Sunday, 17 May 2015

The castle and the simple past of the verb TO BE

Teaching the simple past of the verb TO BE to Spanish grade 3 students might turn out a very challenging experience but following the guidelines of our project "Creating Tomorrow's Schools Today" I tried something different this time.

I displayed this picture and video to introduce the topic "castle", definitely a common subject of interest for our students. 

I asked my students "What IS this?" to elicit the answer "It IS a castle"

I asked my students "What WAS this?". It goes without saying that they answered "It IS a castle" but in language acquisition one mistake should be the springboard for more language acquisition. Therefore I repeated "It WAS a castle" whenever a student said IS but I did not make them aware of their mistake in an explicit way. We are trying to teach grammar inductively, you know

I displayed the following text and picture: 


In the past, a castle was a home. It was also a fortress to protect people from their enemies. The castle walls were very thick. The windows were very small. The towers were very high in order to see enemies outside the castle walls. 

Round the castle was a deep moat. The moat was full of water. The only way to cross the moat was on the narrow drawbridge. The only way to enter the castle was through the wooden gate. The gate was very big and heavy. Under the castle was a dungeon. The dungeon was very dark. The dungeon was a prison for enemies and traitors. 

The students realized that IS and ARE forms had been changed for WAS and WERE and they wondered why. Castles are a thing of the past, that's the reason why we speak about them with WAS and WERE. 

They wrote a short text describing a modern house using IS and ARE.

The students answered questions related to the text CASTLES. They answered with the numbers displayed on the following picture. 

Where was...
the moat?
the drawbridge?
the gate?
the dungeon?

Where were...
the castle walls?
the towers?
the windows?

I handed out a second text and displayed the following video. 


Life in a castle was hard. 
The castle was cold and damp. It was only warm next to the fire in each room. 
The castle was dark. It was only light next to the small windows. 
The castle was smelly. The food was sometimes bad. It was also difficult for people to wash and keep clean. 
The castle was noisy. There were people and animals everywhere. 
But life in a castle was also fun. There were acrobats, jugglers and musicians. There were also feasts, tournaments and games. 

The questions for this second text were the following ones:
1. Was the castle cold?
2. Was the castle warm?
3. Was the castle damp?
4. Was the castle light?
5. Was the castle dark?
6. Was the castle smelly?
7. Was the castle quiet?
8. Was the castle noisy?

To elicit the answers: 

The students made some research on the Internet about the topic castles

They built their castles and described them and the life in them in front of an audience.

You can also use the following resources from BBC Kids for reading and listening work.

Knight Fight was the icing on the cake of this Middle Age project.


  1. Let's hold our next meeting in one of those castles 😉

  2. A very complete and exciting activity. I visited "Castillo de la Mota" yesterday; not far away from Salamanca. Kids would love it