A chronicle of my journey as a Fulbright Distinguished Teacher in Chile. This is not an official Department of State website, and the views and information presented are my own and do not represent the Fulbright Program or the Department of State.
During my stay in Chile, in addition to visiting schools, I was lucky to sit down and talk shop with innovative and gifted educators. Some teach in K12, some-in higher education; some teach Spanish and literature to native speakers, and some-to students that learn Spanish as a foreign language.
Below is some invaluable advice that was generously shared with me. In turn, I am sharing it with my fellow world language teachers. Enjoy!
#1. Santiago en 100 palabras.
Santiago en 100 palabras is an annual writing contest held in Santiago that requires participants to describe their Santiago experience (be it good, bad, ugly, or funny) in 100 words.
Here are some winners from previous years:
In essence, participants' task is to write a short narrative about Santiago but not to exceed 100 words. Now that is a challenge!
How can we use this in our world language classes?
How about this... We can ask students to write a short narrative about their school, their community, their favorite book, their family, or even their life. In 100 words.
"My School in 100 Words" // "My Life in 100 Words" // "My home town in 100 Words" // "My friends in 100 words"
Then we can have a panel of judges in the school (our colleagues can serve as judges) to choose 1,2, and 3 places, plus honorable mentions.
With more advanced students, this strategy can be used to add culture to the curriculum -perhaps these passages can be read, unpacked, and critiqued?
Poems are a beautiful way to supplement world language instruction. A teacher can find poems of various content, difficulty, and length. For instance, below is the 'Little Star' by Gabriela Mistral. Although it is difficult (even for me as a teacher), with careful planning it can be used with middle school students.
#3. Recados de Gabriela Mistral
First of all, what are 'recados'? I couldn't find any official definition but after reading a couple, I could determine that a 'recado' is a small story that is recited with instrumental music in the background. Gabriela Mistral wrote a lot of recados, mainly about her childhood, nature, family, and life in general. Below is "El Valle de Elqui" - a beautiful recado dedicated to the Valley of Elqui - a place where Gabriela spent her childhood.
Is it appropriate for Spanish language learners?
I would use it with more advanced students, maybe in Language and Culture classes, AP classes, or Honors classes since the language she uses is quite complex.
I have visited the Valley of Elqui in March of 2017, and it was truly magical.
From the times when I was learning both English and Spanish, I loved idiomatic expressions. What could be better that a sentence that, at first glance, makes no sense, but carries a hidden meaning. Think of the ones we have in English:
Why not introduce two-three idioms in each thematic unit?
For example, we have a 'Mi casa es su casa' unit in 7th grade. Perhaps we can find some idiomatic expressions that have to do with family and 'work' them during the unit as a cultural supplement.
When we cover emotions in 'I am unique' thematic unit in 6th grade, perhaps we can add this one:
An anecdote is a short story, recounting an event usually of intriguing nature, with a lesson or punchline at the end. For instance, below is a story about an apple tree and its' friend.
Apart from novels, picture books, essays, and fables, there are so many other types of literature that can be used in teaching Spanish. Many of them have shorter, more manageable formats that may be easier for early learners so that they feel successful. All of them carry a lesson and are full of cultural elements. I think it should be up to the teacher to decide what is appropriate for her students and what is not since we are the ones that work with them on a day-to-day basis.
For me as a teacher incorporating idioms, poems, recados, and 'Santiago in 100 words' strategies are at the top of my list. Keep reading the blog and I will let you know how it goes.