What I, and I assume most people, love about the holidays is the nostalgia.  This time of year I like to use this to my advantage.

I don’t repeat many lessons, but a couple that I do enjoy using with my Pre-AP Spanish 2 students are my holiday lessons. I have one lesson that I use before Thanksgiving that focuses on “transculturation”– taken from a quote on the Zachary Jones website. The unit borrows heavily from his activities and allows for a lot of surface-level, Intermediate-Low cultural comparisons.

After Thanksgiving, I enter the “Mi recuerdo favorito” unit with these same classes. I kicked it off this year with a lot of drama. I set a huge, old, fake Christmas tree in the center of the room, tree skirt and all. I put a giant QR code up on the TV screen.  Try it below to see where it leads 🙂

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And last, but not least, a HUGE, very well wrapped gift with a giant bow. Hint: it had a hole cut in it for easy access.

As students entered, I invited them to scan the QR code and to sit around the tree. With the word “regalo” on the board as a reminder, I launched into a fully comprehensible explanation of my favorite thing to do as a child: play with Barbies. Keep in mind, that my students had never had a formal explanation of the imperfect tense. I went on to some personalized question and answer about what everyone else liked to do as a child. They really get into this part, because they love talking about their favorite childhood toys and activities. Isn’t adolescence such a bittersweet time?

Finally, I asked the big question: what’s in the box?

Those who had scanned the QR code already had a hint. After taking some guesses, I began removing the extra special contents–two original Barbie and the Rockers dolls, complete with guitars, tamborins, a jambox, AND the HUGE tv vhs recorder! Oh, boy, did they ever cackle!  They thought it was so hilarious. Then they ALL were clambering to scan the QR code and watch that ridiculous video!

As fun as this sounds, this isn’t even the crowning jewel.  All of this and the following instruction is all scaffolding for an interpersonal project. In this unit, I ask students to find a native speaker of Spanish and set up an interview to find out 2 things: how the interviewee normally celebrated their favorite childhood holiday, and what is the interviewee’s favorite memory from a holiday. This is a great opportunity to practice our conversational strategies and our use of usted to show respect. My students go out, make appointments, and video themselves, then they put the videos into their ePortfolios. No one ever sees the videos except for me and the individual student. Fortunately, one of my darlings and her parents gave me permission to share her interview!


From here, the students begin to build an oral comparison. I first model for them how the presentation will take place. I invite one student to the front to “interview”, and use that information to give an impromptu comparison. Using the chart below, students build their formal oral comparison.

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Notice how nicely this chart shows the similarities between the imperfect “yo” form and the imperfect “él/ella/usted” form! Also notice that my students are “using past tenses correctly and within context” (one of our really lame state standards; my sort-of apologies if you were on that board making those lame decisions). Also notice that I never have to “teach’ a single grammar rule to my students during the course of this unit.

On Friday we will begin our presentations.  I cannot wait to see the final products! It always fascinates me when my kids stand up and calmly talk about something that excites them, moving fairly fluidly between two tenses that always gave me, an “anglosajona”, nightmares as a student. But maybe that’s because you can’t get the feeling of the differences between the two from a textbook!