Tuesday, January 26, 2016


A reader asked me to post about teaching family. I like to use famous people and make a fictitious family because I do not know all the social relationships and I could easily offend someone making them part of the family or not. Also, being a TPRS/CI teacher, it has to be comprehensible and all in the target language. Those of you who are familiar with TPRS/CI, this is a variation of ask-a-story.

By the time I get to this part of the lesson, the students know a sufficient amount of descriptive vocabulary and some very basic family words. This makes the first part review and we slow it down when getting into more detailed family members. One of my goals for this lesson is to focus on the N de N method of possession: la hija de Michelle.

Start small and work towards more complex. As stated earlier, students already know these words so it is merely review and accessing their background knowledge. TPRS involves lots of questioning using comprehensible input. So, I will start off with...

[pointing to Barack] "Clase, ¿Es Barack un hombre o una mujer?" Sí, es un hombre. [We can then briefly describe Barack] "Clase, ¿Tiene Barack un esposo?" No, Barack no tiene esposo. Barack tiene una esposa. "¿Cómo se llama la esposa de Barack?" Sí, la esposa de Barack se llama Michelle. "¿Es Barack un esposo o una esposa de Michelle?" Sí, Barack es un esposo; es el esposo de Michelle. This line of questions will continue until I feel most of the class is comfortable with these words. Then we go to the next picture...

It's interesting that some students don't realize that Barack and Michelle are from the previous picture so I will make a few quick questions again about their relationship. Then I add in questions for "hijas":

"Clase, ¿Quién es la esposa de Barack, Malia o Michelle?" Sí, Michelle es la esposa de Barack. "¿Michelle y Barack tienen hijos o hijas?" Sí, tienen hijas. "¿Cómo se llaman las hijas de Michelle?" Sí, las hijas de Michelle se llaman Malia y Sasha. "¿Cómo se llaman las hijas de Barack?" Sí las hijas de Barack se llaman Malia y Sasha. "¿Es Malia un hijo o una hija de Barack?" Sí Malia es la hija de Barack. This questioning continues until I feel most of the class is comfortable with these words. I may ask them to turn to a partner and use the words "esposo, padre, hijo", or forms of the words, to describe the First Family.

This is the point where obviously it is no longer an accurate family tree for the Obamas. This is where TPRS becomes really fun! The above line of questions continues for this vocabulary. In this diagram, Beyonce is the sister to Barack and Bill is the brother to Michelle. Once they start to get comfortable with the vocabulary, you can add in any additional details or descriptions that you have been working on to start to create a storyline for the family. The crazier the better is what TPRS is all about. Be sure to return to earlier vocabulary to continue circling the information and get more aural repetitions. I like to pretend I'm getting confused and say things like Barack is married to Beyonce so that they have to correct me, or that Sasha is the sister of Bill.

A basic storyline has ensued and now we have additional family members. Whenever a new set of vocabulary is introduced, be sure to circle the relationships using the N de N possession as much as possible. In this diagram, Morgan and Diana are the parents of Barack and Beyonce. However, Michelle and Bill's parents have already passed. Yes, this makes for an interesting plot twist to the story. Reasons for their passing can become very comical, especially given that they are talking about the First Family. Sometimes I will include "in-laws" if I have a particularly advanced group of kids that need the challenge. Other times I feel accomplished to just get the basics done.

The final vocabulary has come. Gary is the son of Bill, the cousin of Malia and Sasha, and if you want, the nephew of Barack and Michelle. Gary, el primo, is the final family to be added so he is the one that resolves the problem presented in the story created.

Now that you have a quasi-complete family tree, you can easily review the vocabulary from today, including the N de N possession. Kids will remember the details of this diagram, including the vocabulary, because it is so bizarre and interesting to them.

For an assessment, simply giving them this family tree and having them explain it without the use of the vocabulary in view is a great way to have them show what they know. Asking them questions (orally or in writing) about the family tree is another way. Doing a quick write or a proficiency write looking just at the family tree will also provide you with a valid assessment.

Obviously any vocabulary you wanted to include could be substituted, along with other grammatical structures and people.

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