30 April 2012

How to win first and influence students

Step 1: Scrap what you were going to do for the next month.

Step 2: Sit down with your Spanish 3 class for a discussion (in the target language, of course) about what would make an interesting skit. Challenge them to show off what they know about the target culture, while you're at it. It's a good idea to focus their attention on one country and a specific aspect of that country if possible.

Step 3: Divvy up the class according to their interests/areas of expertise. If they're into the hipster scene, how can they connect that to the country of choice? Can they make Dalí and his buddies Lorca and Bunuel look hipster? Awesome. If they're into royalty and dress-up, where can they go with Isabela and Fernando? Do they want to rip on a dictator's... shortcomings? Ándale. Is what they really want to learn a dance? All the better.

Step 4: Google Doc. Everyone can collaborate on a collective script, the divvied parties contributing their own scenes.

Step 5: Pull out all the stops. So your maternity leave sub who is a dancer who learned the Sevillana in Spain is subbing down the hall? Welcome her back with open arms during planning!

Step 6: Rehearse. Rehearse in class. Establish weekly rehearsals outside of class. Rehearse after school. Rehearse with your baby strapped to you. Rehearse in your room. Rehearse at the park. Rehearse with just the students. Rehearse until the lines are memorized. Rehearse until the actions are memorized. Rehearse with feeling.

Step 7: Assemble props and costumes. And by assemble, I don't just mean staple a construction paper mitre for the pope together: use connections to the local theater company to borrow crowns, swords, rifles for Franco's fascist army (of 3). Get them together, even if it is raining.
Then, of course, rehearse again.

(Student reactions and video of the performance after the jump)

I'm told that one of the students was telling our data manager that she didn't even think our play was good enough to go to the festival. The same student also didn't want to perform the skit for exhibition, even with 20% extra credit on the assignment just for getting up there.
Now, the singing group was not prepared, and they actually kind of...irked...one of the judges with their technical difficulties and lack of preparation. Then again, when two of my Spanish II kiddos made it to round 2 and then one got honorable mention in the cultural bee, he graciously connected our school's name with them instead. After the hoots and cheers (in the right places) for the exhibition performance, the same judge stopped my students to ask who had written their script. "We did, the whole class!" one said. "It is very well-written!" said the judge.
We dared to hope as the same judge whispered something about Lorca as he was getting ready to give the Spanish skit awards. When the skit that impressed us got third, we hoped even more!
As my students returned to their seats, where I was taking pictures, the very first thing said was, "We should use this to get them to bring Ms. Sexton back next year." (Although they did not decide that language was, indeed, a "core course" to be kept at our school next year instead of farmed out, I was offered a position teaching English here the day the trophy came home.)

We took some time after the festival to unwind and reflect on the day (in the target language, of course) at a nearby Mexican restaurant. On the way, the same student who wanted to start a Keep Sra. crusade said, "We've won a lot of trophies in track, but this means so much more to me."

Since then, two of the students blogged about their feelings from that day--one wrote a song. I congratulated one senior's mom, recalling freshman year, when he had to turn his  back and pull his hat down to present in front of the class (the king in the skit, if you can believe it!).

And now, they are plotting ways to win next year, even if they are not in a Spanish class.

I am so proud of the work they did. It's bittersweet knowing they could do it without me next year too.

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