Imperfect and preterite are terms you will almost never hear in my classroom. Instead, when we focus on narrating in the past, we use phrases like descriptive past and sudden past. In my opinion, that’s the best way in my opinion to contrast them. The trick with putting them together is to get students to use one when they’re describing ongoing action and switch to the other when they want to say what happened.
A good sequence for practicing narration in the past is to start with a story. Students fill in the details, in which our two characters were going somewhere (a birthday party for the horse’s mother) in some way (on an airplane) doing something (eating chocolate straws) with someone else doing something (Miley Cyrus not wearing enough clothing) when something happens (the plane fell) and while that was happening other things happened (the people screamed, the horse pushed Miley Cyrus out of the plane).
I thought about using children’s books as a follow-up exercise, having them describe what was happening on the page. I did that very quickly at the end of a class, as an oral activity, and I pushed them to make the exercise very rapid so they didn’t have time to get bored, but I thought, if I do this again they’re going to get bored with it as a writing exercise. But it’s almost March Madness. We live in KY where basketball is king. I have 2 girls who will probably have a volleyball scholarship in college. I’ve been hyping up the upcoming World Cup. What if I find amazing sports videos, culturally relevant, in Spanish, to use instead?
So these are what we found. Manu Ginobli, the most accomplished Latin American basketball player ever, beats Serbia & Montenegro at the buzzer in the 2004 Olympics (make sure your students watch the clock & the score box). The USA scores on a fabulous corner kick in a World Cup qualifier vs. Mexico. Peru’s volleyball team makes an amazing play in their bid for a spot in the 2010 World Championship games in Japan after their star actually kicks the ball–I didn’t even know that was legal.
We watched the videos through, used sudden past to say what happened in the big moment of the game, and then paused the video in different areas. We named some random person on the screen, and each student had to use the continuous past (our focus of the week) to say qué estaba haciendo esa persona. We did this 3 or 4 times for each video and I took the writing as a daily grade. It worked beautifully. My students could have watched the videos a dozen times so they didn’t even care that they were technically doing a grammar writing exercise. This also works well for oral practice.
What amazing videos can you find to catch your students’ interest and add some culture in as well? Here are ours: