August 1. It’s a date that weighs heavily on most teachers. The start of a new school year is literally right around the corner. For me, it is the start of either my 33rd, 34th or 35th year (depending on how you count, and what you do with maternity leave!!). I took a self imposed break from blogging this summer. The last school year was a tough one and I needed to rejuvenate. I was not happy with how my Spanish III students progressed, in comparison to previous years. Some of that may have been the student, some of that was definitely me (major events in my lifetime last year included 3 college graduations and my son’s wedding), and some of it was the last step in the transition from text to no text, and the complete acceptance and full implementation of Comprehensible Input (CI).
I have not used a textbook with students for at least the past seven years……..but I still have relied (less each year) on the county curriculum. That meant that I was still tied to teaching certain “themes/sets” of vocabulary and definitely some conventional grammar mechanisms. Last year was the “tip over” point. For the first time, I had all three sections of Spanish IV and I did not have to maintain the curriculum with another teacher! I did not lesson plan with someone else who may still be entrenched in the philosophy “Oh, this is the level that we teach if, then clauses, sequencing of tenses, por/para, etc.”. I was free to follow my own and my students’ desires, timeline and interests. It was so liberating. My Spanish IV students, in my eyes, made huge leaps last year. The transition had been taking place for years, but last year, it became complete. That is NOT to say that everything was successful!!! I made mistakes, I blundered, I took my students down paths that were unnecessary…..BUT, there also incredible rewards, big growth in their speaking and writing abilities (even after they groaned, “another free write?”). Will I change things this year? You bet! But I have a very clear vision of what we will explore and do together. It will be based on the evolution from the past few years, fine tuned from last year, and I’m sure there will be further adjustments this year. But it is exciting. We will be reading at least two TPRS Publishing novels (@TPRS publishing ) this year: beginning with La Llorona de Mazatlan the second day of school, and using Vida y Muerte en la Mara Salvatruche in the midst of the Narcoviolencia unit and the Immigration unit. I am hoping to seek funds from the PTA to purchase a third, La Hija del Sastre, to use somewhere in conjunction with the Art unit (when we explore Picasso, Dali, Kahlo and Rivera). The units of Narcoviolencia, Immigration and Art were favorite units of the majority of last years 67 Spanish IV students (along with the Copa Mundial unit at the end of the year). I know that I will continue with the Fluency 1 assignments that evolved from Sara-E.Cottrell @ and several other terrific Twitter colleagues. I moved the Fluency depository to Edmodo last year, and it worked very well. Oh, yes, I can hardly wait to get started!
Now, Spanish III, last year, that was another story! But, I have hope! This school year will begin with CI being used by both of us who teach the 5 sections of Spanish III. We are both starting the year with a TPRS Publishing novel (Esperanza), and know that we will use Robo en la Noche again (we did last year, too, with incredible success). We also will seek funding for a third, La Guerra Sucia. The framework for this coming year is located on my wikispace, El Mundo de Birch. The Essential Questions are already posted for Esperanza:
1. ¿Dónde está Guatemala? ¿Cómo es Guatemala?
2. ¿Qué pasó en Guatemala de 1970 hasta 1999? ¿Cómo respondió los EE. UU.?
3. ¿Cómo es la vida del inmigrante?
4. ¿Cómo representan las canciones la vida cotidiana de Guatemala y de los inmigrantes?
5. ¿Qué está pasando en Guatemala hoy día? ¿Cómo está respondiendo los EE.UU.?
6. ¿Por qué tiene el libro el título de “Esperanza”?
7. ¿Qué es el Immigrant Archive Project?
Focus countries and some general grammatical areas are also listed. Yes, I am excited and hopeful for Spanish III this year.
I have not reached this point alone. If you are not on Twitter, I would urge you, no….I would implore you……USE IT!!! It is the best professional development around. Through Twitter, you will be able to connect with such an assortment of teachers, with a collective wisdom that just astounds me. Follow their blogs, follow their ideas, their successes and their failures. The support is incredible. That “fount of knowledge and inspiration” includes, but is certainly not limited to:
- Martina Bex @MartinaBex and The Comprehensible Classroom
- Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell @SECottrell and musicuentos.com
- Cynthia Hitz @sonrisadelcampo and Teaching Spanish with Comprehensible Input
- Kara Jacobs @karacjacobs and cultura y civilizacion
- Amy Lenord @Alenord and Language Coaching
- Carrie Toth @SenoraCMT and Somewhere to Share
- Crystal Barragan @Srtabarragan and Srta. Barragan blog
- Michael Peto @ Mike_Peto and My Generation of Polyglots
- Zachary Jones @ZJonesSpanish and Zambombazo