Posted by: Michel Baker | April 30, 2014

Grammar Posters: to use or not to use?

2014-04-30 15.52.00

In elementary this year, I have been using this poster constantly to Point and Pause as the year progresses. I don’t teach this verb, I just use it. I used magnetized, laminated flags to cover up one of the words, when not using it at the time, otherwise students will think I am saying it, too, when I point. Some of the feminine words have hair bows, and masculine ones have short “haircuts.”

However, I will probably get rid of the poster after this year, as Susan Gross and others say that we should write things onto the board as they come up, only. I think that the poster is more for me to remind myself to target these things and perhaps should go in the back of the room to remind ME while I teach. Here is what I have been doing, but again, I plan to try to lose the poster (probably put it in the back of the room to remind myself to use it) and just write things on the board as they come up. Regardless, here is how we have been targeting each item:

I target “ustedes [you all]” first because I talk to the class as a group most often. I train them that whenever I say “ustedes,” they are to say “you all.” After a couple of months, they no longer need to interpret it and already know its meaning, as confirmed by periodic Comprehension Checks.

I later reinforce “ustedes” when passing out the pencils. I hold up the pencil box, shake it back and forth with open mouth and playful eye on the students…gets their attention. Next, I select 3 pencils for one row of students, Pause and Point at “ustedes” on the poster, say “para ustedes [for you all],” look at them and say it again while pointing my other finger in the air back and forth above their heads. I repeat this for the next row of students, until all six rows of students have received their pencils. Once I have said “para ustedes” enough times, I’ll just say “para…” and the class throws in “ustedes.”

After about a month of this, when they have “got it,” I look at the rest of the class while I talk about the three students on a certain row. We change to “para ellos o ellas [them, masculine/feminine].” It is so much fun to see the reactions on their faces whenever they discover why it is sometimes “ellos” and other times “ellas.” Once they understand it, they do not seem to mind. Eventually, when I say “para…” the class either correctly fills in “ellos/ellas” or someone jokingly fills in the wrong answer, to which I react with playful surprise, followed by circling reps galore.

I constantly use Point and Pause with this poster during PQA/Storyasking, in general, because these are such HF structures, and we have bigger fish to fry elsewhere in the curriculum. I just want them to get these as we go along, and I never overtly “teach” them. We just go ahead and start using them. If I am only saying one of the words in a pair, I do have to cover up the unused word with a magnetized, laminated flag, or else the students think that I am saying that word, too.

We later use “nosotros” whenever we can talk about someone in the room being taller than us, etc., choosing the shortest student who does not mind playing with us and circling around through PQA, until eventually making them look taller than us. Drives some of them mad, until we finally make the student look taller.


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