for incorrect guessing.

For instance, at one of the peaks there is written “Juan”. Students should ask the teacher trying to guess what is this about (“¿Is this the name of your husband?”, “¿Is your son´s name?”) or “Cuba” (“are you from Cuba?”, “Would you like to go to Cuba?”)

After the teacher presentation, students will draw their own start with their own ideas. We’ll repeat the process.

In case there are too many students (the activity can take forever) we’ll ask them to introduce in small groups.

Activity 7: My hand. Every single students has to draw their hand on a piece of paper and write down on each finger one thing about them, about their life. They will stand up, one by one, and introduced themselves using their hand drawing as a support.

The teacher can ask the students the 5 specific topic which they have to speak about or give them a choice of talking about five different things.

Activity 8: Alphabet soup. This is about presenting a simple alphabet soup where the teacher has typed their information. Students will be provided with a list of sentences as a clue. For example, find the place where i was born.

Actividad 9: Let’s dance. The students need to stand up and dance with rhythm to a song, a funny one. They should move around the room meanwhile the music is playing. However, they must stop when the music is paused and ask the nearest person a question to get information about his/her life.

At the end, students will recall the information they have learned about their classmates.

Activity 10: My collage. For this activity students will be offered a big variety of pictures (newspaper, magazines, print, leaflet,etc).

In the first round, students will select those images which they identify with. Once they have chosen, they should show those pictures to their classmate and explain why they feel they identify with those images. In the case where some students don’t connect with any of the pictures offered, we’ll give them sheets and color to allow them to create that what they identified.

Activity 11: Unfinished sentencesIt is also important to use initial activities to meet the individual expectations of our students about our lessons. Not all learn the same, nor do we like to study in the same way. There are students who want to focus on grammar and others prefer to talk most of the time, regardless of the mistakes they may make. In order to discover this expectation we can throw in a number of phrases such as:

  • By the end of this week / quarter / year I want to …
  • the best way I learn is with …
  • I do not like it when the teacher …
  • Using a textbook is …
  • When we are working in a group …
  • When I do homework …
  • I do understand…
  • I do not understand…
  • I hope that…
  • I do not want class …
  • The sense of coming to class is …
  • I would like … ever.

Activity 12: Incomplete information. Consists in finding out information about the teacher (name, nationality, family, hobbies, pets, etc) giving them an incomplete and different table. In each table there will be just one of the answers, so they must speak with everyone if they want to complete it.

Ainoa Cano

8 Ideas to work on your language classes when you don’t have any.

kasjdnfñakjsd.001Of course we like to be good teachers, prepare the best lessons for our students and get good educational outcomes. But if we want that, it is essential to have resources, materials.

However, although we have plenty of motivation to plan a lesson, we have to address a lack of creativity or, the most common one, time. Moreover, It has happened to me where I have had to cover a lesson at the very last minute or complete the lesson sooner that I expected.

Furthermore, it’s true that you can find many resources online, but selecting from that amount of information also take a while. As a result, I have found it fairly useful to save those useful websites that I find to make them accessible in seconds when needed, and to have a list of simple wildcard activities, helpful at almost every level.

Having this collection of pages will greatly facilitate our task of planning and improvisation: students finish their work earlier than expected, we turn to one of our links, we have to cover a teacher that morning, we turn to one of our links.

In this post, I want to collate some of the basic activities and useful links in order to bail you out.

1. THE COMIC.The comic as an educational resource can be very enriching. Submitting a “silent” comic strip to students can lead to amazingly different dialogue between the characters and fantastic stories, all from the same resource. Capturing the interest of students with a given subject can be highly effective if we use the comic as a classroom resource.

I always have a few blank comic strips in my folder for my language lessons because it has infinite possibilities, develops creativity and can adapt to any age. It is my star resource, you can extend it as much as you need. As you can see bellow, the comic allows a chain of endless questions, which will help us to fill the time we require:

  • Invent a story line with those scenes.
  • Discuss the succession of events. What happens before and what happens next?
  • Describe what you see in each picture. What do you think the character is doing? Why?
  • Imagine what action takes place between 2 pictures.
  • Why are the character there?
  • List the vocabulary. For example, if the character is eating, we can ask our student about what kind of food and drink. What is their favorite food?, Where is this meal typical? What do you know about that country?…
  • Focus on the action. If the character is singing, then what kind of music do you think he is listening to? What kind of music do you like? How often? What are you doing when you listen to music? etc.

Bitstrips is a website to create your own comic. You can change backgrounds and chose a character, to which you can define facial expressions, posture, gesture, finger position, etc. I loved discovering this product!

2. FLASH CARDS.  Can be used for any topic – it can be as complex or as a basic as you need – and works with images. You can merely teach vocabulary, ask questions or ask pupils to describe what they see. Therefore, the same images can be used for different levels of learning. I mention below some of the most typical topics:

Professions, animals, clothes, weather, numbers, colours, transport, body parts, expressions (surprise, tiredness, happiness, anger …), class materials, food, beverages, hobbies, actions, the class rules (be quiet, raise your hand, do not touch …) daily routines (waking up, eat breakfast, brush teeth, go to school …), concepts (full-empty, near-far, long-short…), etc.

3. DRAWING-NARRATION. That is to say, telling a short a story using the vocabulary that is being studied. Student should draw our description. For instance:

Once upon a time two sisters who lived in a very small house with their cat. The front door to the house, however, was very large and was painted yellow …

In just a couple of lines we have already reviewed part of: family members, colors, animals, sizes and elements of a house (door).

4. STORIES AND FABLES. What better way to spend the time left in class than reading. However, in this case we should choose a story according to our student ages. Especially, we can keep the attention of our students if instead of reading the whole story ourselves, we indicate who should read the next paragraph. This keeps them silent and focussed on the activity.

5. SONGS. Listening to songs will help us, among other benefits, to strengthen and learn new vocabulary and improve our listening. The most common activity is to remove some of the lyrics of the song and ask the children to fill in the gaps.

6. SPELLING. Spelling words that have been worked on can be fun. The children can become quite engrossed in this if you give each student a sheet of paper or a whiteboard and start dictating word by word. To reward their involvement, invite a student who has written the word correctly, to write it on the board (as the teacher). You can do spelling online as well:

7. DICTATION. A teaching technique which improves, amongst other things, misspellings. You can dictate exactly from a given text or you can improvise the dictation.

8. WORKSHEETS. Select any worksheet already prepared according to the level of your students.

TIP!  keep the links that you find useful!

Ainoa Cano