06 September 2008

When it's not all coming up roses

Lest you think that I think that musicuentos is the fix for every language acquisition issue, I don't. Friday was a good example of holding on to the good ones and trying to let the other stuff slide off my back while learning from it.

This year I'm teaching six periods of Spanish--two Spanish 1, three Spanish 2, and one Spanish 3. Five of the six are having a blast. One section of Spanish 2, however, is not. For some reason this particular group of kids has been a challenge. Here's what I think the problem is: Musicuentos is based on research that says that motivation and listening are vital. In school, students seem to be motivated by one of three things: 1) what they love, 2) what is easy, 3) what is entertaining. So, kids who love math may find something difficult, but they'll still be motivated to do it because they love it. Unfortunately, I can't make kids love Spanish, so I go for the other two--easy and entertaining. God's taken care of the easy part by making their brains perfectly suited to acquire language. Throw in some pop music, the Latin grammys, and a Spanish-speaking monito or two, and voilá, you've got entertaining.

The problem is, in order for this to work, the kids have to listen and watch. This is my mantra. All the time I'm telling them this. But Class 6 doesn't believe me. They keep their heads down. They talk to each other. Incessantly. And we're miserable. Everything takes them twice as long, so there isn't time for the songs. They account for almost all the demerits I give out for off-task and disruption. Friday, one asked me how to say pissed in Spanish after getting a demerit for being off task. Total demerits for Class 6 on Friday alone? Nine. So how do I convince them that if they'll just shut up and watch and listen, it really will be easy and entertaining? Good question. I think today we'll work on the seating arrangement. And I've started working to get parents working on it with me.

Meanwhile, I take encouragement where I can. Earlier the same day, one of my freshman told me, "I've learned more in three weeks of Spanish than I did in three years of middle school Spanish."
(My mind files this little sunshine #1 away for dark times later. Little do I know I'll need it by the end of the same day!)

Then I check the weekly blogs. My students post on a blog every week. It's a fun requirement and a major part of keeping their grade up. I love it and they love it. So, I get this on one blog while I'm reading Saturday:
Hola! Hoy yo durmi en clase. Espanol es aburrido porque no lo comprendo. Yo amo Chris Brown mucho. Me gusta musica. Mi cancionfavorito es Disturbia. Adios.
Publicado por p.w.

Now, I know this student is frustrated because she's approaching my class as if it's like last year, and she keeps her head down a lot. But I also know she's comprehending because I check her comprehension a lot because I know she's struggling more than the rest of her classmates for that reason. (It's like a tangible affective filter, I swear.)

So I keep reading. Immediately after that blog, there's this one:
Hola amigos! Escuela esta muy aburrito, pero el clase de espanol es muy divertido porque cantamos musica. Ahora me casa esta vicia. Estoy solo. Esta muy triste, verdad?Adios para ahora.
(my mind files this sunshine #2 away for when I need it)
And that blog has at least 2 similar things.

Today I was checking my Spanish 3 blogs and something one of my students wrote blew me away. Absolutely blew me away. When I started teaching these kids in Spanish 2 last year, their ability to communicate was almost nothing. They could sing -o, -as, -a, -amos, -ais, -an all day long. But comprehend? Communicate? Very very little. You may not be impressed by this (especially if you don't read Spanish) but wow. Knowing where they've come from, I am. And before you wonder if a computer translator did this, I can assure you it didn't. I know this student, and I'm very very good at spotting computer translation besides, and this is his Spanish, 100%.
Hola! Ibas tu Dia del Trabajo? Mi familia y yo fuimos a mi casa de abuelos.Dios es Sensacional. Hace dos dias, mi iphone muerto. Yo llame el ayuda de Apple y dijeron ellos no me ayudaron porque mi garantia se fue. Mi padre y yo fuimos a el tienda de Apple y preguntamos ellos para ayuda. El hombre dijo no me ayudo, pero entonces me dijo que el fue a preguntar alguien algo. Se fue de mi papa y yo. Entonces, regreso y dijo que ellos reemplazon mi iphone y me da un lo nuevo.Fue un bendicion de Dios. Estoy muy feliz.-Cristian

So much sunshine. It's not all coming up roses, but the flowers are pretty abundant around here.

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