One of the primary changes that has taken place in my planning is the concept of beginning with culture. I think this is what resonated with me the most about the sports post I referenced in my last entry; that we could teach cultural literacy in a way that made the language compelling. Since beginning on this journey, I came across this article from The Language Educator (April 2012 edition) that solidified so many of those ideas for me. The brutal reality is that many of my students saw language learning as a chore, even those who chose the class on their own accord. Injecting culture as a primary focus has been a game changer.
“Rather than telling their students what to think about culture, my advice is to give them tools, authentic texts, that they can use to compare and contrast. The students themselves should be coming up with the comparisons and cultural insights, not being fed them by the teacher.” –Sue Barry, The Language Educator, April 2012
What an “aha” moment! This means that students will be inherently engaged in the process and have ownership in it. It also means that the process will be a little messy… but that is material for a future post. Finally it means that a re-arranging of content order was needed. Instead of learning countries, capitals, and geography at the beginning of their language study, we would be embedding them in the course of our study of other topics. We learned about Uruguay when talking about an incredible sandwich called El Chivito. We learned about Puerto Rico, Argentina, Spain, and la República Dominicana in the course of a sports unit. And along the way, my students have picked up language beyond what I could have imagined.
During the sports unit, I developed a few resources to accompany our studies and I end this post with them here. They are some of my first attempts to embed cultural experiences and investigation into our studies. Enjoy!