Newsletter 20-21, Aug. (4)

Week #1: This week, fourth graders embarked on a whirlwind adventure of language and culture. The first class was spent almost entirely in the target language: here, students traveled to Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago (a 500-mile hike that will directly correspond with the Weekly Spanish Challenges). Fourth graders began ‘hiking’ around the room as they watched THIS VIDEO I made (“Spain, Part 1”), but quickly realized they needed their backpacks and water bottles–the Spanish summer sun is very similar to Florida’s, with 110*F temps!

As they walked over mountains and through valleys, their guide would periodically get lost. Students learned that the trail is marked by [scallop] shells and arrows. When you see one, you know that you are on the right path. Phew!

Whether students realized it or not, there were constant comprehension checks along the way: “What is this in English? How do you say this ___?”. I am throwing A LOT of Spanish at them in the first few classes, to gauge exactly where they are linguistically (including how many minutes they can actively listen to the language before their brains tune out!) and move forward from there. If your child is newer to Spanish and feels lost, please reassure them that I am only testing where the class is right now and to try their best to watch and follow along. It is okay if they don’t understand every word! Part of the language-learning journey is to RELAX when hearing another language. The brain actually does a lot of work subconsciously when students are actively listening. We will talk about all of this next week.

Anyway, students began creating a “Camino” around campus by drawing shells and arrows with chalk. We hiked up and down a few mountains (read: staircases) with our bags and water bottles, and then decided to retire to the hotel/hostel (their classroom!) for the evening. One section was able to do more of this than the other, due to time constraints.

The following day, students learned that Spanish classes will bounce back and forth between 1) learning about real places/monuments/ history/ traditions/realia–that is, culture–in the Spanish-speaking world; and 2) imagination, where we take pieces of this real culture and combine it with other fantastical ideas, in order to create personalized plays and tell stories in the target language. They also began class with a Friday dance party (Merengue!) to THIS SONG. Note that the English translation here is not a professional translation, but you get the general idea. It was the official anthem to the 2016 European Championship, and a great song!

On Friday, fourth graders launched into a storytelling/theater unit. I did not tell them any of the rules of Spanish storytelling because I wanted to see how they would respond; we will go over these next time. The gist of it was that a famous actress–walking the red carpet–starred in a movie about THE CAMINO (the 500-mile long hike in Spain). Luces, cámara, acción, redoble, toma uno /lights, camera, action, drumroll, take one!

In 4-1, the actress walked and walked and walked, was famished (tengo hambre/I’m hungry), and wanted to go to a restaurant to eat (she had three choices). This part of the story was put on hold or pause as students were given dinero/[fake] money and talked for a minute about euros vs. dollars and different conversion rates.

In 4-2, three famous actress auditioned for the main part. However, it was soon discovered that they were mortal enemies/enemigas. The class voted on this and then paused at a crucial moment when the girls were walking THE CAMINO and realized that their arch-nemesis was behind them. FIGHT?! Oh no! What a problem!

The goal for both classes was to jump into storytelling. We will hone in on specific vocabulary next week and ‘how to play the game’; the goal for this week was simply to listen to a lot of Spanish and gauge what students did and did not understand.

VIRTUAL LEARNERS are encouraged to check out the video and photos at THIS LINK, and to create their own “Camino” at home. The arrows and shells are oftentimes made out of things in nature as well. You might outline an arrow using some rocks or palms, or simply draw arrow and shell signs and hang them up around your house. Make sure they are all pointed in the same direction, so that you don’t get lost. Feel free to send pictures, if you like!

For language input, virtual learners may also 1) participate in the Weekly Spanish Challenges; 2) sign up for a Duolingo account and do a lesson or two; and/or 3) watch a movie or cartoon in the target language (Spanish voiceover and English subtitles). Just get used to hearing a lot of Spanish!