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Interactive Grammar Modules for Spanish

What are the modules?

Módulos interactivos de español is a series of multimedia units focusing on areas of Spanish grammar that require extensive practice for second language learners. This program is compatible with most textbooks and is meant to supplement them in presentation, practice, and testing. Each module briefly and clearly explains a given point in the target language. An English translation is available, if necessary, as are the answers to the exercises if a student cannot figure them out after one or several attempts. The aural and visual support, the color coding for the grammatical functions (subject, direct object, indirect object), and the quality of explanations increase understanding and retention of key points. The immediate feedback is an incentive for students to stay on task.

Who is the intended audience for the modules?

The modules have been developed for students with some familiarity with Spanish. The bulk of the modules can be done by any student with a semester or two of Spanish in high school, since the only requisite to complete the modules is a genuine interest in learning Spanish, or at least in improving competence in the language. The modules are an excellent companion and complement for almost any textbook, at any level, including advanced levels. The list of modules for first-, second-, and third-year college suggests the order in which the modules can be tackled, unless the learner is interested in a particular grammar topic because s/he, wishes or needs to understand it better.

At the beginning and intermediate level, the modules help students establish a solid foundation and improve their grade. At a more advanced level, the modules help minors and majors move beyond the plateau of intermediate Spanish. The modules are also useful to professionals who wish to continue improving their Spanish. In addition to offering teachers many ideas on how to present and practice difficult points of Spanish grammar, the modules can also save them time in grading, as explained in Grading with the modules.

Why pay for the Módulos interactivos when there are tons of free exercises on the web?

One of the competitive advantages of this set of modules is the predictive power of its explanations. Textbooks frequently recycle old concepts without thoroughly scrutinizing them. The modules reflect more than two decades of scrutinizing almost every rule of Spanish grammar in order to offer students a truly predictive explanation. Readers familiar with textbook explanations are referred to the modules Por or Para, Ser or estar, Intransitivizing SE to see how scores of rules are reduced to general principles. The reduction of a list of rules to a more general principle reduces the learning load for students and leads to better understanding and increased retention of key concepts.

The modules sharpen analytical skills and promote discovery procedure because:

  • they provide general principles that account for several rules (Intransitivizing SE, Por or Para).
  • the explanation for Ponerse, volverse, llegar a ser, hacerse is framed in terms of features, leading students to realize how the meaning of words is made up of "subatomic" meaning particles.
  • the explanation for 'Personal' a shows that the marker a neither personifies nor depersonifies, against a long-held assumption. The explanation proposed is based on sound research stated in terms easily understood by students.
  • several sets of "idiomatic" expressions that presumably resist analysis (e.g. idioms with por, idioms with estar, accidental or unplanned 'se') are shown to be more systematic (rule-governed) than thought. See the module Passive SE plus Indirect Object, Por or Para, Ser or estar.

The exercises also develop problem-solving skills. Less than 200 exercises out of 3,400 require true/false-type answers (Adjective Position, Ser or estar, Por or para). Most of the answers require understanding a whole sentence and responding to it or choosing the best of more than one correct answer.

Can't I learn a language by simply being exposed to it?

Yes. But a good grammar allows you to understand key concepts in a fraction of the time that would take you to figure them out. As a speaker of English, can you explain the difference between make and do? Why is it that something will make do, but no speaker of English says that something will do make? Why do people do favors but they don't make them? Carpenters, for example, may make beds for a living. In most households, beds are made everyday, but in a different sense. If questions like these have never occurred to you, if you cannot answer them, or if you don't just understand why Spanish doesn't work the same way as English, you will probably benefit from using the modules to speed up your learning of Spanish.

A good grammar explanation saves days of work on your own for countless points of the grammar of a second language, and can lead you to grasp a grammatical distinction in minutes or hours instead of months or years. In addition, certain grammar points may need several "passes" until one comes to a good understanding of them. The modules will save you countless hours of guesswork. Having a good grammar to help one learn a second language is like having a hammer instead of a rock or no tool at all to drive a nail.

How can teachers use the Módulos interactivos for presentation, practice and testing?

Presentation

Teachers can use modules to briefly review the grammar point(s) of the day. The explanation in many modules can be reviewed in two or three minutes, particularly if students are asked to go over the module before class. Just a few modules will take 5 to 10 minutes to review in class. This is an efficient use of time if the teacher wants to have the whole class on the same page. If the teacher cannot afford a few minutes of class to briefly go over the module, s/he can assign the module(s) to be done before class and verify comprehension with a few questions. See a sample syllabus of a third-year college class using the modules at http://www.wfu.edu/~gonzall/teaching/spa219/syl219spring05.htm.
Understanding of a particular point can also be checked by doing some of the exercises. After less than five minutes of practice with the modules, students should be ready to complete the communicative activities of a particular book. Teachers at beginning levels can use the modules in class to introduce new material.

Over the last ten years since I began using the modules and sharing some of them with teaching assistants and teachers, many have told me that these are the best explanations on grammar they have come across. David Hessell, a teaching assistant at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told me that teaching Por or Para with the module was something to look forward to instead of a dreaded task.

Practice

As suggested above, doing a few exercises in class allows teachers to check comprehension and at the same time get some practice. Not all exercises in the modules are contextualized, but teachers know that certain points require mechanical practice in order to proceed to really communicative tasks. After doing a few exercises in class (a couple of minutes and sometimes even just seconds), the teacher can suggest that students needing additional practice go to the module at hand after class and complete it until they feel comfortable with the material. In fact, the bulk of the modules is meant to be done by students outside of class, allowing them to get all the practice they need at their own pace, and freeing up class time for communicative activities.

Students often tell teachers that they need more exercises to help them master a given point. Now teachers and students have a source for additional practice with immediate feedback. Learners who still need more practice with a particular point can write to us, and we will add more exercises to the module(s) in question.

Testing

Since the modules have a good number of exercises, teachers can use a sample of the items (or exercises) in the modules for testing. By mixing exercises from the modules with some of their own, teachers will save time by doing the former, and will maintain the validity of the test by doing the latter.

Grading

Please refer to the page, Grading with the modules, for detailed information about grading with the modules and a numbered list of the modules for easy reference.

How can students use the Módulos interactivos?

In the modules, students will find brief, clear, and complete explanations that are easier to understand and apply than those in most textbooks. Students, teachers, and professionals who have completed the modules or have seen some of them have said, "why hasn't anybody explained grammar to me this way before?," or "I wish I’d had the modules when I began studying Spanish."

Students have told me that they do the modules as suggested by their instructor. Many students review the modules for key grammar points before exams. Completing the modules before doing the reading for the day has helped students improve understanding and retention of the material. The amount of practice in the modules, and particularly the clear but brief explanations, increase the level of understanding. The better you understand an issue, the less your memory is put to work. Or at least, the easier it is to remember.

We hope you enjoy the modules as much as we have enjoyed writing them! Let us know what we can do to improve the modules for your use.

Luis González