November 2016 - Mis Clases Locas

Box 1

Box 1
Teaching with Novels

Box 2

Box 2
Resources

Box 3

Box 3
Meet Sra. Wienhold

Introducing the novel Vida y Muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha

Introducing the novel Vida y Muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha


Voces Inocentes, El Salvador, Child Soldiers & MS-13

This summer I blogged about Resources for teaching Vida y Muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha. Well now that I am back from maternity leave, I have actually been able to put these hypothetical plans to use for my Spanish IV. I knew I only had nine instructional days (plus the two Fridays of El Internado) before we would be on Thanksgiving break. Instead of splitting up the novel over break, we spent all nine of those days introducing the novel using the rich cultural context of the setting and themes. 

You may be thinking, how did you spend NINE days introducing a novel? Well, actually I could have used more. I think one of the biggest mistakes people make when first teaching a novel is not spending enough time introducing it. By spending time in advance exposing students to the country of origin, historical context, and current content with novel specific vocabulary, actually teaching the novel will go much smoother. For example, while I was gone students read a novel, but the sub did not have them do the weeks of prep work that I usually do first, which includes watching two movies that set up the foundation for being able to analyze the novel. The students told me they did not understand the novel, and therefore that they did not like it. It makes me so sad that they missed the whole point of an awesome novel, because they were not given the foundation on which to properly "get it." I digress, but here is how I introduced the novel Vida y muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha from Fluency Matters. Make sure to get the NEW Teacher's Guide too. 


I used to have students watch movies at the end of a unit, but it is so much more powerful to watch one as cultural context before reading a book. Since the authentic movies I show are not the same as the books, it is not spoiling the book for students (unlike in English class, where watching the movie version will keep students from actually reading the book). We started by watching the movie Voces Inocentes using the awesome guide from Kristy Placido. It is rated R, but I have all students and parents sign a permission slip at the start of the year for both El Internado and movies. Honestly, besides violence there are just a few swear words. If you are going to teach this movie, make sure to buy the movie packet from Kristy. It is so much more than just a movie guide with all kinds of other resources as well, which you will see below in our plans. 


Song - Casas de cartón


  • We used the song activity from the movie packet to introduce the song that plays in important role in the movie, and the war in El Salvador. 

Watch Voces Inocentes 


  • We used the guide questions from the movie packet to help keep them focused, as well as to provide discussion in Spanish during and after the movie. 
  • After discussing the movie students worked together in groups to organize the cut up events of the movie (from the movie packet).
  • For an assessment, students took the included quiz over the movie. I usually just collect the movie questions, but since many just get those answers from friends, the assessment actually showed me who had been paying attention to the movie and in class, and not what their neighbor knew. 


Song - Niño Soldado



  • We used the song activity from the movie packet to introduce our discussion on child solders around the world. The students really liked hearing Ska music in Spanish, since some say "all music in Spanish sounds the same." The interesting thing is if you just listen to the song, you would think it is fun and positive, until you analyze the lyrics about child soldiers. 
  • We then used the reading and discussion questions (from you guessed it the movie packet) to talk about child solders around the world. 

El Salvador & Civil War

  • We used the great, comprehensible slide show about El Salvador and the Civil War by Kara Jacobs to continue our discussion, and put together everything we had done so far. 

MS-13 & El Salvador

  • I had been doing a lot of teacher centered comprehensible input, so both the students and I needed some time for independent guided inquiry. I knew the students still needed to have a base on the MS-13 gang before starting the novel, so I created these MS-13 cultural stations for them to complete. We are 1:1 with Chrome books, so they each completed their own Google document, which had links included for authentic resources of articles in both English and Spanish, videos, pictures, and an infographic. If we were not 1:1, I would have done them as old school stations, printing out materials, and having computers available to work together for videos. 






When we get back I plan on having a recruiting day where an administrator removes a student from class, like when students were taken during school at age 12 during the Civil War as child soldiers. I wish I would have done it earlier, but it will still be a good "hook" before we start the novel. We will also do some pre reading discussion, as found in the NEW Teacher's Guide. Hopefully, I will share some posts as we read as well. 

Have you taught this novel? How do you introduce Vida y Muerte?

Happy Thanksgiving!!
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Persona Especial

Persona Especial 
Where students ARE the curriculum in language class

I have been hearing about special person interviews for a while now. The original idea came from Bryce Hedstrom and has been adopted by many people who use personalized comprehensible input in their classes. Last year I tested the waters and did them sporadically, mostly in Spanish 1 and Exploratory Spanish. The issue was I never made them a priority at the start of class. Students would ask is they could be the "persona especial" at the start of class, but I would often say "if we have time at the end of class." Did it usually end up happening? No. I usually forgot and got to wrapped up in whatever else we were doing to focus on the most important part of my class, the students. Also, I did not have a great plan. I would ask basic questions, but did not keep track of what I asked and never made it to anything deeper. 

At the amazing inaugural Comprehensible Iowa Conference this summer, I was reminded by the great keynote speaker Grant Boulanger that the best personalized curriculum for novice students is using YOUR STUDENTS. I made the decision that when I returned to school, I would make special person interviews a priority. 

Last week I returned from maternity leave. Considering that my substitute got the textbooks out of storage instead of using the CI plans and materials I left, I knew it would be like the first day of school all over again with the return of comprehensible input. We dove right in to "persona especial" interviews as our main curriculum for week one. This time I was focused and went through specific questions using Kara Jacobs idea of a slide show too. I think this really helps the visual learners as well, and allows me to be able to use the words to point, pause and circle. Each day we can flip through the slide show to review the previous day, and then start over with a new person. We have been building and adding a couple new questions every day. 




Our Persona Especial process
  • Students immediately ask as they enter class if they can be the special person. A rock, paper, scissor off may be necessary to come up with who gets to be interviewed first.
  • The special person gets to sit on the special stool up front.  
  • I ask the special person questions, and help them answer in the "I form." I then ask the class the answer and they respond in the "he/she form."
  • I circle this question to get as many repetitions in as possible. This includes yes/no questions, either or questions and interrogatives. To see more information check out How to Circle - by Martina Bex.
  • I move on to the next question when I see the class is ready. 
  • During all of these I am circulating in the room, using big gestures and getting in those active minutes on my fitbit :)
  • We repeat the process as long as high interest continues, flipping to a new slide with each new question. 
  • We do a quick review, covering all new information 
  • If high interest is still there we repeat the process with another student. If needed everyone gets up for a brain break first. 
At the end of the first week we did a very basic quiz over the special people. I did it as an open writing quiz, because I also wanted to see what the students learned while I was gone. This was the first time I saw their writing performance for the year. Here is the quiz I used for week 1. 

My Takeaways
Some students blew me away with what they could produce. They remembered little details from the interviews and did a great job parroting back what was said. Other students said it was way to hard and were mad at me for making them actually write. (They were used to just fill in the correct blank in the workbook). It made me realize that some were not ready for the output stage. For the next quiz I am going to give them more input to work with. I have a list of students from class, and a list of statements for them to match. This will allow them to show their comprehension, without requiring the output. here is the second quiz. My favorite feedback from the week is below. It says "I really liked learning more about my classmates! Since Abbi is still newer, I liked learning more about her!" 


Friday Feedback from a Freshman after week 1

I love that students are working on building our positive Spanish community. Not only are the students learning about each other, but I am learning about them, while all staying in Spanish. It is so fun to find out who has a hedgehog, listens to gospel music, works 30 hours per week, or hunts and skins deer on the weekend. I look forward to continuing to learn about all of my special people. 

Do you do something similar? How does it work in your class?
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