19 June 2013

Keepers: strategies to reuse and refine for next year's Spanish classes

I had a pretty good year this year. I had a lot of freedom to experiment and ample access to resources to support the experimenting. We recently started in on some collaborative planning for next year with LangCamp, and it's got me thinking about what has worked for me this year and how I want to make the most of what I learned this year next year.

Some routines I put in place I think have been beneficial not only to students' linguistic progress, but also to my sanity. Palabra del dia, for example,  has been a way of incorporating some high-frequency words like "juego" while subtly signaling that the class needs to focus, with reasonable, logical consequences if that focus is not achieved.

Weekly routines like SSRBlogs, and Opciones have been useful in getting kids to engage with the language and the culture regularly, even outside of the class. 
  • Students even requested more SSR days, so I'm thinking of going from Monday and Friday to Monday, Wednesday, Friday to start off. I think I may also expand the SSR log to include a topics section (to show they kind of got what they were looking at) and a space for a couple of new vocabulary words (to add to their stockpile).
  • Also, I hope to branch out with blogs a little more, expanding our audience, as I've discovered other teachers who have students blogging or are interested in starting (@SraCampbell & @Garnet_Hillman, I'm looking at you!), maybe offering "Bloggies!" like Sra. Campbell. I also need to push choosing a worthwhile theme early on, though, and show examples of successful ones, maybe even requiring at least one visual per post as well. 
  • For Opciones, I'm in the process of expanding selections to include more music and food as well as creating a template for submitting evidence, which will now also include the option of audio/video recording and possibly "prepared recipe for the whole class."

As far as procedures for presenting new information, I found PACEE notes, visual vocabulary notes, and Hands-on vocabulary the most beneficial.
  • The debate rages on about the benefits of explicit linguistic instruction versus acquisition through environmental osmosis, but I consider pointing out grammar patterns in context a useful scaffolding tool and a way of helping students not just acquire but create a reference source. I will have to find a way to keep larger classes following along, though.
  • Creating a Powerpoint with one vocabulary word with one corresponding clipart per slide is an easy way to frontload vocabulary useful to the unit, and a quick way to review regularly. In this way we also circumvent the dependence on English. I like to copy all of the slides, animate the written word so students can't see it at first for a review in order, then copy the animated slides and scramble them for a teensy bit more challenge.
  • Wherever possible, I like to have physical props to connect with new vocabulary (so far, primarily with ingredients when talking food). The tactile connections reinforce the visual, building stronger networks for accessing the vocabulary. Also, making partners touch slimy things blindfolded can be a good conversation starter!

In the realm of assessment, I definitely want to move forward with the E-portfolio site. I'm considering switching from Google Sites to Blogger for the purpose of monitoring growth more easily. I would miss the columns for quick cross-level comparison, but maybe after students have provided evidence for each "I can" statement in one level (e.g. Novice Low), they can simply link to the post where they finished completed that part of their collection. Until that time, they can copy what they previously had, links and all, into a new post, maybe color coding or bolding goals that have now been met. I think this might work within their already established blogs with proper tagging, too.

Of course in LangCamp, we're working out together what units we want to do in Spanish I and II, and I'm pretty tickled with the progress we've made. I do plan on reviving some projects from previous years, but I also want to maintain some of the choice I offered this year. Now that I am going to be getting a crop of kids that I pretty much know already, I feel confident choosing the first topic or two for them and maybe letting them choose the last one from a list of Driving Questions. I will still have 3 projects per semester, and though I haven't decided the order yet, I'd like to keep these options on the table:

Spanish I
  • Día del Niño: planning intensively with @yeager85 to incorporate "basics" of Spanish I
  • School recruitment: not sure if this will be replaced with school supply drive or not
  • Cooking shows: I will need to work on methods for selecting recipes,ensuring they're more authentic
Spanish II
  • App creation: a useful application for first aid, but very intense technology-wise
  • College abroad: this was a pretty good starter unit, but this may not even be one that holds any interest for next year's class, since most are not seniors like the ones that did it this year.
  • Experiencia Afrolatina: I'm thinking maybe "Does race matter?" would be a better DQ, but still working out what kind of audience and product we should aim for.
  • Make your own finalWhile I didn't teach Spanish III this year, I think what the seniors in Spanish II did for their final unit (though not final exam) would be cool for the seniors I'll have in III next year, maybe even all semester! This might even be feasible for the handful of seniors in Spanish II with them in their combined class.

09 June 2013

More food! 8 more ways to seek culture outside of class

I already had 31 options for students to practice Spanish weekly outside of class. They requested more music, so I came up with 6 more musical options. They also requested  more food, so here are some ways I've thought of that students can interact with Spanish language and target culture while teasing their taste buds.

Find 5 different snacks, candies, or drinks from the Hispanic Foods section at the grocery store or from a Hispanic market. Read the packages, maybe taste them (AFTER purchase), and compare their flavors and ingredients to snacks that are more common in the United States.

Try a dish at a Latino restaurant that you have never tried before and learn how to say the ingredients in Spanish.

Make a dish from a cooking video in Spanish from YouTube (here's a playlist where you can start).

Create a Pinterest board of at least 10 recipes in Spanish for 10 different dishes from a specific country or region. Be sure to include the name of the country or region in your title for the board.

Create a Pinterest board of at least 10 recipes in Spanish for desserts from at least 3 different countries.

Create a Pinterest board of at least 7 different recipes in Spanish using an ingredient or spice that is common in one or more Spanish-speaking countries but is not common in the United States (e.g. tamarind, jicama, hibiscus, mole, plantains, tomatillos, goat). Be sure to include the name of the ingredient/spice in your title for the board.

Create a YouTube playlist of at least 5 cooking show videos in Spanish (under 10 minutes each) for different dishes from a specific country or region. Be sure to include the name of the country or region in your title for the playlist.

Create a YouTube playlist or Pinterest board of ads in Spanish for popular snacks from different countries (not including snacks already popular in the United States).

05 June 2013

More Music! More ways to seek culture outside of class

My students had two requests for the weekly "opciones" assignment for next year: more music and more food. We'll get to the food later, but I have a few ideas for how we can work some more Spanish music into students lives outside Spanish class.

Since I stole Sra. Cottrell's idea two years ago, I've worked my way up to over 30 possibilities for students to seek out the target language and target culture in the world around them. If they really want to, they only ever have to do five different activities, for though they have to choose a different activity from the list each week, their slates are wiped clean each six weeks. Still, they want more choices, and really, I can see how some of the choices may not be as invigorating for those in my required-but-not-technically-required Spanish classes as they are for me. And, really, music is one of the most accessible yet most engaging possibilities (I was actually asked to remove a book choice because they find it easy yet boring) for connecting with the language and culture outside of class.

At present, I have but four different musical activities to offer (3 of which I ripped off from Sra. C.): LyricsTraining, radio listening, iTunes browsing, and Spotify Top Lists.

  • Lyrics TrainingAwesome website that exposes students to authentic target culture music videos while making them break down lyrics cloze style at a difficulty level of their choosing. This choice is so popular, I let them use different levels as separate activities.
  • Listen to the radioOf course exploring a local station is ideal, but who would deny the power of a Pandora or LastFM station to help students find stuff they actually like--rather than what my husband lovingly refers to as "Mexican hat band music." The trick is getting them to actually do it for an HOUR, rather than just jot down some names while passing songs. Still, the chance of getting them hooked is much greater if they're accessing the music at all.
  • iTunes browsingThis one seems less hip as there is more and more free music online, but it's another way to find more artists you like once you've found one (they basically start with Shakira, which is not all bad).
  • Spotify Top ListsMe, I like my free music from Spotify, because I can choose the song I want to hear--for the most part. There's a button to the side called "Top Lists" that takes you to the most popular songs and albums, and you can switch the lists to Spain. Of course they'll have English music, too, but it's a little insight into the culture to see how some things carry across languages. Plus the task is to make a playlist of songs they like from those Top Lists (I hope they like Melendi and Pablo Alboran, by the way). The playlist thing is one I fully intend to exploit in the new choices, too.

I've long had students wanting a "translate my favorite song to Spanish" option, but you know and I know that they know that's just a job for Google, or maybe WordReference. Plus where's the culture in that? The discovery? Even the "translate my favorite Spanish song to English" option is still pretty...shallow.

So I'm looking for something that has exposure to authentic texts from the target culture. And fulfilling some standards wouldn't hurt either. Do you know what my kids have been needing more examples of for their impending state-mandated portfolio evaluations? Speaking and listening.

One Novice Low standard from North Carolina Essential Standards for World Languages that students really haven't been able to check after a semester with me has been "Use the language to recite memorized poetry and songs from the target culture," or "Use the language to recite and act out simple poetry and songs from the target culture" at the Novice Mid level.

Record yourself:

  • Record yourself (audio or video) singing a popular kids' song in Spanish from a Spanish-speaking country.
  • Record yourself (audio or video) singing a song in Spanish by a popular artist or group from a Spanish-speaking country.
  • Find a Spanish language sing from a popular dance genre (e.g. bachata, cumbia, reggaeton, duranguense) from a Spanish-speaking country and record yourself (video) dancing in the style associated with that genre. (It doesn't really demonstrate any sort of comprehension or memorizing, I know, but they are listening and engaging with the culture, one might say they're even "acting out simple poetry," and it appeals to different strengths/interests.)
Create a playlist:

  • Create a playlist of at least 10 songs in Spanish on Spotify or YouTube that center around the same theme (e.g. breakups, inspirational, community, justice). Be sure to title your playlist with the theme you aim to express. You may choose to download from Amazon or iTunes as well,  if you want to own the songs.
  • Create a playlist of at least 10 songs in Spanish by 10 different artists on Spotify or YouTube that represent one country or region (e.g. Caribbean,  Central America, South America). Be sure to title your playlist with the name of the country or region you're representing. You may choose to download from Amazon or iTunes as well,  if you want to own the songs.
  • Create a playlist of at least 10 songs in Spanish on Spotify or YouTube to serve as a soundtrack for key scenes from a popular movie. Be sure to title your playlist with the name of the movie and put the songs in the order of the scenes you want them to align with.
If enough students do these activities, and I think many will, I could even have a page where I collect playlists and maybe some exceptional recordings, and reviewing each other could even become a 38th option!