Simplifying my December!

I thought I would share a few of the ways I take ONE video or ONE song and make it “fit” into the various levels that I teach. In my last blog, I talked about how overwhelmed I have been feeling and how for December I planned to use Dustin Williamson’s brilliant unit for Navidad Madness in my classes! I  have had fun figuring out ways to do the exact same commercial in every class but vary the activities I do with each level.

For his first commercial, we movie talked the whole thing. It is by  far their favorite anuncio so far (we’ve seen four). They love the love story. 🙂 I did a movie talk in EVERY class just varying the language I used. Since I am “non-targeted” I just stuck to using whatever vocabulary each class has been acquiring this year. Our out of bounds vocabulary was the same in every class. Gas station, hair-tie, and for my lower levels: cousin. In some classes this took two days, in others it took one.

Next, we watched Suchard in its entirety without stopping.

In my advanced classes (Spanish 2a):  I gave students  10 minutes with a partner to complete this Venn Diagram comparing and contrasting the two in Spanish. Next, we did a running dictation using some of these sentences. Some of them were from Dustin’s supplementary materials and some were sentences I wrote about Repsol, the first commercial.

In my mid-level classes (Spanish 1b): I had students sort all of these sentences (same as the ones above) into two piles depending on whether they belonged to Repsol or Suchard, then they completed  the Venn Diagram using their favorites of the sentences.

In my lower- level classes  (Spanish 1a) I wrote my own simple sentences into the boxes to the right of the pictures in Dustin’s supplementary materials for the first commercial, and I made 6 simple boxes of sentences to match the pictures in his supplementary page for Suchard. Next, I copied them and cut them up. In groups of three, students matched the pictures in the boxes with the writing in the boxes.

I switched Dustin’s order of the 3rd and 4th commercials. I did the San Fernando commercial first. With each class, they came in and I asked them where they thought San Fernando was. In most classes, at least one student had heard of San Fernando, California, then we used Google Maps and figured out that there are at least 5 more “major” San Fernandos in the world. Then, we used the street view feature in Google Maps as we paused the commercial throughout, to try and determine WHICH San Fernando was the city used for filming. My more advanced classes were able to go into great detail as they debated WHICH city they thought was most likely to be the correct location.

Today, I taught the fourth commercial, which was my favorite so far.

In my advanced classes, students started by just watching it the whole way through the first time. Then, they listened the second time as they quickly jotted down any words they heard and recognized. Then they added those words to a big chart paper (my next advanced class used the other side of that paper, less paper=less prep+ we save the planet!). Next, I gave them these sentence strips of the song all cut up, and they put the entire song in order. I just took the lyrics from Dustin’s materials again.  It required some encouragement and reassuring (as per usual) from me and a lot of me rewinding every 20 seconds or so. After the first 10 times though, they become really confident and it was easy. We do this ALL the time when I teach my song of the month, so they were familiar with the activity. Then I passed out this paper, and we went sentence by sentence and explained the “meaning” (not the direct translation) by circumlocuting it in a different way. If there was anything that was really confusing I would ask one of my higher students to translate the meaning for the class in English. I am always so proud when we do things like this and they find ways to circumlocute so creatively! In my other advanced class, instead of the last activity we did a running dictation using the same sentences.

In my mid-level class,  students used this word cloud and circled words as they heard them in the song (the second time hearing it). Next, we talked about what types of scenery were in the commercial and compared Louisiana with the different city and landscapes. We used Google Maps to look at Colombia, too. Then they worked to put the first half of the song together from the sentence strip format.

In my lower classes, I pulled out the big poster from my advanced classes. The kids put a checkmark next to the words that the other students had written as they heard the word. (LESS PREP!!!!!) Next, we used Dustin’s supplementary sheet for the song and I asked the students what they were hoping for for Christmas. Then we talked about how all of their “wants” differed from the “wants” of the children in the video. It was one of those, eye opening moments for them, as they reflected on what is most important. I have found it SO crucial to constantly remind the students I teach in this independent school just how fortunate they are to have what they do and live how they live, and go to school where they go to school. I love that I can do ALL of this without leaving the target language! YAY Comprehensible Input!!!

Here’s a video of some of these activities from today:

I plan to continue going through all of Dustin’s incredible materials and finding ways to tweak them and make them work for ALL of the levels I teach! Get creative and do the same! I love him (my sweet work hubby) for making December easy for me.

P.S. (Have y’all been playing/reading/participating in Fluency Matter’s 12 Days of Christmas  give away??!?! You could win a iFLT registration and come hug me in Ohio this summer!!!!!! All the other prizes are ridiculously cool too!)

Until next time,

Happy Teaching!


La Loca

CI Maine with my work hubby, Dustin and the genius behind Navidad Madness



  1. I did many of the same things as you! I am struggling with the next two as they use vosotros and words like ahí, acá, etc. that they do not know yet. My students still want to see it, I am just tired this morning and struggling with approach.

    1. HEY! I agree, I had to think harder about these ones. I think that the first (Bon o Bon) I am going to Movie Talk and PQA about traditions that my kids have for Christmas Eve Night (and ask my Jewish student about what he does on the eve of Hanukkah). In my advanced classes I will play the child speaking in sentences a few times and ask what words they hear because the Vosotros won’t really matter. They will still hear the high frequency words that they know. The endings won’t bother them. In my lower level classes I will tell them what he says in a sheltered way using vocabulary that they DO know. As we go I will ask my kids what they think “the secret” is and what they think the uncle will say… Since I haven’t movie talked since the first I think this one will be a great one for it. Tomorrow, for the lie detector one, don’t get held up by vosotros. I promise, they might think the accent is weird but they won’t be bothered with vosotros and neither should you 🙂
      Love, La Loca

  2. This might be a dumb question but what were some of the key high frequency verbs that you used to movie talk the very first video, Repsol?

    1. Not a dumb question. I used it in ALL of my classes so it varied HUGE from my lower levels to my higher ones…

      Lower levels:
      thinks that

      Midrange classes:
      wants to have
      wants to go
      would like to have
      thinks that

      Higher classes:
      is in love
      hopes +subjunctive
      has gone
      has waited
      has grown

  3. Love reading about these activities!

    I am curious how or what you include in your gradebook as you progress through these December activities. I find the MovieTalks and extensions fill my entire class periods, but I end up with little or nothing in the gradebook. Do you assess anything in this process?

    Thank you for your post!

    1. I continue to assess them on their interpersonal and interpretive communication (they think daily) at least once a week. That is worth 80% of their grade for me this year. It is what our class is all about. If you absolutely need something else, perhaps create a writing assignment or something that you could enter or do a “write and discuss” or free write that you can enter as a grade.

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