24 October 2012

PACEE: PACE grammar method needs another step

My basic P.A.C.E. layout
(yes, I constructed the rule wrong here)
I have developed a very specialized structure for giving grammar notes now:

  1. 1. I make a powerpoint slide titled "Presentación" with a collection of sentences that have a similar pattern from an authentic text related to our theme (e.g. children's book, first aid manual, recipe). Please note: it should only be ONE pattern at a time. And at least 5 examples are ideal. HINT: Students like it when you indicate how many lines they should number for examples and how much space they should leave.
  2. Students need do nothing more with this slide than affirm that those sentences are kind of familiar and get ready to look for a pattern.
  3. I duplicate the slide and change the name to "Atención." I then draw a rectangle over a word or phrase that demonstrates the pattern I'm emphasizing. I animate this rectangle to appear on my click. I copy the animated rectangle and fit it to all of the other examples of the pattern on the slide, like so:

    Then all I have to do is click on the textbox containing all the words and "Bring to front."
  4. On the "Atención" slide, students write down the rectangled parts straight from the Atención slide. When we are studying a verb form, I also have them indicate the infinitive of the verb to show the contrast. They might do the same with adjectives or articles (el-->los) if you're showing agreement.
  5. What do the original/infinitive verbs all have in common? 
  6. How have these verbs changed in the sentences? 
  7. Are these verbs narrating or commanding?
  8. Then comes the Co-construcción slide. I have been writing it in Spanish for Spanish II--very, very simple Spanish, but I cannot bring myself to do that in Spanish I. Either way, I have students write out the rules in English at these levels, because the processing of the pattern is complicated enough without trying to add production of L2 to it. I structure this slide with questions, very specific questions to get them to notice the pattern and the reason for the patterns, for example:

    *What do the original/infinitive verbs all have in common?
    *How did these verbs change when they were used in the sentences?
    *Are these verbs narrating or commanding?
9. Also on this slide, I have found I really need to come up with sentence starters, like "Use -í when..." and "Use -é when..." to make sure they break down the parts they  need.

10. At this point, if you want to differentiate between two patterns, say -AR versus -ER/-IR or yo versus él/ella, go BACK and make 3 slides just like the others with the sentences for the second pattern. I think you could probably get away with doing it for 3 or 4 patterns in the same vein this way, at least at the Spanish II level, but be sure you do not overload their little minds.

Now here is where I think P.A.C.E. needs a new step.

Spanish II got very frustrated when I tried to introduce yo and él/ella forms of the preterite. I had to go back and do some re-teaching, which kind of amounted to letting them try to detect the patterns in still MORE sentences themselves. After they had this step, with a repetitive children's book from Spain, they felt much better about it, so I inserted it with my Spanish I as they learned informal commands from recipes. I call this step Experiment, hence PACEE.

11. Once students have had a chance to experiment, THEN they should try the "Extensión," some sort of authentic(ish) activity where they apply the pattern. For example, Spanish II described all of the calamities that had befallen this guy, and Spanish I explained how to make pancakes.

Now, Sra. Placido recently questioned the idea of having students pick out stem-changing verbs as unrelated to the standards, and she has a point. P.A.C.E.E. Of course, goes beyond this with the Extensión, having students write or say something using a structure, so its goal can fall under Communication as well as Comparisons if addressed properly. But in truth, neither P.A.C.E. nor P.A.C.E.E. exists to fulfill ACTFL standards. I believe they serve an important function, however, in helping students process what they see or hear, perhaps not in a way that is necessary for all learners, but for those that Sternberg would call "analytical" to be sure. In short, P.A.C.E.E. may well be a vestige of the way I learned languages 10, 15 years ago, but I think it is also a useful tool to have a class about the target language largely in the target language.

21 October 2012

For the Non Believers: The Point to Learning Spanish

"I'll be honest, I don't see much point in him learning Spanish," Incredulous Parent said to me about halfway through our conversation. We had established that Incredulous Jr. was overall doing well, of course with the usual teenage ups and downs along the way, and  Incredulous Sr. seemed to be feeling pretty at ease with me. So I suppose he felt safe confessing that he did not see the point in everyone learning Spanish (which, aside from virtual classes, is all our tiny school can offer). Incredulous Jr. had alerted me to these sentiments, which Sr. assured me were not intended to give offense. None taken, I replied, it is a common enough concern.

But here's what you may not realize:even if your son never, ever meets someone who does not speak English, there are a host of other skills that he is honing by participating in Spanish class.
The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, without knowing it,
kind of sums up why everyone should learn a language.

You know those blogs he writes each week in Spanish? The very simple ones where he talks about his hobby and looks up practically every word? Think about how simply he is having to express himself, how carefully he is having to choose his words and his phrasing. Imagine how that will carry over into his expression in his native language, knowing now how to work his way around what he wanted to say in the most straightforward way possible.

"I hadn't thought about that!" said I. Parent. "I have always thought that they should be spending more time getting better at using their own language first before worrying about learning another. Like spelling: Junior needs some serious help with his spelling."

I've got you covered there, too, Señor! Why, just today, students were trying to find the Spanish equivalent of a set of vocabulary related to their app creation projects--a veritable cornucopia of 21st century learning in itself, what with the technology, project management, and cooperation skills involved! Junior was stumped on the word for "dehydration," so we went back to the Greek root for water in the word, hydra, and discussed the spelling differences one might expect in Spanish, with a little talk of prefixes as well. And all of the Latin-based goodness of the rest of the language helps not only with spelling but with preparation for SAT analogies questions!

"That does make sense!" No-Longer-Incredulous Sr. replied."Thank you for helping me see the point to learning Spanish."

Aside from a bit of poetic license, this is essentially an actual conversation I had with a parent recently, and the timing is excellent. Not only is it about time for me to assemble and finalize my Product of Learning for my Master's work, but the latest assignment for my last Spanish course of the program is to persuade a district to reinstate a previously cut language program.Oh, and it's between the language program and the music program. I am to employ logos, pathos, ethos,and kairos to make my point, meaning I need not only studies and statistics (for which I think ACTFL has my needs covered), but also stories like Señor Incredulous Parent's to tug at the ol' heartstrings.

Sometimes I think we go about it all wrong, convincing people that language is worth it. We cite studies about Alzheimer's and global economy, but what people really want to know is what good will it do me or my kid now? The people we have to convince that language learning is for everyone probably have more pressing concerns than how sharp their minds will be at 80 and their chances of getting a job as an international jet-setter. And they may somehow avoid having to communicate with people who speak no English. They need to hear that learning a language makes them better at things that matter to them, that they will see results even before graduation.

I estimate that on the "Framework for 21st Centuy Learning" put forth by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, language learning directly addresses 3 out of 3 "Learning and Innovation Skills," 3 out of 3 "Media, Information, and Technology Skills," and 5 out of 5 "Life and Career Skills" if delivered effectively. There is a point to learning a language, for everyone, and it is not just travel or test scores or job opportunities. Learning a language is about perspectives and communication, failure as a learning tool, analysis and connections, clarification and shared communication. It is about accessing and evaluating information, influence and effective expression. It is about negotiation of meaning, goal setting, interaction, and participation.

The NC Department of Instruction head-of-all-things-world-language asked me, years ago, "Don't you think everyone needs to learn a language?" At the time, I was not so sure. I thought it was just a fun thing for the linguistically minded. I could pay lip service to it being a sort of key to academic and occupational success from random statistics I'd heard too. But after talking with Mr. Incredulous Parent, I can finally say I do believe, that there is not just a point but a power in learning Spanish, in learning any new language.

03 October 2012

Spanish PBL with a Purpose

I called up a former student who is an EMT and for whom Spanish class did not quite go far enough: excerpts of our conversation can be found under "Los problemas" in the app I made on appsbar.com as an entry event for the First Aid unit. You can see, and use, a preview of the app below.

So the plan is to get students to create a free app that EMT's can use to communicate with patients who speak only Spanish. When I mentioned the aim of the next unit and my student's request (which, truth be told, I kind of squeezed out of her), I got questions like "why us?" and "why don't you do it?"

My answer? Besides the fact that they chose the driving question "How do you respond to a medical emergency if the people around you speak only Spanish?" I said that all of them put together could come up with something better than what I could do alone.

I will need to do better sticking with the Need-to-Know checks along the way--while eschewing overkill. I'm going to be extra careful to anticipate some categories of Need-to-Know. I think I will approach it more as a web map exercise this time, maybe starting something like this:

Make a map like this at bubbl.us

The movie trailer unit that just ended was not a disaster, but this class indicated that they are not ready for planning their own schedules. They said they could, however, benefit from having their groups set from the beginning. To that end, groups may be the very first thing they figure out. I figure with groups of 2-4, they can each specialize in two categories of emergency or so and collaborate on arrival questions and responses. Plus that way we can get at least 3 different apps to eke out maximum possibility--balanced with manageability and responsibility.

Of course AppsBar is in English, but I have concocted a little list of 31 steps in Spanish to interject some interpretation. Of course there is always my favorite First Aid manual for interpretation too. I shall have to meditate muchly on how best to incorporate interpersonal in this unit as well, not to mention how to fit three major grammar concepts into 6 weeks along with the necessary vocabulary!

But if I can pull all this off, maybe get a handful of actual EMT's to evaluate the apps when it's said and done, I think the class will have a greater sense of accomplishment--of purpose--when THIS unit is done!