Immersion at Home: Tarea en Vivo

One of the challenges in the remote learning era is to get kids engaged with language in an authentic way. Usually we are giving them lots of input in class, but it’s hard to provide that immersive environment when students are at home. A way I’ve tried to extend my Spanish classroom in the past is by giving out a huge list of “real world” choice homework assignments for them to complete throughout the grading period.

The basic idea is to give kids a a bunch of things they can do to interact with authentic language and authentic resources in a very real way. I tried to put together a ton of no-teacher-prep, short assignments dealing with real shopping, radio, TV, retail, travel, and music websites from Spanish-speaking countries. You can steal a free a copy of the instructions and list of assignments I gave my students here, which I adapted from Sara-Elizabeth’s post on choice homework here and Creative Language Class’ post on Real World Homework here. (As someone once told me, teachers are the best “borrowers.”)

In terms of grading and choice, you can give out varying “points” for the difficulty of each assignment. A one-point assignment would be to put vocabulary Post-it notes on ten items around the house. A five-point assignment would be to make a cooking video from a recipe you got off of a Spanish-language blog.  For my students, I told them they needed to turn in three points total each week. They could do three one-point assignments one week and a five-point assignment and a one-point assignment for two weeks, but they needed to average three points a week. 

As I wrote in my first post on distance learning, an important thing about this type of assignment is the idea of “proof.” When I introduced Tarea en Vivo to my students, I was  very upfront with them about how completing these assignments would be done on the honor system, and that I was aware some assignments would be easier to “fudge” than others. They had to write a couple of sentences about what they did and learned, and they had to provide a picture, video, or screenshot of them completing the activity (these were often super fun to see!! I usually got a kick out of them). They also could not repeat any assignment during a nine-week grading period.

Overall, Tarea en Vivo did succeed in getting my students interacting with language in a very real way, and it was always fun for me to see them engaging in real world Spanish outside of class. The drawback was that it was logistically challenging to grade, so I ended up having students be very clear with keeping track of their points explicitly in the report they turned in each week. I also wasn’t super nitpicky about grammar and vocab errors; I just graded for proficiency and completion.

Even if you don’t use Tarea en Vivo as a full-on choice homework framework, hopefully the ideas and activities presented on this list will jump start your brain on activities you can offer as enrichment while students are at home. Good luck!

La Tomatina Name Game

Back-to-school time means back-to-blog time around here! I was going through my back-to-school materials this week, and one of my favorite activities from my dear Spanish 1B 7th graders jumped out. I’m sharing it here today in the hopes that someone else can enjoy it too.

This lesson started out as a very structured plan on La Tomatina, and then when we had 15 minutes of unstructured time at the end of the lesson, it evolved into a name game/paper throwing extravaganza inspired by this post from Amy Lenord. I’ll share with you how to turn this delightful improvisation into an actually great lesson for the first weeks of school.

First off, La Tomatina is such a wonderful cultural hook at the beginning of the school year. The actual festival happens in August, authentic resources are relatively easy to find, and food fights seem to be a universally engaging activity. I usually start the lesson off with this great wordless ad from Ray-Ban. It’s a beautifully shot video, and it lends itself well to your standard #authres activities. You can use it to anchor a movie talk, pause it periodically to get students to guess what’s going to happen next, or, my personal favorite with Novices, get students to write down as many words and phrases describing the video as possible. You can read more about this no-prep authentic resource activity here.

Once we get through the beautiful Ray-Ban video of La Tomatina, I’ll show a video that goes into detail about the what/when/where of the festival. This one from Tío Spanish and this one from SpanishPod101 are both pretty good. I usually have a worksheet that asks students to fill in certain details about the festival (when it is, where it is, what you wear, etc.), and we’ll watch this video a couple of times to give them the time they need to get the correct details down.

This is where it gets interesting. Once you go through the answers to the what/when/where of the festival and discuss the traditions as you please, hand out blank sheets of red (or pink) copy paper. Have each kid write down their name, two sentences that describe them, and what they’re wearing today. If this is the first day of Spanish 1, they can all write down “Me llamo _____,” and the activity will still work. Adapt what you’d like them to write based on where they are with their language level.

Once each kid has their info written down on their red/pink piece of paper, have them crumple it up (yup). Then, set some strong expectations about what happens next. Your kids are going to throw their “tomatoes.” They aren’t going to hit anyone in the head. They aren’t going to stand up to throw. They are only going to throw underhanded…Whatever you need to do to ensure that everyone in your classroom feels safe. This is when I give a very strong “don’t ruin this for everyone” look to my baseball and softball players who look ready to pounce. Once everybody agrees to the expectations, on your count, they throw their tomato anywhere in the classroom.

Once the tomatoes are on the ground (or wherever they ended up), the kids stand up to grab another student’s tomato. At this point, they have to find the person who corresponds to the tomato they picked up. This can be done in strictly Spanish-only mode by having people asking their new classmates “¿Cómo te llamas?” until they find the correct person.

You can have everybody sit down when they’ve found the right person and stay in Spanish-only mode to converse, have them ask their tomato person a series of questions that you dictate on the board, have them sign their partner’s tomato with a fact about themselves to practice their writing, you make the rules. There are many ways to adapt this for multiple language levels, have your kids practice each others’ names, and stay in the target language throughout. Repeat this process as many times as you’d like to get them interacting with more and more kids in the class.

Timely cultural authentic resources + get up and move around time + practicing get to know you language at the beginning of the school year + engaging in a crazy cultural activity = winning lesson for the beginning of school!

Have you ever tried a crumple-and-throw activity in your class? How did your kids respond to the chaos? Let me know! Good luck with your first days if you’re not back already!