Students can synthesize Spanish learning by writing stories or journals. It is also a great way to focus practice on specific Spanish grammar concepts, vocabulary, or verb conjugations. Students can write independently, or as a teacher you can write stories or pretend journal entries together in class. I like to begin by writing stories together so that my students have some guided practice first. Here is how:
Provide Spanish Sequence Words
Provide these Spanish sequence words on the board to help order the story events:
- primero (pree-meh-roh) = first
- luego (loo-eh-go) = next, then
- entonces (en-tone-sehs) = then
- por fin (poor feen) = last, finally
Provide a Spanish Story or Journal Topic
Provide a topic for the story or journal that prompts students to use verbs, vocabulary, and grammar they have been learning. If you want them to use specific verb forms, such as the “he/she” forms, then choose to write a story about a specific person or made up character. A topic example might be, “María’s day at the park.”
To guide them to use specific verb tenses you can do the following:
- present tense – write about what the character does today
- past tense – write about what the character did yesterday or last week
- future tense – write about what the character will do tomorrow
Always provide specifics about what verb tenses or grammar concepts you want them to use.
Do Not Let Students Use a Spanish Dictionary
Do not let them use a dictionary or online help. They should approach this as if they have no other resource other than themselves and what they know. This pushes them to communicate using what they have learned and develops creativity in learning to communicate in spite of language non-fluency limitations.
Some students will try to say things they have not yet learned. Continue to steer them back to saying what they are able with what they know. Guide them in saying things in a more simple way to communicate what they want to say the best that they can, even if it is not exactly how they would be able to say it in English. The point is to get them to enhance their Spanish learning by resourcefully using what they know so far.
Write the Spanish Story on the Board
To begin, provide a starting sentence or see if any student has a sentence to offer. Write that sentence on the board. Have students raise their hands to contribute sentences as you continue to write the Spanish story on the board. As you write the story on the board, your students should also write it in a notebook.
Allow students to add Spanish verbs, vocabulary, or grammar they have learned in previous weeks or semesters, just be sure they are also following the specifics you outlined prior to beginning. Pulling old material and incorporating with the new is all part of the synthesis that develops the ability to communicate creatively and in an open-ended way.
Once the story is finished, read it aloud as a class together. This helps develop reading and pronunciation skills. Even have students read it to each other in pairs. One student reads while the other just listens. This builds listening skills that serve later in their Spanish learning for conversation.
Follow up with a Spanish Story or Journal at Home
A great follow up is to have your students write a story or journal at home. They can take home the story you did in class as an example. Provide some specifics to guide them in writing the story or journal entry just like you did in class. Do not let them use any online or dictionary help. Tell them to pretend they have no other resources to communicate other than what they know. Reassure them that it is ok if there are mistakes. That is just part of the language learning process.
When they come back to class, put students in pairs and have them read their Spanish stories to each other. Also see if any volunteers would like to read their story or journal to the class. If you do have a volunteer, then ask the class follow up questions in Spanish about the story that they answer back to you in Spanish.
Writing Spanish Stories or Journals is Valuable Practice
I think that writing Spanish stories or journals is a very valuable Spanish learning practice. Students need lots of opportunities that allow them to synthesize the various components of language, i.e. Spanish vocabulary, Spanish verbs with conjugation, and Spanish grammar, so they eventually are able to communicate on their own with Spanish speakers in various situations.