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

¿Hay Cola Cao?

The countdown to school is on! I’m trying to finish the last season of El Internado before classes start, and yet I feel like I’m going to be moving away from old friends when it’s done!  Nonetheless, I continue to learn new things from the show, and here is one (NO spoilers):  Cola Cao.  It’s a chocolatey mix like Nesquick or Ovaltine, and Fermín mentions it during breakfast service in an episode of season 7.  I pay extra attention to what Fermín says because his wit and humor are a class in themselves!

I have a friend in Spain who was an exchange student here in the US when I was little, and we found each other again on Facebook a couple of years ago. He has been a gracious tutor, instrumental in explaining things like Cola Cao.  He’s also a little surprised by the random things I ask… like “what’s cola cao?”.  He connected me with this video that I thought fellow Internado fans might appreciate:


I LOVE summer: World Cup/Cromos/Rainy Day edition



While life on the blog has been pretty quiet, the opposite is true for life away from it.  We have had an absolute blast this summer!  We were World Cup crazy through June and early July, even going so far as to stream a game on the ESPN app on my phone as we drove through the backwoods of Wisconsin because Argentina was playing.  I have the absolute delight of spending significant amounts of time with a sports-crazed 5 year old during the summer, and in addition to watching for Messi’s magic, we have extended World Cup mania through our cromos albums, and they have been amazing for a rainy day activity.  Tiny guy’s level of engagement in this activity is what we seek in our classrooms–it’s intense, and it has given me some ideas of how to use this resource in class.


But before we get to that, here’s my true confession:  I had never heard of cromos until this summer, and now I’m almost as hooked as the little guy.  My first introduction was through a blog written by a friend of a friend, talking about her Spanish husband’s obsession with the album.  Then when Zachary Jones did a series of posts on it, I decided to give it a whirl.  So while I started with a few cromos and an album via Amazon, when the little guy showed his fascination with it too, we’ve gone a little nuts.  Basically, the cromos are sold in packs of 7, and they are stickers with numbers on the back.  The numbers correspond to a position in the album, and you peel the stickers and put them in at their designated point.  There are player pictures as well as team photos and logos, and also photos of the stadiums.  Each pack has a variety, and part of the fun is in not knowing quite what you might find.  The boy about pops every time we open a new pack! 🙂



We are now trading back and forth (he has an ASTOUNDING memory for what he already has) and are talking about so many things along the way.  Where is he from?  Where is that country?  Is it near the US, or far away?  What colors are in his flag?  Who is your favorite player?  Who is your favorite team?  How do you say those things in Spanish?  He is fascinated by it, and since it rains almost every day at some point, it has become our go-to activity in the afternoon.

From a classroom application standpoint, here are ideas that are rolling around in my mind:

  • Use the extras/duplicates to make mini Guess Who boards with a cultural context to practice basics of physical description and spelling names.  Guess Who with names like “Iker Casillas” and “Andrés Iniesta” is inherently more interesting for many kids than made up characters like “Jorge” and “Mario”.
  • Use the extras to review geography
  • Use the collection and articles such as this and videos such as this for reading and listening comprehension practice with rich cultural content.
  • Compare experiences curating collections as kids (state quarters in the US, Pokemon, Yugioh) with this practice

What else can you think of?  Oh, and can you spare a Messi?

El Internado


Have you seen El Internado?  Thanks to Kristy Placido, I started watching this show with my intermediate class this semester, and was absolutely blown away by their response.  They would do ANYTHING to watch the show–including homework!  I started having to give them a schedule of our weekly lesson plans just so they weren’t continually asking me when we would watch it!  One student told me, “on days that I wanted to skip your class I came because I knew we’d be watching Internado”.  They asked every guest speaker if they had seen it, and it has come back to me from other students and teachers that they are passionately talking about it outside of class.  Perhaps the icing on the cake was that they opted out of going to weekly study hall to stay and watch part of another episode on their own.  I’m also watching the rest of the seasons this summer, and my family is even hooked on it–and they don’t speak Spanish yet! My son has even confessed that he looked up the show online and is sad that he knows some of what’s going to happen in future episodes.  The show is PG-13 ish, so depending on your school climate, you might want to send a consent/permission letter to parents before beginning.  My students and I had a very direct conversation about some of the language in the show–that some of it would not be appropriate in class, but is accurate for the setting of the story.

I used the dialogue and scenarios to teach some pretty challenging grammar structures, as well as vocabulary.  We worked on subjunctive by talking about what Marcos and Paula would want their parents to do.  We learned several idioms, especially dealing with romance and frustration.  One of my favorite parts, though, has been the doors it has opened to talk about culture and history.  For example, in order to understand one of the first season episodes, you have to know about Ratoncito Pérez; in another, it’s helpful to know about the Spanish Civil War.  We read TPRS Publishing’s La Hija del Sastre as part of our curriculum, so students had a familiarity with that period of time; I prepared a mini-unit to help them with Ratoncito Pérez here.  We also followed some of the action on Twitter as the show was being shown in Chile this spring.

I’ll teach the beginning of the intermediate course in the fall, followed by the second part in the spring.  My plan is to start the show in the fall with the goal of completing season 1, then continue through season 2 and maybe 3 in the spring.   To that end, I’ll be working on a lot of support materials and activities this summer to supplement the ones I’ve already created, and would love your input!  I’ve added El Internado pages to the Langcamp Wiki so that we can work collaboratively.  Please sign up to be a part of the creative process at the Wiki page, and/or leave ideas in the comments below.

Have you watched El Internado?  What are your thoughts about it?

…with liberty and justice for all

My intermediate level class begins each day with the whole school recitation of the US Pledge of Allegiance.  Over the last few weeks, the words “with liberty and justice for all” have been particularly poignant as we have been exploring some social justice issues linked to La Guerra Sucia in Argentina and Chile, as well as Guatemala.  To me, one of the most important things I can teach my students is to think critically and with empathy for others. Along the way we will learn a lot of Spanish, but I want my students to be better citizens as a result of our studies as well.

In the course of this unit we incorporated music, film, reading, tweeting with another class, and a live Skype conversation, and I have seen impressive growth in my students’ skills as a result.  Here’s how we did it:

  1. Pinterest:  It’s important to me that students see the beauty of the places that we study as well as the struggles.  We introduced the topic by having students look for information on Argentina and Chile and pin photos to their Pinterest accounts.  They shared them with each other in class, narrating what they were showing and why it interested them.
  2. I was greatly assisted by Kara Jacobs’ work here.
  3. Stations for exploring the theme:  We collaborated with Kristy Placido’s class, completing her stations activities.  More information is here.
  4. the movie Cautiva:  Again in conjunction with Kristy Placido, we watched the film Cautiva.  The 800 mile gap between our schools disappeared through the magic of technology and our students discussed the film at various stopping points.  The characters in Cautiva continued to weave through our studies as we talked about events being similar to what had happened to Sofia and her friends and family.
  5. TPRS Publishing’s La Guerra Sucia:  I love this book because it is compelling–I had to remind the kids who read ahead to not spoil it for the others–and is just enough of a challenge to help students grow in their language.  Like the film, it also gives us a framework around which we can base the study of other materials.
  6. Maria Hinojosa’s interviews of Robert Cox (as recommended by the TPRS teacher’s guide) and Mercedes Doretti.  Doretti’s organization is working world wide to identify remains of people who were victims of mass killings and genocide, including in Guatemala.  Though these interviews were in English, I believe that their worth lies in further connecting students to the story.
  7. What Happened at Dos Erres:  This story from This American Life has haunted me since the day I heard it, and I instantly knew that I wanted to find a way to use it in class.  There is a Spanish print edition of the story here, but we simply did not have enough time to work through this and do the other things that I wanted to include.  I also recognize that it is beyond these students’  i+1 reading level. Maybe next time?  The story is also available as an eBook in Spanish or English here.
  8. Music: Maná’s “Desapariciones“; Sting’s “Ellas Danzan Solas“; Bono’s “Homenaje a las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo“.  These songs ended up leading us on a lengthy conversation about music in the 80’s and 90’s, because my students didn’t know who Sting, Peter Gabriel, Genesis, or the Police were… so I had to teach them that too.  (Thank you YouTube!).  I’ve wanted to teach this unit since hearing Ellas Danzan Solas several years ago, so this was a dream come true moment.
  9. Google Earth:  We “visited” several of the places from the book via Google Earth on the projection screen, and discovered that from La Casa Rosada, the pictures were taken at night if you head in one direction and in the day in the other directions!
  10. Skype!:  We had the pleasure of a Skype conversation in Spanish with the amazing Brittany Peterson who told of her travels, study, and journalistic work in Argentina and Chile, including this story, this one,  and especially this one.  Brittany started her Spanish studies as a sophomore in another high school in our district, and I loved the aspect of students seeing someone “like them” using the language.  By the way, Brittany was in Chile and on the ground during the Chilean spring student uprising, and covered the topic extensively.  If you are teaching this topic, search out her coverage–it is excellent!  One of my favorite questions from the students was when they asked if she had watched El Internado–they were so nervous to talk throughout the Skype call, but forgot their nervousness when it came to this topic due to their passion for it.
  11. Assessment:  We used Amy Lenord’s Conversation Circle for assessing speaking skills. This is hands-down one of my favorite tools  for intermediate classes.  Our written assessment has some music interpretation with writing and a writing from TPRS Publishing’s teacher’s guide for the novel.
  12. Grammar:  Oh, yes, there was some grammar too.  We wove perfect tenses and subjunctive throughout the unit.

All in all, this was a long unit, but a good one.  Students are reporting that they feel more confident in their skills, and it shows when they write and speak.  They loved the Conversation Circle and Skype, and have asked for specific topics to be addressed that they recognize as weaknesses/breakdown points.  They are clearly making connections with other classes–one of the threads in a recent conversation was comparing themes in Orwell’s 1984 with politics and society in our studied countries.  They were also shocked to hear that while I had read it, it was still futuristic when I did.  They brought up comparisons to the Holocaust and visits to the Holocaust Memorial when they saw the slogan “Nunca más” on Madres de la Plaza de Mayo materials.

…con libertad y justicia para todos.  I have no doubt that this phrase has taken on new meaning for this group of students, and I’m honored to have been on this journey with them.