Saturday, January 25, 2014

Classrooms around the World - broadening our perspective

My school visit in Haiti
This semester I have a combined class of Sp4 and Sp5, 28 students total.  Realistically, I know it is impossible to teach two different curricula in one 70-minute period that other years were separated into different classes.  After a great deal of thought, I decided the best plan of action is to teach a completely new curriculum; one that includes the main grammar structures introduced in Sp4 (i.e. negative commands, the subjunctive) but in a fresh way so the Sp5 students also benefit.  For some it will feel like a review, for others that haven't mastered those concepts, it will prove to be quite beneficial. Above everything, I want all students at the end of the semester to see growth in their abilities.

This hybrid curriculum requires me to find reading materials that students have not read before.  Typically, I choose a book below the students' level as a way to review (some haven't had Spanish since the first semester in fall 2012), and to build up their confidence.  

The first book we are reading in the combined class is "Felipe Alou" by Carol Gaab.  For the first chapter we discussed what students already knew about The Dominican Republic, completed the wordle activity by Kristy Placido on the Teacher's Guide CD (I highly recommend this TG), completed a cross-out activity with the new vocabulary in Ch1, and shared our thoughts on the discussion and comprehension questions. 

Chapter 2 of Felipe Alou describes his family life and his childhood and teenage years.  Two sentences that caught my attention in particular were, "También insistían que sus hijos recibieran una educación excelente. ¡La educación de sus hijos era muy importante." I take every opportunity to stress to my students the importance of education so those two lines set the stage perfectly.  Below are the activities I used to draw out discussion from the students and stress the importance of education throughout the world.

1. Kenya to Kabul: 15 Classrooms around the World.  Students compared and contrasted the classrooms pictured to schools in Pennsylvania. Easy way to elicit discussion. 

2. Frontline: By the Numbers: Dropping out of High School   I made a powerpoint in Spanish with multiple choice questions to share the statistics related to high school dropouts.

3. House Construction with Plastic Bottles by Samarpan Foundation. This 3-minute video shows the construction of a house by using plastic bottles filled with mud. There is no dialogue, but rather subtitles (in English).  When the building is completed, it is actually a school which ties into the discussion theme above. 

4. The Big Picture: Schools Around the World. Another website with beautiful photos of schools around the world and school children traveling to those schools can be found.  This can be used to replace #1 above or in addition. The photos are absolutely wonderful!

At times students will share about their family trips to beautiful vacation destinations, but they have little to no experience in seeing the real culture of a country, away from the tourist spots.  These websites and video provided the students with a glimpse of the world, far away from their small corner of Pennsylvania, and encouraged discussion in the TL.


  1. Love this, and have saved it for next year. You might also be interested in this post: The gold mine is in the links at the end. There's an activity where students look at photos from classrooms around the world and try to predict where they are and defend their answers. We followed up by making a "welcome to our school" video for incoming Spanish speaking students.

  2. Thanks for the information on additional photos and Great activity! I promptly added it to my Pinterest page linked below.
    Pinterest - Felipe Alou, La República Dominicana, y Escuelas

    Your video project sounds like fun.