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Christine Mosso

When you were taking your education classes, either as a major or as part of a certification program, you probably had at least one instructor who threw out this nugget of advice-a good teacher borrows, and if necessary, steals ideas that work. Maybe it wasn’t stated so baldly, but call it teamwork, cooperative teaching, whatever…if you have a good idea, share it.

If you see a good idea, borrow it. So in that spirit, this is an activity I created and happily gave to my colleagues, who loved it, and now I’m giving it to you. Feel free to make modifications to fit your students’ abilities, your time constraints, or your personal preferences. Make it your own, but here’s my version of an activity that works with telling time-including the daunting 24-hour clock, numbers, some practical life skills, group work, and critical thinking skills.

The set up is this: your class is traveling by train through Spain, or the Spanish-speaking country of your choice. I chose Spain because it has an extensive train system, so there are lots of options. Set up “stations” in your class. Each station is a different city in Spain. I placed a folder with a timetable for trains leaving from that city: Madrid, Sevilla, Barcelona, La Coruña etc. on desk, tables, counter space-wherever. I tried to use cities from several different regions in Spain. You should have as many stations as groups of 3-4 in your class.

The folder also contains a set of questions which the students can answer based on the information on the timetable. I suggest no more than 5 questions. Most of the questions-in Spanish- can be time related: If you want to have dinner on the train, what time does your train leave? The questions are up to you. I found some critical thinking questions such as: Why is one train fare more expensive than the other ones (such as the AVE high speed trains compared to the regular trains) or why would some one take a night train?

Provide students with an answer sheet– so they don’t write on your questions- and to help them keep their answers organized. Tell the class that they will pick a station and answer the questions in the folder. So students get a chance to work at each station, set a time limit for each station-5-7 minutes works well.

At the end of that time period, the groups should rotate. If you want to really get in the spirit, you can even use a train whistle sound when it’s time to rotate. Circulate among the groups and provide help when and where needed. Be sure to allow for time to get the class together and share answers (make sure you have your answer key!)

It’s pretty amazing how much fun the students have doing this and it’s a different kind of activity that works with telling time…including the 24-hour clock that can be so intimidating at first. It’s a great review of numbers, and you can use the activity with first-year students to even third or fourth year students. The level of the Spanish you use in your questions is the key. You can throw in some cultural tidbits about things to see and do in each city. The activity does take some preparation on your part, but if you laminate your timetables and questions, you can use the information year after year-or lend them to a colleague. Pass it on!

¡Todos a bordo!

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