Back to school………again……

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 @SECottrell 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:

 

 

 

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Metas y Sueños, some final thoughts

Like all things in the teaching world (and in life, in general), things don’t always go as you have planned…even when you have spent a long time planning!  This new unit that I began creating in the “snow days” of January has been much of what I planned, but has certainly evolved into things that I simply could not anticipate.  What began like this:

Preguntas Esenciales

1. ¿Qué es tu rutina diaria? ¿Cómo te escapas la rutina?

2. ¿Cuáles son tus metas, tus sueños? ¿A qué quieres dedicarte? ¿Cómo han cambiado tus metas /sueños desde tu niñez? ¿Cómo vas a lograr tus sueños? ¿Cómo te enfrentas a los retos, los obstáculos?

3. ¿Quién es una persona que ha superado mucho? ¿Cuáles son las características y/o las acciones de la persona que ha superado mucho? ¿Quién es una persona que admiras? ¿Porqué?

4. ¿Cómo presentan los sueños y las metas las canciones populares?

5. ¿Cuál fue la banda sonora de tu infancia? ¿Cuál fue la banda sonora de sus años de escuela secundaria? ¿Qué crees que va a ser la banda sonora de tu futuro?

changed to eliminate question #5, added significantly to #3 and included several days on the goals and dreams of the people of Venezuela.  With the elimination of essential question #5, I also had to eliminate a final evaluation (the sound track of their lives, and a review of preterite/imperfect). But, with the addition of the Venezuela component, I believe that the unit became even more authentic.  To question #3, about people who have overcome obstacles to achieve goals and dreams, I had planned on using Martin Luther King, Jr.,Kseniya Simonova, and Charlotte and Jonathon from Britain’s Got Talent.  The section on Charlotte and Jonathon I got from tweets from Axel (from Argentina), as I looked for more information to include in the study of his song “Celebra la vida“.  Metas celebra tu vida We spent quite a bit of time with the song, with various activities, including drawing the lyrics and acting the lyrics.  Our discussion of the tweets and then the follow up with the Charlotte and Jonathon story, including updates through December 2013, was certainly very worthwhile.  I decided, after the reaction of my students, to add another person to our study of overcoming obstacles: Malala Yousafzai Metas Malala  and with the BBC video, Metas Malala BBC Mundo video.  I was amazed that so few of my students knew who she is.  We spent several days with the reading taken from BBC, talking in small groups, working with the Spanish captions in the video, and talking about and contrasting their views of education with hers.  We also watched a Diane Sawyer interview with her (in English) as well as her appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

I’ve already posted about our work with Venezuela, and I’ve also posted a few of the final evaluations.  However, there was one student who did not have her project ready in class yesterday.  She told me she was having some difficulty with the final editing and uploading of her project, and promised that I would have it by last night.  Well, she carried through with her promise, and, in my opinion, it demonstrates her total comprehension of this unit, interpreted through the words of Juanes in his inspirational song, No creo en el jamás.  I wish that @Juanes could view it.  Please watch her video here.

Our work with the song began with Metas No creo en el jamas Juanes revised. The five songs that I selected to use with the unit were mostly successful.  There were three that my students really enjoyed:  Celebra tu vida (Axel), No creo en el jamás (Juanes) and No me doy por vencido (Luis Fonsi).  ( By enjoy, I mean that by the end, they were singing the songs at the top of their lungs!) The songs No hago na’ ma’ (El Gran Combo) and the new version Echar Pa’lante were received with a mediocre reaction, and Bonito (Jarabe de Palo) was a song with which they were already familiar. I also used, to lesser degrees, Vivir mi vida (Marc Anthony), Solo soy (Doctor Krapula) and So What (Sie7e).

The entire scope of this unit, how it went day by day, with additional materials can be viewed here. Next week, we move on to the Immigration unit with materials from the amazing Kara Jacobs (@karacjacobs) and Cristina Zimmerman (@CristinaZimmer4), as well as my additions.  To start the unit, we are going to use the documentary Which Way Home, making the transition from dreams and goals to immigration via the dreams and goals of the dreaming children in the video.

 

And the curriculum guide says………

para alcanzar tus suenosOur curriculum for Spanish IV says that we are in a chapter that focuses on aspirations (tough vocabulary, abstract ideas) and,…..tons of grammar (preterite of stative verbs, grammatical reflexives, preterite versus imperfect, subjunctive with adverbial conjunctions). So, am I tied to this textbook that we have been given? No!  With this post I hope to encourage those of you who have a textbook that may not be the most relevant….meaning that it simply doesn’t have the authentic resources that will tie it to comprehensible input……to take part/some of what the curriculum dictates and create something that does use authentic resources.

For the past three years I have been modifying this chapter, trying to add interest, trying to make it relevant and not so overwhelmingly dry and so heavy, grammatically. Even so, I have not looked forward to tackling this chapter again this year. To some extent, I have had success, but not enough for me to be content with what we’ve done.  Therefore, I decided to undertake a complete overhaul of this unit.  I’ve created a master plan (backwards design) and have modeled the “look” of the plan on one that I started using after admiring/implementing the work of Kara Jacobs. The name of the unit is now Las metas y los sueños, and it does include many of the elements of the original chapter. Here is the ” BIG PICTURE.”

Preguntas Esenciales

1. ¿Qué es tu rutina diaria? ¿Cómo te escapas la rutina?                                                    2. ¿Cuáles son tus metas, tus sueños? ¿A qué quieres dedicarte? ¿Cómo han cambiado tus metas /sueños desde tu niñez? ¿Cómo vas a lograr tus sueños? ¿Cómo te enfrentas a los retos, los obstáculos?                                                                                                   3. ¿Quién es una persona que ha superado mucho? ¿Cuáles son las características y/o las acciones de la persona que ha superado mucho?  ¿Quién es una persona que admiras?¿Porqué?                                                                                                                                        4. ¿Cómo presentan los sueños y las metas las canciones y/o las películas populares?                                                                                                                                5. ¿Cuál fue la banda sonora de tu infancia? ¿Cuál fue la banda sonora de sus años de escuela secundaria? ¿Qué crees que va a ser la banda sonora de tu futuro?

Evaluaciones

1. Examen Oral (25 puntos): describe tus metas y tus sueños y cómo han cambiado (6 febrero)                                                                                                                                   2. Examen escrito (25 puntos): describe a una persona que admiras (11 febrero)                                                                                                                                   3. Examencito oral (20 puntos): Contesta preguntas sobre tu rutina diaria (14 febrero)                                                                                                                                    4. Presentación (con compañero, 30 puntos) : Escoge una de las canciones/películas y haz un video/ppt, etc. que refleja el significado (26 febrero)                                                  5. Presentación: La Banda Sonora de tu vida con audio/explicación escrita (25 puntos) y presentación oral de 2 minutos SIN APUNTES (20 puntos) (5 marzo)

I am going to try to post the various materials being used as I use them.  As with so many of my Twitter colleagues (so many, but to name a few: Kara Jacobs, Sarah E Cottrell, Cristina Zimmerman, Kristy Placido, Mike Peto, Bethanie Drew, Cynthia Hitz, Carrie Toth, Amy Lenord) the emphasis for providing comprehensible input will come from authentic resources. However, I will say that with the constant weather interruptions, it has been impossible to gather momentum yet!

I introduced the unit with an unusual video:  Elvis Presley, singing If I Can Dream in English, with Spanish subtitles.

This was followed by some discussion of his dream and dreams in general.  I had pre-targeted some vocabulary, which was on the word wall in Spanish only: metas, intentar, realizar, soñar con, retos/desafíos, and I kept trying to insert the words into our conversation as I pointed to them on the wall.  Next I had them work with a partner with a “Twitter” page (modeled after Twiccionario by Zachary Jones).  To create your own Twitter page is relatively simple by using the #hashtag with the word(s) desired.  In this case I wanted authentic tweets about #metas.  Metas day 1 beginning

Day 2 began with several posters from the site desmotivaciones that focused on dreams, goals, challenges, etc. Working with different partners, they worked their way through the 8 posters, trying to derive meaning while adding to their vocabulary.  After about 7 minutes, I had them choose two that they either understood well, spoke to them, or were giving them trouble.  They then shared with the class. Here are the Metas carteles, and here is a link to them on my wiki (so they could see them in color). Following this, students worked in small groups (3-4) creating definitions for los sueños y las metas and discussing whether a dream is the same thing as a goal.  After that, they worked individually to focus on their own dreams and goals in three categories: education, family/love, and profession/future plans. They also began to write briefly about how they would reach these goals/dreams and the challenges they might face. Metas personales

Both days I have had Celebra tu vida by Axel playing as they come to class.  I intend to use it extensively this coming week. The plan for Monday is based on a lesson that has gone well for the past 5 years, and one that came from Zachary Jones‘ older site, Actualidades.  It includes a lectura, video, and a free write about Kseniya Simonova, an artist from the Ukraine who won the Ukrainian version of America’s Got Talent in 2009. Metas Kseniya Simonova If you have not heard of her, or seen the video, it really is worth watching.  Each year my students have been amazed, and very moved.  It has led to some rich discussion and some interesting free writes.

We also will be looking at parts of the famous speech by Martin Luther King, I Have a Dream, using the Spanish text. (This idea came from something that Zachary Jones posted on MLK Day, what an incredible resource he is for Spanish teachers!!!!) We will watch small parts of this video 

  We will use this lectura based on the speech.   Metas MLK

Both the work with Kseniya and Martin Luther King are activities designed to support the oral assessment of dreams and goals as well as the written assessment on a person that they admire.  Since this is a work in progress, I would really appreciate any ideas, suggestions, comments that you might have.