22 June 2015

Spanish Teacher on Vacation: What to do with the cool stuff you find

I took my son to visit his abuelos in Mexico for the first time last June. Now every single time he gets an assignment to write about somewhere he went, it's Mexico. Well, really, it was that way all through kindergarten before he went, too.

So what's the perspective behind
this practice?
For Paolo, the experience was about huge hamburgers on the beach, nonstop cartoons in Spanish, making a friend here and there, and mostly getting spoiled by the abuelos at every turn.

For me, it was definitely about broadening my baby's horizons and spending time with people I love.

But it was also about the realia.

A checker at the store we frequented thought there must have been a huge book sale the way I was stalking up. "No, she's a teacher," my ex-suegra said.

I took about a zillion photos of everything I saw, too--especially signs and anything with the target language on it. I posted some of the more fascinating things to our summer Google Community and pinned others. I'm just glad I didn't get arrested with all of the pictures I was taking (I even snuck one of the police guarding the ATM at the bus station because culture).


Follow PBL in the TL's board Letreros on Pinterest.


This year while I'm in Peru with the local Sister Cities group, I plan to lay off the picture books and keep my receipt and packaging hording to a minimum (I have a problem, I know--but currency!)

Instead, I have a more organized, take-only-pictures approach to what I want to capture. I set up an Instagram account (separate from my defunct daily objectives one) and planned some hashtags someone interested in some authentic resources might follow, then channeled them into some IFTTT recipes to send my photos to separate Evernote notebooks! And then for the really good stuff, I'll go back and add some links to things like Wikipedia articles for more information.

Now what am I going to do with all of this glorious photographic authenticity in class?

Well, it has to do with fun and the first day.

I-N-Q-U-I-R-Y
Find out what it means to...I...
Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell brought up a really good point about culture recently, and using one of my favorite words in education: inquiry. I really want to set the stage for really considering culture from square one, and First Day Fun Stations are really about setting the tone for the class.

Now, to tell the truth, I don't think I got the mileage I wanted to out of the Google Translate station or the spaghetti tower really. And really, I haven't figured out a way to work SSR back in productively since it flopped last year, so I think this will be a good substitute for the shelfie station.

So what are the young ones going to DO with my carefully curated photograph collections?

They're going to inquire.

I've got the questions, but the answers are first going to come from a combination of what they see and what they assume. Yes, yes, I know what happens when you assume. But isn't that how all cultural interaction works? You observe and guess about what's going on based on your prior knowledge and experiences? But then, if you're a globally minded, you actually research and verify your suppositions.

So here's how the station process is going to work:
  1. Pick an Evernote notebook you want to explore: Arte, Comida, or Sitios.
  2. Pick a photo from the notebook that interests you and explain why you find it interesting.
  3. Explain what cultural product is depicted in the photograph. What is it? What do you know just looking at it, and what can you guess?
  4. Compare this product to something you've seen before: how is it similar and different?
  5. Make some guesses: why does this product exist? who uses it? when do or did they use it? what is its appeal?
  6. Follow the link in the picture's note to find out more about the product and answer these questions:
  • Where did this product come from?
  • What makes it different from products you've seen before?
  • How do you think people who use this product see it? Why?
  • What do you understand about the culture that produced this product that you did not before?

Of course the #SXTNletrero hashtag will come in handy for meeting ACTFL objectives about public notices in their portfolios, and maybe I can work in a few more homework choices, perhaps with a #SXTNvideo hashtag of me interviewing, oh, everyone in Spanish to work on listening.

But really, I'm spending my vacation time finding good stuff for my kids so they can dig into what culture means from the start.

And if this means more of my own babies come on the Sister Cities trip with me next year, all the better!

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