30 October 2009

You can't buy this in a textbook

There are so many reasons to dislike conventional world language curriculum; my #1 is that the books are out of date before they go to press. So your students are reading about how there hasn't been a successful coup d'etat in Latin America since the end of the Cold War, and meanwhile Micheletti and the Supreme Court rocked the Honduran world with global repercussions, and some good ole' Costa Rican, Brazilian, and U.S. intervention later, signed a historic agreement to try to resolve the crisis. Our students should know this stuff as they become world citizens but they aren't going to get it from a textbook.

As some recent examples of how this has played out in my class, let me share some ways the vast free material on the internet has impacted my students' learning and awareness.

When you're teaching past participles, you've gotta go to news articles. They're rife with "it's closed" "he was shot" "they have said" "this has happened". So my students were surfing a muy actual article about the US authorities bringing down 300 members of the powerful Mexican drug cartel knows as "La familia." The article contains at least 5 uses of haber + past participle, 9 of ser/estar + past participle, and 12 past participles used purely as an adjective. So they were going through looking for those and we discussed what the article was about.
The next day one of my students said, "We heard about this on the radio this morning and I was like, "Mom, we already talked about that yesterday in Spanish class!" So my students were all informed on this big drug bust before it even came on their radio.

A few days later, a student came in and wanted to write on the board, "Ashley is eating oatmeal." But they've never had the word for oatmeal so she asked me what it was. I told her and she put it on the board. Not 10 minutes later, a tweet came through from @jesseyjoy, one of their favorite pop artists especially lately with the release of Adios, and it came up on my screen because I always have TweetDeck opened. Joy was tweeting that she had just eaten oatmeal as a healthy breakfast but would likely have pizza soon. My student *squealed* at the coincidence of Joy using the word 'avena' right after she had used it.

A couple of days after that, I read a few tweets by @Ricky_Martin, who frequently tweets in English, then Spanish, then Portuguese. He said that rhyming dictionaries suck, in Spanish they 'no sirven para nada', and in Portuguese used a rather, um, colorful word. So I tweeted that Ricky Martin was swearing in Portuguese and I was actually sad that I understood it. Next thing I know I get a direct message from Ricky Martin laughingly apologizing and sending love and peace to me and my family! WHOA! What do you think my students thought about that?

Seriously, like someone said on Twitter this week, if you don't like change, let's see how you like irrelevance.
You just can't buy this stuff in a textbook.

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