06 March 2013

La Vida Universitaria

Maybe they won't ever go to a four-year college in another country, but they're going to know exactly how they could if they ever decide to!

Driving Question: Can I convince my friends to study abroad with me?

Entry Event: Fill out an application to Universidad Anáhuac (yay for fulfilling Novice Linguafolio goals!) and show their student life video:


You get to review personal information words, use cognates, practice using context clues, plus you get some background on the student to inform activities that follow.

Journal: Imagínate que ya eres estudiante en la universidad. ¿Qué haces allí? ¿Qué tienes que hacer para tus clases? ¿Qué haces cuando tienes tiempo libre?
  • —Para mis clases, tengo que…
  • —Paso mucho tiempo…
  • —Cuando tengo tiempo libre…voy a…para…
  • —Lo que más me gusta hacer aquí es…
(I also added a second journal to get more to the heart of what interested them, where they pretended they were at their ideal--real or imagined--university.)

Interpretive listening: Break the Anáhuac video into 2 parts: Introduction & Activities (I actually skipped the last half of the activity part, as the first few sum up the most interesting ones).

  1. Go over the words in the word bank.
  2. Have students just read along while the section plays once--no marks.
  3. Play again while they start filling in.
  4. Stop and make sure they cross off used words.
  5. Analyze where they have blanks and try to figure out if remaining words fit naturally.
  6. Play a third time while they fill in more.
  7. Repeat steps 5 & 6 as necessary (hopefully no more than 3 more times).

Interpersonal: Discuss what Anáhuac has to offer, what attracts you, what you want to know more about. (In a class as small as mine, just the whole class having at it works fine, but protocols similar to literature circles with the completed clozes might be appropriate with larger groups.)

Comparing student culture and target culture: We had to establish a schema for navigating college websites as well as a basis for comparison to convince our companeros that study abroad really was a reasonable option. We decided what was most important for college selection based on some local colleges that interested them and jotted down some basics like tuition, housing, majors available.

Interpretive reading--pre-reading: I find that vocabulary frontloading is a good idea when approaching authentic texts. I had pre-selected some universities based on those that I knew to have ties with the UNC system (though the list represents more schools in Panama and Mexico because some students indicated the country mattered more to them than the ability to go through a local school). From that list, I picked out some of the more common words. Using those sites (and cognates), the class sought to match English with Spanish, then narrow down the list to the words they thought they'd need to use most. They created labeled Google Drawing collages to illustrate their lists. (Then I copied them, erased the labels, and had partners try to relabel each other's!)

Interpretive reading--during reading: We established some basic questions that needed to be answered about schools/programs of their choice, such as...

  • ¿Qué son dos carreras que ofrecen que pueden interesar a tus amigos?
  • ¿Cuánto cuesta estudiar y vivir allí?
  • ¿Cuántos estudiantes tienen?
  • ¿Qué becas tienen dispinibles?
  • ¿Dónde está exactamente?


I introduced the class to Diigo, and they set about poking around websites and highlighting things to a list they shared with me to answer the questions.

Interpersonal--Skype: I then enlisted a professor friend who has been on many a study abroad trip. The class came up with questions for her that they had about studying abroad, practiced introducing themselves and their purpose, and then we had a good long conversation with her about what to expect when studying abroad (until the fire alarm went off, that is!)

Interpretive listening: Of course I recorded the whole Skype thing on Audacity, cut out the interruption, uploaded the .wav file to Schoology, and had each student pick out 5 30-90 second segments that they thought answered the most important questions. They put the segments together in a simple little movie, using the questions plus summaries of the answers they got as visuals to show what they learned.

Presentational writing and speaking: Each student created a website with information about their selected schools and were evaluated based on the visuals and organization, inclusion of advantages to going to their school, travel and preparation information, and a comparison to a local school in addition to their language function, text type, vocabulary, and comprehensibility. They presented their findings to the class in Spanish, and then explained whose school they would most be willing to visit and why.

Overall, this was a genuine chance for me to play "guide on the side," because mostly, I had to sit back and watch them interpret and navigate--verifying interpretations where necessary, and then construct and write their arguments for their schools. Even after the conclusion of this unit, I'm most pleased with how they learned to piece together meaning using all sorts of context clues: a picture book is nothing to them now!

And, you know, maybe some day they will decide visiting Panama or Mexico is something they can handle.

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