The Alphabet

The alphabet is one of those annoying things to teach. It’s easy enough, I suppose, and lends itself well to playing different games and whatnot, but it gets old after a few years. Also, it IS important, and it ISN’T important at the same time. Students don’t NEED it to communicate in the target language, except on very rare occasions (like when someone asks you to recite the alphabet…oh wait, that never happens…when someone asks you to spell your name for them), but it helps with decoding and pronunciation. The saving grace for me has been storytelling–you can make anything engaging if you can personalize it! AFTER you’ve gone over the alphabet with the students a few times and they are comfortable pronouncing the letters (albeit with the support of a notes sheet), try this idea:

Preparation:

  1. When students enter the room, have a question posted on the board: Which letter of the alphabet is your favorite?
  2. Also on the board, have the translations written for me gusta, te gusta, and le gusta (I, you, s/he likes). “Le gusta” (s/he likes) should be most prominent.
  3. Have a stack of Alphabet flashcards ready.

Script:

Ask a student, «¿Qué letra del abecedario te gusta?» (What letter of the alphabet do you like?). You could also ask for his or her name first, to get in more reps of those structures. When they tell you which letter they like, hold up the flashcard for that letter to show the class, and say “This is (name). (Name) likes the letter (A)”. Then, circle it (Does s/he like the letter A? Does s/he like the letter A or the letter B? What letter does s/he like?). Finally, ask the student “Why do you like the letter (A)?” Most often, kids will say (in English) that it’s the first letter of their names. This allows you to get reps on the word “begins con” (empieza con), although it’s not a target structure. Say “(name) likes the letter (a) because (name) begins with (a)!” Super stars will pick it up, though, and it’s a good word to have. Keep working around the room, asking more students what their favorite letters are. At the end, to collect the letters, ask a string of “Who likes the letter (a)?” And pick up the card from that student when the class gets the right answer.

Here are some of the other alphabet activities that I use:

  1. Videos–here are the links to three of the videos that I use: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRgfP5DpMIQhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0CKmwC6FfOA

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUcu9PUh9_A

  2. Name game–Have the class stand up. Start spelling a first or last name, and ask students to sit down once they are sure that you are not spelling their name. For example, a student named “Bob Jones” would stand up while you said “B-O” but would sit down after you said “R”. A student whose last name is “Bornack” would remain standing.
  3. Kinesthetic letters–Have students spell words using a reusable set of letters by giving them one letter at a time.

Keep in mind these official changes to the alphabet when teaching the Spanish alphabet to your students

11 comments

  1. Gracias Martina! I really enjoy reading your blog, your ideas are so creative and helpful! I thought I would try to send you an idea that I do with the alphabet. I have the students work in pairs and write secret messages, usually silly things about themselves, it could be in English or Spanish, for example “I love Spanish”, the students would have to then spell their message out to their partner to see if they can guess it. You can play this game with anything also, for example, guess that movie, and have the students spell out movies for the class as a whole to guess or play in groups. My students are always engaged with this activity. I will keep writing more soon! Gracias otra vez:) ~Maureen

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  2. A fun puzzle-type game I’ve done each year for 4 years (with success!) is spelling out acronyms. After students are familiar with the letters, I read out acronyms for them to write: NBA, FFA, CBS, MTV…I’m sure to include the professional organization associated with every sport represented in my class (for example, the golfers love it when you include LPGA as well as NFL). It’s a great puzzle to guess the acronym…they think that is the purpose and forget they are actually learning the alphabet.

    For Spanish teachers, Bablingua has an inexpensive but fun exercise. They do man on the street interviews where people spell their names. It is a great way to expose kids to el castellano. You can preview the mini-video of the activity for free. It’s pretty hard, yet students enjoy the puzzle of it and the fact that is is real people…we repeat each name several times then at the end go through the entire video. Usually the kids are surprised at the end that they actually can hear the individual letters (after all the repetition).

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  3. These are such great ideas! Thanks to everyone. Martina, (or anyone), do you have a Master Plan that you follow for each level, do you use a textbook as your guideline or what? I love these lesson plans, but feel rather scattered. I started with Camina y Corre. How long do you stay on that and how do you decide what to introduce next? As I said before, I teach Sp. I and Sp. II with a mix of 9-12th graders and one class (one semester only) of 8th graders in Exploratory Spanish.

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    • Hi Cindy, I DO have a ‘master plan’; for Spanish 1, I have been working from an in-the-works curriculum from TPRS Publishing that I helped write. Because of copyrights, I can’t post that on the website, obviously, but it will be published eventually and at that point I would highly recommend it! We have been working hard to make it excellent, and I know that it will be quite affordable (as are all TPRS Publishing materials). For now, you could buy a teacher’s guide of Cuéntame más simply for guidance for you, or I think there is some kind of a package that allows you to use all of the readings for it without buying textbooks for your entire class. I’d check it out. After I teach Camina y corre, though, I teach Cierra la puerta.

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  4. Hey! I found another youtube alphabet video that the students really like. These two are the same except the first one has more explanation at the beginning of The Royal Academy’s changes to the Spanish Alphabet. They are to a military cadence.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUcu9PUh9_A&feature=rela by Barbara McArthur from Sing, Dance Laugh and Eat Tacos 2 and the other:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1DyAhNNsqQ&safety_mode This one is fun because it repeats it three times. They speed it up each time.
    Happy Learning!

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