The past few weeks have been...
Busy, enlightening, thought-provoking, productive, and oh so inspiring. When I look back, I am overwhelmed by how much I have done... Below is a (very short) account of the past few weeks-supplemented by many pictures, of course!
Google Hangout Lessons
With the help and initiative of dear colleagues at William Annin, I had an opportunity to connect with my students back in the U.S. We connected via Google Hangout: with me, Matt's, Diane's, and Christina's 8th grade classes. WA teachers worked with students to prepare questions for me and I took this opportunity to talk to them about Chile. You know, little things that we take for granted: money, food, life style, architecture, fashion, etc. Students had so many questions!
I showed them the books I got for them; talked about how delicious Chilean hallulla bread is, how popular avocado is here, why people buy lemons by the bag, and what Chilean pesos look like. Students also tried to guess what floor I live on, and why I am wearing a winter ski jacket inside. Some kids had questions about Chilean architecture, fashion, and transportation.
Most importantly, I took this opportunity to talk about Chilean 'modismos' - words that only Chilean Spanish carries, like 'palta', 'pololo', 'catchai', 'sismo' and others. We talked about climate in different parts of Chile, and some places to visit.
Next week, June 6th, I have another session except this time is with 7th grade! Matt, Catarina, Deirdre, and Anna will be the teachers that will facilitate this exchange. My brain wheels have already been 'spinning.' What can show them during this session? Shall I go shopping and get some 'samples' of Chilean desserts? Newspapers? Take pictures of buildings? Metro and micros? Maybe use 'share screen' feature and show them some pictures from this trip?... I have today to prepare for Tuesday.
Social and Cultural Happenings
Apart from working on my project, I also have been enjoying the company of many people: both related to education and not. I learned how to cook a cazuela -a Chilean stew, and lentejas; participated in various cultural events such as El Día de Patrimonio, made an arpillera, and went out with Santiago Girl Expat group.
School visits: SIP Colegio in San Bernardo
For the past week I have been visiting a semi-private school located in San Bernardo neighborhood, about 1.5 hours from Santiago Centro. I visited many grade levels (starting in kindergarten and finishing in 10th grade), observed many great lessons (shadow theater?!) and informally interviewed teachers, students, and librarians.
This school has a beautiful library. Last Friday, Keti the librarian sat down with me to go over Chilean indigenous literature. We talked about various indigenous populations of Chile and their folklore, i.e. legends and myths. She gave me a whole stack of books to digest and that's what I did on Friday- I sat down in their library, and read, and unpacked, and brainstormed ideas, and formulated how I can use these back home. How cool would it be to have the whole thematic unit based on myths and legends of Chilean indigenous peoples, their traditions, cosmology, and location?...
As with many other schools, I'd like to thank Red Cultural for connecting me with this school. Gracias!!
Meeting Kindred Spirits
Although school visits are a big part of this project, meetings with fellow teachers, book authors, and thinkers in the field of literature and education add another dimension to my work here.
Multiple times, I met with Estela Socías, a children's book author, and a university professor, co-taught a teacher preparation class with her, and attended her creative writing workshop. During the teacher preparation class at Universidad Mayor, I was asked to talk a little bit about my teaching practices and even demonstrate how I do meditation with my students (that's why there is a picture of me looking very somber).
Gloria Garafulich-Grabois of the Gabriela Mistral Foundation has connected me with Estela and for that I am grateful!
I also met with Sofía Gassmann- a true force in elementary education. Sofía is an elementary educator with a very creative approach to teaching. She uses @CREANDOAPRENDO Instagram account and, if you are a secondary teacher, a teacher preparation professor, a master teacher, a principal, a department chair, all of the above,- you should be following her. During out meeting I picked her brain about how she uses literature to teach language, reading, and writing, even getting a peak at her projects. One big takeaway: you 'work' the book for an extended period of time. Not one day, not one week. You may need to work with that particular book for a month, or two months, or a quarter. This brings me to my previous post: thematic units should be based on a **book**.
Pullally and Papudo School Visits
Fundación Había una Vez has already helped me so much. I am happy to say that my collaboration with FHUV has been ongoing-since I arrived, I met so many folks involved with promoting reading in schools. In fact, María Paz Garafulich (the founding director) and I were brainstorming the other day about how we can continue collaborating after my grant is over - for the mutual benefit of the foundation and my school district.
I tagged along to two schools to participate in creative writing workshops that were conducted by the foundation to promote reading, writing, and reflection in rural schools in Zapallar area.
I was blown away by the ingenious strategies that María Paz and Marisol used to have children write. They showed up with snacks, a scented candle, a cooking set, a basket full of fruit and vegetables, music, and other props. That is why you a pineapple, a pepper, and an onion in the photos. They had kids out of their seats, moving around, dancing, meditating, and enjoying themselves. I loved the strategy to use 'sensory' experience to provoke ideas: smell, vision, hearing, feeling, and touch.
Lastly, these creative writing workshops are part of the initiative called MICRORRELATOS COSTEROS. So, small stories from the coast. What coast, you ask? These stories are gathered from coastal towns next to Zapallar, Chile. After the workshop, students were encouraged to submit their micro-stories and enter the contest. Winners will be featured in an anthology of these coastal stories.
My reaction to all of this:
1. There needs to be more initiatives like this.
2. Why are we not doing these types of workshops in our classrooms?
3. Marisol and María Paz deserve a standing ovation for their creativity, motivation, and perseverance.
4. I feel lucky to be invited to see such awesomeness in action.
So, that is it for this update... Until next time!
This past Thursday I had a meeting with Maria Paz Garafulic and Magdalena Carvajal from Habia Una Vez foundation. The foundation is dedicated to promoting reading and reading strategies, helping schools develop and maintain effective, engaging libraries, and offering a variety of workshops for students, parents, teachers, administrators, librarians, and other stakeholders.
For the last three weeks I have been emailing schools asking to be invited to observe their classes and meet with their teachers-to no avail. Unfortunately, I get the feeling that Chilean schools are inundated with requests similar to mine, or they just don't want to be bothered [understandable]. Although the Fulbright Commission gave me some leads, all of them came back, well, cold. That is because cold calling may not work in Chile. You have to know a guy, that knows a guy, that knows a guy.
This connection at Fundación Había Una Vez is so absolutely vital for my project: they know people in the system, they work directly with schools, they have a relationship with administrators and teachers, and, most importantly, we have a common goal: reading and children's literature. This meeting was a major break through for my inquiry project.
Leyendo en Red
I especially admire their initiative Leyendo en Red or 'Reading in Network'. From what I understood from the materials, Había Una Vez joined forces with other foundations to help schools [mainly, schools in rural areas in the South of Chile] establish, maintain a successful library that encourages students' curiosity about reading. This initiative encompasses 6 stages to creating a successful school library.
Spanish teachers, pay attention!!
Their website is a treasure trove packed with information we all can use in our craft. There are book recommendations for different levels, announcements, and interviews with significant people in writing, reading, editing, and illustrating of children's books. For example, below is a recommended book featured on the foundation website. I think the book is from a curated collected "for the little ones" and includes a brief description of its plot. Will try to get one for my 6th grade!
"La clásica travesura del gato que se sube a un árbol y no puede bajar, es el punto de partida de un relato entretenido, donde las repeticiones y juegos de palabras mantendrán a pequeños lectores muy divertidos."
The foundation publishes a [quarterly?] magazine that is packed with relevant articles and resources. It is accessible online through their website and you have an option to download a .pdf copy of a magazine or read it online with issuu.com - a publishing platform. I did the issuu and it worked great.