30 November 2009

Print & audio sources for AP synthesis essay re: efficient energy

In the world language classroom, we are not just teaching language. Language as a means of communication by its very nature enables us to touch our world in different ways. That's why I say all the time that a major part of our responsibility is to help our students become world citizens by keeping them informed on what's going on in the Latin world. Another aspect of this is to encourage "green" thinking in light of the Latin world. That's not hard to do, given that the world's largest rainforest and concentration of species is found on the South American continent.

The people who write the AP exam are aware of this as well. They want our students to be green citizens like we do, and chances are there's going to be something on the environment on the AP. This whole emphasis is clear if you open any advanced or AP Spanish textbook--there's usually an entire unit devoted to the topic. I know in the AP curriculum I've created for my classroom, my fourth unit is on the environment.

Because of this focus, in this unit my students wrote an essay about the importance of developing efficient sources of energy and hypothesizing on where energy technology will take us in the future (good use of future tense & subjunctive). My two print sources were a Wall Street Journal article entitled "Cinco tecnologías que podrían cambiarlo todo" and an article from Yahoo Autos about the features on the upcoming Chevrolet Volt.
The audio for the essay comes from a video taken at the recent Solar Decathlon in Washington. It's featured on the YouTube channel and website of Solar Decathlon Europe, who are looking forward to holding the competition in Spain next year--a golden opportunity for you to highlight this important event in the Spanish classroom.

23 November 2009

Share with your students the 1st winner of Viva el sueño

What teenager doesn't like American Idol? The Latin version of American Idol is Viva el Sueño, broadcast on Univisión and just ending its first season. Here's a great video to share with your students of the winner, Ana Isabelle. Spanish 1 students can understand whom she's thanking, and who each speaker is based on the titles at the bottom, and beyond that there's a lot of great verb switching, vocabulary, communicative tools like "bien (adj)" and "no se crean." Very high-interest, lots of accents and great language!

Here's the video of her victory song:

And of course I have to post Luis Fonsi singing "Llueve por dentro" on the finale:

21 November 2009

The best songs for voy + a + infinitive

Voy + a + infinitive is a fun construction because it gives students the ability to talk about the future without too much trouble. It's also fun to teach through music because there are several good songs for it. The first is 'Irreemplazable' by Beyonce, always fun because the students know the English version. It has three unique and at least 9 repetitions of voy a constructions.
Another song that's good for this is new on my radar, El amor de mi tierra by Carlos Vives. It has four occurrences of voy a.

There was another one, and I wrote down the wrong title. When I come across it again I'll update this post.

A case for free-topic blogging

I despise traditional homework. I think in language acquisition, it doesn't help. If you want kids to learn to drill conjugations, give them worksheets, but otherwise, keep ALL your assignments and assessment communicative. For me, this means that most of what I could ask them to do at home, they'll get frustrated doing on their own. I'd much rather they collaborate in class. Language is a social tool, not a solitary home exercise. So, if you're going to assign homework, make it social. For me, this means the only exercises my students do outside of class are reading, some sort of developing fluency activity, and blogging. Here are some tips for starting a blog in your class.

* Make the blog private. I know some of my Twitter friends like to tweet what their students are blogging, but I think that is walking on very thin ice in any class with minors. I'd love to link my students' blogs here, and tweet about what they write, but I choose the high road rather than risk it. I set my student blogs on the most private setting Google allows. You can't find it on a search engine and you can't find it unless you know the address, which is pretty well coded for me and my students. Then when you get there, it asks for a username and password to sign in.

* Get permission forms. Even if you've set it extra private, still get a permission formed signed by parents. Give them an option to be added as a reader of the blog. Most parents tell me just to go ahead with it without them (most can't read Spanish anyway), but several do ask to be a reader and I add them. Only once have I had a parent refuse permission altogether, on the grounds that you can't be too careful on the internet, and that student turned in his blog on paper all year.

* Let them write about WHATEVER THEY WANT. Research shows that we acquire vocabulary that is meaningful and useful to us. You know this. I'm a teacher, reader, techie, Christian, blogger, new mom, hiker, and that's where my vocabulary is. Get me in a conversation about building houses (either in English or Spanish) and my language breaks down. I had a student who will always remember the word for 'deer' and 'hunt' because that's what he always blogged about. He's a hunter. It's important to him. I can't stress this enough-let them write what they want!

* Define what the rules are.
--I set a reasonable word count (answering questions in Spanish 1 first semester, 25 words in Spanish 1 spring- Spanish 2 fall, 35 words Spanish 2 spring-Spanish 3 fall, 50 words Spanish 3 spring-AP Spanish).
--NO English. My students know that if there's a word in English that's not a proper noun, they cannot get an A.
--Grammar does count some. Above Spanish 1, a subject with an infinitive cannot get an A either. They have to show me they know something has to happen to the verb, even if it's the wrong thing.
--Translation websites are an automatic zero. You can tell if they've used one. I can often even find the one they used to prove to the parents they used it. wordreference.com is linked on the blog and it's the only site they can use.

* Skim to grade. Set a scale that makes it easy for you to grade them quickly or you'll give up on them. Look for outstanding = perfect grade. No English, met word count, no infinitives with subjects = A. Translation = 0. And so on.

* Accept them handwritten for students who just won't blog. You can't force technology. Also, sometimes students' power goes out or their computer dies. It's an alternative.

* Set a time when they're due and rules for accepting late. Mine are due by 8 am Friday morning (yes I'm aware they can change the time-stamp but I tell them that's lying and leave it at that). Handwritten ones have to be signed by the secretary because I don't get to school until 10:45 (I'm part-time). The grade is 25% off at one day late and 50% off at 2-5 days late. At 5 days late the student has to complete the blog in a forced after-school study hall. All of that is part of our school-wide policy.

* Encourage creativity. Reward/compliment students who post video, songs, pictures, links, etc. I once had a student write FIVE HUNDRED WORDS about Dropbox and give me links to tutorials and the download. I gave him a pass from the next two blogs.

* MOST IMPORTANT: Resist the temptation to accept English or to suggest the topic. It's not the purpose of a blog. Let them make the post their own. PLEASE. They're going to acquire the vocabulary that's meaningful to them whether you like it or not. This gives them a way to do it without fighting you.

Give your students the chance to express themselves and you'll be amazed at the progress in their communicative competence, at least in writing!

19 November 2009

It's 19 de noviembre!

19 De Noviembre - Carlos Vives

Take advantage of today's date to play Carlos Vives' song 19 de noviembre. Here are some ways to use it:

-See if they can hear the date at the beginning without seeing it (Spanish 1).

-Tell students to look under "Historia" in this article to see why 19 de noviembre is an important day in Puerto Rico.
-Offer a bonus to someone who can find out why a Colombian singer wrote a song about Puerto Rico. (Interesting that now he and the 2nd wife he wrote the song for are separated.)

-patriotic words (evident even for low learners)

-preterite tú forms (almost as good as Qué Hiciste)
-good example of passive se in "se oyen" (hard to find in songs)
-yo/tú future switch
-pronouns, esp. yo reflexives and a rare double-object on double verb phrase in 'te lo quiero agradecer'

Enjoy--it's a good song!

17 November 2009

Camila's new single: "Mientes" (release date 11/24!)

My students are insanely excited about the release of Camila's sophomore album. Several of them can sing "Solo para ti" or "Coleccionista de canciones" or "Abrázame" from memory. The first single from the album, "Mientes," will be released next week on the 24th. Meanwhile, you can hear the whole amazing song on their YouTube channel here. It sounds great, and looks like it will be good for yo-form preterites from er/ir verbs and for all present tú forms. Enjoy!

11 November 2009

A case for pleasure reading

Stephen Krashen has done a ton of research on what he calls Free Voluntary Reading. Catch up on his research by checking it out on his website. Basically, the premise is that kids learn more (and language learners acquire more vocabulary) when reading at an appropriate leve and something that is pleasurable to them. I was so won over by the research in this area that last year I decided my students were going to read a fiction book outside of class. Mi criteria were that the book had to be related to Latin culture in some way, preferably by a Latino/a author. As a result, my students read Cajas de cartón in the fall of Spanish 3, Esperanza renace in the spring of Spanish 3, and Ciudad de las bestias in AP Spanish. Watching my AP Spanish students read now, after reading the two books last year, I can see how much their reading comprehension has jumped. Also, they could tell you countless stories of how certain vocabulary are imprinted in their memories because of reoccurrences in context in the books, which they like.

Last year I had them read the chapter and then take an open-book quiz in class the day the chapter was due. There were some problems with that, especially that it was very time-consuming and I value my in-class time too much. So this year, they are doing reading guides instead, and this has worked wonderfully. As a taste, here is the list of Palabras Claves and here is the Reading Guide for Chapter 10 of Ciudad. I'm a firm believer in not reinventing the wheel, so if you want any or all of the reading guides (and vocab lists) message me on twitter at secottrell and I'll upload them all to my Google Docs.

Get kids reading level-appropriate fun stories--it works!

10 November 2009

Noviembre - a popular month for songs

November seems to be kind of a popular topic for songs. Celebrate this oddity by playing a couple of songs, starting with Noviembre sin ti by Reik, winners of this year's Latin Grammy for best albúm pop vocal grupo o duo. The things I like to point out in this song are:
--weather/environment vocabulary
--nosotros forms
--understanding 'hojas' by context if they know 'caen' (and it's November, sooo...)
--'otra vez'
--'aquel' for distance in time and not just space
-- who/what is the subject of 'me dice' in the chorus?
Here's another version at a concert. Both of those videos do not have copyright problems; show away!

The other song is packed with cultural connections: 19 de noviembre by Carlos Vives.

What I do with this song:
--Play it and see if they can catch the date at the beginning (in Spanish 1)
--Offer some sort of reward for who can figure out what 19 de noviembre is in Puerto Rico and why Carlos Vives is singing about it when he's Colombian.
--Look for patriotic vocabulary.

¡Disfruta de noviembre!

07 November 2009

Zachary Jones's "Clozeline"

Don't re-invent the wheel-often there are magically appealing and effective activities out there on the web if you just know where to look. I just got a link over Twitter to Zachary Jones's post about his activity called "Clozeline." He's got cloze quizzes to a whole bunch of songs, with grammatical topics. Enjoy!

04 November 2009

Two songs + resources for Ojalá + subjunctive

The word Ojalá is, in my estimation, the only 'verb' in Spanish that isn't conjugated. It finds its roots in Arabic, meaning "May allah grant that." In any case, in Spanish it's always followed by subjunctive, and here are two songs to help work with that.

The first is with present, Ojalá que llueva café, by Juan Luis Guerra. It's one of those songs that can lead you in a hundred different directions. It's a bit controversial from what I understand, and is a perspective on the life of the poor in the Dominican Republic.

I found some interesting blogging on the song. For example, read what José has to say about the song and its meaning. Then, use this cool site by Ms. Nelson to work with the song, complete with lyrics linked to pictures to aid in comprehension.
I just found out that the song was re-recorded by Café Tacvba, with some killer fiddling:

The other song unfortunately does not have much in the way of resources but is the best I've heard to work with Ojalá + past subjunctive or just past subjunctive by itself (Si volvieras a mí by Josh Groban is beautiful to me but not so appealing to most of my high-schoolers). It's Ojalá pudiera borrarte by Maná. The video used to be on YouTube but was removed, and now is only available in cheesy photo collages, especially since I can't get imeem to search anything at the moment.

Ojalá que you enjoy them.

A song just for @mamitati

This is a special post out to Tati, amazing bilingual mami blogger at WannaJugarWithMigo?

I caught this song just the other day and I LOVE it! It's a Christian song (I teach at a Christian school). Well, most of my high-schoolers were not as impressed as I was, but it'll be fun to teach to my Zoe anyway. :)