Category Archives: High Frequency Verbs

Surprises at school

I’m back to school at last. Better late than never!

The first thing I didn’t expect was the hugs I would get. High school was never like this, and it’s endearing to have elementary kids who actually know me this year.

The second surprise was the kind comments from teachers who said that their kids learned a whole lot of Spanish from me last year. Sometimes that feels as though they have to be kidding. I’m that person who didn’t know how to tell them to give me their papers, and I only recently realized that I somehow know all the days of the week now.

Next is my lack of fear, compared to last year. Having acquired at least another year of this language myself, I am much less prone to experiencing complete panic in the classroom. Now, if I don’t know a word, I just shrug. Sometimes I look it up, sometimes I don’t. We needed “cotton candy” yesterday, for instance. I looked it up. The State Fair is still going on, and kids need it.

And here is a real biggie. After using Terry Waltz’s Teacher’s Discovery skinny Super Seven posters in my Oregon classroom this summer, I now have my own to put up, take down, repeat, in every single room. (Thanks to Christy Lade, who shared her traveling classroom technique of putting pins in the wall and rings on posters, I transform each room into a Spanish class instantly.) And guess what: by having those Super Seven words on the wall, my fifth-graders wrote a range of 47-100 words in five-minute fast-writes. I’m a little embarrassed to say that I never had them do that last year, but I wanted a baseline this year. They were thrilled. So was I. Of course, it is also true that at least one of them earned 24 Wooly badges over the summer. But weirdly, none of them seemed to lose any Spanish over the summer.

I am still going to be taking Spanish lessons from the amazing Alice Ayel. I am still trying to limit the bulk of my book reading to Spanish (or Russian, of course). I have a very long way to go. But I’m thrilled to say that I can now have complete conversations with Spanish-speaking moms, instead of hiding out in the copy room when I see them coming. I was able to talk for three hours (!!) this summer with a Costa Rican Airbnb owner in Boston, and I understood 97% of a presentation that was in Spanish for Spanish teachers at iFLT this summer. I almost can’t believe it. This CI/ADI stuff truly works, for learners of any age.

The pesky common verbs

Bryce asked me today how I’m assessing the critical verbs that we are going to use in class all year.

It was a good question. I depend a lot on watching the kids’ eyes during class to find out whether they understand the story that is using the verbs.

We do a lot of TPR-type drill for the critical verbs. We have at least a gesture for each one, and we do mini-stories or mini three-ring circuses for the verbs almost every day. I have a powerpoint of just the verbs in third-person form, and as I flash the word, the kids do the gesture. I can keep the powerpoint rolling while watching the kids. We do closed-eyes quizzes with just the verbs; thus, we do something every day to drill with those high-frequency verbs.

Most of all, though, we tell stories, verify with the actors so that they’re using the verbs in first-person as well as third person.

Yesterday we used pictures portraying sixteen critical verbs in a 4×4 square set of drawings. We drilled what they were, pointed to them in pairs, and the kids got up to run through half the set in map pairs. If they finished before I called time, they were allowed to try to tell mini stories with the pictures.

Today I had a story prepared using all the verbs for them. We were going to tell it and then to read it; then they were going to check their understanding by reading it out loud in English with a partner, and finally they were going to draw pictures of ten of the sentences. We ran out of time, so instead I really milked the story for details and verified a lot with all the actors. I want these verbs to be so stuck in their heads that there is no question that they can recall and recognize them in any situation. Yesterday we started with our first past-tense form, so now we’ll start switching perspective in retells not only to first person/third person/plural, but to past tense. But first, I want to make sure every single kid has these down cold.

As it turned out in the class story, the boy who came up to be the first actor wanted to play a girl. His girlfriend, also in the class, was going crazy with embarrassment, so I made her the boy that the dog met in the park. In the class story, the dog belonged to the girl, and the boy was the one in the park. The girl had a cat, not pizza. Most of the other details worked out okay.

Here’s the story. I’ve put critical verbs in bold: A boy has a dog. The boy’s name is King. He lives in a house. He loves the dog. The dog jumps. The dog doesn’t work. The dog loves the boy, but he doesn’t like the house.

The house is located in Moscow. The dog doesn’t love the house. He loves the park. The park is also located in Moscow. The dog runs to the park and plays soccer and jumps. The dog doesn’t sit down in the park.

A girl sees the dog. She likes the dog. She goes up to the dog. “What’s your name? Where do you live?” The dog says nothing. The dog looks at the girl. The girl has pizza. The dog wants pizza.

“Mmmm. Gaf, gaf,” says the dog. The girl gives the dog pizza.

The boy is at home. He doesn’t see the dog. Where is the dog? He looks for the dog. He knows that the dog doesn’t like the house. He goes to the park and looks for the dog. Suddenly he sees the dog. The dog has pizza. The dog is with the girl. The boy walks up to the girl.

That’s my dog,” he says.

The girl smiles. She doesn’t want the dog. She gives the boy pizza. He takes the pizza.

“Thank you for the pizza,” he says. The boy goes home with the dog. The boy smiles because he found the dog. The dog is happy because it has pizza.

That’s it. Not too exciting, but it was fun anyway. Try telling any story without these. Or look at any picture and you’ll see that you can use some of these to tell a story. The only one I forgot to work in there (I think) is “needs.” I’d have liked to add “wants to buy,” but it didn’t fit.