Sunday, May 22, 2016

Let's go to the movies!

I finished a unit and assessed my Spanish 2 students at the beginning of May.  When I looked at the calendar, I realized that left me three weeks until finals.  Definitely not enough to tackle another full blown unit.

I stumbled upon a Facebook post about a Mexican movie called Canela.  Whenever I find a movie I want to see, I immediately check Netflix and normally, they don't have it.  But they have Canela!   The next step was determining how much I would have to censure the movie for students.  I watched it in amazement...not a single "swear" word, no violence (sorry someone splashes mole on someone else's shirt!) and no nudity.  Not even cleavage!  This is a wholesome, feel good movie.  AND, it's perfect for novice learners with no extended dialogue to frustrate them that they are missing something.

I investigated the materials that were with the Facebook post I read.  This wonderful website came up:  I started reading and printing all of Kara Jacobs' materials for the movie.  She essentially formed a unit for Spanish 1 - all contextualized - based on this movie.

This is super awesome but I just needed three weeks.  My Spanish 2 students were also a VERY difficult group this year.  I have turned myself inside out trying to engage them.  I had to make this movie something special for them or it was going to be a very long three weeks.

Here is what I did...(click here for my plans --> IN SPANISH and here is the accompanying student packet)

Week 1

Day 1:  We discussed "películas" and "el cine".  We discussed students' favorite movies and why.  We then discussed what "canela" is (cinnamon) and students made predictions about why a movie we are going to watch is called "canela".

Day 2: We discussed the essential questions (I used Kara Jacobs' essential questions).  We then watched the trailer for the movie and made more predictions.  Then, we read the synopsis (Thank you again for this idea, Kara Jacobs!) and read an article about the movie.

Day 3:  We reviewed what we had learned already and we discussed mole.  Students read a mole recipe to answer basic questions about it.  I also showed them a video of mole preparation and pictures of it.

Day 4 - 5:  Now it was time to meet the characters!  We first talked about "personajes" and how they are different from "personas".  I then gave them pictures of the 10 main characters and papers with their names.  In pairs, they had to match them up and then we went over them.
     They then received a paper with a picture and name of one character to describe both physically and possible personality descriptions in pairs.  When they were done writing, we went over all characters with students taking notes in their packets.  After each group presented their information, I showed them the slides from Kara Jacobs' Google Slides presentation so that they could get more information about the characters.  Last, we did a game of Kahoot to practice their knowledge of the characters!

***After the main characters were introduced, I put up a bulletin board of the characters.  I have actually watched students turn around in class to reference it!  :)  I just printed out the slides from the presentation, mounted them on colored paper to look nice.
My Canela "bulletin board" (AKA chalkboard I don't use!)

***As this week was moving along, I wanted students to be familiar with vocabulary related to the movie but I didn't have an extra day in my three weeks to go over vocabulary (some of which they already knew).  Therefore, they received one homework assignment with the vocabulary on the Monday of this week due for Tuesday, we went over it on Tuesday, and then they received the second assignment to complete for Thursday.  They kept the two assignments for reference.

Week 2 - Part of Week 3

Finally time to watch the movie!!!  (Let me say that I did have a discussion as to why there was so much prep work done for this movie with the students.  They understood that we were prepping for a movie in Spanish and they needed a little info to be successful!)

I didn't just hit "play" and sit back.  I divided the movie into "episodios" and gave them titles.  In their packets, they have a notes page to correspond with each episode.  They even refer to the episodes by number!!!  I started the episodes off small - around 7-8 minutes - and then increased them.  I didn't want any freaking out and I wanted time to make sure they understood what was going on.

I am showing the movie in Spanish with SPANISH SUBTITLES.  No English.

Before each episode, we do some kind of small activity to review or predict.  As they watch the episode, they take notes in the box at the top of the sheet in their packet.  I usually give them categories to fill in such as people, places, important information, activities, food, etc.  One day I tried to let one class go without categories for their note taking and it was a disaster.  In the future, I think I would change the note taking box to be more structured.  After we view the episode, they share their notes with a partner and then we all discuss what they have.  If they didn't get something that is discussed, they are expected to add it to their notes.  I then turn them loose to answer the questions.  After a couple episodes, this was getting a little repetitive, so this past Friday I assigned questions to pairs of students (each group had one question) to answer and then present to the class.  This helped things go faster!

After Episode 3, I found the need to discuss the restaurant and its problem more.  We completed an activity to figure out how each character is related to the restaurant and then we discussed 1) why the name of the restaurant is El Molcajete; 2) what is wrong with the restaurant and 3) what are solutions both presented in the movie so far as well as what students could think of.

***On a side note, by this episode, I had observed how the week of prep had helped my students so much.  They know the characters and they are picking up on extra things in the movie!  They are asking questions on a deeper level!!!

Tomorrow we will watch Episode 5 and we will finish the movie on Wednesday.  Thursday we will do the "Después de ver la película" questions (we have 20 minutes classes that day due to an awards assembly) and Friday we will talk about the essential questions.  I have them at the end of the packet, but they might become a wrap up essay!

Assessment...I have been doing formative assessment (exit tickets for example) as we go and of course listening in on their group conversations.  As previously mentioned, I might have them write an essay.  BUT, their final exam is based on the movie!  I found another article about the movie as well as an interview with the director.  They will first watch/listen to the video to answer questions like what is the main idea, why was this produced, who would watch it, etc., and then read the article to describe the main idea, etc.  Last, they will write an email to the director with their opinion of the movie, their favorite character, etc.  I will post it after finals have taken place!

In conclusion and reflection...

WOW!  As I watch this movie, I come up with more and more ideas and wish I had been using this all quarter!!!  My students have learned so much vocabulary in context and out of necessity.  I think Spanish 2 next year might be starting out with this movie as a review for the themes in it - family, descriptions, food and places.

This also makes me think what other movies, or telenovelas, or books can I use in my classroom that I can relate to the International Baccalaureate curriculum that use themes and vocabulary in context and would be more interesting to my students???  Summer to do list!!!

I have realized how imperative that prep work was!  It totally paid off.

Please feel free to use anything I posted here that I created.  I used Kara Jacobs' material as a spring board to adjust to what I needed for my learners and my time frame.

What are movies you have used???  :)


  1. You are a Master Teacher! I can't wait to deconstruct the activities and apply them to a French film. I see a template that can be used over and over at all levels of WL. Thank you!

    1. Thank you, friend! I appreciate your support! :)

  2. Love this movie! Also, love seeing your version and resources of this unit. Also, Elena López did a TON of work to create our version of the unit with the movie ( and she is creating EVEN MORE and linking it here - Lots of great resources there!

    I did my unit with level 1 and to start my 4/5 class second semester. There is soooo much you can do with this movie! Thanks so much for sharing your ideas and resources.

    1. Kara - You are more than welcome to use anything I created! I am so excited you found my little blog! Thank you so much for the inspiration from your unit and work!!!

    2. Great! Thank you! Enjoy the rest of your school year :)

  3. Also, I will be presenting about the unit at ACTFL. Perhaps I can share your resources and blog post as well?

  4. He Beth. I am preparing my ACTFL presentation and included a link to this post. Any chance I could also include a link to your assessment?