Pretérito review Day 2

Earlier this week I discussed how my attempt at reviewing all of the million rules we’ve learned in the preterite in Spanish Two flopped big time – mostly because there was no communicative purpose to my grammar-heavy project!! Today, I tried to change that.

To start off with, I did want to give my students the chance to wrap their heads around ALL of the preterite rules they’re required to know to advance to Spanish 3. Ar/er/ir, car/zar/gar, leer/oir/creer, boot verbs, irregular stems…the list goes on forever!! I told them they were going to get 12 minutes (and ONLY 12 minutes) to take notes on everything we’re learned using this website from Barbara Nelson.  I gave them a blank piece of pink copy paper, and told them to put their headphones on and/or get in the zone to copy down all of the rules. Since I teach middle school, I usually throw in a note-taking lesson with this type of activity as well (Do I want you to copy every single verb conjugation down? NO! Do I want you to take the notes you need to remember all the topics we’ve covered? YES!)

After our 12-minute note taking session, my students produced varying degrees of beautiful notes on the preterite rules in a form that made sense TO THEM. I was surprised with how intently they worked (though I shouldn’t have been; they’re awesome). A couple students finished, but most didn’t, so I told them to use the notes they had as a springboard to help them finish the rest of the notes for homework. After that, I told them to partner up with a student from their table and get ready to write some sentences.

We do activities like this often in my class (I’m pretty sure I stole it from Project CRISS training). The basic premise is that there are blank pieces of posters taped all around the room with a prompt on them. Today, the prompt was a place (restaurant, party, house, park, etc). Each pair has one minute at each poster to come up with a sentence in the preterite tense about something someone DID at that particular place. After one minute, I’d play some music for ten seconds to cue them to walk to the next poster to do the same thing. They came up with some pretty great, creative (and correct!) sentences.

My challenge to the students was NOT to repeat verbs – they couldn’t use a verb someone else had written on the poster, and they couldn’t use a verb they had written on a previous poster. They were allowed to take their preterite notes with them, so they had plenty of verb ideas on hand to use. They also were told to correct any mistakes they saw on each poster they saw. I always love seeing them correcting each other’s work (so I don’t have to!)

At the end of the activity, each pair gets back to the poster they started writing on. Then, they have to present to the class 1) any common errors they saw, and 2) their favorite sentence on the poster. This gets them excited about seeing who will pick the sentences they wrote, which ups the quality of their work too, of course. After each presenter, I ask for “dos palmadas por favor!” (two claps please!) as an applause and a behavior management trick – it keeps them focused.

I love this type of activity, and I was so excited to see them applying their preterite rules in an entertaining and engaging way. They also walked out of class singing Shakira in Spanish since I was playing Waka Waka every 60 seconds to cue them to rotate to the next poster – culture bonus!!

Do you ever do activities like this one in you class? What effective activities have you done to teach and review the preterite? Let me know in the comments below!



This is my first year teaching Spanish 2, and I am really struggling with how to help my students remember all of the irregular preterite rules they are responsible for on our curriculum. In an uninspired, tired state, I consulted Pinterest, and found this project the helps students to review the preterite tense by making a cereal box!

Before you read any further, let me just say this project flopped for a variety of reasons. One: there is no communicative purpose to making a cereal box with grammar notes on it. my students kept asking me questions like “What does this have to do with anything?” and “Why cereal? This doesn’t make sense!”

I generally agreed with them, which is why I put off assigned this project in the first place. My students are used to having a real, communicative, proficiency based purpose to everything we do. This project was so exclusively structure-based that it didn’t meet my standards, or their expectations of me. My class time would be better devoted to having them practice using the preterite in real-world contexts. Writing stories, sentences about what they did in a certain place, etc. They needed to see the words in action, not write about them in a thinly veiled excuse for them to take notes.

Next year, I will focus the notes where I like to focus them: at home. I also think I want to introduce the preterite all at once, instead of chunks across weeks. I want to do a preterite unit that focuses much more heavily on USING the preterite, instead of memorizing vocabulary charts. I guess I will have to write more about that next year. For now, I will let one of my classes finish this project, then move on.