21 July 2017

That's My Jam! Starting Spanish 1 in Style

David Bisbal, I still love you, but it was time to retire "Te mueves tú" last year. 

Last year, Nicky Jam took my pop latino novio's place (I am eternally grateful to Sra. Whisenhunt for the suggestion!) It was the perfect attention-getter all semester and beyond--they physically COULD NOT resist the call and response that we set up on their very first day of class! One of the students who was LEAST excited about Spanish--and school in general--rushed in before school one day to show me Nicky Jam in the 2016 YouTube Rewind video. What's more, I got tagged on Instagram months after class ended when the song came on at a student birthday party, and the girls going to Peru with me for the Sister Cities exchange this year still insist Nicky Jam is their favorite.

The high frequency vocabulary in Nicky's jam was especially handy last year:
  • ¿Cómo tú te llamas?
  • Yo no sé
  • Quiero

Even "ni pregunté" helped lay the foundation for perhaps the most high-frequency word in my classes (even my principal knows pregunta now).

I think starting with a chorus call and response chorus format was part of the secret to the song's success, so I want to do that again this year, too, but with a new song.
At first I read or played the white, then they read the yellow.
I like how each year has its own Spanish anthem, and I believe that keeping the music selection fresh is one of THE most important factors to effectively exploiting teenage musical obsessions. In fact, my selection criteria list is not unlike Sra. Stilson's:
  1. It must be CATCHY.
    It must be simple and appealing enough to never ever leave their head.
  2. It must be COOL.If it gets stuck in their head, but that doesn't make them go home and download it and listen to repeat, just dread class, then what's the point? Of course cool means different things all the time, so I've got to keep my ear to the ground.
  3. It must be COPIABLE
    We do it in English too--if we can't remember the words, we just kind of mutter them then say the last word we hear. So it needs to be words that are recognizable and paced in such a way that my baby parrots have some hope of, well, parroting them.
Ordinarily I'm partial to anything that includes essential verbs and insist on the highest of vocabulary frequency, but to set the tone for the class, I really just need the kids grooving.

So who else?

Alvaro Soler to the rescue.

The girls LOVE this guy, and EVERYONE digs his music. I confess "Animal" was not my favorite track, but I'm a sucker for the girl power in this video. And I cannot deny the cool, catchy, copiability of the chorus:
Llega el momento
Donde eres el viento
Hoy lucharé como un animal
como un animal, animal
Escucha el aliento
Solo silencio
Hoy lucharé como un animal
como un animal animal
There are certainly some useful words in there, if not the highest of frequency, words like donde, eres, hoy, escucha. Also repeating a cognate six times can't hurt the old baby parrot confidence Day 1 either, you know?

But what might be even cooler is how I can scaffold the call and response here.

Step 1: All they have to say is "O-O"
It sounds funny out of context, is super easy to imitate, and gets them to focus on listening for the end of what I say first without freaking them out about actually TALKING Spanish.

Step 2: Put it in order
We got hit hard on listening last year--the final exams matched the AAPPL results almost exactly. So I want them to just get comfortable hearing what they hear, matching sounds with letters.

Step 3: Matching to establish meaning
It'll be the first day--I'm okay with a little straight translation to make them feel safe the first day. So I'll have them match Spanish lines to English lines to figure out what's what and start building a word wall. I might mix some Instagram challenge type activities in to check for comprehension too.

Step 4: Two lines at a time
We'll probably practice with some more "O-O"s first, but then it'll be their turn to actually SAY some Spanish. I want to split this part up over 3 days, though, so they ease in nice and slow and have two new lines for sure each day.

And then everyone can sing!

It's too bad this year's song of the summer--and its video--would almost certainly get me fired, but I think "Animal" will make an excellent jam to continue the legacy begun with David Bisbal years ago.

17 July 2017

Why I Won't Teach Novels in Spanish

Let me be clear: I am a Spanglish teacher. I went into this game an English teacher, and novels have been the basis for my approach to instruction for a goodly portion of my career. It took me a while to come around to the idea of using novels in my Spanish classroom for two main reasons:

  1. I had an "authenticity" hangup.
  2. I have a PBL hangup.
I like to think the PBL thing is more than a hangup, though. Really it's more of a paradigm shift--one that both complements and challenges my proficiency/communication shift. But the upshot is that I understand the goals and means of schooling and learning differently now. My ultimate goal is no longer to have a little fun poking around in the perspectives and opinions of the adolescent minds that get stuck with me (now for three years thanks to my Spanglish skills MWAHAHAHA!) I really did get into the game to entertain and inform myself, so I could keep learning a la Mr. Bancroft in my 11th grade American Lit class. At some point, though, I grew up.

Oh, I still have fun with kids' perspectives and opinions. I make an effort to actively respect them rather than just collect them now, too. But my ultimate goal now is more about outcomes based, more about what specifically they leave with. I want them to have something to show, something concrete they can display and explain as an embodiment of their learning.

I wholeheartedly believe this is possible--and beneficial--to do with novels, both in English and Spanish classes. I've seen it done (at least from afar) from the likes of second language superhero Carrie Toth.

The reason I won't be following in their footsteps? Two main reasons:
  1. I can't, and 
  2. I'm not ready.
This might be the part where I get to say, "Gotcha!" I do like a sensational title now and then. Notice I didn't say "Why I won't be teaching novels in Spanish EVER"--and if I were really honest, I would have added "this fall." I fully intend to figure this thing out, maybe even in time for Spanish 2 in the spring (those are the kids who were all into Agentes Secretos after all, and my whole festival-centered Spanish 2 curriculum did kind of fall through completely last year). 

But this year, I am taking time to re-invent the wheel.

Look, I know that's the first thing they tell you not to do in teacher training, but I have to. I was talking with my amiga who's taking over the online gig from me this year, and she was careful to express how much she liked my ideas, and that she was definitely going to use some. And I knew exactly where she was coming from.

I LOVE the way #langchat amigos CONSTANTLY inspire me. Arianne Dowd is a freaking genius (though I am 100% confident she would try to say otherwise), and I plan to revisit her blog regularly as I plot Spanish 2. But I cannot be Arianne any more than I could be Sara-Elizabeth six years ago.

I have to understand what I'm going to do from the bottom up, and I can't do that by cribbing someone else's strategies. I can weave them in where they make sense to me (as I do with basically everything I see Rose Rhodes do), but more than ever I have to be intentional about how and WHY  I put them together.

Last year was rough for a lot of reasons, but one of the main ones was that I never fully wrapped my mind around where I was headed, much less where my kids were headed. And if that is my ultimate goal, OF COURSE everything is going to be off!

So the real reason I won't be teaching novels in Spanish this fall? I am taking my sweet time to process what I want kids to leave with, what I want them to present and to whom, and how I can make sure it is something that matters.

How that fits with novels is a question that will have to wait for another semester.