Newsletter 20-21, Aug. (3)

Week #2: This week, students in third grade entered the wonderful world of storytelling. Here, the teacher provides a bare-bones outline of a scripted story, and asks questions to personalize and cater the story to each particular class. My goal is to ingrain certain vocabulary structures in their minds each day through memorable experiences, comprehensible input–students understanding/ intuiting what is being said, even if they don’t know the words yet– and repetition (the average learner requires 70-150 repetitions of a word and/or phrase before it is stored in long-term memory).

NOTE: The stories are grounded in actual cultural facts and places, but the idea is to layer imagination and creativity over them to create a personalized play with student actors and actresses. If, for example, we learn that student “Fred” hates tomatoes in real life, then we would fit this into the story somehow. The stories tend to continue and grow from class to class.

The story today began in Spain/España, but started with a few questions and answers, game-show style (tú ganas/ you win), and–after voting–the class had a brief dance party. The song is our “class song” and was the official anthem for the 2016 European Championship (soccer/fútbol). Students in the second class delved a bit deeper, learning that while rojo means red in Spanish, in the song, “La Roja” refers to the soccer team because Spain’s flag is red (and yellow).

Both classes had to use “La fuerza” (‘fwear-sah’), or “the force” to get my Bluetooth speakers to work for the song. It only works it everyone says the word in Spanish and outstretches their hands toward the device, sending energy to the technology. Obviously.

With respect to storytelling, 3-1 focused on the logistics of the trip: Where are we going? Spain! How do we get there? Plane! What do we need? Backpacks/mochilas, water/agua, money/dinero (I handed out color copies of euros). Later, students proceeded to grab their stuff, boarded a socially-distanced airplane (chairs rearranged in the room), took an eight-hour flight, passed through customs (passports/ pasaportes), and hiked for about two minutes on the Camino before someone started complaining that they were hungry (maestra, tengo mucha hambre) and we had to stop at a restaurant (i.e., class was over).

3-2 went on a bit of a linguistic/travel tangent when someone asked if we could study Brazil. (I love when these conversations invariably pop up in third grade; there is something about this age that makes them so curious about the world on a global scale.) Anyway, we talked about how Portuguese and Spanish are closely related (I can understand a good deal of the former even though I don’t speak it), but that while there are 21 Spanish-speaking countries–and while they do speak Spanish there–Brazil is not officially a Spanish-speaking country. However, we will focus on the other 21 countries this year.

The story in 3-2 went as follows: Lights/luces, camera/cámara, action/acción, drum-roll/redoble… a famous actress is hiking the Camino de Santiago but gets really hungry (tengo mucha hambre). She wants a pizza and so calls Domino’s. The delivery guy drives his super fast red car to Spain to deliver the pizza. BUT, his car tips over, he gets hurt (¡AY!) and he has to call an ambulance. The doctor comes and stitches him up. PHEW! (Students were tickled pink that ambulances say, “Ni-no-ni-no” in Spanish, not “Wooo wooo wooo”. Gotta love onomatopoeia.)

ASIDE: these stories take place in the target language, but students should not be expected to produce all of this language independently at this point. The goal right now is comprehension and following along in class. Acquisition takes time: patience, my little grasshoppers!

VIRTUAL LEARNERS are encouraged to print and cut out their own euros in color from the template below. Next, if you have any change in your piggy-bank, count all of it, and then type that number into this online currency converter to see how much it would be in a Spanish-speaking country**. For example, $100 US dollars today is about 84€ euros in Spain, but 365,645 pesos in Colombia. WOW!

**Spanish-Speaking Countries: Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico (technically a territory), Spain/España, Equatorial Guinea.

If there are any vocabulary words I would like you to focus on this week, they would probably be dinero/money (‘dee-N(AIR)-row’), agua/water (‘AH-gwah’– but you may already know this!), and tengo mucha hambre/I’m really hungry (‘tango MOO-chah AHM-bray’). HERE is a great song (though admittedly a bit silly…) to get tengo hambre stuck in your head forever and ever. Make sure to say these words aloud with a lot of EXPRESSION! and in context at mealtimes, too. Hope you’re having a great week!