Conducting Great Skits in Class

Jalen Waltman teaching detalle (1280x1016)The skit is the primary source of comprehensible input targeting the new group of vocab I’m trying to teach for the day. I have a very predictable, set way I do this every time:

1. “Find your vocab list.”

As I’m pulling up a word document displaying the day’s vocab in large font on my projection screen, I call out, “Busca la lista de vocabulario, clase.” Since we do this every day, they easily know what I’m saying, but it’s okay if you want to use English.

You can find the vocab list Word document on the CD-rom that came with your book. If you don’t have the capability to project from your computer onto a screen, you can write out the vocab phrases on the board.

2. Explain what each word or phrase means.

They write in the English translation of the Spanish word or phrase on their vocab lists while I explain each phrase. I often pick out the main/unknown target words that aren’t direct cognates and ask a question such as, “how can you remember ‘relámpagos?'” I let them think for a second and share any ideas. Usually someone finds the word “lamp” in “relámpagos,” but if they don’t, I point it out. I have little memory devices in my head for almost all the vocab I teach, either ones that I use myself or that students have thought of.

3. “Does anyone need clarification on any of the vocab?”

I ask this to make sure everyone has all the English written down. If anyone isn’t writing, I say, “Write that down, Jonathan.”

4. “Hide your vocab list.”

I have them either close their binders or turn the list over. “You can’t have the English in front of you now, so you can acquire the Spanish and not just try to memorize it.”

5. Gesture the vocab.

We (the class as a whole and/or I) make up a gesture for each vocab word or phrase. After I show them the gesture, I stop gesturing and just say the phrase while they show me the gesture. I go through the list at least 3-4 times, until everyone is gesturing pretty seamlessly, then I do a closed-eye assessment to see how well those vocab phrases have stuck in their short-term memory. For a more detailed explanation and conversation about Gestures, see my blog posts on Gestures to Teach Vocab and Gesturing the Vocab and Homework in First Year.

6. Choose actors for the skit.

Choosing actors can be a tricky business, unless you’re teaching middle school and every kid wants to be in every skit. There are many ways to do it, but my current and best-working method is asking students to choose actors. I usually have the actors from the skit before choose the next skit’s actors. I’ll say, “Andrew, what guy in here would like to have a date with Megan Fox?” He’ll pick: “Thomas!” I write Thomas’ name on the board. “Anna, who should play Megan Fox in the skit?” Anna picks Sydney, and so on. For more details and explanation about choosing actors (because it’s kind of complicated,) see my blog posts Acting and Getting Actors for Skits and Getting Actors part 2.

7. Narrate the skit and direct your actors to act it out in front of the class, with props if desired.

Read directly from the skit as written, or feel free to simplify and/or ad lib as desired, as long as the target vocab phrases get said as much as possible. Sometimes your actors will do something funny that you want to maximize, so feel free to improvise and let them ham it up.

For prop ideas, see my article on Getting Started with My Lessons.

8. “¡Un aplauso!” and sit the actors down.

I always say “un aplauso” and start clapping at the end to get the class to applaud the actors as they go to their seats.

9. Q&A in Spanish.

I ask the class questions about the skit, going back through the major events and using the target vocab again. You can do fill-in-the-blank, ask Sí­/No questions, either/or, and/or open-ended questions. Mix it up. If no one is answering a question, they might need it to be simplified, so change it to a sí­/no. If they still aren’t answering much, ask the question and then call on an individual student, spreading this around the class. You’ll be surprised how even the quietest kid can and will answer simple Spanish questions just fine when they are called on individually.

10. Skit retell. 

If there are stick figure storyboards for the skit, pass out the pics and have students take turns telling the story to their partner in Spanish for 1 minute each. You can also do this without pics for the skits that don’t have them if desired.

And that’s it! This entire process can take me anywhere from 15-20 minutes to 30-35, but I recommend keeping it all together in one block. Gestures only keep the vocab in short term memory, so you need the skit right afterwards, and story retells are much harder if you don’t do the Q&A repeat of the story right beforehand. So if you are dividing up my lessons for shorter schedules, the whole skit sequence I described above needs to be together (everything else can be divided up and/or rearranged.)

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