09 March 2013

Storify for heritage speakers

In a perfect world, those who have been speaking Spanish since childhood would never end up in a high school Spanish 1 class. I speak of the world where there is adequate funding and flexibility to provide whole courses tailored to those who need only refine and develop their literacy skills in a language other than English. Or the world where those who already speak 2 languages are driven to keep learning as many languages as possible...

In the meantime, we can expect our classes to be mixed in ways that defy all logic. But there are worthwhile activities that can replace redundant vocabulary notes, overly simple conversations, and writing tasks that take them 1/4 the time they take the rest of the class. This is especially feasible if you can get your hands on as many computers as you have heritage speakers and get them online.

Storify is a way to collect and archive online media, while adding your own analysis. Me, I like to use it for tweets mostly. After all, spelling is one thing that separates mere Spanish speaking teenagers from respectable bilingual professionals. As my Applied Grammar professor once said, "People are shallow: use it." And where better to find a smorgasbord of every imaginable spelling error--in contextual authentic resources,  no less--than Twitter?

So I've made one Storify story on when to use V and B in the imperfect. I plan to make some more on the various forms of haber and the ever-popular -istes and -astes, and perhaps some on various accent placements. Here's how I do it:

1) Create a new story, of course giving it a descriptive title and explanation of the problem.

2) Under Media, choose the little Twitter bird.

3) Search for the incorrect construction, e.g. "ivas a".

4) You may need to choose a major Spanish-speaking city, especially with issues of V versus B: estava, for example is correct in Portuguese. I chose within 100 km of Guadalajara and Madrid and got pretty good results.

5) Add 3 or so tweets with the same problem pattern, making sure, of course, that there is no...questionable language or veiled innuendo. (Emo tweets are usually pretty safe, alas, but political ones can be nice and topical, expose even the heritage speakers to new culture).

6) Insert an explanation of the variations of the problem pattern between the sets of tweets.

7) Send the link to students. Schoology, for example, lets you individually assign it and prevent non-heritage-speaker freak-outs about the mystery assignment.

8) Have students copy and paste the tweets in a new document and correct the errors.

From my tiny sample of students who have completed the assignment so far, this is not a 100% method, as they did still miss some of the problems. Still, I think with repetition of seeing the issue in context, I think this could transfer to their blogs (which are actually how I decide which errors to focus on to begin with). In the future, I might also add the additional step of having them respond to the tweets with their own tweets (real or simulated) to practice creating--rather than only correcting--with the target construction.

1 comment:

  1. I'm struggling with this in a big way this year, heritage speakers of all abilities in each of my classes, incl one with virtually no English placed with me because I can communicate. I swear I'm teaching 3 separate courses in each class period. Thanks for the idea, I need all the help I can get!