Some week long units to start the year. Please share!

First, this unit is COMPLETELY inspired by Cynthia Hitz (check her out on

Last year, my colleague Paige started the year with a unit she designed around a commercial for BHD Bank called Cactus.  Cactus and the Bank  Her unit is designed to turn a movie talk into a week long unit with embedded reading, slide show, screenshots to retell the story from… It is great!

El Cacto CLOZE El Cacto y El Banco Embedded Reading Photo Story

This year, I created two further units, one for Spanish 3 and one for Spanish 4… but neither is level specific.  Just a good way to review some past tense, get a few reps of some subjunctive structures, and add a little new vocabulary… specifically some good transition words.

For Spanish 3 I am using this commercial for Directv called Parecidos

Parecidos PhotoStory Parecidos Slide Show Parecidos Parecidos Cloze

For Spanish 4 I am using this commercial for Saga Falabella called Atrévete Cambia

Atrevete Cloze Atrevete Embedded Reading Atrévete photo story Atrévete slide show

My lesson plans are pretty simple:  Monday in all 3 levels we will do a movie talk of the commercial after our 10 minute free read.  Tuesday, we will do the slide show after free reading and will read version A of the story.  Wednesday we will watch the video one more time, we will read version B, and then we will sit in a circle on the floor with printed screenshots on the floor in the center.  Students will pick up the screenshots and describe them, tell what happened in the story, ask questions, etc. as a class discussion.  Thursday we will read 10 minutes then practice retelling with the photo story page with a friend.  They will write out the story from the photos alone for an assessment.  On Friday they will do the cloze activity as an interpretive assessment and will call my google voice and record the story from the photos.

I hate doing this many hours of work and then not getting a ton of use out of them so please borrow and share!

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

20 thoughts

  1. Thank you for sharing. I am just starting to use embedded reading and would like to see this lesson in action. Is there a video of a teacher doing this that you would recommend? Gracias

  2. Thank you so much! I used the “El Cacto” video and movie talk with levels 3 and 4. I assigned a re-tell for homework. One of my 4s said not to re-tell to a young kid because they will think they have to change to have friends. It led into a whole discussion of “would you” with them. Lots of more complex structures and all student led. Gracias!

  3. I really appreciate all that you do! Thanks for your willingness to share. I hope you know how much of an inspiration you are!

  4. Super awesome! In order to introduce some structures, I made a vocabulary slideshow with some vocabulary/structures to focus on. (¿A qué se dedica? atreverse, y vencer plus some review questions for tener miedo, confianza, requerir). If you would like a copy, I’d be happy to send it. I have a quick question of what activities you are planning to do with reading. Are you planning to translate line by line or just circle the sentences? I can’t think of another thing to do with the readings. Suggestions?

  5. Carrie!
    I’m trying these out this year and can’t wait for school to start tomorrow! 🙂 Thanks for all you share! Hope you’re first day of school went well at the new school!

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