ser vs estar


 intro ser_estar (FILE)

Having a hard time getting students to understand the difference between these two verbs?  Try this!  Introduce it contextually with an image.

Like any lesson that begins with a visual, I start by asking them for words and then sentences.  (reference: Scoring oral practice)

But the second part of the presentation is a chart that comes up to talk about the man who is hiding underneath the family.  (Did you notice him the first time??? – I got this visual from


The chart is divided between “Descripción” and “Situación”.  In answering the questions (which may need more guidance depending on the level), the students are using ser and estar naturally.

I can then break it down into the “list of rules” that I have found in many classrooms – What did we use for Description?  We said his origin, his nationality, we used possessive to say he’s the Uncle of the family, we described him physically and by personality, we said his occupation…  And for his Situation, we said his location, his position, his “temporary condition” (feeling), and we used a progressive to say what he is doing.

Just to remind them, ask about the time – I personally develop this use a lot more when we are planning our classroom Quinceañeras.  I use that event to remind them that:
  • we use es/son to tell time
  • while we usually use estar to talk about location, we use es/son to say where an event takes place

If I have time in another class session, I’ll give them each their group Barbie dolls (I use these for a few lessons) and have them create all of that info about their dolls.
*I spotted a missing accent in one of my questions. Just be sure to fix that if you use the file.


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