“Señorita M.” has an M.A. in Spanish Linguistics from Middlebury College. This is her 13th year of teaching Spanish. Prior to arriving at her current position, she taught Spanish at a private, independent school in Ohio for ten years, and then took a year off to travel the world.
She has traveled to at least 13 countries now, including Iceland, China, and Argentina, and spent two summers hiking across northern Spain. She is passionate about writing, languages, online privacy, and minimalism, has seven years of experience in ballroom dance, and enjoys listening to music in languages she does not understand.
“I think back to Plato’s Republic when considering how best to teach. Socrates instructs us, “Therefore, you best of men, don’t use force in training the children in the subjects, but rather play. In that way can you better discern toward what each is naturally directed.” To discover that special place where work and play merge to create joyful, meaningful – and therefore valuable – learning is to discover a lifetime of self-directed learning.
1) Expectations: Students will be reminded of the academic and behavioral expectations on a regular basis. Students in my class are expected to be smart, kind, and strong (have ‘grit’), and to work hard and have fun.
2) Passwords: For some grade levels, students are given a “special word”, or Spanish password, which can determine where they sit each day. They think up creative ways to physically act out vocabulary (e.g., flower). If classes have assigned numbers, there may also be more math-related games included in the curriculum.
3) Tongue Twisters, Rhymes, & Poems: Other languages require that you move your mouth differently than in your native tongue. Tongue twisters and rhymes give students time to become aware of and play with sounds and phonetics.
4) Actions: Students physically act out nouns and verbs to reinforce and recycle vocabulary, and also to move around and get the ‘wiggles’ out of their systems. They may play fútbol/soccer outside, and learn several authentic ballroom dances as well, including the Salsa, Tango, Merengue, and Cha-cha.
5) Announcements & Advertisements: Students learn translated slogans, such as, “Me encanta” (I’m lovin’ it/McDonalds) and “Come más pollo” (Eat more chicken/Chick-fil-A) to make connections outside of the classroom. Announcements are code for public speaking practice in the target language, and will be worked in gradually as the year progresses.
6) Floor Map: Students jump on an interactive floor tape map of South and Central America to learn the names and locations of the 21+ Spanish-speaking countries and to reference the map in stories/culture.
7) Games: Students play authentic and translated versions of a variety of games in the target language. These are meant to build class camaraderie, and teach students to respond instinctually in Spanish.
8) Experiments & Projects: Science experiments emphasize order and step-by-step instructions, and allow students to participate in a hands-on way with the language. Projects are often cultural by nature. For example, students might study and then build a model of Chichen Itza (Mexico); simulate an authentic mercado (Argentina); mold Easter Island statues and tablets out of clay (Chile); or even create Salar de Uyuni mirror images with art, cameras, and technology (Bolivia).
10) Cultural Tidbits and Facts: Culture is woven throughout the curriculum. Sometimes, cultural tidbits will emerge as answers to students’ questions in class discussions. Other times, facts will be included in class stories.
9) Partner Stories & Scripts: Students read and/or create mini-stories in the target language, and also read class scripts. With the former, the idea is to develop literacy skills and spontaneous linguistic output. With the latter, the focus is on expression.
11) Storytelling (TPRS methodology): Every conversation is a story. Here, students help the teacher “tell” a story in the target language. The teacher asks personalized questions, searching for details, and then lets the class decide (usually!) where the story will take them. Stories for the younger grades are presentational linguistically but interactive in that students may participate in certain parts (e.g., students might take turns hoisting a stuffed animal duck up-up-up to the sky on a pulley so that he could learn how to fly).
12) Apps: Grades 3 & 4 will be using Duolingo this year. The goal here is to create a habit and routine of studying the target language. Students are expected to spend 3x/week, for five minutes each day on the app. For more apps and resources, please visit the “Movies & Cartoons” page HERE.
I believe in multi-sensory and experiential learning, in involving all of the senses on a regular basis and in meaningful contexts.
I want students to not only see and think about the textual appearance of the word, “lemon”, but also to see and touch the thick outside yellow rind of the fruit; squeeze it in their hands and listen as citrus droplets fall into a glass; pucker their cheeks when they taste the uniquely sour flavor; smell the dirt as they plant lemon seeds; and begin to understand the tremendous complexity of a single word.
I believe in the power of play, that kids should be allowed to be kids for as long as possible.
I believe in wonder, joy, and curiosity.
I believe in creativity and thinking creatively, especially when there are boundaries and constraints or limitations in place.
In the classroom, I do not instruct students to simply “be creative”. I give them a problem, provide limited materials, and ask them to come up with a solution within those constraints.
I believe in hard work. I encourage developing the strength and perseverance that comes from working through challenges.
I believe in risk-taking and in the inevitability of failure. Learning how to fail is one of life’s greatest lessons.
I believe in teaching students to be self-directed and lifelong learners.
I believe that language is a beautiful canvas and mosaic with countless layers of meaning; but without context, it becomes a pile of randomly grouped Scrabble letters.
I believe that we can do anything we set our minds to.
Be smart. Be strong. Be kind.
Work hard. Have fun.
This video makes me smile every time. But seriously–what incredible talent!