Nouns & Number & Gender, OH MY! Day One

Perhaps three of the biggest hurdles for native English speakers when they first begin their language journey, this resource is perfect for teaching nouns, number, and gender.  It also includes extension activities for word order!

I created this resource toward the beginning of my teaching career but have come back to it almost every year that I’ve taught (with several modifications, of course).

I like to use it at the beginning of Spanish I.  Currently, I am at a school that uses the Realidades textbook, and so I just pulled this out today to help students with Chapter 1B.

Let’s walk through my lesson today.

Lecturing:  Adjectives & Gender

I started by asking students to define nouns and adjectives and give examples (I learned long ago to NEVER assume what students may or may not know).  I then had students give me examples of adjectives in Spanish:






Perfect!  From there I was able to ask them what these words had in common (three ending with O and two ending with A).  We had done an activity the previous day where they worked in paris to describe and present hispanic celebrities, so they were somewhat familiar with gender but didn’t yet have a firm grasp on it.

I explained that (in general…baby steps here, baby steps) adjectives ending with O describe masculine nouns.  We can change the O into an A to apply that same adjective to a feminine noun.

bajo >>>> baja

alto >>>> alta

talentoso >>>> talentosa

But what about the words ending with E?  “They stay the same.”  Yes!

Lecturing:  Pluralization (Number)

I left those notes on the right side of the board for students to refer to and copy as needed and then I moved to the left side of the board.  I wrote the word “book” and asked students how I would make it plural.  “Add an s.”  I then asked the same question for the following words and had students tell me how to make them plural:

book >>>> books

guess >>>> guesses

family >>>> families

ox >>>> oxen

mouse >>>> mice

Wow!  That’s a lot of different ways to make a word plural!!  I asked them if that was easy or hard to learn when they were younger.  Some immediately said it was easy and I replied “It’s easy NOW, but think back to elementary school.”  One student said “We had to do tons of worksheets about that.”  Exactly!  It was HARD to learn all the rules for pluralization in English, but now (after years of practice and hearing it spoken/reading it everyday, it’s second nature!)

If you really want to WOW your students (and make them think) show them this 2-minute reading of the anonymous poem, English Is Crazy:

Next I drew a box around the bottom three examples and crossed them out.  “Guess what?” I said, “This aspect of Spanish is much easier.  It doesn’t have all those rules.”  *Resounding cheers from around the room.*

I asked students to brainstorm nouns and adjectives they knew in Spanish:




monopatín (I put this one up)


Again:  Perfect!  I had similar answers in each of my classes.  Then, I used a different color marker to show them how to make each word plural (except lápiz, of course) and then asked how they were similar and different.

The three words ending with vowels simply added an -s.  The word ending in a consonant needed -es.  But what about lápiz?  I’m so glad each of my classes said this word (if not, I would have added it like I did monopatín).

Welcome to the 1% of nouns in Spanish that DON’T follow the regular pattern for pluralization (at least on the surface).

I asked students to apply the rules above to the word lápiz >>>> lápizes

Then, I asked them to say it.  Was it easy to say?  Did it still have that hard ‘Z’ sound like the word lápiz?  Some said yes while others said no.  Then I said it a few times.  In order to keep that hard ‘Z’ sound, I had to draw it out–taking more time to say the word.  It was more natural, I said, to soften that ‘Z’ when saying the plural for pencil:  lápices.

So does lápiz follow the rule?  Kind of.  It does add the -es.  But it changes the ‘Z’ to a ‘C’ to match the natural way the word sounds once you add the -es.  **With any luck, I can reference this when we talk about other words that have consonant changes, like comenzar changing to comencé in the preterit.**

BuenoBelow you can see an example of what the worksheet looked like BEFORE we even “started”.  *Good news!  After class, I went home and modified the worksheet to give students a space to the right for notes!*

Worksheet Snip3.PNG

Ten minutes later:  Time to START the worksheet

I ALWAYS use different color markers on the whiteboards in my classroom.  So it just makes sense for students to use different color ink pens (+colored pencils +highlighters) on their own notes.  I wrote the example (hermano) on the board (but you don’t have to).

After we filled out the box for ‘chicos,’ I realized that it might be beneficial to write the indefinite articles in front of each word as well (you can see these added in with a blue pen).  But, I didn’t want to overwhelm the students OR distract them from the point of this part of the lesson:  making masculine words feminine, and making singular words plural.

We went through numbers 1-3 pretty quickly, with a brief discussion on how 500,000 girls + 1 boy would be “chicos” in Spanish.  Of course, students always want to scream “sexism” (in a joking manner) when we discuss this in Spanish 1.  I like to add some humor to it:

I tell them that if I walk into the room and say “Hey, guys!” most likely, the girls aren’t going to get offended.  BUT, if I walk into the room and say “Hey, ladies!” I might get some strange looks from the guys.  It’s just socially acceptable to use the term “guys” for both guys and girls.  We do it without thinking about it.  In the same way, Spanish-speakers use the masculine plural to talk about mixed groups of males and females.

*The linguist in me has to take a moment to talk about the differences between Latin (the mother of Spanish, who died in childbirth giving birth to Spanish, Italian, French, and Portuguese) and its living daughter, Spanish.  I talk about how Latin also had “neuter” words, and how Spanish language is alive and changing (insert brief note about the latinx and latine movement within the Spanish language and how, as a non-gendered language, English–for the most part–doesn’t have that issue).

Students always get strange looks on their faces when I explain that, in Spanish, you pluralize adjectives as well as verbs.  “Pretties?  The girls are pretties?”  Yep.  Although it certainly doesn’t sound strange to the native Spanish speaker.

Worksheet # 2

On the next page, I have students define ten words (most of which they are familiar with) that we will use repetitively.  I normally have to define “perro” and “malo” but the other words have been pre-taught, with the exception of “loco” which students just seem to know.

To define “hay,” which is a new word for them, I speak completely in Spanish and point:  “Hay un chico.  Hay un pupitre.  Hay una bandera.  Hay una chica.  Hay un libro.”  Some students were able to guess the meaning after just two or three examples, but even after we defined the word, I would still do a few more examples to get students used to the word and its pronunciation.

The second part of the worksheet went pretty quickly after I explained what they would be doing.  I read the sentence and paused at the blank.  Students said the answer and I wrote it on the board.  Once or twice I stopped and asked “Does everyone agree with that answer?” which, normally, means the first person gave an incorrect answer and I’m waiting for the rest of the class to catch on and make the necessary correction.


Worksheet Snip

Once we finished this section, our 40-minute class period was nearly over.  I told the students to bring their worksheets back on Monday and I will see what they retained over the weekend!

I’m also excited to see the pictures they draw on the next two worksheets in this set, and the sentences they create with the extension activities!

Download a copy of this full activity at Teachers Pay Teachers.

Have you used this resource in your classroom?  Leave me a comment to let me know how it went!!



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