19 May 2011

A matter of interpretation

Q: What do a Chilean reality show and Honduran tourism have in common? How about a recipe for croquetas de pollo and a wikipedia article about a Mexican sitcom?

A: Interpretation review for Spanish I, of course!

Interpretation is but one part of the final project I'm planning for both Spanish I and II. Students will also demonstrate interpersonal communication by Skyping a partner, recording a conversation, or simply passing notes. Presentational is still in the works, though.

Still, I had my students interpret written texts, first discussing using context clues, like recipe or wikipedia article formats. we talked about using words they knew and figuring out words. For the recipe, I just had them summarize, but for the article about Familia de Diez, they made a family tree to show the family relationships among characters (hint: it definitely helps to set up the tree with blanks for them ahead of time, rather than have them doodle willy nilly). This way, students had to use all of their cooking vocabulary for one and family vocabulary for the other.

We reviewed family some more with the Esta Es Mi Familia ad, but I had specific questions related to the video: not only did they put names with people's positions in the family, but they had to figure out which person got a new job, and which was talking to an ex on Facebook.

The musical tourism ad for Honduras, "Todo está aqui" was good for reviewing...everything! There was a lot of geography, a few adjectives, and a few handy verbs! A lot of the text was beyond Spanish I, but it made a nice cloze activity (plus the kids were dancing in their seats, and one of my usually less-interested muchachos was mouthing the words along by the end). I almost forgot the word bank, though (the lyrics helped at the last minute!) It's getting to be crunch time, but if we had more time, I would have had them talk about reasons to visit or not visit Honduras, or perhaps turn the ad into a poster.

So for the actual final, I believe I'll collect a handful more of recipes, but I might have to get more creative with the videos, as I've yet to come across others with as much familiar vocabulary (though I bet there are more for "Esta Es Mi Familia" out there, and maybe non-wikipedia synopses. I might also be able to hunt down a travel brochure or two.

If anyone knows any good authentic texts that use family/adjective vocabulary, travel vocabulary, and/or hobbies vocabulary, by all means, pass them on!

16 May 2011

Ultimate Goals

So I had grand plans of orchestrating a comprehensive, super-intensive, especially creative final over spring break. Instead, I rested. A lot. So now I have to finalize finals, though I've barely started envisioning how to make them comprehensive, much less intensive and creative.

I want to cover at least the majority of the 5 C's, but most especially Communication (I figure the Culture & Comparison might happen sort of naturally somewhere in the communicating...No? Too much to hope?) For Connections, I would really like them to write something in ye olde L1 about reading strategies they have learned/honed/had to do. After all, as part of the New Schools Project, our school subscribes to six instructional strategies, including "writing to learn," so I think I can justify it.

I envision students putting this together as a glog. However, having had at least 3 students fail last year when I piloted the whole project-instead-of-exam idea, I know now that I have to have a backup for those lacking the follow-up gene. In other words: I'm going to have them do the same kind of things, but IN class, ON exam day--ALL of them who do not have a FINISHED glog the day of.

This worked rather well at midterm time in Spanish 2, though the test was a more conventional one and involved a classic study guide students could fill out to prepare while the others worked on their projects. I suppose I may have some multiple choice or short answer questions for the interpretation mode of Communication, but interpersonal would be either a note-passing exercise or recorded conversation, and presentational would be a paragraph or a minute speech of some sort.

In Spanish I, students will speak/write about 3 of the following: family, travel, food, or hobbies.

In Spanish II students will speak/write about 3 of the following: a famous Spanish speaker, customs from a Spanish-speaking country, life saving, American/Hispanic cultural connections, or international problems.

I still need to work out particulars for my grandiose comprehensive plan, but here are some options for students to demonstrate the 3 modes of Communication:

Copy & paste a typed Skype conversation
Audio recording of a phone or Skype conversation
Video recording of a conversation in person.

Collage + text
Comic strip
5 W's answers
Response writing

Video personal ad (fictitious or real)
Food/restaurant review
Dream vacation or family scrapbook (mixbook?)

05 May 2011

Classroom Skype: Do's & Don't's

We've skyped with 2nd graders in Arizona and are preparing to skype with high schoolers in South Dakota. Spanish II has skyped my ex-mother-in-law in Mexico, and years ago we brought all the Spanish classes together to skype a high school buddy on Fulbright in Argentina. Oh yeah, and after some bumps in the road, we had an impromptu conversation with a former student of mine from Venezuela (whose "hotness" was a motivator for some of my more...excitable...students). 

It's mostly been a pretty cool thing, though often pretty awkward. I would like to make the experience better, and so: a reflection on what worked and what didn't.

DO plan & approve questions ahead of time, in Spanish. No, you can't stop a sophomore from telling your ex-in-laws they're pretty in the middle of the discussion--that's just too easy for them. But you can at least try to make sure native speakers who don't have a lot of English at their disposal (kind of helpful if played right) can at least grasp what your young'uns are trying to ask.

DON'T stop at question planning: anticipate. Students should brainstorm the answers they can expect from their audiences and THEN think of appropriate ways to respond. I have mine create a "cheat sheet" of things they can say, though I'm not sure that's the best way.

DO rehearse beforehand. The whole anticipation things goes a lot better if the kiddos get to try asking their questions of a classmate (or teacher, in a pinch). It works especially well if the practice answerer plays dumb so they have to figure out how to rephrase and be understood.

DON'T go in without arranging a plan with the other side of the conversation. Fulbright friend had an idea of topics that would come up (culture, mainly), and I GAVE Suegra the questions ahead of time--so I could anticipate the vocabulary she'd use, in part. The first chat with the 2nd graders was confusing because we didn't delineate who was asking what or what was fair game. It went GREAT when we had definite roles (asker vs. answerer) laid out and had a feel for what kind of questions were in each other's scope/likely to come up. 

DO brainstorm relevant vocabulary ahead of time. It helps students form questions and anticipate answers--then form their own answers, if need be.

DON'T let the rest of the class sit idly by until it's their turn. To minimize intimidation for @srtaegge's Skype newbies, we'll be trying it in groups for the first time, instead of a whole-class experience. Right before talking to Suegra, I threw a note-taking thing together off the top of my head when I realized that would be a problem, but I really should have put a lot more thought into it. True, most kids were RIVETED when we were talking to the Arizona darlings--partially from nerves--but they really should have had to produce something. Now, I think I might have the groups answer survey questions about the Dakota kiddos they interview, maybe something like superlatives: "Quiero ser el amigo/ la amiga de ____ porque..." "___ es el/la mejor estudiante porque dice que..."

DO set a specific purpose for the conversation other than "practice." I could feel my kids slipping away with just the topic of "interviewing" the South Dakota kids. It's one thing to do the basics with ninitos, but with kids your age? I wish I'd thought of the survey thing sooner.

DON'T let kids just stick to a script. It defeats the purpose of interpersonal communication. I think they should HAVE a script to start off with for comfort and screening purposes, but they should also get points for ad-libbing too.

DO require follow-up. I've stressed that in everyday life we don't just go up to a person, say "Do you like ice cream?" and then turn around and walk away after getting an answer. We usually say things like "Cool!" or "Me too!" or "That's a shame." Last year, when I threw Spanish I kiddos into the deep end to interview some local Latinos about their homelands, I gave them a list of "gambits" to use. To this day, you can often hear them interject "Esteeee...." or "No me digas!" or, their favorite, "Es diferente en nuestra cultura." I should really spend more time on these every day in class, probably post them around the room. Choosing the right response is one step toward accountability for grasping the answer given, too.

Now, I haven't graded any of the skype conversations up to this point, but I think it's about time. So here's the rubric I'm thinking of going by:

___/5 Appropriate greetings and closings given
___/5 All questions asked
___/5 Questions/responses rephrased as necessary to help interviewee's comprehension
___/5 Appropriate responses and/or follow-up given for EACH question that show interviewer comprehension
___/5 At least 5 appropriate non-scripted questions or responses included

Any ideas for tweaking? Suggestions to add to the Do/Don't list?

04 May 2011

Power start: a good lesson off the top of my head

We started with "Poder corrumpe; poder absoluto corrumpe absolutamente." I took a quick poll of some of the quieter members of class about whether power corrupts saying "¿poder corrumpe?" or "¿cierto o falso?" or "si o no?" and following up with "¿todas personas?" or "¿A veces? ¿Depende?" That way they at least had to get some kind of idea what the topic was, with repetition and rephrasing--not English!

So then I had students write a journal: Cuando yo tenía poder, so students can not ONLY practicing the past tense, but ALSO making a personal connection with the subject to lead into dictators.

And THEN, I gave each a copy of this:

 I had them summarize what infografía was in 2 sentences in Spanish—an attempt at incorporating the story re-telling recommended by ye olde #langchat PLN, using an authentic text with context and everything!

And THEN? They wrote a number on post-its to answer “¿Cuántos dictadores hay en el mundo hispanohablante? (200 años)”

I had been considering a plátiza or giving them the actual infographic assignment today, but flying by the seat of my pants seemed to work a lot better.