miércoles, 7 de noviembre de 2012

authentic listening en 60 segundos

Many Spanish teachers that I have worked with lament the difficulty of using authentic listening texts. While I agree that listening texts can be difficult to find and unpredictable in terms of quality once they have been found, one of my favorite listening activities is to use el boletín: noticias en 60 segundos by bbcmundo.com The boletín can often be found on the home page of bbcmundo.com, but if it is not there, choose the video/foto tab at the top of the screen and it will appear on that page. The best thing about the boletín is that you can sign up to have it sent directly to your inbox.

To me, the boletín is perfect because it presents a bunch of information in an extremely short time period. Additionally, it is short enough that it can be played numerous times without having to cut something else out of the lesson. Finally, the boletín always has the news of the day, so it is highly relatable to students and they are constantly being exposed to the important world events of the day. 

When I first started using the boletín, my co-worker thought I was nuts. After all, what eleventh grader can understand the rapid speech rate of a news item being described in twenty seconds or less? It turns-out that most eleventh graders can understand this type of text, when challenged to understand the main points, and when they are encouraged throughout the year to continue making progress. Finally, I have found that it is often not my "A" students who really succeed in the listening arena and listening to the boletín provides an opportunity for other students to shine. 

Here is how I slowly scaffold my students to listening to and comprehending the boletín 

Prior to using the boletiín in my class, I listen to it to see how many different items are presented (usually 4 to six). Then for students who are new to listening/watching, I write just two questions on the board for however many items are presented. These questions are simply ¿Dónde? and ¿Qué? 
My board would look like: 
1) a.   ¿Dónde?                                                2) a.    ¿Dónde

    b.    ¿Qué?                                                       b.     ¿Qué? 

3) a.     ¿Dónde?                                            4)   a.     ¿Dónde? 

     b.    ¿Qué?                                                      b.    ¿Qué? 

If you have ever watched el boletín you might be thinking that anyone could glean the answers to these two questions simply from watching the video. I agree and that is the point. Students quickly learn that they can understand the boletín simply from being attentive to what they are watching, and as a result they begin to relax, once they realize that they can accomplish the task. Once students have become accustomed to hearing the boletín and they are mostly comfortable answering the two questions above, I begin to add other questions such as ¿Quién? This question often cannot be answered by simply watching the video and the students begin to listen for the salient information without realizing how much their listening skills have grown. Finally, I add ¿por qué? when relevant. Sometimes with the addition of new questions, I have to repeat the video more than the standard two times that I use once students are comfortable at each new level.

While this activity is challenging for students, I find that they are generally excited and proud to be able to go up to the board upon the completion of the video and fill-in the answers to the questions. Another added bonus to using the boletín,  according to my AP Spanish students, is that every other listening article seems slow in comparison.

Do you use el boletín in your classroom? What are your favorite listening sites? LAITS?

jueves, 1 de noviembre de 2012

¡Día del café!

One of the best and to me most exciting parts of teaching a foreign language is watching and hearing students use the language. Every week, I do a lesson that is specifically focused on speaking with my upper level students. I do not mean to imply that I don't give students the opportunity to speak other days of the week because I certainly do! However, once a week, I try to devise a lesson that specifically focuses on speaking. Usually I rotate the modes between more interpersonal and presentational, depending on which mode works best with the materials being studied the rest of the week. Día del café is a day that focuses on the interpersonal mode. I put a question in large letters at the center of a grouping of desks, and students choose at random where they sit. Most often, the questions will be directly or indirectly related to a literary work or thematic topic that we are studying, but occasionally, I will choose random questions. I also always include a station that requires that the students write a question for the next group. I have the students discuss the questions in their small groups for a set length of time (usually between 2-5 minutes) and then I ask them to rotate and find a new question to answer or discuss. Towards the end of class, I ask a few students to share their thoughts and ideas. I often include enough questions that there are a few stations that are empty in each round. I imagine that those teachers who have larger classes, would not ever have a blank round, but I almost always have as many  questions as I have students. I tell students that they must sit with a minimum of two other students that way they can truly discuss and work to express their opinions. In this way, I hope to personalize the literary works that we read or encourage students  to think more profoundly about the current events that we have studied. If día del café falls on a morning, I sometimes bring maté or hot chocolate to truly authenticate the experience! An example of the question types that I might ask is something along the lines of "if you were X character in this work, how would you respond to y situation?" Or do you think that X's actions were justified given his life experiences. etc. What sort of small group discussions do you do in your upper level classes?