Trabajar con los pasados

Scroll down through the page – you can choose any of the activities you like. Remember that all of this info will be accessible and you can revisit it on pancomido if you don’t get through it all today (which you won’t – there’s a lot here!).





  1. Video for -AR verbs  (with audio – get headphones!) (he leaves out the vosotros form because he’s using South American Spanish.)
  2. Video for -ER verbs
  3. Video for -IR verbs
  4. Flashcards with regular verbs
  5. The irregular verbs song!
  6. Regular verbs in the preterite – explanation.
  7. Test yourself – see what you can remember
  8. Hangman with irregular verbs
  9. Hangman – regular and irregular verbs
  10. Who wants to be a millionaire? Warm up with this one.
  11. Who wants to be a millionaire?


  1. Read this explanation of the Imperfect, with a link you can click to generate a quiz. 
  2. Video for -AR verbs (he teaches South American Spanish so no vosotros form).
  3. Video for -ER/-IR verbs.
  4. AND! his preterite vs imperfect song!  Not quite as good as the song above, but still…



And now try this: Revisit the Preterite vs Imperfect: in a game of battleships!

A story to listen to and read to reinforce the difference between the preterite and the imperfect. Make sure to do the activities at the end of each section to really revise properly. 


Watch two explanations of the difference between the preterite and the imperfect: 1 & 2. I think these are both pretty useful videos – each is about 9 minutes long.

Watch & learn

Consider incorporating some hand gestures into your oral exam.

Curso 5 – surtido de actividades

Hi class, these are a few good sites for revision on a variety of topics. Choose a few activities that you think would be beneficial to you, and also feel free to spend some time exploring the site – pancomido brings together many of my tips for the exams in one place.

So that sites don’t crash, don’t go to the same site as the person beside you. As always, leave a comment if a link is broken or an activity is particularly good or bad.

Idioms to do with colours

Test yourself on basic adjectives by matching them to their opposites.

Test yourselves on useful words for people by matching them to their opposites.

Useful but tricky: expressions with TENER.

List of words with double (or triple) meanings.

A story to listen to and read to reinforce the difference between the preterite and the imperfect. Make sure to do the activities at the end of each section to really revise properly. 

Catch up on your horoscope for the week.

Un recuerdo personal de la crisis de rehenes en Sydney, por Robyn H. (Curso 6)

unnamed-54_2With a selection of different tasks, my Form 6 groups and I are feeling our way towards the kind of powerful and meaningful essays that move beyond command of the Spanish language towards really engaging with a topic on a personal and emotional level. While doing a unit on terrorism linked to the the 15th anniversary of 9/11, my students wrote about their first memory of such acts which were once few and far between.

Here, Robyn H. from one of my Form 6 groups, writes about the hostage crisis in Sydney. 

Recuerdo en 2014 la crisis de rehénes en Sydney cuando un solo hombre tomaba como rehénes a diez clientes y ocho empleados en el café de Lindt Chocolate.

Es algo que marcó mi vida porque fue la primera vez que fui bastante mayor para comprender lo que estaba sucediendo. Antes de ese ataque no veía las noticias y tampoco me preocupaba lo que sucedía en en el mundo.

Además por primera vez el ataque estaba en un país donde tenía familia. Mi tía vive en Sydney. Estaba muy nerviosa y aterrorizada por la gente en el café. Veía las noticias y leía artículos en internet.unnamed-55

Por desgracia el secuestrador mató a un rehén. No comprendí cómo una persona podía
matar a otra persona en el nombre de religión.

Cuando escuché esa noticia me quedé muy triste. Había esperado que la policía pudiera rescatar a toda la gente antes de que alguien muriera o resultara herido. Cuando la policía entró en el café otra rehén murió y tres personas fueron heridas. El secuestador murió también. El secuestro entero duró dieciséis horas.

En un corto periodo de tiempo sucedieron muchas desgracias y no lo olvidaré, nunca en mi vida.

Day-before thoughts (a random selection)

I’ve loaded this up with links to previous posts that I hope will be helpful. It is a random selection of last minute thoughts and includes (point 4) my suggestions for timing for Higher Level.

100km left

  1. Read the entire exam before putting pen to paper! I don’t for one second mean read the comprehensions through, I mean:
  • scan each comprehension so you know what each topic is.
  • check out the essay title and while doing that perhaps write down your standard opening/closing or your lovely phrase that you’re going to use.
  • skim through the dialogue – pen in hand – and make quick notes over words when you see a verb form you know, a word you need to remember, a word you remember right then.
  • check what’s coming up in the diary entry and note.
  • now go back to the start and get stuck in.

(I don’t mention the formal letter as I don’t tend to recommend it to my students, though of course it can be a good option for some).

2. Do the exam in the order in which you come to it ie long comprehension, two short comprehensions, long comprehension. Now you have lots of Spanish in your head and you’re ready to wow them in the essay/opinion piece/link question (different name, same thing), then after the essay you can relax now into the dialogue and then the diary entry/note.

Within the long comprehensions, my personal preference is to do the synonyms first. It means you have to skim the piece looking for the words specified, so while you’re doing that task, you’re starting to soak up what the text is about.

For long comprehension B (the one with the essay title), my personal preference is to answer questions in this order:

1, 3 (synonyms), 2 (translation), 4 (comprehension).

Why? Well, I’ve explained the synonyms. Very often there’s overlap between 2 and 4. And by the time you get to 4, you’ve already worked quite closely with the text, so you might have some idea of where the answers to questions are (remember, in that second long comprehension, they don’t tell you where the answers are). Usually (usually – this is not a golden rule) the answers are first third, second third, third third of the text. If that doesn’t hold, the second one will usually (again, with that caveat) start after where you found the answer to the first question etc. There is often some overlap of one point, but the main body of the answers will work like that.

3. You have to answer these questions in detail!! But don’t give too much detail! It’s such a fine line. Think very carefully – this goes for the Listening especially – both about what is being asked AND what is NOT being asked. A little time today with a comprehension (either reading or listening) and the marking scheme could help you think about that.

4. Timing. Don’t go over it! And don’t leave early! Take your time, read the questions carefully, leave yourself time to go back and fill in gaps, and it is essential that you do a re-read of your written work to engage in plenty of auto-correction. Here are my tips for Exam timing LC HL  (Leaving Cert Higher Level).

5. Be calm! I know – so much easier said than done. The other day my mother attended a talk by Professor Ian Robertson of Trinity who’s a lecturer on Psychology in Trinity College Dublin. He has a new book out called The Stress Test. She was sharing something he had shared about the symptoms of stress being very close to the signs of excitement. So – he went on – a way of getting past/through/over the stressful moment you’re facing, is to clench your right fist and and mentally view the stressful event as something exciting ie something positive. I don’t know the science behind it (the book is on my list to read!) but here are a few scenarios where I think it would work: unnamed-37

  • Not AAAGH I’m going to fail this exam, but rather, fist clench this exam is a chance for me to show off what I know!
  • Not OMG I’m so nervous about this interview, but rather, fist clench this is an opportunity for me to show these people that I’m the perfect person for this job/college course!
  • Not What the hell, I’ll never win this race, but rather, fist clench this is going to be fantastic – I’m racing because I love it, and now’s my chance to shine!

It might sound trite, but I’ve been thinking about it and I really feel it could help me, so why not you, tomorrow?

So mañana se acerca – go out there, enjoy it, do it, show off! Put everything you have into it! For lots of you – I know, not all – it’s your last exam! Be the best you can be – en español!


The Modern Language Leaving Cert Oral: tips (1)

I’m never one to do a countdown, but let’s just put it this way:

I’m writing this on the last Tuesday in March.

On the second Monday in April half the country will be facing into their Modern Language Oral Examinations (the other half starts with Irish). All the examples here are in Spanish, and I refer to the Spanish role-plays, but the advice is applicable to any exam in which you have to hold a conversation with an examiner.

photo (17)

La calma que precede a la tormenta…

So let’s do this.

I’m putting together a few posts looking at (a) the Chief Examiner’s Reports, where the performance of students in the Leaving Cert Spanish examination is analysed and (b) common errors that my own students have made over the last few years (I’ve been compiling them for a number of years now but never got round to writing about them).

Screen shot 2016-03-28 at 19.49.55

So…what does that mean?

1. Your teachers are going to be trying to encourage you to speak lots of Spanish in these weeks before the Oral. Respond as best you can – shortly you’re going to be trying to have an engaging conversation with a stranger!

2. Listening to and watching Spanish is of course wonderful, and important, but – at this time – should be done alongside speaking the language.

3. The number of mistakes made when students are responding to simple questions in the present tense is sometimes a result of nervousness – make sure the basics are second nature to you. Here’s an example: Examiner¿Dónde vives? Student:  Donde en Dublín en Irlanda. Don’t be that person (It should be Vivo en Dublín, en Irlanda.)!

4. Your teacher has probably given you a list of typical oral questions. For more, check out the suggested further reading below. Know the tenses you need to use to respond to these questions and listen carefully to the verb forms the examiner uses so that you can use that tense, but in the yo (I) form. eg Examiner: ¿Qué hiciste el fin de semana pasado? Student: No hice mucho. Be careful not to echo the verb the examiner uses, by which I mean where the examiner says ¿Te gusta España? and the student responds Sí, sí, te gusta España instead of Me gusta. This holds for all verbs, but is particularly prevalent in te gusta questions when students are nervous.

5. Don’t recite learned-off material! But be well prepared! It’s the eternal conundrum. How do you deliver prepared material in a way that sounds natural? By knowing it really, really well, and by being so comfortable with it that you can recognise when a question is asking for something you know, and then adapt your answer to the question that’s been asked, not the one you wish you’d been asked!


Breathe, think, use a rest word like pues or bueno, then answer.

eg Examiner: ¿Qué haces en tu tiempo libre? OR ¿Tienes muchos pasatiempos? OR ¿Qué haces para relajarte? StudentBueno, no tengo mucho tiempo libre, pero me encanta salir a dar un paseo porque estar en el aire libre me relaja muchísimo. (That last one will start you off answering all three questions but could just as easily be manipulated into shorter sentences – always a good idea – which you could then take in whichever direction you wish).

6. It’s essential to develop your answers. Imagine having a conversation with someone in English where the other person just grunted, or said yes, or no, or shook their head if they didn’t understand the question! Obviously, between now and then do as much preparation as possible, but once in there, your aim is to communicate as much as you can. I always say to my students to think of all the details that they might be able to share about a topic and to prepare them all. The examiner will interrupt when s/he hears something about which s/he wants to find out more, but you have to give him/her something to work with!

7. I know it may seem strange to try to be “spontaneous and natural” or as if you’re having a “normal conversation,” but this is key to having a successful Oral examination. Treat the examiner as a new friend (while of course addressing him/her as Usted) who wants to find out all about you and give (as I say above) lots and lots to work with so that the examiner can feel that they know something about you when you leave the room.

8. The Role-Plays…does it really need to be said? Murphy’s Law says that the Situación (role-play) that you least like and want will come up. So know them all. End of story.

9. This is a no-brainer. Particularly for Ordinary Level, but at Higher Level too, everything you do now is setting you up for success in June. 25% for HL, 20% for OL – it’s worth putting every effort into it now!


Further reading:

Things to make sure you know for your Leaving Cert Oral

The Orals: the Compilation Post

Looking at the Present Perfect

Autumn is here

Autumn is here

Explanations of the Present Perfect

An extremely clear explanation which examines how the Present Perfect works in English & Spanish. (the video runs for about 5 minutes before you have to pay, and that is enough to get the main understanding of this tense).

See it written down and do the quizzes listed in the menu on the left-hand side.

Our good friend Señor Jordan introducing the Present Perfect.


Practice the verbs in the context of sentences.

Rags to riches – mixture of looking at verbs and phrases

Rags to riches – focus on sentences



The month’s end (September): reflecting on targets

I took five minutes with one of my Form 5 groups today to reflect on where we were, one month into the school year.

The end of a month is a good time to do that, both in one’s personal and professional life. It’s hard to keep our eyes on our goals all the time. When the days are long and filled with class, sports, clubs, friends and family, when do we get the chance to focus our attention inwards and think about where we stand in relation to our own goals and priorities? And if we haven’t taken the time to outline our own goals and priorities, how can we know how close we are to achieving them?


Continue reading

Show-and-Tell for senior students of Spanish

El amanecer en la meseta

El amanecer en la meseta

(If you’re a student and want to use this idea for your own oral practice, click on the post and then scroll all the way down for some study suggestions)

My last two classes on a Friday are double sixth year (twelfth grade in the American system). That’s two-fifths of our contact time every week at an hour when they are:

(a) physically tired

(b) tired of school

(c) ready for the weekend!

…so I’m under more than the usual pressure to make sure I hook every student into whatever activity we do. This one worked a treat! Continue reading

Results Day (and the night before)

Sunset over Dublin MountainsIn the house we lived in then, you had to go round a corner from the long, cold hall to get from the front door to the kitchen, and that’s where the phone was. It was a modern phone then, with push-buttons instead of a rotating finger wheel. A long coiled cord connected the mouthpiece to the phone, and was intensely comforting to fiddle with during long intense conversations like the one I had with my best friend the evening before the Leaving Cert results came out. Continue reading