Earlier this week I shared some of the things that are comprising our “school” unit. I can’t stand the traditional form of this unit–learning school supplies, names of classes, naming favorites–because the material is so dry, complicated (our students’ courses don’t fit neatly into “math” and “science”), and often, the vocab has already been picked up along the way because we use it in class. Plus it’s not something that comes up regularly in authentic conversations… and my students just aren’t into it.
But along come the Sustainable Development Goals from the UN–and something we can sink our teeth into. I showed students this graphic and asked them to identify what they understood. We talked about the meanings of the first 6 (dropping a little language nugget in on the meaning of -dad as a vocab builder) and how they might be related to school. Goals 1-5 are directly impacted by “school”, from gender equality in school access to food programs to combat hunger, and I think this discussion sparked interest among my students. There was some lively discussion in Spanglish about why the goals are numbered/ranked the way they are, and also which goals are the most critical in the US. These are our future leaders, and I love the questions they ask!
The culminating task for this project is to work in small groups to draft, edit, and film a video in Spanish welcoming new students to our school. I am asking them to take what they have learned about schools around the world into consideration and to infuse their presentations with this awareness. You will see that there are a few of the dry school subjects in the suggested topics list for the project (such as class times), but now they have an authentic purpose. SO much better!! You can find the project sheet here: School intro project for blog
I’ve been presenting at conferences quite often this year, and have been asked several times for helpful resources for teaching the AP Spanish Language & Culture course. The exam underwent a profound change a few years ago toward a proficiency-oriented model. Though it still isn’t perfect, it’s a lot better than what it used to be! Communication matters much more than precision, especially where grammar is concerned. I teach AP like my other classes: lots of comprehensible input around compelling, culturally relevant topics. But there are some quirks and strategies that are helpful for students to know in order to feel comfortable with the assessment, so we work those in as well.
Here’s a list of my (current) favorites, in no particular order:
- AP Summer Institute: I think this is critical for teachers new to this course, regardless of their teaching experience. If you can choose any location, try to go to St. Johnsbury in Vermont!
- Wendy Gómez Campos’ blog, especially this page. Following her lead, I printed the rubrics and directions for each of the four free-response sections. I printed them on obnoxiously bright colored paper and gave them to students at the beginning of the year, and they have become integrated into what we do on a regular basis. The peer- and self- assessment forms are really, really helpful too. I feel that using them has helped improve the quality of student work and reduced the “basic” feedback that I would otherwise give. Now I can focus on more constructive feedback for each student.
- Ken Stewart’s resource page: I nearly cried when the previous version of this site disappeared suddenly. So happy to have it back!
- Podcasts: Radio Ambulante (all around Latin America) and Spanishpodcast.net (Spain) are my favorites. More on them here.
- VeinteMundos: I’m still surprised at the number of teachers who don’t know about this gold mine. It’s amazing! Written as informative news articles about cultural topics throughout the Spanish-speaking world, each article is rich with images to accompany text, a built in audio version–often with a choice of Latin American or Peninsular narrators, an embedded glossary (just hover over the underlined words and a definition pops up), and also multimedia to accompany the topic. There are about 175 articles on the site–all free–and still growing.
- Kara Jacobs’ blog and Arianne Dowd’s blog: Deep, culturally rich, make-you-think resources that are just plain fantastic.
- Wayside Publishing’s Tejidos and Triángulo Aprobado–I’m not a big textbook fan, but I love Tejidos. It is written in the style of activities that I would create, but now I don’t have to. I usually adapt what is there, but it’s flexible enough to allow that to happen. Plus one of the authors for the Entre Culturas text series that precedes this is a common presenter on AP.
- Punto y Coma: This resource reminds me a lot of the old Puerto del Sol that sadly folded several years ago. Based in Spain, it is a magazine that is rich in audio and print, timely, and engaging to students. Much like with VeinteMundos, I learn a lot from each issue.
- FlipGrid: We do a LOT of speaking, and FlipGrid helps me to keep from losing my mind!
- Self-selected reading, especially Fluency Matters novels like La Calaca Alegre, Vidas Impactantes (more on this to come soon!), La Hija del Sastre, and La Guerra Sucia.
A quick note with some resources to revamp a tired, boring, and pretty much pointless novice level school unit. In the course of this new unit I want students to begin to gain an appreciation for the value of education throughout the world, especially with an eye to comparing school cultures around the world. So much better than just listing school supplies & favorite classes!
Some helpful resources:
- A gallery walk with the materials available here from the amazing Neil Jones.
- The film On the Way to School–in many languages throughout the film, including Argentine Spanish
- Trailer of film about Malala + interpretive activities here: Malala
- An interpretive reading and activity created by me and the exchange student from País Vasco who lived with my family two years ago. It leads to a sentence frame for students to prepare a description of their school lives. Find the documents here:
Olatz school description level 1 for blog and Olatz School comprehension + hula hoop venn for blog We also worked on comprehension of these topics with Gimkit.
- There is an older Zachary Jones activity about back to school in Bolivia & purchasing school supplies that is also intriguing.
- Finally, we will wrap things up with preparing welcome videos for incoming students who speak Spanish.