in Spanish 3 we are about to tackle the Spanish Civil War.  My class knows a lot about war from our study of El Salvador so I wanted to activate some prior knowledge.  This collaborative brainstorm (out train-storm) seemed like a good way to start ignite their thinking!

1st buzzer (8 minutes) brainstorm a list of 5-10 things you remember about the war in El Salvador, its causes, and its lasting effects. Sign your name.

Pass paper left (thus the train)

2nd buzzer (5 minutes- read the facts listed and add as many more as you can) and sign your name.

3rd buzzer (3 minutes)- read the facts and add anything else you can and sign your name.

At this point I collected the papers and asked table groups to create a master list of causes/events/effects of the war.  They could only use TL at their tables.  I kept them honest by having them use a phone to record a voice memo of their discussion!

My students are playing amazing race this year and this was one of their tasks!  Their ranks in the race were based on both quantity and quality of train-stormed facts!

What I liked about the activity was that seeing what others had written often jarred students memories and led to further development of the lists!  In addition, slower processors were able to contribute because they could read and write at their own pace! Sometimes they get left behind in the upper level classes because by now the fastest processors are so very very fast!

Author: senoracmt

I began teaching Spanish in Illinois in 1994. I have taught levels 1-4 in a small rural high school, 8th grade introductory Spanish, Biology 1, and 101 and 102 at the community college level. My Spanish classes are partnered with the community college to offer students 8 semester hours of dual credit on completion of Spanish 4. In 2011 I met Carol Gaab and Kristy Placido and have since co-authored the book "La hija del sastre" with Carol Gaab and authored the novels "La Calaca Alegre", "Bianca Nieves y los 7 toritos." "Vector," "48 horas" and "Bananas" through Fluency Matters. In 2006 I became National Board certified and I have been serving as a mentor both for candidates seeking certification in world languages other than English and a virtual mentor for candidates in all certificate areas. I completed my Masters degree in Spanish education in 2011 and did my research on the use of Understanding by Design to create meaningful cultural units for the language classroom. I am a frequent presenter on this topic, please consider me if you are interested in a workshop on backward design. In 2013 I was named the ICTFL Foreign Language teacher of the year and in 2014 I was selected as CSCTFL's teacher of the year. In November of 2014 I was lucky enough to be one of the five finalists for the ACTFL National Teacher of the Year in San Antonio, TX. What a "Cinderella" experience! You can reach me via email at senoracmt at

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