domingo, 27 de enero de 2013

Literature circles

I really think that it is important that Spanish students begin reading real authentic works as soon as possible. As a result, with my eleventh grade students (A class that would mostly equate with an advanced level three or regular level four class), I developed a very intentional reading curriculum. During the first term, I used newspaper articles and current events with the students. At some point in the near future, I will post on using current events in the classroom. However, in the second term, I focus on literary works. While my students have access to the book Abriendo Paso, and we read many of the stories from this text, I also like to incorporate some element of choice. Therefore, I decided to use literature circles, much like teachers in elementary and middle school English classes. I made a list of the works that students could choose from and I created a series of worksheets which could accompany any literary work, as I knew that it would be important for my students to perceive the amount of homework as fair. The worksheets can be found at my TPT store, which is linked to the lower right hand corner of the blog. While the purpose of this post is not to promote the worksheets, I hope to give other teacher's ideas as to how literature circles can be completed without the seeming "unfair" component of different homework assignments.

Here is how I set-up the literary circles. In the class, I have informed the students that over the next twelve weeks, we will be reading six works (a work every other week). Upon the completion of the work, students will turn in the literary question worksheet, along with a personal reaction to the work that they read. The reaction specifications include items such as not summarizing the work because it is important to me that students personalize the story to their own lives. While the worksheets are all different, they contain similar elements. Some items that are included on the worksheets are asking students to find different verb tenses in the stories, or asking students to make word webs, or writing discussion questions for their literature circles. While I recognize that a two page worksheet is not overly long, I also count reading the work as part of their homework or class work, so I do not want to overload students too much as we will be continuing with grammar as well. Two days a week, students will meet with their literature circles to meet as a group and to discuss the work, their questions, items that they might write about for their reaction etc. Some days, I encourage the students to read the work together, especially in the beginning as they start new stories. Additionally. Every month, or after we have read two works, students will complete a project on one of the two works that they have read. Once again, the students are provided with numerous project ideas as to how they can both convey their knowledge of the work and add their own elements to the project.

I am generally fortunate in that my students are motivated to learn and practice speaking in Spanish, so I do not have to do too much reminding for them to try to use the target language; however, I have in the past, simply asked students to fill-out a small participation form in which students rank their use of Spanish in the class in the following manner.
4: I both stayed on task and spoke only Spanish
3: I spoke in English, but it was relevant to class and on task
2: I mostly stayed on task and mostly spoke Spanish
1: I had difficulty staying on task and speaking in Spanish

I found that having students rank themselves a few days in a row, quickly brought their conversations back into Spanish.

While I certainly recognize that a downside to completing literary circles is that students may not fully comprehend a work without a full class discussion to clarify certain elements. I generally find that students' enthusiasm for reading increases throughout the term, as they view their classmates projects and then are curious to read the story for themselves. Additionally, weaker students learn to ask me questions during the two days that they meet in-class with their groups, once they have received negative feedback on an early reaction or from the first worksheet being graded. Upon the completion of the term last year, most students viewed the literary circles positively when asked to complete an anonymous survey about the term.

domingo, 13 de enero de 2013

K-5 Giveaway

I usually create materials for the classes that I am currently teaching. However, upon seeing so much beautiful Valentine's Day clipart and spending time with my kinder and pre-school aged nieces and nephews during the holidays,  I decided to create a product for elementary Spanish students for Valentine's day. I have to admit, there are some days when I miss teaching the elementary kiddos. Additionally, I have donated both products to a flash drive giveaway that is being held by Rocking Teaching Materials. You can find the giveaway here. The unique thing about this particular giveaway is that there are great resources for each grade K-5, plus cute flash drives :).

The first product that I donated is for kindergarden or first grade. I wrote a cute counting story to accompany the precious penguin clipart. I mentioned that over the holiday break one of the things that I did was spend time with my nieces and nephews, and my niece in particular is working on counting, grouping, and learning about the numerical relationships. I wanted her to have a cute Spanish Valentine's activity that would continue her number practice.

The second Valentine's Day product, focuses much more on learning the vocabulary words associated with Valentine's Day. I have added this product to the third grade giveaway, but really it could work for any grade 3-6. In this packet, there are numerous vocabulary activities, including a matching the words to the pictures activity, a set of cards that could be printed on card stock, laminated, and used for mata moscas or memory. Additionally, I have had my elementary students (back when I taught K-5) use the cards for a cut and paste matching activities. This way, I could assist the classroom teachers by focusing on developing these types of skills. Finally, both packets contain a valentine that could be given in class to a special friend or given to parents, siblings etc.

Both of these activities should be useful for the elementary Spanish teacher, or for any teacher who would like to incorporate a bit of Spanish in his or her Valentine's day lessons. Given that this blog and the majority of my products are for the middle school and high school student, I do want to mention that I have also created a Valentine's Day packet for Spanish I students, which also involves some verb work in addition to learning the holiday vocabulary, and I am excited to be able to use it in my Spanish I class this year.

martes, 8 de enero de 2013

Fishbowl interviews: Scaffolding for spontaneous speech

I find that creating situations for students to speak spontaneously about a desired topic can be difficult. Additionally, even once the situation has been explained to the students, many of them lack the skill or vocabulary necessary to effectively communicate the message that they wish to convey. Additionally, many students struggle to speak without using some sort of written dialogue as a crutch. For this reason, I have developed a speaking activity that I call "fishbowl interviews." The nice thing about this activity is that it can be used for language learners at all levels, provided that there is a good interview topic, and it allows students to semi-prepare for the spontaneous speech event so they are able to feel confident when it is their turn to speak. I will give more suggestions as to the type of topics I use later in this blog post.

I generally use fishbowl interviews over a two day period. Unless the topic is extremely complicated, I usually give my students 20 minutes to work on the first day. Students know ahead of time that they may not use their question or answer sheet on day two, but they can write whatever they want on the first day to prepare for the next day. On day one, I assign the topic to students, and I assign them their partner for the day. The students then draft the interview. In my Spanish 1 and 2 class, it is not uncommon for the students to actually write out the dialogue. I encourage them to brainstorm as many questions and answers that relate to the topic as possible. In my upper level classes, the students usually brainstorm question types, vocabulary that they might need, and grammatical structures that could be useful. Students are encouraged to use the internet, dictionaries, etc. to assist them with this task. For their homework, I tell my students that they should practice both the questions and answers at least five times (obviously, some of my students will end-up practicing more and some will practice less).

So, I certainly understand that at this point, you may be thinking that this does not sound like a spontaneous or semi-spontaneous speech event at all. However, it becomes a spontaneous speech event when the students are paired at random to conduct the interviews. So, on day two, every student puts his/her name on two pieces of papers. These papers go into two tins-one marked interviewer, the other interviewee. Then, someone in the class draws two random names, one from each tin. These two people must assume their proper roles and perform the interview in front of the class (or in the center of the circle of desks). They may not use any papers or notes, and their conversation must make sense (i.e. the interviewee must actually answer the question posed by the interviewer). Every student goes twice, once as the interviewee and once as the interviewer. I will often require that students speak for a set period of time. With my advanced students, I may ask them to speak two to five minutes. I usually have my beginning students speak one to three minutes. Everyone claps and supports their classmates at the end of each interview.

I have generally felt that my goals of allowing for more spontaneous speaking opportunities that aren't overwhelming for students are attained through this activity. Additionally, it is an excellent way for students to focus on form.

Some of the topics that I use for beginning students include: personal interviews, famous person interviews, and character interviews.

Some of the topics that I use for advanced students include environmental topics, radio shows, running for student office, talking about an important political topic, and other topics that relate to our cultural studies.

What are some of your ideas for scaffolding spontaneous speech that includes more complicated topics in the language classroom?