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!
"I wish we could base each thematic unit on a book or a piece of literature." ~ Kathy Stotler, Bernards Township Schools.
I wholeheartedly agree with the above quote. It came out of an informal conversation I had with Kathy back in September. And I kept it in the back of my mind ever since.
Many people has asked me what I am creating as my final product. Many think it's a thesis, a research paper, or a presentation.
Before I tell you what I decided to create as my final product, let me back track a little bit. The Institute of International Education allows teachers that are on this grant to create projects that are of various formats, as long as they can be applied in their field.
~~Teachers can create a website with teacher guide, a curriculum unit, a game, a set of specific lessons, a book, a professional development workshop series, or anything else that is rigorous, appropriate, and, most importantly, applicable in the classroom.~~
I have gone back and forth between a website with a teacher guide, a new thematic unit, or a teacher professional development worksop.
And I finally decided.
My inquiry project will be a set of ready-to-use lessons that employ children's literature to drive world language instruction and encourage children to read authentic texts. Specifically, this project could be used to supplement or extend our existing curricula units. I looked at our middle school curricula, and asked myself "Do I want to reinvent/change the whole thing? How about if I create specific, ready-to-use lessons based on children's literature that ~FIT~ into a particular unit. For example, I created a week worth of lessons for 'Historia de un oso' and that book complements our 7th grade 'Family' unit perfectly. Schools in New Jersey or other states could also use this supplemental guide since units below are quite common in middle school curricula.
As I mentioned during my Board of Education presentation, this grant is not for me. This grant is for my students and colleagues, both in and out of my district. That is why I am creating the most practical, applicable product that teachers can work with on a regular basis. I want my colleagues at WAMS and in other schools to open this set of lessons and say "Ok, so for the next two months I am teaching about heroes or other people that made an impact on people's lives, and I can use this set of lessons to supplement my instruction in this unit." All lessons will have activities, handouts, and teacher instructions included so a teacher simply will have to read the instructions and set up the lesson the way she sees fit for her students. Well, teachers in other schools will need to order the book [if the lesson is based on a book]. If a lesson is based on a poem, fable, anecdote, short story, etc. then I will simply include that in the lesson itself.
I realize I may not find literature that fits every single unit but, as you know, I will at least try.
6th grade units
My Spanish World [Mi mundo hispano] aka as Bienvenidos! [Welcome!]
Let’s go to a Museum! [Vamos a los museos!]
I am Unique [Soy único]
Food, Glorious Food! [Comida, Gloriosa Comida]
7th grade units
Heroes in my Life [Heroes en mi vida]
My family is unique [Mi familia es única] with La Quinceañera celebration
In the restaurant [En el restaurante] with Tapas party
Mi Casa es su Casa –My house is your house
The reader – Pobre Ana
8th grade units
Unforgettable Spain –España Inolvidable
Encuéntrame en la Plaza-Madrid Espectacular
Celebraciones - Celebrations
Literature circles [El Viaje/other books]
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.
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.
I have been using pictures from my travels to teach for a long time. For instance, I remember using pictures from Perú, India, Nepal, Austria, and Switzerland when introducing activities, emotions, food, and manners.
As I was sorting through Buenos Aires pictures, I realized they can be used to supplement our units as well. They show every day life: streets, people, stores, transportation, customs, and foods. So, below is a selection of pictures from Buenos Aires that could be used in our thematic units.
Book shop, pastry shop, souvenir shop, housewares shop.
Key terms that can be taught: buy, pay, cost, money, show conversion rate, talk about differences between American dollars and Argentine pesos.
La Recoleta Cemetery
You know you have kids that are goth that love all the dark stuff-why not show them La Recoleta Cemetery? Notable people include: Eva Perón, various presidents of Argentina, Nobel Prize winners, the founder of the Argentine Navy, and a granddaughter of Napoleon.
El Teatro Colón
The holy of the holies if you like opera and classical music.
Another idea: send students to browse the website and create an interpretive activity with questions like, what shows are available, how much are they, where is Teatro Colón located, would you like to visit, and why/why not?
El Caminito en La Boca District
Key terms that can be taught using El Caminito: tango, dance, restaurant, café, market, street, puppet, souvenirs, money, shopping, eating, strolling, river, colorful, artsy, avant-guard.
Also can talk about La Boca neighborhood and why it's called 'the Mouth'
A book store that used to be a theater. Can talk about genres of books [biography, gardening, mystery, romance, reference, etc]. Can talk about prices of books, and whether paper books are being read anymore and why.
Can use this to talk about how in Buenos Aires, flowers are sold on every corner and what it means for the city. Can talk about whether BA is clean or dirty, big or small, and how many people live in it. With younger kids, maybe do colors? For example, "name the colors of the flowers you see."
This can be incorporated into our foods unit. perhaps compare it with an American breakfast or a Chilean one? Especially, good to talk about the jelly, manjar [caramel-like stuff in the middle, very cultural and extremely delicious], and cream cheese.