Learning commands in Spanish is a multi-step process. Commands in Spanish use the imperative form. Because there are 4 forms of “you” in Spanish, there are at least that many command patterns. Additionally, there are some irregular tú forms, and the negative commands for tú in Spanish follow a different pattern. For Spanish 1 students, teachers often start by teaching the regular and affirmative tú command form, as well as teaching the overall concept of when to use the imperative.
Students quickly grasp the imperative concept once asked to picture their parent or guardian ordering them around: “Study.” “Eat your vegetables.” “Take out the trash.” From there, the teacher can explain the difference between an affirmative, “Take out the trash”, and a negative command, “Don’t take out the trash.” In the following storyboard series, students will only employ affirmative tú commands to conjugate Spanish verbs. Thus, the following cannot be used for Ud. or Uds. or vosotros. Neither can they be used in order to say “Don’t…”.
Spanish Commands Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers
Creating the affirmative, tú command form for regular verbs is straightforward. This command form uses the él, ella, Ud. form of present tense. Although simple, sometimes students are confused about using the same word for two very different uses. To help them clearly illustrate and visualize forming these commands, have students work with a Grid storyboard to get used to the process.
In the first column, students should put the type of verb being used in the title block (verb category), and the infinitive in Spanish and English in the body of the cell. Students should target different verb categories for each row, for example an -ar, an -er, and an -ir verb. One of these verb categories should be boot verbs. In the second column, students will illustrate the formation of the él, ella, Ud. form of present tense for the chosen verb. Then, in the last column, students will create a simple scene to use the command form of each verb. In a speech bubble, one of the characters in the scene should use the command, thus practicing the command form, as well as putting it into context.
Have students create a T-Chart storyboard in which they have two columns—one to present a problem and the other to present a solution using the imperative. Students should brainstorm realistic scenarios and the advice someone would likely give them. In the model storyboard, the first example is a daughter suddenly remembering that she has a difficult test the next day. In the solution column, her mom advises her to study by using the imperative form. Have students design at least five of their own scenarios, ideally targeting different types of verbs (-ar, -er, -ir, and boot verbs).
Irregular commands, unlike regular ones, don’t follow a pattern. The forms must be memorized by the student. Presenting the irregulars in a chant or a song helps students retain the information. After students have learned the irregular forms and the verbs they belong to, they are ready to practice. The following storyboard activity can also be used in the student’s initial learning if paired with their notes.
Have students create a spider map storyboard. They will need to include eight cells, one for each irregular tú command. For each irregular command, have students brainstorm a sentence that could be illustrated fairly easily. In each cell, students will put an image that matches their command. For example, in the model storyboard, there is an image of an un-made bed. The written command is, “Make your bed!” For further reinforcement, above the image, students can put the infinitive of the verb used in the command. Have students repeat this process for each irregular.
Although students now understand the purpose for the imperative, to reach mastery and increase retention of this new information, it is helpful to have students use commands in the context of a narrative. The model storyboard uses a traditional storyboard to introduce a character and set the scene for future action involving both regular and irregular commands.
Have students mimic the model by creating their own character and a short narrative that lends itself to the use of commands. Students should introduce their character, set the scene for their story, and be sure to include multiple examples for both regular and irregular commands. As a starting point, have students include at least three irregular and four regular imperatives. These minimums can of course be adjusted to fit different needs. Students should have at least six cells for their narrative.
Affirmative tú commands are fairly straightforward. There are a handful of irregulars that need to be memorized, but otherwise, the imperative form is identical to the 3rd person, singular of present tense. The following chart clearly demonstrates the formation of regular, affirmative tú commands.
Affirmative tú commands
jugar (boot verb)
Here is what needs to be memorized because they are irregular command forms.
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