Just Keep Walking

Week #2: This week, students in fourth grade had another dance party–see video below–making sure to sing, “Es viernes (‘bee-AIR-nace’)/It’s Fri-day” as they settled into their seats. The former is our “class song” and was the official anthem for the 2016 European Championship (soccer/fútbol). By Friday, fourth graders began to take a look at the lyrics and delve 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).

Before jumping into the lesson, however, I wanted to take a moment to explain why I’ve repeated, “¡Camino!” four million times throughout the past few classes. The Camino is a long hike, yes–but it is also a metaphor. Simply put, language-learning is a journey. The Weekly Spanish Challenges (paralleling the 500-mile Camino de Santiago hike in Spain) are meant to reinforce that fact.

You see, some days feel like we’re walking straight up a mountain. Life is one problem after another–interjection: no! There are no problems, only solutions!–and all of our studying feels for naught. How come I’m not fluent yet? Other days, we are coasting. Spanish makes sense; there is growth: I remember that word! It is crucial to understand here that fluency does not occur overnight. It is a process where, after many successes, failures, and moments of uncertainty, coupled with much determination, grit, and hard work, progress is made. Plateau-ing is normal at a certain point. But don’t give up, ever!

The important thing is to keep going–just keep walking. You are making progress, even if you can’t articulate it quite yet, even when you don’t feel like it. If the class is going too slowly for you, then hike faster!: ask the teacher questions, explore Duolingo (a language-learning app already on your iPads), look up words in a Spanish dictionary, listen to music in the target language. There are myriad opportunities!

After this pep-talk of sorts (and encouragement to complete the Weekly Challenges)–along with a brief reenactment of La Tomatina, the tomato-throwing festival in Spain–students continued with their storytelling/ theater unit. Here, the teacher provides the 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: As I touched upon last week, 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. The stories tend to grow from class to class, but on occasion they will reach a “No Outlet” sign and we will begin anew (the phoenix re-birthed!). New vocabulary is constantly presented and old vocabulary is constantly spiraled and recycled. A full report on each class plot will be forthcoming: we are in the midst of the creative process!

One final note–students are gradually being exposed to the written word, but the focus right now is on listening and aural comprehension. This will be our next step (on the Camino… ha!).

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! (Students did this in class last week.)

**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’), la casa de _____/so-and-so’s house (‘lah KAH-sah day ________”), 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!

Newsletter 20-21, Sept.