Sunday, August 26, 2018

A Map of Spanish Readers

In 2004, when I left my middle school Spanish job and moved to another district to teach high school Spanish at Palmyra, there were very few Spanish readers/novels available to use in the classroom. The previous teacher left me with a class set of novels that was more suitable for an upper college level class, (and which were still shrink-wrapped so he must have had the same reaction to the books), and a splattering of other readers, such as El Cid, Don Quijote, Leyendas lationamericanas, Historias de la Artámila, and several others.  The ones that were most useful were 3 readers by Arturo de Rosa about the detective Pepino González. I used the Pepino readers with my Spanish 4 class although it took a lot of scaffolding to make it accessible, (especially since teaching with CI was not common practice at the high school when I started working at Palmyra so their reading in the language experience was very limited).  

However, in the last several years the number of Spanish readers available have exploded! Spanish teachers have a wide variety of readers to choose from to read with their students and to add to their class library for independent reading. If you're like me, and you want to keep the most recent Spanish books in your classroom to give your students a full range of books from which to choose, you are quite busy buying books throughout the year.

Not only are there loads of novels to choose from, and more added each year, but you can find a reader/novel that takes place in almost every single Spanish country, with only one exception - Paraguay.

I like visuals, so I created a map of the countries aligned with the readers that take place in each country. 

(I'll give the authors a week or so to email me any corrections and then I'll upload the maps to google docs so you can download them if needed.)

The danger to writing this post and making the visuals, is I may have unintentionally omitted a book. If that is the case, please let me know and I can add it although it may take a few days until I can update this post. The three main sites I cross-referenced for the list above was CI Reading (blog by Mike Peto), Fluency Matters, and TPRS Books

In addition, there are some readers that are listed in language catalogs that I have that I did not add because I do not recommend them for any level. 

There are only a few books in the lists above that I have not read; some I have not read because they are not available for purchase yet. Obviously, I have my favorites and there are some on the list that I was disappointed with, for various reasons. However, that is a personal preference and what I thought was not an interesting story, may be something that one of my students like, so I continue to make as many books available to my students as I can.  
I also add a few Spanish children's books in the selection and switch them out for different ones after a month or so. Since I liked the Pepino series, I make them available too.  :)  

Monday, August 20, 2018

The True Size of... Comparing Countries by Size

Pennsylvania, in pink, is small in comparison to Spain.
There is a gem of a website   to compare the size of one country to another country, or to compare a country to a one of the 50 states, or to compare two states. Not only is it a useful site for world language teachers, but also for geography teachers, social studies teachers, and teachers that reference other countries and wants to give students a solid visual of the size of the countries.

The website, "The True Size of" enables the user to type the name of a state or country, and to overlay that state or country onto another country (or state) on a map. This helps students to visualize the size of countries that are related to the Spanish novels that I read with my students each semester.   

Some of the novels connected to people from other countries that I read with my students are:

1. Felipe Alou, by Carol Gaab  - The Dominican Republic
The aqua-colored object is the state of Pennsylvania. This picture shows that Pennsylvania is much bigger than the Dominican Republic. 

2. Fiesta Fatal, by Mira Canion - México
Pennsylvania is dwarfed in size in comparison to Mexico.

You can overlay more than one country/state at the same time as shown below.

3. Vector, by Carrie Toth  - Panamá
Pennsylvania (shown in yellow), is larger than Panama

4. El Silbón, by Craig Klein Dexemple - Venezuela
    Hasta la Sepultura, by Kristy Placido - Spain
Spain, the orange shape, is large compared to the countries in Central America, but there are several large countries in South America, such as Venezuela, that are larger than Spain.

This site can also be used for a Brain Break. Write several sentences on the board about one country compared to another country/state and students decide which sentences are true and which aren't.

a. Spain is larger than Ecuador. (España es más grande que Ecuador)
b. Spain is large than Colombia.
c. Spain is larger than Uruguay.
d. Spain is larger than El Salvador.


a. (Your state) is larger than Honduras.
b. (Your state) is smaller than Guatemala.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

More Work to be Done

Today, I saw a syllabus of a Spanish class in a school district within an hour drive of my school. On the syllabus it said,

What are the students going to do with that "verb tense knowledge"? When I saw that sentence, my first thought was 'Level IV students will be able to fill in verb conjugation charts'.

Another document for level 1 listed the grammar structures and vocabulary themes for each chapter. 

The syllabus makes it clear that the language classes will consist of vocabulary and grammar, grammar, grammar. 
This is what the traditional textbook publishers have convinced language teachers to believe - languages should be taught with a focus on vocabulary and grammar in the order the publishers have outlined in the textbooks. 

Often, when a teacher begins a teaching job at a school district, he is handed a textbook to use to teach the language. He follows the book that explains how to fill in conjugation charts made to look like boots and he distributes publisher worksheets to students so they can "practice" the verb tenses. When he wants to give his students a fun activity, he designs a Battleship Conjugation game, plays Swat with vocabulary words, or plays Number Bingo with the students on Fridays. The result is a huge exodus of language students after the required minimal levels leaving very few to continue to level 3 and beyond.

This troubles me... a lot. One of the reasons is I started my teaching career teaching in that manner. I thought I was doing my job well because that's what my experience in language classes had been, both as a student and as a student teacher. 

But two people, in particular, helped guide me away from grammar-based teaching to teaching for acquisition. The first person was Mara Anderson, the World Language department chair at the high school (I was in the middle school), who came to my classroom and demonstrated TPR. A few years later, after moving to another district, I attended a one-day workshop by Carol Gaab, in which I experienced, first-hand, the power of acquiring a language versus studying a language. The combination of those experiences started my CI journey and my interest in second language acquisition. 

But, what if Mara had not demonstrated TPR in my classroom? 
What if I had not attended the workshop with Carol Gaab? 
Would I still be teaching from the textbook and focusing on grammar rules? 
How would I know there is a more effective way to teach? 
Would I still be blaming the students for not studying?
Would I still hear comments such as "give me the quiz before I forget everything" before distributing a quiz?

This, dear friends, is where you are desperately needed. No more excuses. It is time for action. If you have abandoned grammar-based teaching and have witnessed your students' increased proficiency and language skills as a result of teaching with CI, then your task (not someone else's task) is to share your experiences and the teaching strategies you employ that make those successes possible. 

We have only scratched the surface of introducing and training teachers to teach with CI in order to enable their students to acquire the language. According to the Center for Education Reform, there are 129,189 schools in the U.S. If each school averages one teacher per building (middle schools and high schools average more than one WL teacher per building, but many school districts do not have WL teachers in the elementary buildings), that adds up to over 129,000 WL teachers in the US. How many of those teachers are blindly following a publisher's textbook and how many are teaching for acquisition?  

Below is a chart listing ways to introduce teachers to teaching with Comprehensible Input (CI) and help them on their language teaching journey.  Whether you are new to teaching with CI or whether you are starting your 20th year of teaching with CI, there are actions you can take to increase awareness of second language acquisition and how to teach for acquisition and share your teaching methods and strategies with others. 

A noteworthy reminder: ALL teachers, that are committed to continued professional development and growth, regardless of their experience and/or teaching methods, can learn from their colleagues, including those that do not teach exactly as they do.
     Be nice.
     Be open-minded. 
     Be gentle. 
     Be encouraging. 
     Be ready to learn from others.   

If you have more ideas to add to the chart, please share them in the blog comments below, on Twitter (@sonrisadelcampo), or in person. 

Comments related to chart above:
1. Submitting a proposal and presenting at a conference: If you have never done this before you may say you can't do it because you will be nervous. Welcome to the club! I have presented at national, state, and regional conferences, as well as at CI PLN groups and the only time I was NOT nervous was this July at iFLT18. Look at it as a way to grow.  :-)

2. Start a PLN in your area: I have wanted to do this for years. Maybe this will be the year I follow through.

3. Start a blog with the mindset of using it to reflect on your teaching and your lessons. People will eventually find you and share in your journey and then learn from you.

4. Offer free resources on your TPT store: Many of my teacher friends have TPT stores and it warms my heart that besides selling materials on their store, they are very generous in sharing great resources that they have made at no cost to others and in their time sharing their knowledge and expertise on live Facebook videos, on social media, and endless patience in answering questions about their classroom practices. 

5. Accept a student teacher and model how to teach using Comprehensible Input: Remember that the person may have come from training that did not acknowledge teaching with Comprehensible Input. Have patience and enjoy watching them grow in their teaching skills.

6. Create a substitute lesson bank: EVERYONE will love you if you freely share sub plans. This is your opportunity to share your BEST plans based on using comprehensible input. Others will be more open to leaving grammar-based teaching when they experience success with your substitute lesson plan. They may even use it on a day they are present!

7. Volunteer to mentor a teacher: Why do we not have a mentoring program in place?

8. Offer a free or low-cost training: When you train other teachers, there are usually costs involved for you, and I fully support that you should also be compensated for your time. If you have the opportunity to present that does not require travel or lodging on your part, consider offering that training at a bargain price to eliminate the financial strain that prevents some teachers from attending their first CI/TPRS training. 

9. Submit an article to ACTFL's publication The Language Educator: And/or submit an article to your state organization's newsletter or publication.

I have great colleagues (throughout the U.S.) that are doing amazing things. Their energy and expertise seem endless. I am grateful that they have done much in the past and continue to help their fellow teachers.  :-)