Quarter 1: This term, students in fourth grade excitedly delved into the task of creating their own pueblo/town. After establishing bank accounts and buying their own mansions, the actual simulation commenced. A typical day in either Epicville (Papageorge) or Marlow Mayhem (Marlow) begins with workers being dismissed to their jobs. Businesses open at this point include the banco/bank, juguetería/toy store, tienda de arte/art store, and teatro/theater. Later, students travel around town, taking out money from the bank, buying what they need and want with realistic-looking euros, communicating solely in the target language, and occasionally employing ‘frantic gesturing’ when they find themselves unable to recall vocabulary or simplify an idea. It is amazing how innovative fourth graders become when they are desperate to express a thought. In addition to working and living in the pueblo, students also translated key words in their constellation poems from English to Spanish; signed a Language Pledge promising not to speak English within the walls of the Spanish Cave; tweeted their favorite movies; learned how to use the internet dictionary www.wordreference.com; wrote letters to their pen-pals in Oaxaca, Mexico; and worked on a “Class Wordle” of all the words they know in the target language. Gracias for a great start to the year!
Quarter 2: This term, students in fourth grade received letters and photos from their pen-pals in Oaxaca, Mexico; chose new Spanish identities, with the understanding that their English name and person ‘no longer exist’ in the Spanish Cave; tried their hand at several translation exercises; sang along with the overly dramatic Sr. Wooly video, ¿Adónde vas? (Where are you going?); and, of course, continued with their pueblo simulation. In addition to the usual browsing, buying, selling and even trading, several instances of corruption were also witnessed; members of the police department were allowing prisoners—i.e., thieves sent to la cárcel/jail for petty crimes—to escape in exchange for [plastic green] money. Such blatant injustices and brazen disrespect of the law led to a ban on all criminal activities. Later, students refocused their attention with a call-response echo in the target language: ¿Qué queremos?/¡Queremos trabajar! (What do we want? We want to work!). Other town updates as follows. Epicville: Students have created an Apple Store, where they sell technological gadgets and devices to their peers, such as handmade laptops and teléfonos inteligentes/SMART phones. Marlow Mayhem: Students have added a cine/movie theater, where they sell tickets to anyone and everyone who would like to watch a show. Gracias for another exciting quarter.
Quarter 3: This term, students in fourth grade focused their energies on two specific goals each class (¿Cuál es la meta?/What is the goal?). Generally speaking, the goals tend to be to repeat a certain linguistic structure as many times and in as many relevant contexts as possible in the town simulation. For instance, “¡No puedes hacer eso!” (You can’t do that!), “Quiero comprar eso” (I want to buy that), and “¿Por que?” (Why?), can easily be incorporated into almost any conversation. Moreover, students who take piano lessons were permitted to play songs from memory for the citizens of Epicville or Marlow Mayhem on the classroom teclado/keyboard. Excellent performances resulted in several very affluent musicians (propina/tip). In addition, fourth graders learned that Wikipedia has a wonderful translation feature on the sidebar; deduced what names of BrainPop videos were using common sense and logic (e.g., La gran explosión/The Big Bang); participated in a Virtual Word Search; rehearsed and then presented dialogues in the target language in front of their peers; generated their own linguistic discussions as they helped each other translate their pen-pal letters from Mexico, and worked on rough and final drafts of their letters, attaching tiny gifts of appreciation for their new friends (e.g., origami, beaded bracelets, stickers, etc.). Gracias for another outstanding quarter.
Quarter 4: This term, students in fourth grade played Spanish Monopoly; bought mansions and created a handmade map of the town; discovered that the map is authentic and of downtown Buenos Aires, and that the main street, or Avenida 9 de Julio, happens to be one of the widest in the world (with a whopping sixteen lanes of traffic); opened up a café, and then sipped and learned about the traditional friendship drink and famous tea of Argentina, called Mate; and extended their understanding of the word ‘pueblo’: The town does not only exist within the four walls of the Spanish Cave, but also beyond it… and thus a parque/park (in which to play fútbol/soccer) was borne. Not long after, fourth graders learned of a dramatic new development. The town had suffered a desastre natural/natural disaster, and as a result, no longer exists. Following the initial shock, fourth graders began to wonder—what if your friend has a sweater and you don’t? Rationally minded individuals suddenly become desperate, even when la fuerza/the force—illustrated by a ping-pong ball levitating above a hair dryer—is on their side. Thankfully, the Red Cross/La Cruz Roja was able to collect and donate $50,000 to all citizens affected before things got too out of hand. Students read the generous letter and began planning how to spend the cash (needs vs. wants). Gracias for an incredible year.