I continue working with co-operative groups in class. Our latest activity practicing the preterit and imperfect paid off very well. My students started the year with some background in the conjugation of the preterit tense, but it has only been in the last six weeks that they learned about the imperfect, and how to use both tenses together to tell a story or narrate events.
I have been giving traditional notes using Powerpoint presentations, and my students have been practicing both tenses in context with partner activities, conversations and writing activities. I was concerned that they really were not grasping the distinction between the two tenses, so last week my lesson plans involved complete immersion of this grammar point.
I started our the lesson with an individual pre-test. Students read a short narration and had to choose between the two tenses and provide the conjugated verb in the corresponding blanks. They were allowed to use their notes which contained verb conjugation charts and notes on tense usage. As soon as the students took the pre-test, I asked them to get together in their co-operative groups and re-take the same test as a group. A grade was given for the group test, but the individual test was a baseline score for me.
The second day of our preterit vs imperfect immersion week, the class viewed the short animated film by Pixar called Jack-Jack Attack. It was perfect for the thematic vocabulary covered in our text. As they watch the film I would stop it during key points, and asked the students to consider the tense they would use to re-tell the story. After seeing the film for the first time, I gave each student a storyboard organizer. With their partners, they brain stormed vocabulary in Spanish that was used in the animated short. We saw the film a second time, and this time they took notes on their storyboards in Spanish on the action of the film.
The next time we met, students worked with their co-operative groups and used Google Docs, their storyboard and their class notes to re-tell the story of Jack-Jack Attack in Spanish using the preterit and imperfect appropriately. I then took 3 of the student created summaries, and turned them into an assessment in the same format of the pre-test.
The first part of class the next day was spent in student co-operative groups with one version of the assessment. As a group they figured out what verb tense was needed in each blank. If they had questions, they were directed to each other or their class notes. After all groups finished, we went over the activity together as a class, giving any students who did not get their questions answered in their co-operative group a chance to ask me or the rest of the class for clarification. I then gave the students an individual assessment in the same format of the practice activity.
Although the test grades were very high, what I found to be better evidence of student learning was the discussion I over heard when they were working together as a group. I heard students giving specific examples to support their opinion, students clarifying the grammar point to their classmates and students correcting each other’s work. I believe the group work and peer discussion did more to help my students understand the concepts than all the Powerpoint presentations I used previously.