Duerme (sleeps) is one of my favorite words to work with in the language classroom because it provides many possibilities for compelling input. My favorite way to introduce this word is to tell stories about students sleeping in school. Students love to talk about this idea because they relate to it (we have all had some long blinks in math class) and because it is taboo. I introduce dureme and se despierta (wakes up) at the same time through TPR (total physical response). This technique was created by Dr. James Asher and engages students in responses to commands using whole body actions. When I am using TPR I only focus on 3 words (one of the words is usually recycled). There are no language chunks or question words in TPR, there are only commands that students are responding to. The secret to this technique is to combine the commands in novel ways. You want to paint pictures in the student's heads and get them thinking outside of what is expected. Maybe the hand sleeps on the nose, or the class wakes up like a zombie...do the unexpected to keep them listening and engaged. One way to keep students listening is to vary the grouping of the commands. Have both the entire class and individual students respond, or divide the class into two different groups and have each group respond to different commands.
After introducing duerme and se despierta through TPR I put up pictures of different animals and people sleeping (I add pictures of people doing activities other than sleeping to add variety). I always get my pictures from Google images, so unfortunately I can't post my slideshow here because of copyright issues, but the key is to find pictures that are funny for the students. Pick famous people that they recognize or look for animals that are sleeping in strange places. The more absurd the image, the better the students will remember them and the language that you are using to describe them.
I also create a slideshow with personal questions about the student's sleep habits. I have a Sí (yes) and No (no) signs hanging in my room and as I go through the slides and ask students the questions they stand by 'Sí' if their answer to the question is 'yes' and 'No' if their answer is 'no'. In the target language I ask questions such as "Do you sleep in Target? Do you sleep a lot/little? Do you sleep with a stuffed animal? Do you sleep in the basement? Do you like to sleep on the couch? Do you ever sleep in class?". The students are hearing a lot of the 'you' form of the verb, and it gives you an opportunity for some great PQA (Personalized Questions & Answers).
After all of this great input of duerme we act out a little mini story in class. I ask them who is tired and pick the student who is most tired to be my actor (make them audition for the part to recycle the structure 'is tired'). I then put that student in a chair at the front of the class and tell the students that the actor is really tired and falls asleep in Spanish class. I then physically leave the room and dramatically open the classroom door. When I see the student sleeping in my class I act appalled and stomp over to the student to make sure that he is indeed asleep. I then ask other students in the class if the actor is asleep, as if I can't believe that someone would fall asleep in my class. I then scream and pretend to go crazy but the student continues to sleep. My students always end up laughing hysterically! If there is time I have them repeat the scene with different actors and a different class, and this time I let a student play the role of the teacher.
I originally saw Karen Rowan act out the story below when she came to do a workshop in Winnetka Public School District 36 (if you don't know Karen you should follow her on twitter and check out her website - she is amazing). The actor that you have play the role of the lunch attendant should have a small glass of water in her hand. Really build up the part before the lunch attendant throws the water at the student. Ask the class several times if she really should throw the water to create a lot of tension. Right before she throws the water I take it and drink all of it so that there is only a small amount left in the cup.
Es el almuerzo y Sally va a la cafetería. Sally tiene pizza en su plato pero no tiene hambre. Sally no come la pizza porque está muy cansada. ¡Sally duerme en la pizza! De repente, Ms. Schultz (pick a lunch attendant that works in your school) entra en la cafetería. Ms. Schultz ve a Sally y está muy enojada. ¡Sally no come la pizza, Sally duerme en la pizza! Ms. Schultz tiene un vaso de agua en la mano. Ms. Schultz tira agua en la cara de Sally. Sally se despierta y está muy enojada.
At this point I stop and let the students decide the ending. I will ask "¿Cómo reacciona Sally?". Students can give me any suggestions using anything that they know how to say in Spanish or 2 words in English. Popular endings include: