Martina Bex recently wrote a great post about curriculum planning that directly or indirectly stirred the pot between Text-based vs.
Task-based teachers. She then wrote another great, reflective post about the aftermath of her previous post. Whether or not people agree with her opinions or point of view, it has made many (re)analyze and possibly rethink their methods of teaching. For me personally, it has made me ask myself: What am I really doing here? What are my expectations for my students really? Am I doing this whole "teaching Spanish" thing right?
stories are just stories
Or are they? Recently, like this past Friday, I had my unannounced observation from my school principal. I wasn't nervous or disappointed that he came when he did. Friday or not, my students and I have a lot of work to do. However, this particular lesson that he sat in on was different from my norm. Sure, we did a warm-up, I went over the target structures for the day with examples, but then, I had them illustrate a story that I narrated in Spanish (using the target vocab). I've never really done this activity before to this extent, where I spent the majority of class time on this type of activity. Now, the students were very interested in the story. Why? Because it was an adaptation of Martina Bex's El Secreto unit story. And they just could not believe that Antonia was not being faithful to Dennis! You see, on the surface, this story seems like just another dramatic Real Housewives of...(New York, Atlanta, Orange County, etc...) episode. Can somebody please tell Vicki Gunvalson that Brooks is bad news?...Or was that, like, two years ago?
Anywho, the point is that yes! It is just like a reality show! However, it is also the "hook" that engages my students to comprehend and feel comfortable using: poder, querer, traer, and saber in the preterit tense. My students LOVE stories like this...the more drama the better! But is this all there is to it? Just being able to use some verbs in the preterit tense and feel like we should all be on Watch What Happens: Live? Hmmm... I fear that on the surface my principal will think I am a wacky teacher, who may possibly still have a hang up with a cheating boyfriend from the past (I assure you I don't...really, I don't!), who thinks that teenage drama should be front and center in my lessons and has a peculiar, off-the-beaten-path way of teaching Spanish (where is that yellow brick road?).
OK. ¡Me rindo! I am guilty! I am guilty of all those things (except, I assure you, the cheating boyfriend thing). I love personalization, which, unfortunately, we didn't do much of during the lesson because I really wanted them to create their murals. Yes, I am kicking myself now for not focusing on this more! Although, I plan on doing this for a good length of time next class. I know, and you do too, that high school students really only care about themselves and drama. Therefore, stories like these easily engage and entertain them. On the surface we are just "having fun," but underneath I am giving them so much more.
do you see what i see? (nope, it's not a dancing star)
Illustrations yes! But there is so much we are going to do with the illustrations that will add tons more repetitions and comprehensible input! Re-tells, Before/After Communicative variation, True/False Story Quiz variation, Listening Comprehension quiz, Top Ten, and Pick the Pic.
Now, as I said before, the story is just a "hook." I am going to further their comprehension and cultural knowledge by infusing the following activities from Martina's El Secreto Unit:
And to inject even more culture and personalization, and seamlessly lead into our next unit of study: Art, I will supplement with:
So clearly, this unit as a whole, is not just about some goofy, and ultimatley unrequited love story. There is more to it than that. Will my principal realize this? Or will I end up at the waiting room near his office, waiting with trepidation, sitting next to a student named Nadia who can hardly stay awake for three minutes in biology class and when she is awake has an insatiable addiction to Snap Chat? He only saw a glimpse. The beginning of the story...
So now, let's go back to the beginning. Why did I start off mentioning Martina Bex's posts about text-based vs. task-based. Well, by infusing more of BOTH, maybe I could feel better about myself and my teaching.
you say potato, i say potato
In my opinion, I have not found textbooks to be valuable teaching resources in teaching Spanish. Maybe this will change. I hear textbooks are adding more and more CI activities. Regardless, I know that others may feel the same but are required to use it, and that others do not feel the same as I and truly find value in them. No love loss here. Use what works for you (great article by Valerie Shull)! Fortunately, for me, I do not have to use a textbook, I just have to make sure I align my units with the curriculum. You see we are all tied to certain mandated standards. No matter how we get to the end goal (progression in student proficiency), we may choose to, or have to, use different paths. And ultimately, one might not necessarily be better than the other. As long as we make sure to provide our students with meaningful, comprehensible input, the mediums as to how we do it will vary. This cannot be one size fits all. As long as we remain responsible educators who continue to grow professionally, consult with our peers, and value research and best practices, then we are doing the best we can for the students we teach.
I will always try to find the perfect balance (if it truly exists) between providing the right amount of comprehensible input and allowing/guiding output. If the goal is to supply tons of CI (which I personally believe to be the case), then the major focus (at least in novice levels) should be in providing input versus being concerned about output, which should theoretically happen when the student is ready. Remember, first we learn to listen.
For most, this might make you feel uncomfortable. At times it does for me. Why am I doing all the "work"? But my lessons also need to be "student-led/centered." That is why I plan and implement activities that provide different kinds of output (writing, drawing, speaking in response to readings, discussions, and videos) that are level-appropriate and encourage students to "fill in the gaps" and become accountable for their language learning. The activities vary in length of time and difficulty. They also differ in response time. Additionally, they promote group work and cooperative learning. Many I have learned from Ms. Bex.
CAN-DO: I CAN LISTEN AND RESPECT OTHER'S OPINIONS AND CAN READ LABELS ON A RECYCLING BIN
Come on—we can't lose our humor!
I too, like Martina, initially thought "CAN-DO" statements just didn't jive well ("apples and oranges") with how I go about teaching Spanish. Now, after reading her aftermath post, I now know that the ACTFL Can-Do Statements are examples, and that we, as the captain's of our own ship, can write down our very own statements that effectively align with our units.
I am excited to incorporate more Can-Do's, to continue to reflect on my teaching methods thus far, to continue to create and implement an environment for successful language acquisition to the best of my ability, use more #authres (great discussion points about #authres by Ms. Placido), and to add meaningful tasks in my units. I think my solution for the latter will be influenced by student choice and ensuring differentiation and modification as needed. Kristy Placido touched on this on her blog recently. I wish to continue the conversation (stay tuned). This way students may complete tasks (output) at their own pace without feeling "forced." I want them to practice with the language, not memorize scripts.
"...in the end, it is not what they know about the language but rather what they can DO with the language."- Alyssa Villarreal
I could not agree more! So no matter HOW we get there, let's get there!