Encouraging student responsibility for language learning beyond the classroom


Before I entered blog ownership I had become a frequent reader of other blogs for language teachers and tech people.  One of my favorite blogs is Mis Musicuentos by SE Cottrell.  She had an amazing post last February that I pondered for many weeks knowing that it was the truth but not quite sure how to proceed with what she had written.  Essentially she said that if students are going to improve on their language skills, the language class can not be the only place where they are practicing that language.  She said that students must take ownership of their language journey and not just let it be something that a teacher is forcing them to do.  I let these ideas simmer for a while and finally decided that I would try her fluency activity experiment with my Spanish IV class.  So, toward the end of the year I asked my students to participate in the experiment for three weeks.  From the list below they had to select one activity and complete it during the week.  They could only do the activity for one week and the subsequent weeks had to choose something different. I had them bring in any necessary work or evidence  each Tuesday.  I asked them to tell me

  1. what they did
  2. at least two things learned
  3. what they need to improve upon, or what they struggled with

I also asked that they had a parent/guardian confirm, in writing, that they had completed the activity.  Obviously, they were on the honor system here, and I told them that if they lied, they would really only be impeding their own progress.  I made each week worth 25 points.  Of course, this idea was greeted by some groans, but it was also greeted with some interest.  I can say that I felt that the experiment was, overall, a success, and one that I will repeat with regularity each term in the upcoming school year.  Did all students complete all three weeks?  No, they didn’t; however most of them completed their assignments.  Did I ever suspect that perhaps they had not completed the assignment even though a parent had signed off on it?  Yes, I did; but only twice.  I did hear, from both students and parents, that it was, for the most part, an enjoyable activity, and one that they thought was of benefit to them.  So, thank you, SE Cottrell!

Here is the list that I gave my students, originally created by SE Cottrell, added to by some of her readers, and added to by me.

  •  Listen to Spanish-language radio for one hour (music) or 30 minutes (talk).
  •  Play a videogame in Spanish for one hour
  •  Watch a Spanish telenovela (Channel 15) for one hour
  •  Watch MTVTres for one hour
  •  Change your facebook language to Spanish and play on Facebook for an hour.
  • Read a Spanish-language magazine for 30 minutes (may be online). Suggestions:






  • Read/listen to Spanish news on line.  Suggestions:

                          http://www.bbc.co.uk/mundo/     (BBC Mundo)



  • Play on one or more corporate Spanish-language websites for 45 minutes, such as

McDonalds http://www.mcdonalds.com.mx/                                                                            Harry Potter http://www.harrypotterla.com/                                                                             Major League Baseball  http://mlb.mlb.com/es/index.jsp?c_id=ml                                     Wii  http://latam.wii.com/                                                                                            Dominos  http://espanol.dominos.com/enes/

  •  Read a book in Spanish for 30 minutes
  •  Read 3 familiar chapters of the Bible in Spanish.  http://www.godonthe.net/la_biblia/bibletoc.htm
  •  Change your cell phone or mp3 player’s language to Spanish for an entire week.
  •  Read the directions in Spanish of seven items in your house (e.g. detergent).
  •  Read the last 50 tweets using a Twitter hashtag for a Latin-American country or city.
  •  Read the last 30 Spanish-language tweets by one or more Spanish-speaking artists or politicians on Twitter, such as Juanes or Jesse y Joy
  •  Read an article about a famous Latino musician or politician in Spanish on Wikipedia.
  •  Watch 3 videoclips on sports and 3 videoclips on current news on Univision.com.
  •  Compile a list of 30 words involving the profession you hope to have, on 3×5 cards for your review.
  •  Explore the Spanish-language section of Barnes & Noble(music, kids’ books, and/or adult books) for 30 minutes and find two things you would like to own.
  •  Listen to a sermon (at least 20 minutes) in Spanish (see oneplace.com).
  •  Conversar (o ‘chatear’) en español con alguien por 30 minutos
  •  Explore iTunes Latino store and iTunes essentials for 30 minutes & find 2 albums or 5 songs you would like to own
  •  Using post-it notes, post-it 10 items in your house that you don’t know the word for and leave it there for a week, then report to me from memory what all the items were.
  •  Complete a song on lyricstraining.com. and bring me the results.
  •  Go to the zoo and using your phone, or flipvideo camera, record the animals with your commentary in Spanish
  •  Go to a Latino restaurant and using your phone, or flipvideo camera, record the meal/food/decorations with your commentary in Spanish
  • Have another idea/suggestion?  Please see me for approval before completing it.

2 thoughts on “Encouraging student responsibility for language learning beyond the classroom

  1. Pingback: Blogs to follow « @misscrawleymfl

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