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Thursday, October 30, 2014

As Spanish teachers, sometimes we need material for teaching a specific lesson required by our students. Looking for this kind of material can quickly turn into mission impossible, and you may not even find anything on the internet that really matches what you’re looking for.

When this happens, you just have to roll up your shirt sleeves and jump right in to create your own material.  Your first attempt will most likely not produce anything revolutionary or amazing, but who made good paella on the first try? Imagine that we have a text on a cultural topic that could make for an engaging lesson, like articles you can find here).

The first step is to plan a lesson based on the text that is appropriate to the Spanish levels of your students. You can start by creating a series of comprehension questions, which works for basic-level students too, as they don’t have to fully comprehend everything to be able to answer the previously prepared questions. This type of exercise can help very low-level Spanish students conquer their fears of tackling a text. Instead of “I hate this, I don’t even get half of what this is saying”, we want them to be thinking “awesome, I can understand half of this”. It’s all about seeing the glass as half full.

Next you can prepare the text on a Word document by, for example, extracting the definite and indefinite articles and placing them in a column to the right side of each line in which they should appear. Students have to choose the right articles and put them back in the text.

Another possibility is removing linking words and leaving spaces in the text, placing all of those words in a box below.  Students must choose and place the correct words in the spaces.

Still one more option would be something you may be most familiar with: replacing verbs in the infinitive with verbs correctly conjugated according to the subjects and tenses that appear in the text.

Later, you could even change the order of the paragraphs of the text and ask the students to put them in an order that makes sense, paying special attention to context, linking words, and any other relevant element.

Finally, and this is just the tip of the educational ice berg in terms of all the possibilities a text can offer, you could remove a sentence from each paragraph and place it at the end of the text, asking students to place the sentences back in their correct spaces.

These types of exercises are nothing new, they’re even the same tasks that DELE certificate candidates encounter on the official DELE exam, but they allow us to help our students acquire learning and study techniques that can not only prepare them to take exams but can also give them the chance to gain the skills and confidence they’ll need to read on their own in Spanish. In other words, these exercises can open the doors to an appreciation for reading in Spanish and to all the benefits that come with it, such as lexical, syntactical, cultural and even personal enrichment.   

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