Letting a grammatical concept unfold naturally……

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted, and I’m feeling quite the urge to begin again!  Just about a year ago, I wrote an entry on “si clauses” and how I introduce them with my Spanish IV classes.  I’m approaching that unit again, but, because I move further and further each year AWAY from my designated grammatical curriculum and more toward encouraging language and allowing the grammar to happen naturally, this unit is unfolding even more differently this year.

My Spanish IV students have not been introduced to either the conditional or the past subjunctive.  In fact, I have all but abandoned the mechanical teaching of any grammar concept, and have just let things happen as they will.  A few days ago, we had done a cocktail party where each student had been assigned to be a famous musical artist.  Their goal, during the party, was to discover the identities of their fellow musicians, without using any song title or musical composition.  To their surprise, I chose only English speaking artists.  The lesson was a big hit, and they enjoyed class quite a bit (aided no doubt by the fact that I served sparkling grape juice, cheese, pepperoni and crackers).  As we were discussing the activity the following day, and as they enthusiastically requested to repeat the “party” in the near future (next time it will be with famous historical figures), they questioned me about musical artists who typically sing in English and whether they sing in Spanish.  Beyonce immediately came to mind, and a few days later, I began class with “Si Yo Fuera un Chico”.  Of course, they were hooked! 

I followed the video with a very old article that came from the marvelous Zachary Jones when his site was called Actualidades. We then examined the lyrics in Spanish, and made some comparisons with the English.  With some careful questioning, they discovered, by themselves, how the “would” verbs were formed, including one irregular (haría).  After reading, and some discussion, I split the class into groups to discuss these questions that Zachary had used after his article:

(Para las chicas) Si fueras un chico, ¿qué harías? ¿actuarías diferente? ¿Qué comprenderías mejor? (Para los chicos) Si fueras una chica, ¿qué harías? ¿Te portarías diferente? ¿Qué comprenderías mejor?

Conversation broke out slowly at first, but gathered steam.  We wrapped up class by creating a list of their ideas and responses to the questions.  I told them that the next day, they would be grouped in groups of all boys or all girls. When they arrived the next day, we very briefly (no more than a minute) looked at the formation of the “would” verbs, and glanced at the irregulars for tener, venir, salir, poner, decir and hacer.  After that, I split into groups and gave them their directions for their conversation for the next 5  minutes.  The choice of words came directly from their conversation and subsequent listing the previous day:

Para los chicos:

Si fueran Uds. chicas……

  1. Sus personalidades (amigables, chismosas, habladoras, etc.)
  2. Sus apariencias (la ropa, la maquillaje, los zapatos, los acesorios, etc.)
  3. El estado de sus cuerpos (limpios, afeitados, perfumados, el pelo, etc.)
  4. Sus actividades y sus pasatiempos
  5. Sus portamientos (behaviors) en la escuela y también con sus amigos/as

Si fueran Uds. chicos………

  1. Sus personalidades (crueles, violentos, tercios…..)
  2. Sus apariencias (la ropa, el pelo, los zapatos, los acesorios, sin ropa, etc.)
  3. El estado de sus cuerpos (sucios, sin afeitarse, el peso {weight}, etc.)
  4. Sus actividades y sus pasatiempos
  5. Sus portamientos (behaviors) en la escuela y también con sus amigos/as

At the end of the five minutes, I gave them all dry erase markers, and sent them to different whiteboards in the room, where they were told to draw everything that they had talked about in their individual groups.  After another five minutes of laughter and whispers, I had the groups rotate to a different board.  With a partner from their group, they examined the pictures, and attempted to say everything that was pictured, saying “I would…..”.  Rotating again, they were required to work with a different partner from their group, and repeat that exercise.  Finally, I had the groups sit, working with yet another partner in their group, they were asked to write as much as they could from the pictures on one of the boards.  I collected the papers and asked them how they felt.  They were unanimous in their agreement that it was FUN, EASY, and they feel like they have a grasp on this new verb formation.  I will follow this activity with many of the activities that I detailed in that earlier post on “si clauses”.

Here are some examples of what they talked about, then drew, then wrote about.



Here is an unedited/uncorrected compilation of some of the things that they wrote:
Si yo fuera un chico…….
No me ducharía mucho y no lavaría todos los días.
Comería toda comida en casa, especialmente las galletas y el helado.
Haría ruidos asqueroso y holería mi “armpit”. (I think they wanted to say “smell”)
Me llevaría bueno con mi amigos y no pelearía pero hablaría de nada.
Jugaría videojuegos violentos todo lo día y pensar cosas violentos.
Llevaría pantalones flojos (saggy…no sé la palabra) y ver mi ropa interior.
No me importaría de mi pelo; no me cepillaria mi pelo mucho.
Comprendería todos los deportes y hablaría mucho de cosas estupidas.

Si yo fuera una chica……
Maquillaría mucho y durante la clase cepillaría mi pelo y preguntar mi amiga si mi pelo es perfecto.
Hablaría, hablaría y hablaría y pelearía con mis amigas siempre.
Sería chismosa y deciría cosas malas y no verdad.
No conduciría bien y tendría problemas con mi coche.
Comería frutas y verduras y hablaría de mi “weight” y soy gorda.
Estudiaría mucho y recibiría buenas notas pero deciría que tengo notas malas.
Haría mi tarea toda la noches y sería un “suck up” con la profesora.

I’m going to use this video, called The Black Hole, to start the next class. It doesn’t contain any speech, just video, and I will ask them to talk about what they would do with “a black hole”.

14 thoughts on “Letting a grammatical concept unfold naturally……

  1. Pingback: Love Learning Spanish Blog - Teaching Si Clauses

    • There are no active links to his old blog, Actualidades. I had saved a part of the article from about 5 years ago, so I could still use it. I linked to his new site, because it is simply so awesome.

      • Hi! I just discovered your blog! This looks like a great activity! I am having the same issues as lasenoraseals. When I click on the link I can’t find the actual article. It only shows his current ones. Is there any way to access it or could you email it to me?


  2. Thanks so much for this idea!! I have to teach this concept to IB students & I, too am trying to pull away from the book & let the learning happen “naturally”. Thanks for sharing!!! AWESOME!

  3. What a nice idea. I am moving away from the textbook (almost completely) I still struggle with not teaching grammar. My students have done very well with Preterite and Imperfect, even though I never taught them one rule.

  4. Hi! I just discovered your blog! This looks like a great activity! I am having the same issues as lasenoraseals. When I click on the link I can’t find the actual article. It only shows his current ones. Is there any way to access it or could you email it to me?


    • The link is not to the article, it is simply to his site. The original article was on a very old site of Zachary Jones. He no longer has anything accessible from that old site. I’m sorry.

  5. Hola! I just wanted to say MUCHAS GRACIAS for your idea of what to do with the “Si Fuera un Chico” video. I am working on the conditional with my Spanish 3 students, and they had so much fun with the drawings today. How can I share pictures with you?

  6. Just curious if you can explain more what you mean by the cocktail party. I’m intrigued. Gracias. 🙂

    • I served “wine” (juice” in little plastic wine glasses and trays of cheese/crackers, etc. The lights were dimmed and I had classical music playing in the background.

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