Here is the continuing saga of the travel unit…as promised.

Would you like to jump into my classroom experience for a moment? “Sra. Rhodes, I’ve never even been to an airport…how am I supposed to know what happens there?”  So….The students have to learn all the different places in the airport, the people they need to talk to, and also the process of going through security, finding their gate, and eventually going through customs and immigration on the other side of their pretend international journy…but they’ve never been to an airport. Ever.

This one took some thought the first time because I can show them all the target language videos in the world taking place parts of an airport, or one of those comedies where a family runs hysterically through the airport, but short of some lovely Spanish-speaking person wearing a Go-Pro narrating their experience through an airport for me, we’re not really getting the essence of the airport experience.  (Please email me if you find the Spanish Go-Pro airport video…that is some #authres I seriously need in my life.)  My solution?  My crazy life.   I tell them a story about my trip last summer to Canada using the slides from my word wall.  My parents live in Canada, which they know, so that lends credibility to the story, despite it being completely made up.  They somehow believe that if I tell them a story about me that it is absolutely true.  I’m not sure why.

As I tell them the process of how I drove to the airport, parked my car, talked to the ticket agent, checked my bags, received my boarding pass, waited in line, passed through security, etc. I show them a picture that represents that part of the story.  I put each picture up on the board as I talk, but all over the board, not in order.  The story ends when I leave the airport, having arrived in my destination city.  Not too complicated, but it did require listening and connecting images with my words.  As their first practice, I have them try to order the pictures as a whole class based on what I said.  There is lots of “No, no…she said she bought a coffee BEFORE she got on the plane” and “first you take off, then you land” and other types of corrections.  They’re correcting each other in English, but here as in the Art Quest example, if they CAN correct each other, it means they understood.  Students who did not understand are typically quiet.

IMG_3674Here’s the amazing part, and the real key for me:  I told them a story in the past tense. Every sentence was “I walked. I talked.  I waited.”  They understood my story.  I haven’t taught them the preterit tense at all yet, but not one kid freaked out.  They got the meaning from the words and the visuals and the setup which was “Mi viaje el verano pasado…” (My trip last summer…)  So, when I saw that they were understanding my words and getting the meaning, I pushed it one step further and wrote out a story for them to read.


This time we went to Bogota.  No idea why.  I numbered each sentence and had them draw out the story like a comic strip, 1 sentence per box, including every detail somehow.  Once they had it drawn, which shows me their comprehension of the overall text, we started to do an analysis in the target language!  I had them underline every word they thought to be a verb based on the structure of the sentence, and my brave volunteers went and circled those verbs on the board.

IMG_3675Then they wrote all the verbs in a column, and at that point, I switched into English to ask them what they saw.  They told me that each verb ended in “e with an accent” or “i with an accent”. Then I asked them which infinitive verb they thought each one came from.  They got them all right because of the context and the stems.  Because I was intentional about including –AR, -ER, and –IR verbs in my story, they were able to see which types of verbs had which endings.

I asked them to talk in their group about what they had figured out and to come up with a rule about verbs.  They came up with “in the past tense, when the subject is ‘yo’, -AR verbs end in “e with an accent”, and –ER and –IR verbs end in ‘i with an accent”.  I may have jumped up and down… We also looked at a few examples in the story that were weird or problematic and addressed those changes as well.

While I know that it doesn’t cover every form, or most irregulars, or really weird irregulars, it does give them a baseline to understand the tense.  The process took less than 10 minutes, and they got it from listening, reading and then thinking about it.  How cool is that?!  You may have noticed they were just writing their notes on a blank paper.  At that point I had not made a cute guided notes page because I wasn’t sure this was going to actually work.  I have attached the pretty version of the notes sheet for you lovely people, that I made AFTER the activity worked so well.  I hope it works for you as well.  Have fun!

En el aeropuerto Read-Draw

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Image Credit:á)


Published by Rosalyn Rhodes

Rosalyn Rhodes is currently a Spanish teacher in Charlotte, North Carolina. She holds a Bachelors in Spanish from UNC-Greensboro and a Masters in Teaching K-12 Foreign Language from UNC-Charlotte. She has traveled and led student groups in Nicaragua, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic. In her thirteen years of teaching, Ms. Rhodes has taught every grade level K-12, and has worked in both public and independent schools. In her professional career in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, she served as the WL New Teacher Coordinator and WL Master Teacher, writes curriculum, and presented a variety of professional development workshops. A member of both ACTFL and FLANC, her 2014 and 2016 FLANC presentations earned top 10 status, and Ms. Rhodes was named the 2015 FLANC Teacher of the Year. She loves teaching Novice learners and states that her goal with her students is to “open their eyes to new people and new places, and to equip them with the language skills necessary for their own cultural journey.”

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