08 April 2015

Conjugation Hand - New Twists

I like graphic organizers, especially those that students can always have on hand.

Now I haven't taught a traditional conjugation chart in a few years, but, as Garnet Hillman once told me, the brain craves organization. I've also noticed my students feel more confident if they have memory devices they can check themselves with when they are in doubt--otherwise it's up to Google Translate when the teacher's not handy.

Handy? On hand? Get it?
Good reasons
Now SpanishPlans posted this idea years ago, so this isn't some sudden epiphany of mine. I have, however, been tutoring a student struggling with college Spanish. She's expected to learn--not acquire--conjugations for seven different types of verbs before her second Spanish test ever. Conjugation sadly remains a fact of college life, so it doesn't hurt to give kids hints that will help cope with expectations once they leave our nest, hints like invoking the age old chant of "o as a amos an." (I've seriously used vosotros in exactly two situations in my life: my Spanish church phase during my divorce and understanding that one professor in that one grad school class.)

Also, I can comprehnsibly input until I'm blue in the face, but I feel my specific role as an educator, an "expert," is to draw students' attention to patterns that they might not have picked up on. It's like my husband has done for me with car models: cars have been around me all my life but I didn't ever distinguish among them beyond color and door numbers until he started pointing out different makes and models to me. It's my job as someone who knows the language patterns to highlight them and help the young ones sort them.

Acquisition it ain't, but we know the brain likes connecting to prior knowledge and semantic sorting, and that teenagers are notoriously impatient. I mean, I kept them satisfied with two or three verb forms until midterm, but then they want to express themselves. And as I've admitted, I'm a little demanding with my novices, so the extra organization doesn't hurt until I find a way to be more novice appropriate.

So I have my students draw their hands in their interactive notebooks. As you can see above, 1) the verb goes in the palm (just like SpanishPlans suggests), and 2) you put the chant (o-as-a-amos-an) literally at their fingertips.

Step 3) you practice the different subject gestures. The thumb aims at "this guy" and forefinger points at "you." Now, with my college protegé, I point out the middle finger goes with Usted, which you would use with your boss... For more innocent audiences, maybe emphasize "Tall Man" is the highest up...like your boss. Just touch Tall Man with the other hand. For nosotros, I point to my wedding ring--marriage means US, right? For ustedes/ellos/ellas you hold your teacup finger up like "those people" and point around the room.

Step 4) add the roots. Start with something simple, maybe their choice of something familiar like cantar, hablar, or escuchar.

Step 5) draw another hand--on another page if necessary.

6) Make it an -ER verb. Add new endings to this set of fingertips and fill in a familiar verb (everybody loves comer).

Step 7) draw another hand.

8) This one's -IR. Make it a verb they like--or can pretend to like. Say, escribir or vivir.

9) If they like it, they know what to do:

Queen Bey from PandaWhale
Maybe do a little Beyoncé dance while you explain for -IR verbs this means that we've got -imos instead of -emos.

10) Practice some either on whiteboards, on a bunch of pre-prepared hand cutouts for fabulous garlands of conjugation, or just with partners on their own hands.

11) Call it a day. Practice subject gestures and suffix chanting (perhaps to the tune of "Single Ladies," I don't know) as needed.

At some later date, say when you're about to run out of the building screaming if you see puedamos one more time, introduce a few more hands to show some stem changing, maybe jugar to start with the familiar chant, then a little poder and dormir, and if their minds are really ready to be blown, tener and venir (which require new thumb jewelry).

PS ALL of these were on one college test. Points off for misspelling.

PPS I may or may not have given almost identical tests in the past.

#5 post of 2015

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