Using the Content

I’ll be honest, I hate making quizzes and tests. Usually the content is either very artificial, or mostly unrelated to the material we’re covering in class. Well, I decided to make a quiz and to use Content from SpinTX. And I was very pleased to be able to find content that related to both the grammar and the vocabulary that we are covering in class! I had the students watch one of the videos (611) and answer questions about tolerance and the subjunctive, and then I had them read a modified version of the text from another video (635) and fill in the blanks with the correct vocabulary and verb conjugations, and then had them read a shortened version of the text from yet another video (1575) that contains a lot of the vocabulary we are going over and had them react to the text using the subjunctive with emotion/reaction, doubt/negation, and will/wish/desire. The quiz went very well, and I think that it definitely was more interesting for both myself and the students than a normal textbook-based quiz.

The tricky part was, of course, finding the videos that had high concentrations of the vocabulary and grammar that we are going over. I’ll admit that I cheated a little since I have access to the text files for all of the video clips and have some scripting knowledge. I wrote a script in Python that went through and counted the number of times each vocabulary item and grammar point that we are covering is used in each video, and then looked through the top ten hits to pick the three videos that I wound up using. And I also modified the content somewhat of two of the videos in order to increase the concentration of relevant content. But I think that it was definitely worth the little extra effort that it took to have a quiz of such a higher caliber.


Our assigned topic for one day of class was immigration. On this day the provided activities mostly consisted of the students discussing black-and-white pictures of immigrants entering the US and various Spanish-speaking countries. Instead I decided to use SpinTX so that the students could talk about immigration that would hopefully be easier for them to relate to. I searched for inmi* in order to find all videos in which the Spanish word inmigraciĆ³n was explicitly mentioned. I then narrowed down the search to only videos that contained the present subjunctive since that was the grammar topic we were covering in conjunction with immigration. I then selected the six videos that I thought would work best and assigned one to each of the six groups in my class. I prepared a separate Google Form for each group with the link to their specific video.

On the day of class I gave the students the links to the forms for their groups and then gave them half an hour to prepare 5 questions for their classmates to answer while watching the videos. During their preparation time I walked around and heard several very good conversations going on about the videos and immigration. After all the groups were ready we watched the videos as a class with the questions displayed next to them. The students seemed very interested in the videos and in trying to answer the questions. Having taught this class before using the activities provided in the textbook, I can say that this time with SpinTX the class went much better! In the sense that the students were more interested, more active, and there was much better discussion.

“Gustar-Type Verbs” with the Subjunctive

For this activity I had students break into groups 4 and then search for the subjunctive following the triggers (“gustar-type verbs”) that we were looking at in class. So, for example, they searched for examples of the subjunctive after molestar by doing a keyword search for molest*. I had them search for five examples using five different trigger words, and they had to identify the indirect object, verb and subject of each example.

There was a lot of laughter involved with this activity, which I always take as a good sign. Mostly they were laughing at vocabulary that they had never seen before but for which they could still guess the meaning, such as ‘bailarina’. I think that they were excited to see that they could actually understand real Spanish. They also came across some great examples that they had not fully understood but which they thought that they had understood, so this was definitely beneficial. One common example of this was when the subject of a gustar-type verb was a verb phrase that contained multiple singular nouns or a plural noun (This example is not from the corpus: Me molesta recibir cartas). When confronted with these examples they began to ask why molestar was conjugated in the singular instead of the plural, which led to what I believe was a helpful discussion.