I used to teach the descriptive adjectives as opposites with no context. It worked pretty well, but now that I have begun storytelling, I think that it will make a great topic for a story.
The story below is the first part of a story I plan to use to teach descriptive adjectives along with high frequency verbs like there is, has, likes, and wants. I began telling the story in the 1st and 2nd grades today. The rest of the story will appear as I tell it to my classes and have time to reflect on what works and doesn’t
(I’m going to wait for another reason: I am a big-time improviser, so I like to change things up on the fly to see what works or doesn’t work)
The Story (translation below)
Hay una chica. ¿Cómo te llamas? La chica se llama _1_ (student’s name). _1_ es alta.
_1_ tiene una amiga. ¿Cómo te llamas? La amiga se llama _2_. __2___ es baja. _1_ es alta y _2_ es baja.
- I ask the students his or her name to practice responding to that question-I do this every time that I introduce a new character.
- As I tell the story aloud, I write the name of the student and draw a picture of the descriptive adjective on the board.
I add a new word with every pair of students. The first pair was James and Jack (not their real names). Then, I used the words again when I added Destiny and Zoey and again for Ashley and Darth Vader.
- I also make sure to give each adjective an action: for “alta/o” the kids raise their hands high above their heads; for “baja/o,” they lower their hands way down below their waists…I also make sure that the “baja” student is down on their knees to emphasize the difference between the words.
- After finishing, I send these two students back to their seats. I have all the students stand up and we practice the motions when we hear the words. Then, I start the next part of the story:
Hay un chico. ¿Cómo te llamas? (Answer) El chico se llama _3_. _3_ es alto y es rápido. _3_ tiene un amigo. ¿Cómo te llamas? (Answer) El amigo se llama _4_. _4_ es bajo y lento.
- I send them back to their seats and have the class stand up. They practice the motions for alto/a and bajo/a and then the actions for rápido/a and lento/a. Then, I start the final part of the story:
Hay una chica. ¿Cómo the llamas? (Answer) La chica se llama _5_. _5_ es alta, lenta, y simpática. _ 5_ tiene un amigo. ¿Cómo te llamas? (We decide earlier That his name will be Darth Vader). Darth Vader es bajo, lento, y antipático.
- I send them back to their seats and we practice the actions for the words.
- After practicing, we play Simon Says (known in my class as “Señor Fernández dice…”). I state the words and the students have to perform the actions.
- Next class, I will continue the story. Now that I have introduced the characters, I will put them into situations where they need to use the high-frequency vocabulary terms that we have been using (has, wants, likes) up to this point. Each of the character’s descriptions will be an important part of the story.
There is a girl. What’s your name? (answer) Her name is _1_. _1_ is tall. _1_ has a friend. What’s your name? The friend is named _2_. _2_ is short.
There is a boy. What’s your name? His name is _3_. _3_ is tall and fast. _3_ has a friend. What’s your name? The friend is named _4_. _4_ is short and slow.
There is a girl. What’s your name? Her name is _5_. _5_ is tall, fast, and nice. _5_ has a friend. What’s your name? The friend is named Darth Vader. Darth Vader is short, slow, and mean.
- I chose Darth Vader because the kids know that I love Star Wars and I use the characters’ names in examples in class. I also choose Darth Vader because I don’t want to state that a kid in my class is a mean kid.
Purpose of Teaching Grammar in Elementary Stories
Another choice I made in the story is to choose several different girls and boys. I want the kids to notice the pattern that comes with gendered nouns and adjectives. Since words are different for feminine and masculine nouns, I make sure to point this out. I usually do this during review of the story. I have each of the characters stand up and we go through the adjectives that describe each one. Usually, a few kids will notice that the words are different and ask about why they’re different or to say, “are the words different for girls and boys?” If they don’t ask, I do point out the difference, but by pointing to other students and asking questions like, “¿Juan es alto o alta?” (Is Juan tall-masculine or tall-feminine?) and then asking one of the kids to explain why.
At this level, I will not expect them to get the genders correct 100% of the time, but I think they should at least be exposed to the difference. TPRS is great because it is an organic acquisition method; it is much more like the way that children learn a first language. That being said, the students already have a command over their language use in their first language, so we can make comparisons between the students’ first language and the new language that they are learning.
By making the students aware of the differences early, especially small ones like this, the students can have the ability to notice them when they read and when they listen. I don’t plan on having quizzes on gender and number agreement, but it is still an important thing for the students to notice and accommodate in their learning and acquisition.