|K||This term, students in kindergarten adjusted to a more informal style of teaching via, well, play. There is an enormous toy shelf in the Spanish classroom, which has been invaluable this quarter in pushing students to apply what they have learned in natural discourse. As a result, our dialogues generally proceed as follows: What do you want [which toy]? / I want the shark. / Why? / Because I like it. / When? / Now / Do you want the small shark or do you want the big shark? / I want that one! Please! |
Because 95% of students want a different toy within about ten seconds, they tend to get a lot of practice. And for the 5% who are content with their first toy, I make sure to travel around the room and ask [in Spanish] what they are playing or if they would like a different toy. As their confidence grows, the dialogue likewise evolves into more complex questions and responses.
|1||This term, students in first grade extended their “Can I…?” questioning to the extreme. The following is a list of questions that most students have mastered: Can I go the bathroom? Can I have that? Can I lift that [up]? Can I draw on the board / with paper? Can I paint? Can I sleep? Can I get a drink? Can I read a book? Can I play with that? Students also worked on describing themselves and others, using both adjectives and occupations (e.g., I’m tall and pretty or I’m an artist). |
As a result, class time is spent with students asking permission to do things – usually with follow-up questions: Do you need a marker? or Where is it? – and a lot of natural interaction in the language. Students are especially motivated because as long as they ask in Spanish, they are allowed to do these activities. Class therefore begins with a greeting and weather report, and then branches off into various activities spread out around the room. Their general enthusiasm to learn is wonderful to see and should be applauded – it is a bit infectious!
|2||This term, students in second grade had greater exposure to contextualized language, or storytelling. But listening to stories is not merely a passive experience; rather, students must add their own creative ideas to the teacher’s basic outline of a story. For example, one day, Fred was really angry, so he stole ten thousand grapes from Giant Eagle, ate all of them in one sitting, and then wound up in the hospital with a bad stomachache. |
Students would supply the number of grapes and the store name, and the teacher would find Fred’s motivation for committing such a dreadful crime. Bizarre details like “ten thousand grapes” and “a bad stomachache” tend to engage students and spark their imaginations. In addition to creative stories told in the past tense, students also had a culture/geography lesson with a native speaker from Spain (España), and as a spin-off from one of our class stories, designed their own castles (complete with kings, queens, and dungeons). It has been a fun quarter!
|3||This term, students in third grade continued with the “informal discourse” theme. Students come to class, copy their vocabulary from the board into their notebooks, and then proceed to speak and ask questions in Spanish for the remainder of the period. This can mean anything from discussing if So-and-So can fly, to who gets to sit in the teacher’s chair, to having a Harry Potter Wand-Off (where students cast spells on one another in the target language). |
Some days, we shake up the routine: third graders compose dramas in their notebooks and later perform them with their fellow peers. And one week, we watched the movie Balto in Spanish to see how many words they could identify. The overall focus this quarter has been on stringing key phrases and vocabulary together to create real conversation – in other words, fluency.
|4||This term, students in fourth grade acquired a solid foundation of basic storytelling vocabulary. This, in turn, enabled them to participate in a Story Gift Swap around the holidays, where students a) chose someone’s name out of a hat; b) wrote a personalized story for their Secret Person – using information gathered earlier; c) wrote a corrected final copy of that story and decorated the page artistically; and d) finally presented the story to their Secret Person. |
Students should be proud of all the hard work they put into this project. In addition to a plethora of verbal and written storytelling this term, students also memorized all four verses of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in Spanish. Several students even chose to sing the chorus over the intercom to the entire LS on the last day before the holiday break. Excelente.
|5||Students in fifth grade spent the bulk of this term studying and later performing two more plays. The first was called The Gold Necklace (or El collar de oro), and was based on a legend from New Mexico. The second was called The Haunted House (or La casa embrujada), and was based on a legend from Peru. |
To prepare for the eventual performances, students: 1) listen to a summary of the legend, thereby building up their vocabularies; 2) draw out the play from memory in comic-strip form to begin visualizing it onstage; 3) translate the script in class; 4) audition for parts; 5) rehearse in groups; and 6) perform it in Spanish in front of the class. It is a long process, but the end product is well worth the effort. Fifth graders should be proud of their accomplishments. Their listening, speaking, reading, writing, and acting skills have all improved since the beginning of the year.
|7||Reading/Speaking Unit: Students begin this unit with a novice-level Spanish reader, Piratas. Seventh graders read and answer questions about each chapter at home, and then come to class prepared to discuss. The teacher retells any chapters confusing to students in the target language (TPRS style). Students also begin class every day with “Boardwork”, or questions written on the board in the target language, which they are expected to answer in complete sentences. The teacher varies the questions so that specific grammar points can be emphasized each week. Sometimes, for variety, the class has “Conversation Days”, where students are given a set amount of time to develop a dialogue, story, or role-play (in pairs or groups of three). |
Students are not permitted to write anything down with this exercise, so as to mimic a real conversation. For example, a prompt might be to build a story around the question, “What happened?!” Goals include using a variety of verb tenses and persons and vocabulary. Students then grade one another’s presentations, and top presenters receive a free homework pass. This unit’s final project combines writing and speaking with a PK Story Project. Here, students are assigned one to two students in the PK class. Then, seventh graders gather personalized information about students, and include these details in a written, illustrated Spanish story of their own creation.
When the final products are finished, seventh graders share them with respective PK students. This forces students to focus on writing for a specific audience. This year, students also had a surprise visit from a native speaker (from Spain). They spent a class period asking questions in the target language for the speaker, which she gladly answered (in a Castilian accent!). Students also compared and contrasted how many languages an average European speaks versus an American and the reasons why that number differs. Lastly, students listened to phrases in twelve different languages and tried to identify them (Hindi, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Arabic, Spanish, etc.).