Friday, March 8, 2013

Observación de Francisco en Santiago, Chile

While I was in Santiago this past summer I attended a school for foreigners who wanted to practice/refresh their Spanish skills.  Since foreigners come from all over the world and have various language proficiency I was interested in seeing the structure of a beginning Spanish course.  On a Monday morning I observed Francisco as he met and taught his students completely in Spanish.  Here are some highlights.

  • Francisco began by asking the following question:  ¿Cuál es la pregunta por esta respuesta?  What is the question that matches this answer?  As you will see, some of the questions are quite ambiguous, which made multiple questions possible and also allowed students to get to know their teacher while reviewing their Spanish:
    • Francisco (Eliciting the question, ¿Cómo te llamas? What is your name?)
    • Sí, y muy feliz. Yes, and very happy.  (¿Estás casado/a? Are you married?)
    • Santiago, Chile (¿De dónde eres?  Where are you from?)
    • No, todavía.  No, not yet. (¿Tienes niños? Do you have children?)
    • Profesor de español  Spanish professor (¿A qué te dedicas?  What is your job?)
    • Sí, dos.  Yes, two.  (¿Tienes hermanos?  Do you have any siblings?)
  • When Francisco came across a word that he was not sure if students would understand he asked, ¿Sabes qué es ______?  Do you know what ____ is?  or ¿Qué es?  What is it?  If a student knew the answer they were then allowed to explain the meaning in Spanish.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

La policía (The police)

I loved singing with my students, but it is difficult to get everyone to participate.  Constantly reminding students to sing took the fun out of the experience, and if they do not sing they do not get the fluidity practice.  That is why I created “la policía”. 

To introduce “la policía” I would first teach my students a song: “Vamos a cantar.” (We are going to sing.)  After teaching the song, I would hold up “la policía” signs and ask students: ¿Quién quiere ser la policía?  (Who wants to be the police?).  Usually many students wanted to participate because it gave them some control.  (You may also want to rotate through students.  I drew from a pile of popsicle sticks with students names on them, but I did give students the option of choosing an alternative student to take their place.) I would then explain: “Pueden cantar con la clase o solo.  La policía busca estudiantes que no canten.” (You can sing with the class o alone.  The police are looking for students who are not singing.)  Hand gestures increased student comprehension.  (You can also be “la policía” for the first round or pretend that you are not singing and show students what happens.)

Two students would wear signs that said “la policía” during a song.  If they both agreed that a student was not singing I would ask that specific student, “¿Quieres cantar conmigo o solo/a?”   (Do you want to sing with me or alone?)  Then students would either repeat after me or sing a section of the song alone.  (When “la policía” would begin to gang up on certain students I would change the rules to somehow keep “la policía” in check.)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Palabras en la pared / Words on the Wall

There were some words I taught my students at the beginning of the school year that I did not need them to have memorized, but that I wanted them to have to keep the communication in the classroom in Spanish.  I had these phrases in English and Spanish on a wall in the classroom.  Later on I had pictures associated with some of them that I kept on my wall.

¿Cómo se dice en inglés/español?  How do you say it in English/Spanish?   
(I taught ¿Qué quiere decir…?  What does…mean?  before, and they always got it confused with ¿Cómo se dice…?, so I would suggest that it is just easier to teach the one.)
Bienvenidos   Welcome
Gracias   Thank you
De nada   You’re welcome
   I know
No sé   I don’t know
Lo siento   I’m sorry
Por favor   Please
Tengo una pregunta   I have a question

(No) Estoy listo/a.   I am (not) ready.
¿Lo entrego?   Do I turn it in?
¿A qué hora termina la clase?   When does class end?

On a whiteboard I laminated signs that say: Español 1 (Spanish 1), Español 2 (Spanish 2), la agenda (Agenda), la tarea (homework), el objetivo (objective), Puedo (I can).  Each day I would then change the information so that students knew what would be happening.  Some students would look at the board before class began, but I would also go through and explain in Spanish what was written on the board.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Routinas (Routines): Giving a Test/Quiz

Examen Test (Use for both quiz and test. Some students never seemed to catch onto the word “prueba” (quiz) because I did not teach it explicitly, but you can differentiate between your tests by saying, examen pequeño (small test), examen grande (big test), examen oral (oral test), examen escrito (written test).  Add in hand gestures to increase comprehension.)

1.       Tell them when the test is: El examen pequeño es el viernes. The small quiz is on Friday.
2.      Then ask them when the test is: ¿Cuándo es el examen pequeño? When is the small quiz?
3.       Then have students reply using your first statement. (I would warn students about quizzes ahead of time, not that you have to, but I would always get surprised students. If students are repeating the information they are more likely to remember.)

Each time I gave my students a test I would put a PowerPoint slide on the overhead that had the following information, which I had explained previously and which also had pictures to aid comprehension:

Por favor…
1.       Quiten todo del pupitre  Take everything off your desk
2.      No usen un bolígrafo rojo  Don’t use a red pen
3.      Escriban su nombre, período y la fecha  Write your name, period and the date
4.      No miren otros papeles  Don’t look at others’ papers

The English was not included because instructions were simple, and I would also use hand motions.  I tended to have a lot of scratch paper, so when I would give a small quiz I would hand out a paper to students and they would take the quiz that was often on the next PowerPoint slide.  Then I would tell them, “Dejen caer su lapíz o bolígrafo” (Let your pen or pencil fall.)  (I would drop a pen or pencil on the floor to show them what to do, although this usually meant that a few students forgot to pick it back up again.)  While students were finishing up a test/quiz I would hand out red pens so that students could correct their own papers.  When we were finished correcting I would say, “Pasen los papeles” (Pass the papers) and “Pasen los bolígrafos” (Pass the pens).  I would also show students what to do with my own hand motions.

Rutinas (Routines): Permission Questions that Students Commonly Ask

Teaching in a target language causes you to think about your classroom set up in depth because you need to give your students the tools they need to communicate in the language.  These routines focus specifically on questions that students commonly ask.  These are not questions about curriculum, but if they can do something or if you can provide them with someone.

¿Puedo sacarle punta al lápiz? Can I sharpen my pencil? (I got this questions even when students were working on their own work, so you could make a differentiation and tell students they only need to ask this question when you are in the middle of teaching.)

¿Puedo ir al baño? Can I go to the bathroom?
¿Puedo tomar agua? Can I get a drink?
¿Puedo ir a la oficina? Can I go to the office?
¿Puedo ir a mi locker? Can I go to my locker? (Other words for locker: armario, casillero)
My Reply: Firma la lista y lleva el pase, por favor. Sign the list and take the pass please. (This is a phrase I introduced halfway through the school year so that I could keep my response in Spanish, but it would have been better to introduce it at the beginning.)

¿Puedo tener _______?  Can I have ________?
  • un libro  a book
  • un papel  a paper
  • ayuda  help
  • una tirita  a Band-Aid
  • un lápiz  a pencil
  • un bolígrafo  a pen
  • un borrador  an eraser
  • un diario  a journal (this was the name I had for the students’ starter paper; I had previously used the word “calentamiento”, but I found that they didn’t all catch on to that word.)
  • un marcador  a marker
I would recommend you have a textbook routine if you use your textbooks often. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

¿Por qué?

All of us Spanish teachers have felt it at one point or another: how do I teach this in Spanish?  And we are familiar with ACTFL's official statement that communication and feedback in the target language increases student language development.  "ACTFL therefore recommends that language educators and their students use the target language as exclusively as possible (90% plus) at all levels of instruction during instructional time and, when feasible, beyond the classroom."* 

How is this to be accomplished?  This blog explores the techniques, methods and details that enable Spanish teachers, and any language teacher, to stay in the target language.  Although the ideas can be applied to any group of learners, they will be specific to middle and high school-aged students since they are the most likely to be resistant to learning in the target language.

*Use of the Target Language in the Classroom (May 2010)  ACTFL. 25 May 2012.