18 September 2010


So I have not stopped posting at http://huerter0.xanga.com.  I'll be remarrying in November, so I guess I can be Huerter0 until then.  The account reverting is due more directly to the fact that, despite my resignation to abandon my English roots, I am once again a Spanglish teacher.  That's right: on top of 2 classes of Spanish 1 and 2 classes of Spanish 2, I have a class of English 1 for the first time in my 7-year teaching career.  Therefore, I feel my translator-centered theme here is too restrictive.

So perhaps Sra. Spanglish Rides Again?

30 July 2010

Interdisciplinary Idea

My principal tweets a lot...and sometimes it's interesting.  Last night, for example, he linked to http://www.designforchangecontest.com/.

I have been looking for an excuse to become part of the health science projects at my school, interdisciplinary independent research projects that students typically complete as part of their science classes every 6 weeks, freshman to junior year (they are precluded by senior project in the end, something for which they also serve to prepare).  I have been contemplating nutrition units and first aid units (the latter of which I piloted solo) that I could collaborate on with the Health Science/Environmental Science/Biology teacher, but not much has come of it yet.

Now, I don't know if we can meet the October 2nd deadline, unless we start right away, and the step encouraging us to " let children ‘feel’ that changing lives is not only about ‘others’ but about how ‘their’ lives will be changed by ‘caring’ about issues and seeing that ‘they’ can be the change."  In fact, that kind of defeats my ulterior motive, not only of getting students involved in some kind of activism, but getting them involved in some kind of international activism.

It would be cool if I could get missionaries from the area (maybe Lara after she gets back? her compadres?) to come speak about issues in Spanish-speaking countries before they make their choices, a sort of thematic advanced organizer.  Or maybe I could re-invite the parents and community members to come "ask for help" for their countries?  Sra. Chiok (from Peru) would be excellent for this.

Actually, what I might see if we could do instead is start off at the local level, as the site suggests, and get a preliminary video for the contest through other classes, THEN use that as a jumping off point for a unit on activism in MY class.  Or, heck, maybe I could have them do little videos in Spanish for a local issue and pawn them off on Centro Latino!  THEN get into the hispanohablante issues with a collaborative health science project (environment/health) wherein students produce their "driving questions," presentations, and accompanying products as usual!

OR I could even relate this to the "family building" at the beginning of Spanish 1, since I have a good idea of where I want to start in Spanish 2 this year.  When Spanish 1 researches their cities, maybe they could look into a specific issue they find in their research?  Oh I wish the deadline were later in the as-yet-unformed year!

Still, it's got my creative juices going to inspire something more with the activism unit.  Surely there are more activism contests, and maybe even an epals.com project!

29 July 2010

Idea to steal for Spanish 1!

There are a lot of things from Jim's presentation that I do not think could be found online for the majority of the Spanish-speaking world, i.e. bus/train schedules (though maybe this site will work?).  HOWEVER, I believe he has shown me the perfect way to start my Spanish 1 school year!

  1. I want to put my kids in family groups and have them choose apellidos.
  2. I want them to pick a city to live in; should they all start in Mexico?  If they do, their family can "move" later--and we'll have a new class arrangement!
  3. I want them to pick a house to live in (city first, because houses look different region to region).
  4. It would be neat to have them use Google Earth to find Oxxos (convenience store chain) and torta shops near their house for Mexico!
  5. Having them find schools could prep them for a comparison unit (public vs. private is a world apart there) and provide a background for school vocabulary
  6. Oh, and they have GOT to find phone numbers!  Where will I find a Mexican phone book?
  7. The invitations to visit would be a nice, simple, authentic task and a fun way to get people moving.
Additional thoughts: though I would not be personally familiar with anywhere but Guadalajara, if students come from different countries, or even just different regions, then they would have something to teach each other when they "visit" perhaps.

26 July 2010

Finding Future Me Authentic Texts

I had this vision of the kinds of things I wanted to find for a unit on college life, and it looked kind of like a textbook with charts to compare different statistics and pictures of college kids being (model) college kids in various countries.  Is it my key words? Am I looking in the wrong places?

I did manage to find a college application for some college I've never heard of in Mexico.  It seems the schools I HAVE heard of are into online applications, and want me to actually apply to get to the rest of the applications!

I have also found a blog with suggestions on how to evaluate a school's reputation, among other things.

What's missing is what I think kids might really want to know: where do students live, and what do they do in their classes and for fun?  It seems like there's got to be some kind of magazine or advertisement that universities would put out, but I don't know how to find such a thing, if it exists!

At the very least, I'm finding it easier to pick out what words to teach for pre-reading!

But now, I must continue my search for interesting articles...and possibly pictures to add more context

25 July 2010

TPR to do

I aspire to make my TPR as good as Lara's one day, but I was confused by what she'd told me versus what I saw.  She said that she made the gestures up with the kids, but then demonstrated gestures she'd already made up.  I think I like that better, not because I don't have a STUPENDOUS memory for class-to-class variation, but because it has a definite starting place.  Otherwise how do the kids ever know what the word means?  Or would it have to be combined with the image/word powerpoint thing?  I suppose that could only help reinforce it.  Then again--though Lara swears it worked like magic--I wonder if my sophomores would not think themselves above the simplistic motion repeating and refuse?  So much of what one can pull off has to do with one's personality and style, and practically sharing a name does not mean we can pull off the same types of activities.  Or maybe I do not believe enough in TPR that way, and it would show...

I think I will try the "follow me" TPR model first.  My students have never been big on vocabulary choice in any form I've offered it thus far, and so it'd be better for me to just lay out my gesture suggestions, and if someone (like Cierra or Hayden) has a brilliant suggestion on another way, there's no reason I couldn't switch.

I do, according to comments, need to be careful about making rope gestures look like milking a cow.

As for the synonyms from this book in particular, I think both words for "jump" are important to teach, but I worry about the students making false connections if I differentiate the gestures. However, having taught the words for jump, I think I'd like to have students find the 2 other synonyms for rope based on context, rather than each getting its own gesture.

22 July 2010

Questions, Questions, Questions

There are so many things I want to ask for pre-reading for Pies Ligeros!

Looking at the pictures:

  • What colors does the artist use in these pictures?
  • How do these colors make you feel?
  • What kind of story do you expect from this style of painting? Fairy tale? Fable? Biography?
  • Who will be some of the characters in this book?
  • What activity are all of the characters doing?
About the idea of Death:
  • What adjectives or feelings do you associate with Death?
  • How is Death like a jumprope contest?
About the animals:
  • What adjectives do you associate with (toad, iguana, monkey, coyote, rabbit, alligator, grasshopper)?
  • Who would win a jumprope contest (see above) or Man? Why?
I really wish I could find a page in SPANISH about the significance of the animals represented in the story as a warm-up reading.  Then again, that would make, what, the 4th pre-reading activity?  What's worse: I'm in the process of adding visuals for the animal words (even the familiar ones) for the illustration powerpoint--still ANOTHER pre-reading.

I think I could overload with pre-reading if I do it this way.  Then again, If I spent one day talking about Death and words and ideas associated with it and THEN did all the powerpoint/reading/post-reading the next day...it might work.  Then I could use quotes about Death for Comparisons.  Or perhaps they could look up their own quotes about Death for homework: simple, quick, and interesting.

OK, so they have their quotes, and with them answer: ¿Qué es la Muerte?  ¿Cuáles son unas palabras para describir la Muerte?

THEN we look at the pictures!  I could add words they don't expect to associate with Death, asking them if Death is also those things (especially things to describe a jumprope game).  Then that would facilitate the post-reading with the Venn Diagram and jumprope poem!

Cute Idea or Comprehension?

As a baby English teacher, I was raised to think of all sorts of creative things--the most creative things possible--to attach to a book and motivate readers to engage with it.  Ironically, what I think I was missing was methods to engage the readers DURING the reading and the means to truly measure comprehension AFTERWARD.

Talking with my classmates (und la Dra.), I came to realize that a lot of the things I thought of would make fine additions to an overall UNIT, but they really did little for the comprehension of the text itself.  I had cute ideas, but would they accomplish the goal of actually being able to understand the text?

This explains why a lot of my cute ideas have been so disappointing in practice.

So I have revisited Pies Ligeros with the idea NOT of fitting it into my Dia de los Muertos unit, but with the idea of negotiating meaning from the story itself: the unit fitting must come only AFTER that is accomplished!

To that end, I've made a list of 15 words I would like to use with TPR, made a few contextual sentences with unfamiliar animal words for a matching exercise, and begun brainstorming words that one might associate with death so students could do a Death vs. Jumprope Venn Diagram at the end (though I need more jumprope-y words).  Even with the post-reading I've been considering, I'm wondering if I'm not leaning toward cute too much, and so I think I'll do an exemplar to see how much it can relate to the story.

I'm struggling to make this NOT about my overarching unit theme and NOT about some external theme that relates to only one minute aspect of the book (e.g. animals).  I need to explore the ACTUAL themes some more myself.

I feel like the jumprope, the shoes, and the animals--perhaps even the animals' order, are significant to getting meaning from the story.  The point being that death is unexpected (light feet), that it wears you out, that it will always win (unless you cheat?), that it lures you in (as into the jumprope game).  As for the animals, I think I might have to look to Zapotec significance for these animals, to see why the painter painted him and why his daughter, the author, presented them as she did.  What I don't know is whether that is too much OUTSIDE the text, too cultural, or too literary even, to be useful to Reading Comprehension.

It seems like cheating to only do what others suggested, like the pre-survey (e.g. Is death always a surprise?, etc.) or animal picture matching.  Or maybe I'm afraid it's just not CUTE enough.

20 July 2010

Pies Ligeros, Pasos Primeros (Light Feet, First Steps)

I have been fervently hunting authentic texts--authentic children's literature--online since April at least.  Pies Ligeros is a book I'd come across, but hadn't found much information about (though it's been on my Amazon wishlist since June 13.)  While this is not an actual legend, as I'd hoped it was, it is an authentic product, in that a Mexican author, daughter of a Mexican painter, wrote the story to accompany her father's series of paintings on death.

I can use this as a sort of introduction to attitudes toward death for my unit on Dia de los Muertos (should that come to fruition)

Reading strategy 1: Graphic preview
Obviously, with a book based on paintings, I'd want to emphasize the art.  I like the idea of projecting scanned pages (conveniently enough, no words on the paintings!)  I'm not sure what I want to emphasize besides death as a jumproping skeleton in pretty much every picture.  I think I'd like to tap into feelings the colors and images evoke, but also have students make note of the animals represented and possibly speculate on the purpose of a jumprope in paintings about Death.  In discussion, we might consider why some animals appear to have human bodies.

Reading strategy 2: Preexisting knowledge pre-writing
(This might come first, or after picking the animals out of the paintings.)  I'd ask students to do a pre-writing (in L2? not sure they'd have the vocab) on which animal is most likely to win a jumping contest and why: man, toad, monkey, iguana, coyote, rabbit, alligator, (bat, snake), or grasshopper?

Reading strategy 3: Personal connection, discussion
I've started digging up some death quotes in English, but maybe I should be leaning toward Spanish quotes.  I was thinking connecting to the familiar, but these quotes aren't necessarily familiar--though they might ring true.  I'm under the impression that "death comes with light feet" is a saying in Mexico, but I could be wrong.  Either way, I think I'd distribute a page and have each student choose the quote that most closely aligns with their perception of death and why.

Reading strategy 4: Jigsaw
The text is not dense, but it is complex, and because of the variety of animals, I think this would lend itself well to jigsawing, wherein each group tries to make connections with a different jumprope rhyme, say, matching the rhyme to the picture or figuring out which word is the animal word and which animal it is.  They might also practice jumproping to the rhyme to get a feel for the rhythm of the poetry.  Then, of course, groups would share what they've accomplished.

I think then I'd read the story aloud to students in Spanish and have them figure out why the grasshopper beat death and what the point of the story was.

I will definitely need to do some vocabulary frontloading, so I will digest the vocabulary chapter by tomorrow night and have more ideas to make the text accessible to Level 2 learners.

17 July 2010

Somewhere to begin!

Just as Dra. Moser said: the student writer needs "organizational support"!  The example that provided suggestions for segmenting chunks a writing assignment was just what I needed to get started!

With the format that included a context/set-up scenario, followed by a description of the type of text to be produced, then rounded off with starter sentences, I was able to turn the Future Me assignment into something I'm excited about doing--instead of being afraid of boring students and repeating the autobiography travesty of 2010.

I have to give credit also to my suitemate.  She's the one who helped me decide to focus the assignment on life in college, which led me to see that I could add another coupla "C's" and compare student expectations for college life here to college life in other countries!  Which means instead of adding the teaching of jobs and the like to the review, I may only need to add the organizational structure and use some authentic readings (here's hoping I can find them!) about college life in, say, Mexico.  Maybe my little sophomores could attempt an application, poke around some university webpages.  Maybe I'll even find a blog or two from a college student's perspective!

I think what my classmates may have been impressed with even more than the layout of my assignment is that it is a glog, and that I had already started making an example.  I'm wary of the flash of the glog hiding inner boring-ness, but I think that another suitemate idea--using daily warm-ups to build up to the finished product--will help cement the personal connection of the assignment, making the motivation more than external oo-it's-internet-and-graphics.  The daily warm-up approach could also increase affect, I think.

With all this in mind (and perhaps also the reunion with the idea notebook I'd left at home), I feel like I might be able to start this year off feeling good, and live down last year's floundering!

14 July 2010

Authentic text realities

At least one fear has been laid to rest: authentic texts need not be 200 words in order to be effective.  The roughly 100-word text we used today was probably ideal for a beginner to sink her teeth into (my German is SO rusty!)

Also, the textbook analysis of Realidades helped me come up with more text types to seek out that I had not previously considered, such as schedules, athlete profiles, invitations, ads, and--perhaps coolest of all--personality quizzes from magazines.

Now, I'm not sure where I can find good examples of these that will suit my purposes, but Dra. Moser has pointed me toward a textbook (Esquemas?) that I may or may not be able to get my hands on.

I'm feeling really good about the two texts I already found for the "future me" unit, because they have repetition, and scripts to some extent, especially in the children interviews.  Also, they are in stanzas and chunks that one can skip around in order to build meaning AND confidence!

The Dia de los Muertos unit selections are not as rosy: the Vanidades biography of Michael Jackson that I thought would connect with student interest and prior knowledge was very, but VERY thorough, and overwhelming even for me in its volume.  I did find an article that MIGHT work on the same topic, particularly if we pick it apart like we did the heart attack ad today.  Also, I Remember Abuelito is probably not authentic enough, as there was a separate translator.  (Then again, it is definitely not formulated for a classroom!)  I started perusing obituaries and had to figure out that eulogies are more like elegies in Spanish, so what I wanted was funeral homilies or homages or farewells--haven't found a suitable one yet, though.  Still, that's more of the outside-of-the-box text type that I need to go for more now.

I'm starting to get a grasp on how I can present texts with a bunch of unfamiliar words and constructions, cool ideas for pre-reading (really liked the sentences with bold words matching in the alternative German text today).  The one thing I'm still wary of right now is how it all fits together and how it's assessed.  To that end, I am to check out the learning scenarios in the Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century book Dra. Moser lent me to assuage my panic at preparing for the new year.

13 July 2010

Formative activities with 5 Cs

Let's see if I can remember them: Communication, Culture, Community, Connections...Comprehension?  Nuts.  Comparisons.  Comparisons AND connections?  Seems redundant.

In the spirit of memorizing this, the backbone of foreign language instruction nationwide, and making my plans for the year to come as thorough as possible, I'm not only going to use Sternberg labels and modes of communication labels to determine the validity of a formative assessment assignment, but I will also attempt to apply the 5 C's.

No wait!  Now I'm being redundant!  The three modes are contained in the Communication standard!  My, this does free me up.  I had been struggling to fit everything into the Communication category, when that is not strictly necessary!  Those analytical activities that weren't quite interpersonal and weren't quite interpretive  could well fall under Connections or Comparisons.

My kingdom for my little planning notebook that is down the mountain, in my living room, on the end table!

30 June 2010

Top 10 Reasons an Education Is Better Than a Translator

1) An education is 100% portable: it does not rely on wifi accessibility, nor can it be crushed in your backpack.

2) How do you KNOW that's really what you meant to say?

3) Homonyms do not compute: "can" has only one meaning to a translator. Think about it.

4) Translators skip words they don't know, putting the Gettysburg Address 5 years before "I Have a Dream."

5) Translators mock you for not being able to spell: they leave your errors untranslated and let you think it's Spanish.

6) You can never truly be YOU if you don't know how to choose your own words.

7) Even if you got through a whole novel with just a translator, the experience is sure to induce comas.

8) You sound silly using "usted" with other teenagers.

9) Anyone you talk to with a translator will have to spell out what they say.

10) I don't care if it's not a person: if it did your homework for you, it's still cheating.