I think that most French and Spanish language teachers might agree that teaching the past tenses to English speaking students is a long process. While I am positive that we all have developed many activities, methods and strategies for the teaching, reinforcing and constant reviewing, sometimes it is helpful to use something unexpected, completely outside anything the students have seen. I have used the cortometraje, El Monstruo del Armario, with some success with my Spanish III students, and with great success with my Spanish IV students.
I had attended a workshop about using short clips effectively in language classes, and as I continued to explore, stumbled across the NotodoFilmFest. While I definitely do not recommend sending students to the site, as there are all genres of film, there are films of interest, including El Monstruo del Armario, that you can access through youtube instead. Just over three minutes in length, in Spanish with English subtitles (but very little speaking), El Monstruo del Armario captures the interest of students from the opening seconds. Briefly, it shows a older man, presumably the father, awaken, complete with eerie music. As he goes down the hallway, he hears a scream and enters the bedroom of a young boy who tells him there is a monster in his closet. I won’t reveal the remainder of the film, hoping that you will watch for yourself. The ending of the film is very much a surprise and students will be inclined to want to talk as soon as it finishes. I have found this short very effective for having students describe orally with partners/small groups the appearance of the house, the father, the boy, and the bedroom, usually after a second viewing. New conversation prompts can be added, such as “What happened? What did you see? What did you hear?” Naturally, using the preterite and imperfect somewhat correctly is the goal of this communication. Of course, responses could be written, but at this stage I prefer to have all communication spoken. A final step, the next day, is a third viewing of the film. Since the ending of the film is open-ended, I then have students, in pairs, write an ending to the story, again emphasizing the usage of preterite and imperfect. We then share the endings in class and vote on a favorite ending.
So, what do you think? What would you do differently? What would you add? I look forward to your responses.