Comprehensible Culture in the WL Classroom: How do experiences shape who we are?

Tango Show at Angelitos, BA (yo fui en Abril con mi clase)

Los jóvenes de Argentina 

This post is the second in a five series lessons on Identity for my upper level Spanish class.   Click here to read about the beginning lessons, video and speaking activities that inform the tasks below.
One of my goals (among many) for this year is to incorporate “comprehensible culture” in the classroom.  Many times as language teachers we get so caught up in the language that the contextualizing culture gets left behind. I am becoming more cognizant of this as I plan. My aim is to include rich language experiences and culture. This unit on Identity does this in several ways:

 

A. The skinny

  • Students have an opportunity to understand how they construct identity (psychological and biological point of view) 
  • They share that construction of their identity with other students 
  • They learn about how teens in the target culture think about identity 
  • Students engage in dialogue on a series of subtopics 

Quick links: Activities referenced on this blog post can be accessed by clicking the links below. If you’d like to get ideas about how to use these activities just scroll down to the letter designated section for context.

A. Antes de colgar tu imagen en la web

Click here for the writing prompts

B. Los Jóvenes Argentinos (Audiovisual activity)

C.. Click here for Listening Activity 

D.. Reading Graphic Organizer

A. With power, comes great responsibility 

Video: Antes de colgar tu imagen en la red, piénsalo


One of my writing prompts asked students to compare their generation to their parents’ generation.

Since technology was the reigning king of that comparative discussion, I decided to include the video above and additional discussion questions to explore how technology shapes identity.  Although the video and activity were kinda sidebar, they actually highlight a key point in our upcoming text ” La vida de los adolescentes.Said text highlights how young people’s identities morph and adapt to different social media fora. Furthermore, the text suggests that having “a solid” identity is challenge for this generation. The writing prompt featured belongs to a series of 11 prompts dealing with Identity.  Click here for the free writing prompts used with this unit.

Video link: Antes de colgar tu imagen en la web

This was totally an afterthought, but this social media inventory might also be a good activity to do before the video (I am kicking myself for not thinking of this beforehand).

 
Discussion Questions and note about the video

One of the questions asks students to create hastag for the video. In order for this to work organically, you have to stop the video right before the end so that the video’s tagline does not appear. It was a fun activity and students were able to incorporate direct object pronouns naturally. 

 


B. Connecting the language with the culture 

Teve Cuidad

This next resource activity is very special to me. Last year  I had the opportunity of taking 18 students from my school to Argentina for a cultural immersion trip.  During our pre-trip seminar, we explored  some of the dialectal differences in the Spanish. For this year’s Spanish IV class, I was able to incorporate some of those lessons in front loading some of the dialectal differences in Argentine Spanish. I was surprised how this lesson facilitated their comprehension and lowered their affective filter (self-reporting post activity).

Please note that at the end of this post, there are other videos from this source (Tevé Cuidad:Vivir Juntos), should you want to explore Teen Identity in Latin America.

Viewing protocol

I distributed the document contained in the link below for the as an audiovisual exercise

Los Jóvenes Argentinos (Audiovisual activity)

We went through each statement:

  • Students gave a rough translation in Spanish
  • Then we watched the video twice (super simple)

After the video, students said that going over the statements first helped them make a connection. Although for an authentic listening activity, I would not preview the language (that is the point). However, the purpose of this activity was to train their ears to hone in on the main idea (we are still in our first month of school).

C. Listening Activity with La Identidad de los Adolescentes

I love activities that are intravenously connected. This was one of them. Originally I was going to have students read the article La vida de los Adolescentes, write annotations, and then respond to the reading comprehension questions- BORING. Then, I thought about the generally set up an IPA. Let’s me clear, this text, for me at this stage is more like my anchor text and not an IPA.  An anchor text for me is an introductory text I used to teach strategies and expectations for future assessments. This text was helped to “anchor” students in many ways: 

  • To review reading strategies
  • To write annotations (get used to my system)
  • To review what type of questions to ask (none of ” qué significa es?)
  • To have a research article to refer back to (the text discusses how adolescents

But just reading and asking questions sounded boring to me, so this is what I planned instead:

  • Record the first part of the article to create a listening activity. Click here for Listening Activity 
  • Create a true/ false section to oblige them to dig more into the text
  • Invite students to create questions for the article

For homework they had to read the article again (it takes several exposures to a word before it becomes part of the lexicon) and answer questions. More more information on this article and questions see my previous post: Taking of the mask: Deconstructing Identity 

D. Experiment on Bias: How do you choose your friends?

After viewing this video, engaging and fostering conversation about this video with this question and engagement activity  last week, we read the article ” Quién Eres Tú from the MYP Spanish Concepts book. The book is chock-full with engaging readings, essential questions for everything. Even if you are not an IB teacher your students would benefit from this book. I bought it last year and I use it to supplement my own created materials in addition to the wide range of online sources (Once I get permission to share the article I will. It is short but lends itself to good discussion).

We read read highlighted the role of “apariencias” in our social habits and friendship formation. Interesting huh? Well, some of my liberally minded students denounced the article’s claim saying young people do not choose friendships based on that. Well, drawing off the energy in the room, told them to get into groups to discuss this matter. They choose  their own groups and discussed the issue. Prior to hearing from them, I asked the to:

  • Examine your groups, are these people socially akin to you? 
  • Are you with people who look like you? 
  • Do you share the same interest? 

You could hear a pin drop in the class. They all gaped in amazement. Now we were able to get into the article.

We discussed why it was easier to choose people who are like us. Here are some of the ideas that flowed:

  • Security- we won’t be judged 
  • Familiarity- we can be ourselves 
  • Convergence- we have similar values, viewpoints and perspectives

Next week: La Identidad Flexible: Diversity and the politics of Identity:  Debate en Argentina sobre la Ley de la Identidad  

Links to videos about Identity

Vivir Juntos Argentina

La Identidad Ecuador 

Advertisements

“Awkward Conversations” to build emergent fluency and confidence in Spanish

Awkward, but fun!

Desperate to find ways for my students to interact in the target language without having experience and with limited input, I resorted to “Awkward Conversations.” I am sure there is a more technical term, if not-I coined it!  The activity is simple yet yields many dividends. It is part of my rebellion to in the box teaching.  My previous posts introduces creative ways I avoid direct instruction to put primacy on input, learning and constructive fluency.

Background

This is the first year I have had to teach Spanish from scratch. I have always had students with some type of background with the language. Last  year, my incredible department chair had students take APPL placement tests and this really did the trick. As a result, I have real life first year Spanish leaners; and this has been a wake up call. The lessons are raw. I am constantly challenged with finding novel and engaging ways that teach the language, place a priority on authentic input while engendering output.  I am finding myself having to work muscles I have not worked in years.

Vocabulary Building 

We have been practicing greetings, introducing ourselves and learning about gender nouns. Students had to review about 15 nouns, placing the correct article in front of the noun. See the image on the right.  Naturally, the students worked with the vocabulary, wrote sentences and then it hit me. Why can’t they just share what they have written down? They don’t have to wait until they learning every little rule about mechanics or even wait for me to provide them with comprehensible input. They can have fun and play and experiment with the language. So we tried!

It was super simple. I used some of the basic words from our Descubre textbook (textbook is a bad word in some circles, but I use it as a resource). The did a preliminary exercise and then they were off about the class, being super awkward, these freshmen loved it!

Improv rule #1- Always say yes!

As students went around interviewing other students. Regardless what the students said, the other students had to respond by saying “Qué bueno.” I wanted to add ” Me alegro” but decided to leave it there. The result? Excited students, laughing and excited to speak the language. The script of this activity is below. It took about 15 minutes.

List of sight words I put on the board to facilitate sentences:

Several students combined some words: 

1. Hay un conductor en el autobus.

2. La señora Quiñones necesita un libro para la clase de español.

Sample Conversation

Greeting: Hola, buenos días

S1: ¿Como estás?

S2:  Estoy feliz (The first day they have three words to choose from Contento, Feliz, Triste)

S1:Cómo te llamas?

S2:  Me llamo Sara

SI: ¿Cuántos años tienes?

S2: Tengo 14 años y tú?

S1: Tengo 14 años

SI: Yo tengo un autobús

S2: ¡Qué bueno!

This was a super fun energizing activity. This was a total – lightbulb teaching moment.

Taking off the mask: deconstructing Identity

¿Cuál es la máscara que nosotros llevamos? What masks are we wearing?

This week I kicked off my unit on identity with some thought provoking images, activities and prompts to help students connect with the theme and most importantly to share about themselves. This is one of my favorite beginning of the year units and I will be sharing the most engaging,  purposeful, and provocative activities that ignited the class over the next few weeks.  This five post series will focus on the theme of Identity. If you want to see some preliminary priming I did for this unit, check out my previous post “I want to get to know you activities.”

Teaching with the End Game in mind


To give you a little bit of context, the crown point activity for this week was the viewing, subsequent analysis and connection to this award winning film on Identity. Students’ response and reaction to the implication of the film by making masks and narrating their “mask” stories, is toward the end of this blog post.  The preliminary front-loading activities are outlined below.

My pedagogical shift as a teacher 

This year I have taken a new reflective stance in my approach to teaching. I have shifted from a productive-oriented class only to a more think-oriented class. Last year, I felt like I was rushing the students, running through content at lightening speed without affording students time to really “sit” with, digest and ruminate on concepts. This year, I am taking a few steps back to provide what I am calling “thinking space.” This space is necessary  in order to develop thinking routines as outlined in the book Making Thinking Visible. In the book as well as referenced on this affiliated website, thinking routines help students to:

  • Garner a deeper understanding of concepts 
  • Engage more enthusiastically with the class 
  • Sharpen thinking abilities

To increase reflection time and quality output, I am dressing up each engagement with a thinking protocol or routine.  I started to sow the seeds of my shifting practice in  this previous post about our first writing engagement of the year. Below is a tentative sketch of this present endeavor:

  • Provide time to reflect, jot down thoughts before production oriented tasks (speaking and writing)
  • Offer intense scaffolding before each activity (spelled out instructions, examples and modeling)

Writing prior to speaking- that goes against everything I know!


    My first strategy to allow students think space time and using the writing modality prior to speaking, may fly in the face of the organic spontaneous speaking approach. I wholeheartedly embrace this approach, however now with several caveats.  Last year whenever we’d watch a video, or listen to input, I would immediately get students to react.  I adopted this quick fire method from one of my college professors. After input rich activities, she’d elicit a response by her “reacciones” rally call.  Well, this did not work for me with my high school students.  I was met with a sea of confused nervously anxious self-conscious teenagers, who’d rather loose “points” than embarrass  themselves- totally understandable. This is why I had to seek out a new approach.

As we start our deep dive into the unit, I have started providing them with time and space to think about how they feel about a particular prompt, questions or visual stimuli. One of my colleagues reminded me that speaking a language is on-going synthesis. Well, providing this time lowers the affective filter, frees up cognitive space and allow those neurons to fire hence creating a response.  Hopefully, as the year progresses students will become more automatic in their production and not have to rely on using writing as a catalyst. Until then, my classroom student-driven research is directing my steps. 

Now on to the activities!

Activity 1

Warm-up activity to the warm up activity

Click here to access vocabulary and question sheet

Prior to the start of the unit students were given this vocabulary sheet. I am a fan displaying the theme and collectively generating lists together. However, this unit I created has very specific vocabulary and expressions they’ll encounter in the input planned for next upcoming weeks through:

 You will notice that students have a “Mi pequeño diccionario” section where they’ll write down their own new words or incidental vocabulary that resonated with them throughout the unit.

Using vocabulary for real world purposes

Activity 1.1 

The purpose of the vocabulary list was to prepare student for this short writing activity about themselves.  Click here to access 8 writing prompts that accompany the Spanish Teen Identity Unit. Even if you do not use the unit, could be used as Bell work, small group conversation and/or exit slips.

This was a short activity to get students confortable with use the vocabulary. Most words are cognates, so this activity was more of a kinesthetic movement brain break.

Activity 2

Pictures of celebrities were planted around the class. Students used their vocabulary list words to describe the celebrities.

Getting Down to Business: The Main Dish


Activity 3

Engaging students visually to pique their interest.

Students had to observe the visual coentent and:

  • Describe two images
  • Determine the theme of the new unit and make connections among the pictures

We practiced circumlocution, so students were not allowed to use any aids for this exercise. After a few minutes, each student shared.

 Deconstructing the short film 

We watch this awarding-winning short film on Identity. It gives a spell-bounding depiction of the complexities of identity in high school. Although the film is in English, it has very limited spoken text, most of it centers on  the read- between- the- lines storyline.   After watching the video students had to process the film objectively first and then subjectively.

This website was a great help in terms of how to look critically at visual content.

Since the film is in English, I combined the first and second viewing but distinguished between an objective telling of what happened versus interpretation.  I told students to only mention verificable facts from the movie. We started more like a TPRS story:

T: ¿Quién es la persona en el corto? 

S1: Es una chica

T: ¿Dónde está la chica? 

S2: La chica está en el baño

T1: ¿Está en un baño dónde?

S3: La chica está en el baño en la escuela

* Additional note, I forget that I had actually created a more in depth activity for the video. It is free and connected to another video. You can download it here. 

This went one for a few minutes. Different students chimed in with  La chica tiene una máscara, la máscara es diferente…

One detail I did not notice last year in the film was that one of the students had two masks. As she went from one group to another she took off her mask, which revealed another one underneath. My student locked on to this detail. Then we discuss symbolism: ¿Qué significa la máscara?

*Although I did not this awesome Movie Talk protocol, next time I will include it as it would be powerful for this type of film.

The Mask as a Proxy for Identity 

For my first two classes teaching this lesson, I placed the word  La Máscara in the center of the circle. By the last class, I had forgotten so I kinda gave it away.  I gave students think space and talk time to process their thoughts silently, then with a partner when with the class. Below some of their comments are captured:

  • La máscara representa la ignorancia
  • La identidad
  • El miedo de mostrar quién eres
  • Varias Identidades
  • Falsedades (they said falso, but I wrote this)

I was so pleased, because one of the articles we are going to read from the Spanish Teen Identity Unit, discusses the fluidity of Identity nowadays as opposed to 50 years ago. The article also hits on the role that technology plays in constructing and disseminating different versions of ourselves, so they were right on!


Activity 4: ¿Cuál es tu máscara? 

After viewing the compelling video on Identity, I wanted to engage students hearts, now that there minds were grappling with the psychological construct of Identity.

I had students think about the masks they wear as students.   I shared about how being a teacher you can never make a mistake and it is easy to slip into the mask of perfection. They had two options for this anonymous activity:

  • Describe some of the masks you they wear as a student at our school
  • Describe masks that adolescents wear

The two pictures here feature some responses. Next time, I will have them color them. One surprising element was how the boys in the class engaged. As I walked around I saw:

  • La apariencia
  • Estudiante perfecto y atleta perfecto
  • Cinta pequeña y pecho grande (they did not right pecho… but another colorful expression)

Next week: We will be reading a few articles about Identity (some articles I have researched and written, while others I used from the book MYP Spanish teaching concepts) and watching a short documentary video on Teens in Argentina.

———————————————————-

If you are interested in the Spanish Teen Identity Unit it is on TPT for $2.75. It has a magazine/ blog layout and includes 30+ pages of:

1. Three articles 2-3 articles related to Teen Identity (see the blurb below are the articles)

2. Each article has hyperlinked definitions to facilitate online reading (Real World Homework?)

3. Pre-reading vocabulary lists

4. Paired writing activity

5. Graphic organizers for reading

6. Pre-reading questions all geared toward front-loading the themes and activating prior knowledge, attitudes and beliefs. 

7.  Text-dependent comprehension questions are included for the first two articles (La identidad de los adolescentes y la Identidad Indígena).

8.  Debate prompts for the third article ( Los niños trasgeneros de Argentina- this is an actual case).

9. Pre-reading questions, vocabulary activity, video response questions  this video about La Ley de Género en Argentina.

9. writing prompts connected to the theme (linked in the document)

10. Additional vocabulary list and Chat station questions integrating vocabulary (linked in the document)

Content of article:

1. The first article discusses how adolescents form their identity and touches on identity in the digital age.

2. The second article speaks about the challenges of identity for indigenous teens in Latin America and how they are redefining their integration into mainstream society.

3. The third article centers on the transgender debate in Argentina (actual case referenced). There is a video link and questions that connect to the article. 

Stay tuned for next week!

Taking off the mask-Deconstructing Identity – Week 1- Short Film Identity

¿Cuál es la máscara que nosotros llevamos? What masks are we wearing?

This week I kicked off my unit on identity with some thought provoking images, activities and prompts to help students connect with the theme and most importantly to share about themselves. This is one of my favorite beginning of the year units and I will be sharing the most engaging,  purposeful, and provocative activities that ignited the class over the next few weeks.  This five post series will focus on the theme of Identity. If you want to see some preliminary priming I did for this unit, check out my previous post “I want to get to know you activities.”

Teaching with the End Game in mind


To give you a little bit of context, the crown point activity for this week was the viewing, subsequent analysis and connection to this award winning film on Identity. Students’ response and reaction to the implication of the film by making masks and narrating their “mask” stories, is toward the end of this blog post.  The preliminary front-loading activities are outlined below.

My pedagogical shift as a teacher 

This year I have taken a new reflective stance in my approach to teaching. I have shifted from a productive-oriented class only to a more think-oriented class. Last year, I felt like I was rushing the students, running through content at lightening speed without affording students time to really “sit” with, digest and ruminate on concepts. This year, I am taking a few steps back to provide what I am calling “thinking space.” This space  in order to developing thinking routines as outlined in the book Making Thinking Visible. In the book as well as referenced on this affiliated website, thinking routines help students to:

  • Garner a deeper understanding of concepts 
  • Engage more enthusiastically with the class 
  • Sharpen thinking abilities

To increase more reflection time and quality output, time, I am dressing up each engagement with a thinking protocol or routine.  I started to sow the seeds of my shifting practice this previous post about our first writing engagement of the year. Below is a tentative sketch of this present endeavor:

  • Provide time to reflect, jot down thoughts before production oriented tasks (speaking and writing)
  • Offer intense scaffolding before each activity (spelled out instructions, examples and modeling)

Writing prior to speaking- that goes against everything I know!


    My first strategy to allow students think space time and using the writing modality prior to speaking, may fly in the face of the organic spontaneous speaking approach. I wholeheartedly embrace this approach, however now with several caveats.  Last year whenever we’d watch a video, or listen to input, I would immediately get students to react.  I adopted this quick fire method from one of my college professors. After input rich activities, she’d elicit a response by her “reacciones” rally call.  Well, this did not work for me with my high school students.  I was met with a sea of confused nervously anxious self-conscious teenagers, who’d rather lose “points” than embarrass  themselves- totally understandable. This is why I had to seek out a new approach.

As we start our deep dive into the unit, I have started providing them with time and space to think about how they feel about a particular prompt, questions or visual stimuli. One of my colleagues reminded me that speaking a language is on-going synthesis. Well, providing this time lowers the affective filter, frees up cognitive space and allow those neurons to fire hence creating a response.  Hopefully, as the year progresses students will become more automatic in their production.

Now on to the activities!

Activity 1

Warm-up activity to the warm up activity

Click here to access vocabulary and question sheet

Prior to the start of the unit students were given this vocabulary sheet. I am a fan displaying the theme and collectively generating lists together. However, this unit I created has very specific vocabulary and expressions they’ll encounter in the input planned for next upcoming weeks through:

 You will notice that students have a “Mi pequeño diccionario” section where they’ll write down their own new words or incidental vocabulary that resonated with them throughout the unit.

Activity 1.1 

The purpose of the vocabulary list was to prepare student for this short writing activity about themselves.  Click here to access 8 writing prompts that accompany the Spanish Teen Identity Unit. Even if you do not use the unit, could be used as Bell work, small group conversation and/or exit slips.

Using vocabulary for real world purposes

This was a short activity to get students confortable with use the vocabulary. Most words are cognates, so this activity was more of a kinesthetic movement brain break.

Activity 2

Pictures of celebrities were planted around the class. Students used their vocabulary list words to describe the celebrities.

Getting Down to Business: The Main Dish


Activity 3

Engaging students visually to pique their interest.

Students had to observe the images and:

  • Describe two images
  • Determine the theme of the new unit and make connections among the pictures

We practiced circumlocution, so students were not allowed to use any aids for this exercise. After a few minutes, each student shared.

 Deconstructing the short film 

We watch this awarding-winning short film on Identity. It gives a spell-bounding depiction of the complexities of identity in high school. Although the film is in English, it has very limited spoken text, most of it centers on  the read- between- the- lines storyline.   After watching the video students had to process the film objectively first and then subjectively.

This website was a great help in terms of how to look critically at visual content.

Since the film is in English, I combined the first and second viewing but distinguished between an objective telling of what happened versus interpretation.  I told students to only mention verificable facts from the movie. We started more like a TPRS story:

T: ¿Quién es la persona en el corto? 

S1: Es una chica

T: ¿Dónde está la chica? 

S2: La chica está en el baño

T1: ¿Está en un baño dónde?

S3: La chica está en el baño en la escuela

This went one for about a minute. Different students chimed in with  La chica tiene una máscara, la máscara es diferente…

One detail I did not notice last year in the film was that one of the students had two masks. As she went from one group to another she took off her mask, which revealed another one underneath. My student locked on to this detail. Then we discuss symbolism: ¿Qué significa la máscara?

*Although I did not this awesome Movie Talk protocol, next time I will include it as it would be powerful for this type of film.

The Mask as a Proxy for Identity 

For my first two classes teaching this lesson, I placed the word  La Máscara in the center of the circle. By the last class, I had forgotten so I kinda gave it away.  I gave students think space and talk time to process their thoughts silently, then with a partner when with the class. Below some of their comments are captured:

  • La máscara representa la ignorancia
  • La identidad
  • El miedo de mostrar quién eres
  • Varias Identidades
  • Falsedades (they said falso, but I wrote this)

I was so pleased, because one of the articles we are going to read from the Spanish Teen Identity Unit, discusses the fluidity of Identity nowadays as opposed to 50 years ago. The article also hits on the role that technology plays in constructing and disseminating different versions of ourselves, so they were right on!


Activity 4: ¿Cuál es tu máscara? 

After viewing the compelling video on Identity, I wanted to engage students hearts, now that there minds were grappling with the psychological construct of Identity.

I had students think about the masks they wear as students.   I shared about how being a teacher you can never make a mistake and it is easy to slip into the mask of perfection. They had two options for this anonymous activity:

  • Describe some of the masks you they wear as a student at our school
  • Describe masks that adolescents wear

The two pictures here feature some responses. Next time, I will have them color them. One surprising element was how the boys in the class engaged. As I walked around I saw:

  • La apariencia
  • Estudiante perfecto y atleta perfecto
  • Cinta pequeña y pecho grande (they did not right pecho… but another colorful expression)

Next week: We will be reading a few articles about Identity (some articles I have researched and written, while others I used from the book MYP Spanish teaching concepts) and watching a short documentary video on Teens in Argentina.

 

If you are interested in the Spanish Teen Identity Unit it is on TPT for $2.75. It has a magazine/ blog layout and includes:

1. Three articles 2-3 articles related to Teen Identity (see the blurb below are the articles)

2. Each article has hyperlinked definitions to facilitate online reading

3. Pre-reading vocabulary lists

4. Paired writing activity

5. Graphic organizers for reading

6. Pre-reading questions all geared toward frontloading the themes and activating prior knowledge, attitudes and beliefs.

7.  Text-dependent comprehension questions are included for the first two articles (La identidad de los adolescentes y la Identidad Indígena)

8.  Debate prompts for the third article ( Los niños trasgeneros de Argentina- this is an actual case)

9. writing prompts connected to the theme (linked in the document)

10. Additional vocabulary list and Chat station questions integrating vocabulary (linked in the document)

Content of article:
1. The first article discusses how adolescents form their identity and touches on identity in the digital age.

2. The second article speaks about the challenges of identity for indigenous teens in Latin America and how they are redefining their integration into mainstream society.

3. The third article centers on the transgender debate in Argentina (actual case referenced). There is a video link and questions that connect to the article.

Stay tuned for next week!

Give students a hand: scaffolding WL writing activities to lower filter and increase success!

Providing “on-target” scaffolding to promote student success

This week marked the apertura de clases at my school.   I was very excited to get to know the students. I had already prepared this “I want to know you activity” and these “Spice it up writing prompts” to thoroughly engage my upper level Spanish class. I just knew everything was going to flow so smoothly the first week right before we jump into the real learning;  I was wrong.

The first day as students started to introduce themselves and I probed them with extremely basic questions with the dual purpose of getting to know them and surmising their potential placement on the language continuum To my surprise, some upper level students students showed difficulty in responding to novice-low and mid questions. One student in particular, struggled to understand a very basic question such as ¿Tú trabajas?  I was baffled, even more so when he told me “Spanish 4 is like Spanish 1 all over again,”referring to the perceived  level of his classmates (some students are in the class because they want to improve their language level before going to AP; others  were not eligible for AP hence a negative outlook on their ability).  One thing was clear,  prior to giving the first fun writing activity, I had a lot of work to do.

Languishing Language Skills 

As I conferenced with students asking them about their summer, I noticed that many students had a uphill battle speaking the target language, using simple albeit accurate structures. The issue was pervasive.  This got me to thinking about the nature of input. When you think about input and learning a language, it is comparable to building a muscle; you use it or lose it. I then realized that many students inaugurating the school year:

  • Have been two and a half months removed from the language context
  • Their language skills atrophied over the summer

Pass me another brick

In a sense, my student was correct. Students have returned to the embryonic stage of learning a language. I suspect that as the year progresses and they”ll start registering rich, and robust input and coincidentally; the language acquisition device in their minds will start to receive, perceive and reactive again. Until then, I have to proceed with caution and make sure my teaching is supportive, not presumptive and that for the next month or so I need to come along side them to pass them another brick and help them rebuild.

So back to the writing prompt 

Instead of giving them solely the writing prompt, which I’d use to collect soft data on their writing skills. I created the writing scaffolding practice below with the goal of:

  • Engaging students and lowering their affective filter
  • Allowing them to use each other as resources
  • Helping them to identify their strengths and weaknesses so they can start mapping them out

The document reviews the basics of the present tense before they began writing. We spent about 20 minutes reviewing and working in pairs.  I have never felt a class be so calm. There was an uptick in participation (the first day they were understandably timid). The class was highly engaged and productive.

I was glad I had done this because as I walked around I noticed students struggled with the present tense and ser/estar usage. We discussed it and they were allowed to use that along with a sheet I had compiled from online resources to guide their first writing. It was a great lesson!

Download the updated writing prompt and scaffolding activity here. 

Spice-it-up writing prompts for Spanish class!

R.I.P. Summer Vacation

Summer has finally come to an end. The agenda-less days of sun-bathing and endless Netflix binge-watching are now in the rearview mirror. We now look forward the long and winding road that leads us through the peaks and valleys of the new school year. What if we take a trip down memory lane? What if we could go back to the picture perfect day that might have defined our summer? That is exactly what this activity allows students to do. 

I planned this R.I.P. Summer activity for the first or second day of class (we start next week). To see other activities for the first couple of weeks of class, or just a few good “I want to know you activities” click here for Spanish levels 1and 2Click here if you want something more engaging for your upper level students.

La Maquina de Tiempo activity invites students to describe their picture perfect summer day. This activity is an alternative to “Write about what you did this summer” a writing prompt, I used every year to get to know my students.  My goal with this activity is for students to:

  • Write about a pleasant memory.
  • Write in the present tense to ease the affective filter in the first couple of days. 
  • Delve into creative writing (maybe stretch, but let’s see).

Instead of writing in the past tense, which many students my struggle with the first few days back in school, they travel back to their most perfect day of summer and write as if they were there. The prompt helps students structure the memory by asking them questions such as:

  • Qué día es
  • Con quién estás
  • Cómo es el clima o el tiempo
  • Qué llevas o qué tienes puestos
  • Dónde estás y qué haces
  • Qué hueles
  • Qué ves
  • Por qué es el día perfecto
 Role play idea: I was also thinking of having students present in pairs in front of the class and practice spontaneous speaking.  One student would act as the psychologist and  “hypnotize” the other.  While the other students is “under” he/she will take the patient on the journey to remember the perfect day. They would ask the questions in the prompt and/or more questions.  

La Farándula 

 I shared this activity on a previous post, but it comprises my collection of spice-it-up writing prompts. There was so much that happened over summer from celebrity break-ups, to Mega Stars passing away, I always like to give students chance to chime in on celebrity gossip. 

Click here for activity prompt.

My students loved this last year. It really set the class afire and they could not stop talking. This activity could be done as a writing activity or speaking. You could turn it into a mini reading activity by find some pieces of celebrity gossip such as this Hola site. 

 

Word Wall

See Elaineinthemiddleblog for original idea
Click here for video 

¿Cuál es tu palabra favorita del Español? 

This is one of my favorite videos. It unites many different Spanish speakers across the continents and professions. They share about their favorite word. I am going to have students share out their favorite word( they can think of it in English and translate it to Spanish).  I learn a lot about students from the words they choose. Then they will place their word on the word call in the class. Here is how I will engage them in the video:

Extension activity:

Spanish plans has this great Facebook Template for gathering information about people. Have students choose one of the speakers and:

  • Create a Facebook, Instragram or Tweets
  • Mini biography
  • Share out in groups of 4.
List of people in the video:

1. Boris Izaguirre

2. Alicia Alonso

3.Ángel Corella

4. Valentín Fuster

5.Antonio Skármeta

6. Mara Torres

7. Justo Bolekia

8. AnaMaría Matute

9. Raphael

10. Margarita Salas

11. Mario Vargas Llosa

12. Emilo Botín

13. Juame Plensa

14. Rosario Flores

15. Antonio Gamoneda

16. Julián López

17. Ricardo Darín

18. Elena Ochoa

19. Isidre Fainé

20. Diego Forlán

21. Gael Garcia Bernal

22. Chayanne

23. Eugenia Silva

24. Luis Rojas Marcos

25. Juan Luis Guerra

26. Pedro Piqueras

27. Isabel Allende

28. Antonio Banderas

29. María Dolores Pradera

30. Vicente Del Bosque

31. Shakira

32. Pau Gasol

Los temas importantes para los jóvenes

I stumbled upon this resource and it seems to be a perfect match for my first unit of the year.

5- “I want to know you” activities for Spanish Learners

Diverse Group of Teenagers - IsolatedGetting students on board from the very  first day

“I want to know you” activities

If you start your first class of the year with diving into the content and work; you’ll lose them on the first day. This was the first line of an article I read last year about engaging teens. It was my first full year teaching high school. Prior to that I was teaching at an International Baccalaureate school for 10 years. Most of the students and families there knew me so the first day was always pan comido.  

*See About Me activity for older students at the foot of the page.

When I was first hired, it was in the middle of the year. I did not know the students and it was an uphill battle that I begin to win towards the end of the school year. The students were great, I just did not know them. I decided to dedicate the whole first unit of this year to discussing and exploring their identity. My objectives for the unit at large are: 

  • For me to get to know my students 
  • For students to get to know each other (I teach across grade levels)
  • Capitalize up on a topic that has gotten tons of traction in the past few years: Identity 

 This unit starts with them, their identity and then slowly builds out on complex issues that surround the topic. You can peruse each sub section for ideas, resources and activities to get students talking, learning and using the language.  Here is my first day teaching Spanish 4 class (I started next week!).

Side note: We have 90 minute block periods. I usually do three activities a day. This is my new miminalist teacher challenge. But since it is the first day, I want to keep things moving and active so these five activities will inaugurate the school year. 

Botero MonalisaDía 1 ¡Hola- Bienvenidos!

Goal: I can say the names of my classmates and share information about myself. 


Setting a positive tone is one of the most important tasks of a teacher at the beginning of the year. I read a great article on Edutopia that gives some brass-tacks advice on being positive, mindset focus and digging into identity and purpose at the start of the school year. Click here for their article . This article dovetails perfectly with my
Quien Soy Yo Unit.

Activity 1: Bienvenidos

  • Welcome students as they come. 
  • Hand them one of these setting cards by Martinabex.

 Last year the students cracked up when I passed them out. I had plastered them with tape- little coutre, but this year I plan to laminate them and use them whenever they have “Nuevos Amigos” or have to change seats. I plan to kick off the presentations by sharing a little bit about myself such as: 

My favorite book: 

El intenso calor de la luna by Gioconda Belli-My favorite el-intenso-calor-de-la-lunabook

zoeMy cat – Zoe

Favorite pass times- reading and Telenovelas 

Velvet_BetaFilm
Velvet Atreseries

 

Activity 2: What’s special about your name?

Then, I turn it over to them. Students introduce themselves to the two people on either side of them. This is the first stage of the introductions!

Name tag

-Quiero que mi nombre se refiera a mí- Mark Haddon

I am fortunate to work in school with a very diverse student body. Names have always interested me. I found out that my mom had given me a  name and then my abuela changed it; I am curious about everyone else’s story.  After they have met other students, warmed up with the short communicative activity, we discuss names. I have found this as a great way to for me to get to know them as well. 

Activity spelled out (see sample above)

  • I give students a blank sheet of card stock paper for them to write their name. They fold the paper lengthwise and write their name on the front. 

-Students label their nameplates regarding the origin, meaning of their name, who named them and why their name is perfect for their personality. 

  • They share this information with other classmates and compare and contrast names, meanings or family origin, etc. 

This activity is great for building relationships! 

Confession boothConfesión

Although I have done this activity for two years, I also like the activity that Misclaseslocas mentioned in her first week of school. For this activity students pass around a ball and introduce themselves to another student. More information about the ball activity can be accessed here.  

Activity 3: ¿Quiénes son mis compañeros?Get to know your classmates- Spanish 4

Now that students have met their “immediate family members, they go around and meet other students.  I have multigrade students so not all of them are familiar with each other.

 Last year most students did not know each other. So this year I am making sure I include this vital component. 

Levántate 

-Circula por la clase 

-Conoce a dos colegas

-Preguntas de introducción 

¿Cómo te llamas?

¿En qué años estás (segundo, tercero o cuatro)

¿Cuáles son dos clases que tienes este año escolar?

Activity 4:  La Farándula Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 2.49.26 PM

There was so much that happened over summer from celebrity break-ups, to Mega Stars passing away, I always like to give students chance to chime in on celebrity gossip. My students loved this last year. It really set the class afire and they could not start talking.  Students share out. 

Quien soy yo- about me spanish 4Actividad 5:  Perfil de Estudiante 

I wanted to do an About Me activity that would also capture personal information that “humanize” my students. This activity invites students to: 

  • Describe their learning style 
  • Personality in three words
  • 3 Topics that they are passionate about
  • Their fears
  • What inspires them
  • What they hate 
  • Something they’d want me to know about them. 

quien soy yo _span4_2This last piece is important because in class you cannot get to know everything. about a student.  I learned that one of my students was a finalist for Fencing!  He had gone to Thailand to compete and came in second place. I would not have known this otherwise. We had great a great discussion. When it came time to watch El Internado, he was excited about the Fencing scene!

Get the activity here. 

¿Quién soy y que me gusta?

 

Exploring Identity with teens: relevant topics for your upper level Spanish class

Engage students in thinking and discussion on Identity in the 21st Century: Reading texts, activities and discussion prompts included!

Identidad de los Jóvenes 

In case you’ve missed it, my first post: Who are you?  highlights several introductory cognitive priming and preparation activities that engage students in and around the theme of Identity. This post highlights additional resources such as slightly modified authentic texts, books and films that I have used to assist students in making sense of the topic and engaging in a real way.

One of my chief issues has not been finding materials but finding appropriate and as Krashen pointed out comprehensible input  for my intermediate level students.   This has forced me to slightly modify some of the resources (when appropriate of course) in order to stave off frustration and immediately lower the affective filter.

After the introduction to the unit on Identity,  I start with this article I researched and complied:

  • Using information for Spanish National Geographic (article on the Teenage Brain eons ago) in addition to other websites that help inform me about the theme, I fashioned the article in the following resource Click here for sample.

Click here to view Identity Unit

The first article highlights the nature of Identity. It discusses:

  • Neurological changes 
  • Biological changes 
  • Psychological and Ideological changes 
  • The impact of technology on one’s identity 
  • The changing nature of identity itself

I am a science buff and this first article was so incredibly interesting to my students last year! I let them work on it in class, annotate and read in pairs to break it down. Also, during a class in pedagogy some years ago (we teachers are always in school), I learned about the concept of “shared background knowledge.”  This text, carefully researched, crafted and modified makes sure all students are on equal footing so to speak with regard to the content. For this article, the wording is mostly sophisticated cognates. With every other article, we circle back to reference this one. In essence, it’s like our “anchor” text. Students were able to transfer their ELA stills such as citing and referencing text to Spanish, a goal our department is earnestly pursuing.

One of the text included broached the Transgender debate in Argentina. This year, I am using the video resources below to support the written text and give students more interpretive input:

The questions can be accessed by clicking here. I have also added it to the Identity Unit for those who have it (it was updated August 23).

These videos that do a great job “enmarcando” the debate. I plan to show the La Ley de la Identity Collage video and have students:

  • Complete the pre-viewing activity with the terms and concepts/ in groups or speed dating style 
  • View the video once without notes. I like giving them time to take it all in. 
  • Discuss what they can for 30 seconds with an elbow partner. 
  • Read over questions
  • View the video once more
  • Respond to questions 
  • Engage students in discussion. Now that they would have read the short article on the Transgender kids in addition to viewing the collage view (short 2 minute testimonial/PSA), we will have a class discussions.

I plan to give them article on Indigenous Identity for homework. When I give a text for homework students:

  • Complete the pre-reading vocabulary during class 
  • Play a game of concentration with the vocabulary or another fun game!
  • Read and respond to questions for homework 
  • Take a homework quiz the next day. I usually cut the questions into strips so every student has one of the 4 higher level questions. I make sure the questions are balanced. They write a response in class and I grade afterwards. 
  • We have a short class discussion.  

Want more on the topic of Identity, check out the previous post below!Question: If you have used these resources, have they worked for you? What resources do you use to get to know students or discuss identity? 


Interpretive Mode Visual Literacy

This year I used a ton of Latin American short and long feature films associated with a particular theme. One of my favs is the short film “Eres” which, is aptly named because all the friends of the protagonist preface every interaction with  ” Eres.”  This is the second year I have used this film, available on here on Youtube.

The film is superior to touching on the Identity and even self-esteem. However, the dialogue can be difficult to understand when you add the speed of light pace of the conversations and other nuances.  To facilitate listening and to lower the filter,  I created several activities that engage:

  •  listening skills 
  •  viewing  skills 
  • reading activities to offset the language barrier. 

My students really loved the film because they really saw how other people (in)form our identity. Many students think they are “themselves” but this film points out our nature to conform as well as how to preserve our own identity- at least that was the lesson I got. Please enjoy and consider giving me a rating. If you have any questions, please send me an email at profesoraquintero@gmail.com

Click here for the free mini lesson on the Spanish Short Film Eres 

One more thing…

The film is more of an PG-13. It is about 10 minutes and my students have liked it for the past two years (or 1.5 years). There is no nudity although there is a 5 second showing of two of the characters kissing while falling onto the bed.

Other amazing resources

 I came across this treasure during the ACTFL conference. The first few pages of this book dovetails peerlessly with my unit on identity. There  is a really great and highly relevant article on adolescents and their issues. This is coupled a slew of activities that could be used for differentiation, stations, Chat Stations (which I love) and/or homework if you’re into that.

 

These are additional activities related to the book. They’re are tons and the book is available on Amazon. It’s about $2 more than what I paid, but I think it is definitely worth it!

I also bought this Spanish IB MYP book. It has many great articles and questions to spawn critical thinking and reflecting. This year I am using several little articles for students to read and present on.