Emergency Lesson Plan for the Spanish Classroom

If you’re called in at the last minute to substitute for a Spanish class, and the regular teacher left you no lesson plan, you’ll have to, as they say in Spanish, “improvisar sobre la marcha” — wing it.

But the best substitute teacher always enters “la marcha” prepared with Emergency Lesson Plans. For the Spanish teacher, it really doesn’t have to be much of an emergency. Here’s a lesson plan that is both a vocabulary builder and exploits the Hispanic traditional dedication to family.

You know the answer to the question in Spanish, “Quién es la hija de tu madre? Of course, the answer is “La hija de me madre es mi hermana.” The question is easy, but makes the student think about family vocabulary in a somewhat more indirect way. It will also engage the shyer students, because the questions and responses are relatively easy to compose.

Class activity: Invite individual class members to step up to the board and write the Spanish word for a family relation, including in-laws — suegros, cuñados. Don’t forget “step-“ relationships — padrastros, hermanastros, etc. If the students run out of words, prompt them with the English family terms that they may have overlooked, or just do not know.

Then have each student compose a question where the answer is one of those relations. Have them read the question aloud and task a different class member to answer each. You either assign the terms randomly or number the terms on the board and have students draw cards with numbers you prepared in advance.

Example question: ¿Quién es el hijo de mi tío?

Answer: El hijo de mi tío es me primo.

There are over 20 Spanish words for family members (counting masculine and feminine forms and step relationships) and you can encourage students to come up with some rather complicated relationship questions, like this one:

Quién es la nieta de mi abuela y la sobrina de me madre?

That would be your prima, of course, but the student has to wade through three relationships to get to the answer, which is great practice for the steps involved in translation.

For learning assessment, save ten minutes at the end of the lesson for a short single answer quiz. Depending on how well the class did during the activity, you can leave the family vocabulary words on the board or erase them. Gather up and correct the answer sheets and give them to the regular teacher for future vocabulary building.

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