As promised to those who attended my second session at this Saturday’s day of workshops at the Instituto Cañada Blanch in London, organised by the Consejería de Educación, here goes with the powerpoints for the activity, ¿Dónde está el perro? For French teachers, it will be a pretty straightforward matter to use this powerpoint as a template to put the activity into French, and there are notes on some specifically French points as I go through. Pop back each day this week, and you’ll get the next stage of the activity.
For those who weren’t there (and as a reminder for those who were), I’ve included a full explanation of what goes on in the activity, most of it written at 33,000 feet up in the air on the way home on Saturday evening! Saturday was a fantastic day – what a wonderful event, definitely among the best organised, friendliest and most professional I’ve ever been a part of. I’m very grateful to Gilberto Terente Fernández and Isabel Mateos who set the whole thing up and looked after me so well.
The basis of this activity is the old “Hotter/Colder” game – you know the one? You chuck a pupil out of the room and hide something. When they come back in, they have to find it. As they move around the room, the others tell them when they are “warm”, “getting hotter”, “hot”. This is not, I hasten to add, a personal comment, but rather an indication of how near they are to the hidden hand grenade, or whatever it is you happen to use.
James Burch (University of Cumbria, Lancaster, or St Martin’s College, as once it was), was the first one to put me on to this as an activity for language learning. Before any of us on the PGCE course taught our first lesson, he sat down with us individually and went through it with us in the finest of detail for anything up to an hour. I’ve no idea how he made the time, but I’ll always be grateful for the fact that he did. I remember that I’d been given “numbers 1-30” to do with my Year 7 class in their first month in the school (gripping stuff) by my school mentor. I can’t remember now how I’d planned to do it, but James had a much better idea. This was it, and I’m still using it, although it’s gone through many different versions over the years. Back then, I had a pencil case in the shape of an enormous carrot (as you do), complete with rubber foliage. It was great. All of my classes coveted that pencil case, and one pupil in particular. Never found out who it was, but he (or she, let’s not be discriminatory), nicked it and I never got it back. So ¿Dónde está la zanahoria? became “¿Dónde está el perro?”.
It’s a repetition activity, and as such it comes after the presentation of the language. In actual fact, although there is a lot of repetition going on, the numbers become almost incidental. In a nutshell, when the pupil comes back in the room, everyone shouts, “¿Dónde está el perro?” and then counts from 1-30 (or more if they’re a bit slow finding it and you run out of numbers). The nearer the pupil gets to the dog (hidden in a pupil’s bag), the more loudly the class counts. The further away, the quieter it all gets until it’s virtually a whisper. When the pupil thinks he’s located it, he stops, they repeat the question and he tells them where it is. If he’s wrong, he keeps going and they keep counting, if he’s right, game over. From start to finish, this takes about 3-5 minutes. It’s best not to explain it, just do it, using the volunteering pupil to take part in a dummy run before you actually play it with the class for real.
And here’s the powerpoint for the activity at that stage. (Powerpoint 2011) Dónde está el perro 1
This is great for that stage of Year 7 (a couple of weeks in to the autumn term), and it’s the sort of activity that pupils ask to play again and again in subsequent lessons. Fantastico, repetition is what this is all about. However, I soon discovered that they can have too much of a good thing and the novelty can wear off within a few lessons. The trick is to gauge when that point is about to be reached and add a twist before it does. This point gives us an opportunity to introduce progression. In this context, by progression I mean either making their utterances longer, or structurally more complex, or developing the situation, or all three. Here, I go for all three.