My research and this unit are about how to teach Spanish. The strategies that I offer are not specific to the topic that I use in each example. As a language teacher, feel free to adjust, add, or exclude any of what you find here to your classrooms.
The first part and probably the most important part of teaching this unit is teaching about how the brain learns language and why learning language through pictures is more effective than translation. Finding a unique and engaging way to teach this in Spanish and making sure that the students are comprehending can be a challenge. As I said earlier, I believe that if the students understand what is happening within their brains as they are learning the language, they are more likely to become invested in it. Using William Bull's method of using contrasting images you can get the students to comprehend how Broca and Wernicke's sections of the brain function. The following would be a series of images, that you can create yourself or find some cartoons for online. The text in bracket is the image and the text in quotes is the language that accompanies it.
[Human with dialogue bubble, recognizable Spanish vocabulary]
"La persona habla."
[Zombie with dialogue bubble, not recognizable gibberish]
"El zombie no habla."
[Human reading a book]
"La persona lee."
[Zombie trying to read a book, looks confused]
"El zombie no lee."
What you want to do is show that a person can perform the four skills of language use reading, writing, speaking and listening-- and a zombie cannot. After you show all the images, your final image should be the contrasting a human brain with that of a zombie brain. You want your human brain to have Broca's area and Wernicke's area lit up. By pointing and using simple words like
, students should be able to deduce what skills are controlled by each section of the brain. After the activity give them a sheet with comprehension questions on them that include English: What skills of language is Broca's area responsible for? What about Wernicke's? It is also important to include a question that allows students to make a connection to their own lives, if they know someone who can read and listen but not speak. The fun cartoons, simple language, and connections to their own experience will give students the best chance to retain the material you want them to leave with.
Using Flaps to Teach Changing Concepts
One of Andrew Wright's most effective techniques is the use of flaps. You can use this with any set of vocabulary that has changing meanings.
to not like
something is an easy example. What you do is take a large piece of paper or construction paper and fold the bottom so that the edge reaches half way up the page. It doesn't matter which direction you fold first because you are going to switch back and forth. Assuming the flap is on the back you can draw a boy or girl's happy face. Under his or her face you can draw two or three things that he or she likes. Once you finish that you fold the paper the other way so that it covers the smile on the face. On the folded piece of paper you draw the frown and two or three things he or she does not like. The flap changes the information.
When presenting this to the students you do not need to speak any English, the picture gives the meaning of the things drawn giving happiness or sadness and the idea is conveyed. As a follow up you can give the students this assignment: have them draw their own likes and dislikes and practice speaking with each other using the pictures that they have drawn.
Ser vs Estar
This distinction is one of the most dreaded concepts for teachers to teach in Spanish because most students cannot grasp which verb to use in which situation. The following would be most appropriate for a Spanish 2 class that already has a significant amount of vocabulary knowledge as well as exposure to both SER and ESTAR. The most basic way that teachers will try to explain is that SER means to be when in a permanent state, as in the statement "I am tall" would be "yo soy alto", and ESTAR means to be in a not permanent state as in the statement "I am sad" would be "yo estoy triste." However this rule has many exceptions, so many that it doesn't really work as a rule. There are many different versions of the set of rules given, but like Bull, I will avoid using rules and use images that depict what those rules mean. As I have before, I will use brackets to describe the image and quotes for the Spanish text that should go with it.
The following is a set of images from Bull's poster collection in which SER and ESTAR are contrasted through a series of images that tells a story about an overweight man who goes to the hospital and has surgery (the surgery is implied) and becomes thin. His friend sees him and is so surprised at his new figure. Later, however, the newly skinny man goes to a café and binge eats and get fat again. SER and ESTAR are used differently in each image.
"Pedro es gordo."
[Fat man meets friend whose thought bubble says…]
"Pedro es gordo."
[Fat man in front of hospital.]
[Fat man leaving hospital skinny.]
"Pedro está flaco."
[Skinny man meets friend, friend is surprised]
[Friend with thought bubble]
"Pedro está flaco."
[Friend with new thought bubble-skinny man in fat man silhouette]
"Pedro es flaco."
[Skinny man eating… a lot]
[Fat man leaving café]
"Pedro está gordo."
This example shows that characteristics, although typically used with
, can be used with
in certain situations. While showing each image, you should have the students read each one and take time to look at each one. At the end of this activity it should be acceptable to have a conversation in English about the activity as a whole, especially the first few times you do it. A follow up activity would be to use similar pictures and have the students write the caption for each one.