22 June 2011

Personal Histories

Advanced Topics in Diversity sounds kind of like what I'd like my Spanish classes to be about, but it is, in fact, the name of my first graduate class of the summer. I was wary of the class's ability to do anything for me that 8 years in the classroom, marrying a Mexican, and living in Robeson County hadn't already done, but I was pleasantly surprised with the angle it took. It started with our experience and forced us to experience more--not just read and discuss.

So I'm thinking I want to take one of the first assignments that we were given as graduate students and adapt it to Spanish 2 or 3 to kick off a year where we explore Day of the Dead, narcocorridos, afrolatino experiences, maybe immigration, maybe indigenous rights.

My assignment for graduate school:  
Personal History:  What is your own personal history with regards to cultural, ethnic, linguistic, gender, or cognitive diversity?  What events in your childhood or young adult life were influential?  What specific moments or events crystallized your views on diversity?  What people, books, or movies have influenced you?


 But how to adapt this? It's important that it come at the beginning of the year, but coming into Spanish 2, students' have only a rudimentary Spanish...that has probably gone to seed over the summer anyway.

So here is my thinking: low-stakes writing in English first. (Hey, I'm a Spanglish teacher, right?) I might tell them to aim for 3 pages of free-flow thought, sans paragraphs, etc. I will have to formulate some more targeted questions for stimulating this writing, ones students can pick and choose from to keep their writing going. For example:

  • Have you ever been anywhere where you were in the minority, because of culture, ethnicity, language, gender? What was it like?
  • How far have you traveled from home? What were some differences you noticed between other places and your home?
  • What are some of the biggest changes you have gone through in your life up until this point? What were the results of these changes?
  • Do you have friends, relatives, or neighbors from different cultures? What have you learned from them about their cultures and/or your own culture?
  • If you don't know anyone you consider to be from a different culture, how has that affected your own perspectives and opinions?
  • What people, books, or movies have opened your eyes to the experiences of people who are different from you?

Step 2: chunk each student's English writing by themes, time periods, or whatever seems appropriate. This would be a good time for conferences and also to give some serious feedback, like the groupings I would recommend. I might even start suggesting Spanish vocabulary words they will need to communicate about these topics.

Step 3: students will create or find visuals that represent each section well.

Step 4: motto design. Students will come up with a motto in Spanish that represents each section.

Step 5: a glog (of course).

I will have to experiment with this to see how my own would turn out and if there will even be enough Spanish with the motto method. It might be that I have them make mini-essays instead, or that we'll return to these at different junctures throughout the year.

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