Watching–and Learning From–El Internado

edited on 1 Feb., 2015 to include episode 6

Kara Jacobs (find her here) and I found each other through our PLN on Twitter, and I am a better teacher for it!  Recently we have been collaborating on some viewing guides for our classes to accompany episodes of El Internado, and we would like to share them here.  I have found them to be immensely helpful in aiding comprehension as well as with addressing the issue of student absences on viewing days and with recapping the story between viewings.  We credit Mr. Peto with giving us the idea of doing recaps this way.  I added a “mi glosario” section to the later episodes to encourage students to keep a personal dictionary as we progressed through the series.  Since our class is about 50/50 native/non-native speakers, it’s been very difficult to create a vocabulary “list” that addresses all their needs… so they are making their own!

Here are the viewing guides for episodes 3-6 of season 1:

El Internado Capítulo 3 Viewing Guide for blog

El Internado, capítulo 4 viewing guide for blog

El Internado capitulo 5 summary for blog

El Internado capitulo 6

If you would like to see more ways that I’ve used El Internado in class, check out these earlier posts:

Ratoncito Pérez (S1E5)

El Internado

Cola Cao

Have it your way

**Updated 23 Jan. to correct a link in the handout.**

Our next unit in the novice classes is based around food and hunger when we resume classes on Wednesday.   Though we are technically beginning new classes, the vast majority of my students were also in my class in the fall, so we lose very little time to the transition, and will start with new material on day one.  Our first goal will be “I can say what I want on my sandwich.”

Over the course of the unit we will discuss popular foods from around the world, but to begin I wanted to start with something that is familiar to students.  In the town where our school is located, there are two national chain restaurants:  Subway and McDonalds.  We have a significant Spanish-speaking community, so using Spanish in Subway is not a stretch of the imagination.  We also get to talk about several ingredients that then we can mix and match when we look at menus from restaurants around the world.

So without further ado, here is what we will be doing on our first couple of days in class.  Students will use iPads to access Subway sites in Argentina and Mexico, and will use the content there to interpret key words and concepts.  Students will answer personalized questions about their preferences as they work through the activities.  I did a version of this activity last year and it was well-recieved.  Students were excited by the “I can actually do this!” notion, and we are hoping for a repeat this year.  I hope that you will find these activities helpful in your classroom as well.  🙂


From struggling to stupendous

A brief confession: my intermediate class has been a great challenge this year.  It’s a course that was designed for non-native speakers, but the native speakers class was disbanded this year at my school.  In order to avoid putting native speakers in level 1 classes, we opted to put them in the intermediate class.  There were some benefits of this, but also some particular struggles.  Several students were amazing, and added a depth and richness to our class that I as a non-native speaker of Spanish just can’t do as well as they do.  However, there was also a vocal group who just wouldn’t get on board with almost anything I offered.  I tried student choice, differentiation, the carrot, the stick, humor, stricter structure, more flexibility… and they just were not having any of it.  The lone exception:  El Internado.

I’ve written about how we use El Internado in class here and here and here, and have another post coming soon as a result of a fruitful collaboration with Kara Jacobs.  El Internado has been so captivating that that even the “I don’t want to do this-ers” couldn’t resist all the time.  But using El Internado is not as simple as “just watch a tv show in Spanish”-it’s a tool to teach the language.  We watched about 2/3 of season 1 this semester, and it formed the basis for the oral final exam that we took today.

One of the many things I’ve learned from Amy Lenord has been the Conversation Circle. In a nutshell, it’s a great framework for setting students up to sustain a TL conversation about any topic you should choose.  We have done them in class several times, and I’ve used it as my final oral exam for intermediate classes for a few years.  This year’s topic:  El Internado.  Students were encouraged to create conversation-stimulating questions in advance of today’s assessment and to bring those questions with them.  That’s it–no other notes, no other preparation.

Today in class, I divided the students into three groups of roughly similar skill level, and took one group at a time out in the hall.  There we reviewed the ground rules:

  1. I am there as an observer, not a resource.
  2. The assessment is a conversation, not an interrogation.  Rejoinders and agreement/disagreement are highly encouraged.
  3. Anyone can ask questions, and everyone can answer.
  4. All in Spanish.
  5. Help each other as needed.

Then I set the timer and asked one of the quieter students to start with one of his questions in order to make sure that he got a chance to have a voice.  Then I just sat back and watched.  It was hard not to help them, and also to not ask follow up questions, but you know what?  They didn’t need me to help them.  Once they got over their initial nervousness, they were so captivated by the topic and task that they forgot that this was the final exam.  They forgot that Spanish is hard.  They forgot their “I can’t do its” and just did it.  They negotiated unfamiliar vocabulary.  They shared their opinions.  They disagreed with each other.  They made predictions.  They made mistakes.  But most of all: they communicated with original thoughts in a real-life scenario for over 10 minutes without notes, dictionaries, or apps–even for the non-native speakers.  I assessed their overall performance on our performance rubric in order to assign the requisite grade.

And then the magic happened:  when the timer sounded, they were disappointed that it was over.  That’s right–they wanted their exam to go on longer!  They were eager to share, and had so much more that they wanted to say, that we could have gone on for twice the allotted time.  To tell the truth, I would have like to have let it go longer too, but we were out of time.  I am so proud of them!

And this reminds me why I stuck it out through the rough times: just when you have about had it, they will surprise you.  Conversation circles are one of the best tools in my toolbox.  Are they in yours?

It’s all coming together


The time has come: winter break is nearly over, and it’s time to go back to school.  This next week is a special flavor of crazy, though, because all of the following are happening:

  1. My student teacher begins her full time internship with me.
  2. We are returning from holiday break.
  3. We have 4 days until final exams begin… then we do exams and turn around and begin new classes (but most of my students stay the same).

All this comes together to mean that it’s been weeks since most of my students have used their language skills AND they have to complete an assessment at the end of the week that is worth 20% of their final grade (district mandate).  So while there’s no way to “review” it all, there are definitely some things that need to be refreshed, some others that need to be retaught or reinforced, and others that perhaps need to be recast.  We have a variety of engaging tools to choose from, but I found this blog post (click on text to see original post) in the summer and saved it for this week.  We will be doing a version of it at least one day this week.

I like the idea of students getting to work in teams, and also that they get fresh questions every few minutes. I particularly like the idea that my ST and I are free to walk around and coach students as needed–because whether a concept needs to be refreshed or recast will vary from student to student.  I also like the idea that I can use a primary document/authentic resource as the contents of some of the folders; it affords us the opportunity to get more practice with a concept without simply redoing an activity that we’ve already done.

I’d like to have about 8-10 folders, as we have 90 minute periods.  Here are my planned topics so far for the novice class:

  • interpersonal question cards about leisure activities
  • Q&A based on a People En Español article
  • scaffolded interpersonal questions about sports
  • Q&A based on a listening activity
  • …?  (I’ll have to figure this out tomorrow!)

What suggestions do you have?  How do you review at the end of a term? Please share in the comments!


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