18 April 2014

Festival Follow-up

The honorable mention for Spanish II/III’s skit was nice, the first-place trophy for individual poetry recitation (the first trophy ever in our school trophy case) was, well, AWESOME. But what makes me really proud is how absolutely brilliantly every single one of my students behaved, watching each other, supporting each other, and just hanging out and being groovy during down time. They participated and paid attention and generally made our school look good.

What I'm so proud of, however, is how little target language was used throughout the day. Granted, my kiddos worked hard and had certainly earned their descanso, but in the future, I’d like to structure more interpersonal engagement and reflection—written or spoken. I had thrown together a handout to encourage listening during skits, conversation between events, and reflection after competition ended, but the implementation (Here, do this!) was a little too haphazard to get results, except from the über eager.

There are three main communication skills I think I could easily weasel in with proper scaffolding: Listening, Interpersonal, and Writing.

I'd like to help them actively attend to the skits they watch, and possibly the songs and poems, too. I got a lot of "I have no idea what they were talking about" for the skits other than ours, probably largely because they had no advance scaffolding on what a Julia de Burgos was or what's up with this Chavo kid in the hat. A couple of the other teachers there were friends from grad school or mutual friends, so I wonder if we could collaborate to come up with something, say, the week before the festival to prep our kids for the listening, like with a topic and some key vocabulary.

If I can't arrange any kind of mutual study guide for my kids, I think I might have to rely on never-to-be-published audio recordings for students to refer back to. Otherwise I could simply make a high-frequency word checklist (with numbers, dates, etc.), and they could tally each time they hear a word used (while I keep my own tally to compare). Then they could jot down a few questions they heard, a few statements, and maybe give me the style and tone and some words that clued them in to what they were or supported what the melody suggested.

The colleagues I ran into brought pretty big groups to the festival. I wonder if next time we could arrange a bit of a mingle for my kids and theirs to introduce themselves and each other and generally network in the target language. I think it would be good for them to use some basics, ie name, age, family, hometown, but I think it would be even more exciting for them to be able to talk shop, to compliment each other and share ideas for awesome shows in the future. 

I figure I'd provide a list of positive feedback one could give a singing group and/or actors ("I like your costume!" "Your words are very clear!") and some suggestions ("Can you speak/sing louder?" "You should pause before/after you say...") as well as some appropriate responses ("Is it better if I...?" "I agree, thank you!") And if we can get full dress rehearsals going with enough time before The Big Day, we could have our own mini mingles to warm up too.

I really want students to use the target language to reflect on the particulars of the experience, too, and writing seems the most logical way (though it could become a spoken report and MORE conversation the next day). I'd like for them to express opinions on songs and skits, comparing winners and elements that contribute to their success. Maybe they could even compose congratulatory emails to new friends from the mingle citing specific strengths that they admire!

I'd also like to see them take things they liked about other performances and begin a plan for what they (or their heirs) should do next year to plan a better show. We ended up doing this in English the next day this year, but maybe just a list of areas for planning (song, topic, dance, costumes, props, etc.) with "more" and "less" after might get their TL juices flowing. 

As an aside, I am BEYOND thrilled with my students' reflections after the trip, including the seniors who want to return during their 13th year next year as coaches to make sure the next group FEELS confident--and wins a trophy!

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