When I began teaching with TPRS®, I followed the thematic units in my textbook. After several years, however, I realized that thematic units didn't make a lot of sense in a storytelling classroom. For example, I taught airplane at the beginning of the year in the transportation unit, airport awhile later in the city unit, and pilot toward the end of the year in the professions unit. I realized that it made a lot more sense to teach these words together in one story. That summer, I sat down with my vocabulary lists and the scope and sequence from my textbook. I found words and grammar structures that worked well together, sketched them into story scripts, and used these story scripts as the basis for my curriculum. By the time I was done, my plan for the next school year looked like a chopped salad of the textbook.
My students responded extremely well to this chopped salad approach. They found the stories more compelling, they were more engaged in the lessons, and they received excellent scores on the National Spanish Exam.
While this new approach was more successful, I struggled to find compelling ways to teach some of the vocabulary in the textbook, especially vocabulary from the materials unit, which included phrases like: made of leather, made of wood, made of clay, etc. I was working in a department where students were required to know these phrases, so I began looking for more creative ways to incorporate them in lessons. Here are two approaches that worked extremely well for my students:
- Teach materials through cultural realia. For example, when I taught my students about Peru, I brought in a soft scarf made of alpaca wool and passed it around the classroom. We talked about how the scarf was made of wool. I showed a short video clip (about 20 seconds) of alpacas in Peru and showed some pictures I took in the Andes mountains of women spinning, dyeing, and weaving the wool. One lesson was not enough time for students to acquire this word, so I brought in additional wool items throughout the school year. You can do this with cultural items made out of any material.
- Randomly include materials in stories. For example, let's say that the main character in our story is wearing shoes. I can ask my students: Are her shoes made of leather, metal, or glass? Students love choosing creative answers to these questions! You might find that your main character drives a car made of clay, or lives in a house made of plastic, or has a cell phone made of gold. Asking questions about materials added creative twists to our stories and allowed me to teach this required vocabulary in an interesting way.
I believe that the most effective CI curriculum is based on high-frequency vocabulary. However, if you are required to follow a textbook, I have found that these two approaches work very well for teaching materials vocabulary (which is included in almost every Spanish 1 textbook). To help you incorporate this vocabulary into stories or cultural lessons, I have created some materials posters, which you can download here. They will be free through Friday, March 23.