Earlier in the school year, we finished a unit on a Wednesday, and since the following day was a Thursday before a long weekend, I didn’t want to start the next unit. I didn’t want to start a unit on a Thursday and then wait until Tuesday for the second day of the unit. So I tried what Ben Slavic calls Invisibles. I haven’t read his book yet, but from what I gathered from one of my PLCs (professional learning community), it’s something like a combination of a special person interview and asking a traditional TPR story. First teacher and students identify an inanimate object, and then teacher asks students for the name and characteristics of this object. Eventually, this inanimate object turns into a character. In one class we have Avocadrew the burrito and in another Salty the sandwich. As we develop these characters, there’s a notetaker to help us remember the character’s details and an artist to draw the character.

It happened again this week (the week before Spring Break) that I didn’t want to start a new unit before a long break. This week we finally got to create an adventure for Avocadrew and Salty. Since it was the week before Spring Break, I decided that our invisibles should go on a trip to Colombia. Why Colombia? Because I wanted to include Shakira’s Bicicleta and be able to talk about bicimáquinas.

The first day we listened to Shakira’s Bicicleta and learning about the places in Colombia mentioned in the song. We used materials from Allison Weinhold and Carrie Toth. My students enjoyed Allison’s geography research mini-project (see her materials for more detail). In groups of 4-5, students shared in Spanish what they learned about the various Colombian cities mentioned in the song.

The second day we came up with these class stories – about Avocadrew and Salty. At the end of class, as an exit ticket, students wrote a 5-8 sentence summary of the story.

The third day we read the story and played The Unfair Game. Here’s Martina Bex’s template. We played the version of the game in which one student plays against another student. It’s also possible to play in teams, but I think it’s more fun to play one v. one. I didn’t use the template this time because I didn’t have time to type up the questions. As a result, I learned that we need more practice with questions that start with ¿A quién…? So I’m kinda glad they had to listen to rather than read the questions.

Since we were talking about bikes, we watched this clip, and now I’m wishing I’d had my students draw a design for their own bisimáquina, name it and write a description of it. Next time.

For brain breaks throughout the week, we danced to this routine.

While the stories and songs are enjoyable and compelling enough that students learn language from them, I’ve always struggled with coming up with Enduring understandings (from ACTFL publication) for mini units like this one. Since Parque Tayrona is mentioned in the song, perhaps finding out about the differences between national parks in the US and in Colombia. Does Colombia have a national parks system? (I don’t know).