October/Trimester 1: This trimester, students in fifth grade began by creating several wildly creative class stories, with plots about evil donkeys, broken down school buses, a serious Chick-fil-A vs. PDQ rivalry, stolen jewels from an art museum, and even a real courtroom trial (5.B). Here, fifth graders worked on answering questions about the stories and composing their own original sentences in the target language. Fifth graders also jumped on and named the Spanish-speaking countries on the tape floor map, and played a highly addictive, “Guess the Language” online game (LingLang) to strengthen and hone their listening abilities; being able to distinguish one language’s sounds and cadence from another takes time and is a skill that will only benefit their language study.
Cultural tidbits were sprinkled throughout the trimester: from sneezing iguanas (Ecuador), dangerous railroads (Bolivia), a painting of an inverted map (Uruguayan artist), and the frightening legend of the Chupacabra (Puerto Rico/5.A), to Pedro Infante’s famous “Cielito lindo” (ay yie yie yie, canta, no llores/ay yie yie yie, sing, don’t cry/Mexican singer), El Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead class discussions (Mexico), and a tradition of saying, “Salud, dinero, amor” (health, money, love) when a person sneezes (Colombia), fifth graders began to deepen their appreciation for different and new perspectives. Gracias for a great first trimester.
*Spanish-speaking countries on the tape floor map: Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras.
September: This month, students in fifth grade practiced jumping on and naming Spanish-speaking countries on the tape floor map before they sat down each day (Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay). For their Summit mini culture project for Chile and Argentina, students “built” the Andes Mountains in three minutes with building blocks, and then watched as a terrible “mudslide” destroyed the mountain range—so that the next group could have a turn to build. For Uruguay, they traced a painting of a famous Uruguayan artist who wanted to define and identify Latin American art on his own terms, instead of in relation to North America and Europe; ultimately, the painting of an inverted map is about taking new perspectives and questioning tradition.
Fifth graders also continued working on their class stories. It is important to remember here that storytelling is the linguistic foundation of every culture: whether it is a simple conversation about where you bought your coffee this morning, or a more detailed narrative about how your two-year-old dumped juice all over the floor and then ran around the house screaming, we all partake in the timeless tradition of storytelling on a daily basis. Every conversation is a story—and sometimes the story leads where you least expect it.
That said, the story of 5.A. led to Señor Dorito escaping from jail with his two evil donkey friends in a broken down school bus (autobús roto). When fifth graders could not agree on an ending, they broke off into groups and wrote out their ideas—agreeing to disagree.
In 5.B, a slightly more realistic plot ensued, where Frito Bandito ‘rescued’ the imprisoned evil donkey and escaped, only to find himself in a courtroom in the next scene being tried for multiple crimes. In between the judge announcing, “Se abre la sesión” (court is in session), inkpad fingerprints presented as evidence, and an unexpected, but tearful confession, there was also a zumo y limonada/juice and lemonade break to ease the unspoken tension in the room.
Last but not least, students continued acting out their animal passwords, played Hangman/ Dunk Tank (tú ganas/you win), and learned part of the chorus to Pedro Infante’s famous “Cielito lindo” (ay yie yie yie, canta, no llores/ay yie yie yie, sing, don’t cry)—which managed to make its way into both class stories. They also watched the Frito Bandito commercial from the 1960’s, which can only be fully appreciated after you are familiar with the original [aforementioned] song.
August: This month, students in fifth grade worked to create an epic saga in the target language. These class stories are teacher-asked and student-led (agency), and tend to get rather creative rather quickly. For example, for 5.A, this meant an extraterrestrial named Bobby who lives on the sun and whose ultimate adversary in life is Señor Dorito (yes, like the chips). For 5.B, this meant an intense rivalry between two classmates, where McDonald’s was pitted against Chick-fil-A/PDQ, which ended when both restaurants were closed—because their owners, the Kardashians, were on vacation with their evil donkey. Ahem. In other news, fifth graders also chose individualized password cards; responded to action commands; watched a YouTube video about the Bolivian railway system; and also learned that there are 21 Spanish-speaking countries and 400+ million Spanish speakers, but that Chinese is actually the most-spoken language in the world right now (English is number three behind Spanish). Gracias for a great month.