Screaming Ninjas with Subjunctive

I get emails every now and again asking why I don’t write more about my upper level classes…One such email bemoaned, “You frequently write about your ‘little darlings’ but what about your ‘not so little darlings’? What are they doing?”

I don’t write much about my level 4 Little Darlings because every class is the same: My whole curriculum is Gran Hotel so every day we talk about the all the juicy drama and ask when (if ever!) will Julio and Alicia finally kiss?! We review the drama, we predict the drama, we write about the drama, we act out the drama…I wrote about it once…but there’s really not much more to say!

But…every once in a while something is so awesome in my upper level class…something works out even better than I planned…the stars align and I’m so jazzed…that I’ve just got to write about it. And this is one such post.

In Level 4, I’m loading them up with LOTS of subjunctive input (because what goes in must come out!). Our target structures for Episode 1 of Gran Hotel are things like, le pide que le dé/ prohíbe que entre / espera que todo salga bien / insiste que que se casen /no cree que haya…you get the idea.

Before our Episode 1 Celebration of Knowledge (which was last week!) I wanted to really give them a lot of reps of these structures and so I busted out Screaming Ninjas, a really fun vocab game, inspired by Sr. Wooly’s tres acciones game. Previously I’d only played it in level 1… but it’s even better in the upper levels with a few tweaks.

In the original, students stand in a circle with the teacher in the middle. The teacher says a vocab structure and then points to a student, who does the predetermined action. The fun part is that the students on either side of the student do a different but related predetermined action at the same time. So, for example, the teacher says “vive” (lives) and points to a student. The student who is pointed at mimes opening a door and says “Mi casa es su casa” (Thanks Laura, for the idea, I love it!) while the students on either side raise both hands up over the middle student, forming the roof of a house.  Students who mess up (do the wrong gesture or don’t gesture, or gesture when they’re not supposed to) are moved into the “outer circle” and all the students who are in the “inner circle” when the timer rings get a poker chip.  If you’re unfamiliar with this game, here’s a post with some videos, to get you up to speed. 

So…in my level 4 class, we made a few changes to make it work with our subjunctive target structures. Since all of my Episode 1 target structures rely on a change of subject, it worked out beautifully to have the person I pointed to respond to the first verb and the students on either side to respond to the second (subjunctive) verb. Here’s what it looked like: (you’ll have to use your imagination since I didn’t film it! Sorry!)

Insiste que se casen (she insists that they get married):

Person in the middle (who the teacher points to) waggles finger like a mom telling her child what to do, while the students on either side link arms and hum the wedding march dum, dum da dum…

Prohíbe que entre (She prohibits that he enters)

The middle person holds out palm in a “Halt” signal while students on either side mime opening a creaky door.

Espera que todo salga bien (She hopes that everything turns out well)

The middle person crosses both fingers and looks up, like they’re hoping something will happen, while the students on the side lean in and give a super cheesy thumbs up.

Pide que le dé (She asks her to give her)

The middle student raises hand up and snaps, as if calling a waiter at a restaurant, while students on either side reach into their pockets and hand the middle person some imaginary object.

The brilliant thing about this game is that it takes a lot of practice for students to get good at it…and so that means LOTS of repetitions of the structures  before you actually start playing and eliminating students who do the wrong motion. And kids who mess up aren’t really eliminated, (because, hello, we want them to keep getting input and repetitions!) they just move to the “outer circle” by standing behind someone who’s still in the game. Students in the “outer circle” do all the motions that the person in front of them does…but if that kiddo messes up, the guy in the outside circle moves to the inside circle and is back in the game! The kid who messed up moves to the outside circle and stands behind another students who’s still “in”. (Is that confusing? Let’s say Jamie messes up so she leaves the circle and stands behind Jared. She does all the same motions as Jared, when he’s pointed to, and when Jared messes up, Jamie is back in the game and now Jared leaves the inside circle and stands behind anyone else, let’s say Bethany. If Bethany messes up, then Jared is back in the game!) Project a youtube countdown timer, Two and Three minutes work well, and when time’s up, everyone on the inside circle earns a point. Everyone who’s standing in the outside circle (behind another student) doesn’t get a chip, then everyone joins the big circle again for another round.

Start with 3 structures (written on the board with their translation so you remember which structures you’re playing with and so kiddos can glance over for a reminder, too!). Introduce them slowly, practice them a bunch, then start playing. After each round, introduce a new structure (teach the center motion and the side motions, and do plenty of practice!) and then play again, with the previous structures and the new one added. Every round gets harder because there are more motions to remember.

After we played 3 or 4 rounds, we played The Bonus Round. Students who are in the “inner circle” at the end of the game earn 2 points BUT they have to listen carefully because the teacher is going to mix and match structures. So the teacher might say “Prohíbe que se casen” or “espera que le dé”. There are no new words or new motions, but they’re recombined in different ways. I wish you could see their faces- they were so focused and intense!

AND GUESS WHAT?!  I was super delighted to read a lot of those structures in my Little Darlings’ Celebration of Knowledges. They got so many repetitions that they overflowed into their writings! See, What goes in will come out! 

And while we’re talking about the “not so little darlings”, here’s another one of my favorite upper level games: ¿Cómo se dice?

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