Spanish Notebook Section 3: Grammar Structures

Spanish Interactive Notebooks

If you’ve read my posts on teaching Spanish without a textbook, you know I’ve moved away from teaching explicit grammar. I don’t introduce verb charts until at least December, and every year that gets later. For the first part of the year, our grammar section sits empty.

This is because students are acquiring grammar structures through comprehensible input, even when they don’t know it. Our “class content” section is chock-full of grammar. It’s just not explanations, dissections, or drills. If I have to teach it, I keep in mind I’m really teaching “linguistics” and try to make that quick and understandable.

So, why do I have a specific grammar section at all?

  1. Some students will be moving on to other teachers and schools. It will help them to be able to talk a little bit about Spanish.
  2. Some students are analytical and like knowing how things work.
  3. It’s nice to have a reference section that shows all the forms in one place, especially the ones we didn’t get to (i.e., a student is writing and is can’t remember how to say we like).

Bottom line: I think it’s perfectly fine to not teach explicit grammar in Spanish 1 at all. I also know that some teachers must teach explicit grammar. And they need to teach it in the most efficient way they possibly can.

How I teach grammar efficiently, with notebooks:

1. I think of teaching grammar as vocabulary, not mathematical formulas. I don’t do a lesson on el, la, los, las anymore, but just group them with other words (los libros). Article adjective agreement is really hard, and full of exceptions. I tend to teach much more directly now “this is how you say _____,” intead of “this is how you use ______.”

2. I wait as long as possible. Don’t present ser within a verb chart. I wait until we’ve had months of stories with soy, es, etc, and then one day casually spend a few minutes entering ser into our irregular verbs booklet. This is so much easier, because we’re not writing down jibberish into a chart. Soy means something to them. The pattern is an “aha!” moment, that organizes some words they already know.

3. I use foldables that implicitly show patterns, and explain as little as possible.

We learn “me gusta, le gusta, and te gusta” early on. When we get to the gustar page, I talk as little as possible. I say, “to express “we like“, say “nos gusta.”” The singular vs. plural contrast is obvious from the page.
I used to teach verb chants early on. Now, we use regular verbs for months before charting them. When we spend a few minutes filling in our regular verbs booklet, most of the students pick up on the patterns on their own. “Oh look! All the verbs that end in ar use –amos for we. It’s so much for effective for students to notice patterns when they are ready, than to have it explained.

Spanish interactive notebooks gustar

Don’t try to explain gustar! Teach me gusta, le gusta, etc. in context first. When I think my students are ready, we put this together.
Spanish interactive notebooks gustar

On the back of the flap, we write an English translation. On the page underneath, we write out an example or two. The whole thing takes half a class period.
adjectives in spanish

My students didn’t need this the past year, but it can be a quick overview if your students need to be able to identify article adjectives in Spanish.

This is the very last insert I do in Spanish 1.The whole year, the students have been hearing them in context (especially “le dice”).

Object pronouns can be very tricky. I use these pages as a reference, because students really need repetitions in context to get this. I don’t explain much, but just present it as this is how you say ________.

This might be better for Spanish 2 classes, as a review, but here it is.  There are several options, but I like having the yo, tú, and él/ella/Ud. forms together

I like the booklets because they’re so intuitive. They take a little more cutting than most of my pages, so we listen to a Spanish song while prepping. I’m terrible at teaching vosotros, so at least the students have seen it in our notebooks!

Sometimes the students don’t automatically connect the infinitives to the conjugated forms that frequently show up in class. I still don’t make a big deal of explaining how stem-changers work– this visual helps them connect the dots, when they’re ready.

To be honest, I just can’t get enough reps of every important irregular verb in, and it’s nice to have a spot for reference. I recommend filling in this booklet as needed, not all at once (= information overload).