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Engage Students with Circling

Circling is a big part of the TPRS Storytelling method that is used in Sonrisas Level III. As we have written about before, circling can also be used in Sonrisas Level I or Level II to teach small chunks of language. Circling consists of establishing a statement by asking a question, then repeating the statement, then asking a “yes” question about the statement and repeating the answer, then asking an “either/or” question and repeating the answer, and finally, asking a “no” question and repeating the answer. Combining this strategy with questions about student’s interests is a great way to insure a high level of student engagement and get lots of valuable interpersonal communication. For example, write the following question on the board, “¿Cuál es tu comida favorita?” Tell students you want them to answer the question by writing a complete sentence in their notebooks. Then you can begin circling like this:

  • You: (Ask a specific student:) “Ana, ¿Cuál es tu comida favorita?”
  • Ana: “Mi comida favorita es quesadilla.”
  • You: “Clase, la comida favorita de Ana es quesadilla.” (Write this on the board.)
  • You: (Ask a specific student:) “Jack, ¿La comida favorita de Ana es quesadilla?”
  • Jack: “Sí.”
  • You: “Muy bien Jack. La comida favorita de Ana es quesadilla.”
  • You: (Ask another student:) “Megan, ¿La comida favorita de Ana es quesadilla o es pizza?”
  • Megan: “Es quesadilla.”
  • You: “Muy bien Megan. La comida favorita de Ana es quesadilla.”
  • You: (Ask another student:) “Marco, ¿La comida favorita de Ana es hamburgesa?”
  • Marco: “No.”
  • You: “Tienes razón Marco. La comida favorita de Ana no es hamburgesa. Es quesadilla.”

Then you can start all over again with another student’s answer to the question. Some things to note about this process:

  • Students can answer the questions at their own level. For “yes” and “no” questions they can simply shake their head, they can answer with a one word response, or they can answer with a complete phrase.
  • You always repeat the correct answer. In this way you get lots of valuable repetition.
  • Through the repetition students begin to build strong comprehension of what sounds correct.
  • Once you have several answers, you can then begin to compare and contrast by circling with questions such as: “¿La comida favorita de quién es quesadilla?”

The beauty of this strategy is that you not only engage students by asking about their interests, but you can also target specific constructs or grammar concepts with certain questions For example:

  • Target ir + a + infinitive with, “¿Qué vas a hacer esta noche?”
  • Target telling time with, “¿A qué hora te acuestas?”
  • Target preterite tense of verbs with, “¿Qué hiciste este fin de semana?”

The sky is really the limit with this. For my own classes, I like to use this activity at the beginning of class for a warm up and to pique student’s interest by asking about their lives. Other benefits of this strategy include: students have the opportunity to practice writing in Spanish, students get practice with lots of relevant vocabulary, and students build their comprehension and speaking skills. You may have to model for students how you want them to write their answers or how you want them to respond to your questions. You may also want to practice the circling sequence with a colleague or individual students before you implement it with your class, but once you get the hang of it, circling can be a great tool for engaging your students in lots of communication.

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