SPAN 351: Conversación en Español

Rei Berroa
215E Thompson Hall
Summer 2006, Session B01 M-R 14:00 - 16:05
Spanish 351 Tel 993-1241


The Oxford Spanish Dictionary. New York: Oxford University Press, 3rd Edition (2003). ISBN 0-19-860475-0
Different articles taken from Hispanic Culture Review, the GMU student journal on literature and the arts.
I was going to get a published textbook for this class, but everything was about $80. So I have decided to try something totally new: use this material published at Mason and complement it with this site. So keep checking it for further information.


The objective of this course is the student's oral proficiency on topics of current interest: art, politics, sport, family and social life, health, and religion, among others. This proficiency will be reached by constant class discussion and daily oral reports. To this aim, the class period is going to be divided into three segments:

1. Warmup: Every day, upon arrival to class, students will be required to move freely around their classmates, greeting everyone and looking for a spontaneous subject for conversation in Spanish.

2. Report: Every day students will have to report to the rest of the class on the status of their research on a country they have chosen previously and on which they will become specialists during this course.  This report could include general news, government and politics, economics, sports, the country's infrastructure, among other issues, but it should always include a segment on culture.

3. Checkup: Discussion with the professor and the other classmates about the assigned reading from the texbook or any other source.

Classwork will be conducted entirely in Spanish, if not, it wouldn't make any sense to call this a "conversation class in Spanish." No notes will be allowed during reports and presentations. All assignments must be done at home, so that classroom time should be reserved for oral work. We all must make a committment to use Spanish every day as much as possible [I would like to recommend a minimum of 30 minutes on days we don't meet].  Besides the Midterm anf Final Exams, there will be impromptu quizzes and presentations every day.


You must be exposed to Spanish and use the language in order to learn it.   So you really want to be in class and benefit from it. Class discussions, presentations, and activities provide the kind of interaction in Spanish that you can not get at home. For this reason there is no substitution for attendance. If you are not in class because you are sick or for any other valid reason, I feel bad, but the reality is that you were not in class and you missed all the goodies that come with being physically in the classroom. So you are expected to attend all classes and be on time. If you arrive late, you are disruptive and you may also miss some important information that can not be repeated every time a student is late. Even if you are sick and can not come to school, you are still responsible for all material covered in class. Keep in mind that irregular attendance will severely affect your learning process and, consequently, your final grade in this course. Make sure you get the phone number and e-mail address of two classmates:

Name__________________________ Tel ________________ e-mail ___________________

Name__________________________ Tel ________________ e-mail ___________________
Progress made by students in this class will be evaluated by the following percentage:
Quizzes and exercises: 25% 
  Active participation: 25% 
Midterm: 25% 
Final: 25%
Participation and class preparation

Participation means active involvement in the class. Students are required to contribute to class discussions daily and to speak only Spanish. 

The participation grade includes:

  • your contribution to regular class sessions, group activities and all other discussions,
  • the grades of all daily assignments,
  • your cooperation and leadership in group and pair work, and
  • your respect and attitude towards your peers and the class.
In order for you to actively participate in class, you need to read the material assigned for each class and do the activities assigned by the instructor.  Some writing assignments will be collected regularly.  Homework submitted for correction has to be written legibly [preferably, typed double-spaced].  Late assignments will not be collected.
Individual (a) and Group Presentation (b)

There will be two major presentations in this class:  the midterm, which will be an individual effort; and the final, which will be a group enterprise. The Midterm will consist of an oral presentation [10 minutes] on the culture and current events of the student's chosen country, plus another 15 minutes answering questions from the instructor and the classmates on your presentation or on the chapters of the textbook assigned for the midterm.  There must be a thorough study of the field or fields you have chosen for this presentation. The Final will consist of a 15-minute group presentation (two or three people only) to explain the process followed in the production of a video on any subject you would like to choose and the reasons for going one way or another [to make your point, you may use brief segments of the video]. A question and answer session will follow just as in the midterm.  Every one is required to be present at these presentations, since the evaluation of these two projects is a joint venture between the class and the instructor. These two major projects will be done in class. 

Each student is responsible for reading at least one newspaper in Spanish  from two different countries every day and informing the class about his or her findings on the chosen issue or issues on one country [click on QUIOSCO to see newspapers from the Spanish speaking world].

Como meta diaria y con la ayuda del diccionario, nos hemos propuesto la incorporación de un mínimo de 50 palabras al día a nuestro vocabulario conversacional.  Si llegamos a lograr esta meta, para fines de este curso habremos incorporado a nuestro vocabulario activo de todos los días, la modesta suma de 1600 palabras.  Si a esto sumamos nuestro constante encuentro con las expresiones idiomáticas, los refranes y dichos populares, los trabalenguas, los chistes, las canciones y las adivinanzas, internet para niños, grandes escritores,  esta clase puede convertirse en una verdadera mina de conocimiento de la lengua. Consulta el conjugador de verbos en español.
P R O G R A M A    D E L   C U R S O
 Miércoles 30 de mayo Introducción  general al curso y presentaciones de cada estudiante. 
Discusión del programa y orientación sobre uso de la red       [227 Thompson]
Lunes 4 de junio 1-   El científico y el artista
2-   El año 2100                                             [1-21]
Miércoles 6 de junio 3-   El matrimonio 
4-   La popularidad
5-   Interludio: el gato y el perro                      [22-45] 
Lunes 11 de junio 6-   El Ser Supremo
7-   Pasado, presente y futuro                         [46-67]
 Miércoles 13 de junio 8-   El aborto
9-   La eutanasia                                             [69-88]
Lunes 18 de junio 10- Interludio: el madrugador y el dormilón
11- La salud y la medicina 
12- La censura                                               [90-114]
Miércoles 20          [Midterm]
Lunes 25 de junio   [Midterm]
Presentaciones individuales
Miércoles 27 de junio 13- El suicidio
14- Las armas de fuego                                  [115-137]
Lunes 2 de julio 15- Interludio: Los climas
16- La pena capital
17- La herencia y el medio ambiente               [138-160]
Lunes 9 de julio 18- El narcotráfico
19- Fumar o no fumar
20- Interludio: ¿Carnívoro o vegetariano?        [161-183]
Miércoles 11 de julio 21- Actitud ciudadana
22- Explorando el espacio
23- La educación                                            [184-222]
Lunes 16 de julio Presentaciones en grupo
Miércoles 18 de julio Presentaciones en grupo