SPECIAL REPORT #8: The Making of...
The Spanish Subjunctive Program
The Most Laser-Targeted Program on the Subjunctive EVER Created
A New Beginning: the making of…
THE SPANISH SUBJUNCTIVE PROGRAM
The most laser-targeted program on the Spanish subjunctive ever created
For the last 20 years, whenever I had to teach the Spanish subjunctive, I knew it was not going to be easy. As we saw before, it is not easy for students and it is not easy for teachers either.
The ideal program required:
- Solid, clear and concise explanations. Long or complex concepts are broken down into simple concepts.
- A very complete list of phrases that trigger the subjunctive.
- Examples of each of those phrases / triggers in action. Plenty of them!
- Comprehensive practice in the form of drills.
- Not only Grammar Practice but also samples of real-life situations in which the subjunctive appears spontaneously in any work/ play / movie etc NOT CREATED TO TEACH THE SUBJUNCTIVE.
And that is what I set out to create. For over six months, I spared no effort to making all of those areas just like the “perfect” section for my students to learn and get it once and for all. It had to be easy enough for anyone to be able to follow, just in plain English. I avoided jargon as much as possible, and whenever I could not help using some jargon, I explained the concept in very simple terms and repeated it over and over again throughout the whole book.
Also, I was determined to appeal especially to visual learners. For that reason, all explanations have plenty of colorful graphics and by the power of imagery, even complex concepts came to life in a very simple, and I would say predictable manner, like no other grammar book has ever shown. Something awesome about developing content but being a teacher as well is that I could start to use it with my students from the get-go. Whenever I had some chapters ready, I would give it to my students and see how they responded to them, thus, enabling me to improve the material along the way. And that is when my “guinea pigs”, the students, started to shine. What had seemed so dark and obscure to them in the past, started to become bright and clear for them now. They started to grasp those elusive concepts and even link them together. They started to see the big picture, and not just some minor points here or there.
Even better, the theory I was writing for them was illustrated by tons of examples that enabled them to see in more depth when to use the subjunctive but also when not to use it AND the exercises that I created included plenty of examples for both situations. If I gave them only exercises on the subjunctive half of their challenge would have been simplified. Oh no! Actually, in some exercises, out of 10 sentences maybe only 3 required the subjunctive. I was determined to test them to the limit. If they got the concepts clear, they would be able to spot them. Otherwise, other measures would have needed to be taken.
As my idea was never to write a physical book but rather an Ebook, I never faced any of the space limitations that most book writers have. Books often will contain around 10 exercises at best. Not my Ebook! I could write any number of exercises I wanted and feel happy about it! Actually, the more practice I could create, the better it was for my students! And that is what I did. I ended up creating over 92 exercises, (over 1000 different situations) that tested their skills to the limit. I call THAT practice! I broke down complex concepts into simpler concepts and then provided practice for those simple concepts. The following concept built on that and then we practiced the two “small”concepts together. Then we added a third and did practice of the three concepts. Until the whole “complex concept” was not longer a ferocious beast but a funny puppy that it was fun to play with.
By the time I finished the book, about 6 months of intensive work, I had seen more progress in students than in my 20 years of teaching the subject combined. It was mind-blowing how the synergy of all parts together made such a complex topic so predictably easy to get! I would have never said that just a couple of years earlier! And when the book was ready I thought? What if all of this book, which has 250 pages, could be made even easier? And then I created a video version of it. All of the exact same explanations and exercises but on video. Almost 100 videos explaining from scratch each and every single concept there is to know about the subjunctive. But not just the video lessons, also every single exercise with its corresponding answers AND, even better, the different possibilities and subtleties of meaning if we choose one answer or another.
What is more, having the video is an amazing way to review the topic some time later, without having to do much reading. Just press play and listen to me explaining this as if we were together in a one-on-one lesson. After working on each lesson, the students would work on the videos on their own and wow! It was mind-blowing how fast all of them would get what otherwise very few students would understand in the past.
What was even more surprising was the speed at which they were using the Spanish subjunctive spontaneously in conversations. But I wanted to challenge them even more and I decided to add the crowning touch to what I considered an amazing work of art (It may sound like I am blowing my own trumpet here, but what can I say, I just love it and do feel it is awesome!) For the final chapter I decided to include something never done in a grammar book: to add real samples of whatever topic is being explained, but those samples had to be authentic. In other words, not materials written to teach the Spanish subjunctive, in this case, for instance, but rather, materials written by native Spanish speakers FOR native Spanish speakers. That would make it as real as it can get. If they could see all of the theory in action in such materials, that would be, in my humble opinion, the perfect end for the topic. The big question for me was, what movie, play or story could I use? I was not an easy choice. I wanted to find good samples of language but I could not use any movies or materials for which I did not have the rights to use. And after thinking about it for over a month, one day it came to me: Waldo Michaels!
Waldo Michaels was the name of a play I had written 5 years earlier. Actually, it was more of a 12-episode audio play about a man in his 30s who is unable to find his soul mate. It was never meant to be a teaching tool but actually a radio broadcast for native Spanish speakers. I remember that everyone loved it back then and shared it to their friends who also seemed to enjoy it as well. Encouraged by the good comments, and probably my author’s ego played a part too, I decided to share it with some of my advanced students and they loved it it too.
Ironically, although back then “Waldo Michaels” had never been meant to be a teaching tool, it ended up being a terrific teaching tool that showed a very spontaneous and natural use of the language, idiomatic expressions, grammar and even politically incorrect language. Well, after all, it was young guys talking about women! What can you expect?!
The problem was, I did not remember if there were any samples of the subjunctive or not in the play. So I rushed to my old hard drive and when I opened the first episode I jumped in joy! In front of my eyes were my two main characters, Waldo and Sosa, engaging in everyday conversation, and almost every single thing they said had some subjunctive in it. I could not be happier! I got that first episode and included it in the book, with some additional activities in which students have to analyze and explain why the main characters use or don’t use the subjunctive throughout their conversations.
As usual, once this part was finished I used it with my students and it only confirmed my ideas. It added a real angle that made them gain a much deeper understanding of the subjunctive. It shook concepts they thought were clear from the previous exercises, forced them to see the theory under a new light one more time. The process of going back and forth between the real-life audio play and theory they had studied before, made all the concepts truly sink in at a much deeper level and finally we could truly say they did get it. The conversations gave them an even more profound understanding of the subjunctive in the big scheme of things. I can confidently affirm that never ever in my 20 or so years teaching Spanish have I seen students so solid in the use of the Spanish subjunctive. I had never been able achieve these kinds of results by using traditional materials, simply because they are incomplete at best.
YOU CAN NEVER GET COMPLETE RESULTS FROM INCOMPLETE MATERIALS. That is why traditional programs have failed you and that is why this program works. This is the only program focusing on the Spanish Subjunctive that covers all bases with the same degree of laser-sharp focus.
Excited by the results that this program was producing among my private students, I decided to step things up a notch or two and add a variable usually ignored by all programs: TIME! Could it be possible to get all of the benefits of this program in a short period of time? I set out to explore this new variable and the results just blew my mind. You will know all about it in our next report!
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