19 November 2012

Experiencia Afrolatina, Part 2: PBL adaptation

Driving Question: Is the person who other people see the person who you really are?

The goal of the driving question is, in fact, to drive students, to impel students to desire to know MORE. I've finally gotten past the idea of organizing essential questions for the language classroom around vocabulary or grammar goals, but then I found myself developing questions driven by the authentic texts I had selected. And we are not looking for DRIVEN questions, now are we? So I wrestled with how to turn the Afrolatinos unit I had been developing over the past few years into something that connected with students, that would drive them to want to know more.

While I, myself, am interested in exploring questions like "How is African heritage expressed in Cuba/México/Colombia/Dominican Republic?" or "How are Black people perceived in different Spanish-speaking countries, and what is the history behind those attitudes?" they lack drive. They are more academic, esoteric, and not personal. For a question to drive, it must have a personal connection. Some teenagers are into exploring other cultures, but ALL teenagers are into exploring themselves. The trick was to tie the two together, and thus the topic of appearance versus identity.

And now, to do it in four weeks. (I got a little carried away with the EMT App unit, for better or for worse. And then there are exams.)

So I must narrow my selection of texts to explore for time purposes as well as for streamlining to fit the new question-that-drives. I also need to break down the goals of the unit into tangible objectives (because Heaven knows that the Common Core Essential Standards do not spell out what students should produce).

Entry Event
At this point, students have done a little introspection by describing themselves and analyzing what roles and characteristics they subconsciously choose first. Then I showed a candid shot of each student (some knew I was snapping pictures, some didn't) and had individuals describe the person they saw in the photo in two words. I'm also putting together a video to show them (with WeVideo--a godsend as online video editing goes) with images of Afrolatinos with 10 different possible aspects of Afrolatino identity:

  • Appearance (shape, size, color)
  • Community (family, neighbors, organization)
  • History (personal, intergenerational)
  • Land (origins, home)
  • Religion (ceremony, beliefs)
  • Food (preferences, traditions)
  • Language (accents, slang)
  • Style (clothing, hair, accessories, attitude?)
  • Entertainment (hobbies, sports)
  • Art (music, dance, visual)
Ultimately, I would like for them to compare their perceptions and experiences to those they observe as we explore the Afrolatino experience in different countries, to draw parallels and define contrasts, choosing at least three of those categories to emphasize.

Somos Pacifico
Believe it or not, pretty much all of the 10 categories of aspects I chose I picked out of ChocQuibTown's "Somos Pacífico," so that will be the first text that students analyze. Students will get the 10 categories from my video and then see how many they can pick up in ChocQuibTown's, first upon viewing, then with the lyrics in front of them.

Memín Pinguín
Since the dichotomy we're exploring is appearance versus reality, the controversial Mexican cartoon character seems the most obvious place to emphasize appearance. I've scraped together a few different images from the comic books with some Google searching, and this is always a good place for some interpersonal discussion.

We'll skip "Negrito Sandía" in the interest of time.

Kalimba (tweet and interview)
After we've seen a little bit of the historical perspective in Mexico, then we can look at something more contemporary, with a racial tweet about pop star Kalimba and the ensuing interview with his reaction to it. I'd like to mention the big scandal that came shortly after that one, but not spend very long on it.

Cartas a Mi Mamá
I usually focus on the parts where the narrator describes people's reaction to her appearance versus her own, and that seems particularly relevant here. There are some interesting passages pertaining to the orishas of West African pantheons that would help inform the religion aspect as well.

This song incorporates community, history, and land as unifying forces, which poses a nice contrast for what's next with...

Masacre del Perejil
We have pop songs, comic book pages, tweets, an interview, and novel excerpts so far, so how about a wikipedia article to highlight some of the historical community issues between Haití and the Dominican Republic? To be followed by...

...an excerpted version that focuses on the issues of identity and disparity rather than the foundation of Haiti or the current state of the French-speaking nation.

Me Llamo Celia
I think this picture book would be a nice cap-off text, not only for the pictures and relative simplicity of the text, but the way it incorporates history, community, appearance, style, art, entertainment, land, and even a little food (¡AZÚCAR!). To focus attention on identity, there will be some excerpting here too.

As for the project itself, basically, students will choose how to express at least 3 aspects of their own identity and relate it to the same aspects they observed in one or more of the countries we explore.I have laid out the description of exactly what I expect here, along with a growing collection of resources that include the above, plus the bonus material that either time would not permit or that did not strictly fit the direction of the question. 

13 November 2012

Acting App

Spanish II has almost finished putting together their apps for EMT's, so now it is time to test them out. But how to test products designed for emergency situations without...death?

In the words of Jon Lovitz, "...aaaacting!"

Now, the apps will not be officially published on the due date, as they must undergo the Appsbar team's scrutiny before being added to the Appcatch marketplace for use on any and all smartphones. However, my brand-spankin'-new classroom is equipped with a board of the SMART variety, ie, an overgrown touchscreen. All the better to keep the class (and observing principals) in on the action, que no?

So what else do we need for an engaging, reflective, interactive demonstration of what the different groups' apps can and can't do when it comes down to the wire?

  • Scenarios taken from the areas of expertise represented in all app groups (in this case, breaks, bleeds, burns, poisoning, allergic reactions, and heart attacks), to be distributed al azar, with the drawing of a card. We could use the scenarios kiddos came up with to tell an actor how to fake their respective traumas, but we will, instead, go with ones modeled on symptoms described in various online sources.
  • A checklist based on the project rubric for quick, efficient evaluation of app quality by all audience members.
  • A role for each of the 3 app group members: one can touch the SMARTboard, one can touch the patient, and ONLY ONE can speak English (as the apps are designed for EMT's who do not speak Spanish but need to).
  • A patient (or five), either the lovely lady pictured here or some of the very fine thespians of your class. I have some Grade A actores in this crop, so I'm going with the latter. Plus I don't trust Srta. Olivia's vocal talents.
  • A system whereby each group tests a different group's app.
Then what happens?
  1. Align the rubric with the checklist. I suggest a little color coding, e.g. "Easy and accessible" is yellow, so all of the checklist questions that apply to that category get outlined/underlined/highlighted in yellow.
  2. Alert students to the necessity of participation, probably with a completion grade for A) filling out the checklists for all groups besides their own and B) participating in the discussion of each group's evaluation.
  3. Assure them, oh yes, there will be discussion--IN SPANISH. Prepare them to give their overall ratings 1-10, name the problems and positive attributes as well as specific questions/ instructions/ responses that demonstrate these problems or strengths. For example:

    Q: ¿Qué número le das a esta app, Beto?
    A: Ocho.
    Q: ¿Por qué, Beto?
    A: Porque es fácil de usar y puedo escuchar todo, PERO no tiene respuestas para todas las preguntas.
    Q: ¿Qué pregunta no tiene respuesta, Beto?
    A: La pregunta “¿Cuándo empezó el dolor?”
    At which point I might ask for examples from the class of possible responses.

  4. Dangle a prize of some sort, perhaps a fabulous cash *coughpesocough* prize or extra credit, for the app with the highest composite score as compiled from class whiteboard scoreboards. (Bonus for fabulous patient actors?)
  5. NOTE: "scores" are NOT the final grades.
Then, once everyone is clear on what's about to go down, the first group (volunteer or victim) draws the first scenario, passing it off to the designated actor without looking. They determine who mans the SMARTboard, who mans the patient, and who mans the...English language, I guess. Then the acting begins, the group discusses (in Spanish, except for the one English speaker) which button needs to be pressed on the projected app. The patient responds, and the scenario goes on until there is an accurate diagnosis and some form of treatment (hopefully no more than 5 minutes--we'll say the patient dies in 5 minutes, even if it's a sprained ankle).

Then the class gives their respective checklists a once-over, each person tallying the points out of 10 earned and displaying the score on their boards. (I might need a scorekeeper.)

After the final demonstration, a quick review of group evaluation terms before the group evaluation form filling and the self-reflective writing, to be wrapped up with the App Más Excelente award before moving on to the entry event for the next unit.

05 November 2012

Piñatas in the target language

Real world application: Spanish I
coming in handy for my son's 5th
birthday party
I have become the Spanish teacher that lets her class make piñatas. We spend a total of nearly two weeks on them. I should be ashamed, shouldn't I?

But what if I told you that this  mini-project came about as a result not only of student choice but a step toward a project that will engage children from the community with the target language? And that it easily addresses no fewer than 8 essential standards from the Common Core curriculum*, on Novice
Low alone! Furthermore, it is organized around an authentic text, a video to teach native speakers to make piñatas, thus engaging the interpretive mode of communication, and that the process toward completion involved engaging the interpersonal as well for making a decision. And it all culminated not only in gorgeous, culturally appropriate crafts to be busted apart, but also in a collaborative presentational demonstration!

I broke down the video below into 5 parts (well, 4 and 2 "halves"):

  1. 0:00-2:01 Gathering materials and covering the balloon
  2. 2:02-3:48 Making the cones
  3. 3:49-7:01 Attaching the cones
  4. 7:01-9:26 Decorating the cones
  5. Jigsaw sections: 9:26-9:55 style 1; 9:56-10:50 style 2

I prepared the standard powerpoint of pictures with words to introduce necessary vocabulary without resorting to English. Some of the words came from lists students themselves compiled of materials they would need to execute activities they planned for our Children's Day celebration. 

We did a little online collaborative contextual practice with some of them, as we discussed how many/much we'd need of each supply and researching how much it would cost to compile on a Google Doc presentation. 

We also had "sorting cards" that students made with the Spanish words on one side and drawings on the other, so they could group and regroup the words according to their own semantic connections.

Another idea is to have students watch the whole video through at some point, just listening for numbers for review's sake.

For each section of the first 4 sections of video, I then made both a cloze reading for students to fill in while listening and then a scrambled steps page for them to cut apart and put in the right order after watching at least 3 times and filling out the cloze. 
The idea was for them to gather context clues and get a feel for the order of things to anticipate from the images in the video the first time watching, listen for familiar words the second time, and fill in missing pieces the third time. 
Then they would use the words they did know to analyze what went where. It was cool to hear them saying things like, "That says scissors, and the cutting didn't happen until the end."
After they showed they could figure out the order, I figured that showed they were ready to put the steps into action, and they completed those steps with the time remaining.
  1. Have students make a list of supplies they'll need from the first 45 seconds of the video to reinforce vocabulary and prepare for what is coming.
  2. Emphasize that they really do need at LEAST 3-4 layers of newspaper when papier-macheing the balloon, ESPECIALLY near the hole at the top! (I made a piñata from this video for my son's birthday party, and we basically had to beat it open after it fell...oops.)
  3. Emphasize marking and measuring the cones so they have enough cone to make the tabs for attaching them to the body and they can all come out even(ish) and the size they actually wanted.
  4. I recommend taping cones on with masking tape rather than using the flour paste and newspaper for two reasons: it's less time consuming and less threatening to the structure of your piñatas!
  5. Allow at least two hours for the final decorating.

I used WeVideo.com to make an excerpt for each style of piñata described in the video, but you could also use these YouTube breaks for Part 1 and Part 2, though this way there's nothing stopping Part 1 from "cheating" and seeing Part 2's design.Rather than the usual cloze or ordering activity, I created a little evaluation half-sheet to help students break down the elements and qualities of the style they observed to they could report back to their partners. The partners then had to decide which style to go with and why after reporting their observations and discussing their evaluations.

After the piñatas were finished and displayed for the enjoyment of all, we reviewed the steps together, first with photos I took along the way, then with stills I snapped from the video. They outlined the steps with our photos and then paraphrased specific steps to go with each visual, collaborating on a single Voicethread to write out and speak each step.

And there you have it, my guide to making making piñatas an immersion experience. If you would like to re-create some part of this lesson, feel free to download the cloze pages, scrambled steps, vocabulary powerpoint, and step-by-step powerpoint from the Google Doc folder here!