If you have been reading my posts lately, I have been writing a lot about how to move away from using the traditional vocabulary lists that we so often use to introduce a new unit in our language classes. Another of my passions is the use of authentic resources in the classroom. This post is synthesis of both of those topics.
Before I go any further, let me give credit where credit is due. Many of my "a-ha" moments need to be attributed to lessons I have learned from my former district coordinator, Sandy Harvey from Fort Bend ISD, who always let me explore and try out new things and more recently to Greta Lundgaard, who I now work for in Plano ISD. She has such a knack for pushing me (and her other teachers) further than we thought we could go while still giving us room to be creative and explore the practical side of language acquisition research. I am so blessed to have learned from both of these ladies. Much of my growth I have to attribute to them. I wanted to take a moment out to acknowledge them because the principles that drive my exploration are things they have taught me. Sandy first mentioned the idea of teaching without a vocabulary list to me years ago when we were re-writing curriculum and I thought she was crazy, and it wasn't until I joined Greta's team in Plano in 2012 that I saw how that can be made reality. Now I find myself tinkering with what I have learned in new ways because I drank the Kool-Aid and I get it now and I can no longer understand why I didn't try this sooner. Today's post is going to be a "How To" for those who may still be unsure how this "list-less" teaching can be possible combined with how an authentic resource can be the cornerstone for a unit of study.
The Authentic Resource:
Ritual de Felicidad from www.nutricampeones.com by @psicologia 21
Unit / Lesson Themes:
Activities, Likes & Dislikes, Feelings, Emotions & Conditions, Descriptions
Depending on the level you teach
1. Play Pharell Williams song "Happy" as students enter the room for the day.
2. Start the lesson by asking students what kind of person they are using comprehensible target language. For example, "Are you a happy person? Are you a sad person? Are you a positive person?" Scaffold this conversation with images on the whiteboard or screen representing the different emotions. State what kind of person you are and why. You could also mention that being happy or sad can be habits as much as personalities.
3. Pass out or show the "Ritual de Felicidad" image to your students and have them read over it. Instruct them to write down or highlight words or phrases they understand. Ask them which expressions they don't understand and explain them in the target language with more comprehensible input.
4. Using something you have prepared ahead of time talk them through your own personal Happiness Ritual using comprehensible TL and images like the original image. Connect this ritual to choices you make when you don't feel happy. For example, "When I am sad, I..." or "When I am mad I like to...". Integrate transitional words such as especially, normally, particularly and others to model how to connect smaller statements into larger ones. This is also a good time to question students to encourage them to begin to employ the vocabulary from the resource and your own example to express themselves within the context of the learning targets. Another thing you are modeling is turning question words into transitions in statements which is an awesome tool for them to move into practicing their own creating in the language. Also, it is a perfect time to model ordinal numbers and expressions because these will be essential to their being able to talk about the causes and effects of their choices and habits.
5. Instruct your students to design their own Happiness Ritual. You can provide a blank organizer here that includes the structure of the Happiness Ritual (starting point, points along the way, and finishing point). This is the moment they will begin to inquire about vocabulary that is personal to them. You can give the the words and expressions, allow them to use the WordReference app on their smart devices, dictionaries or any other method for finding the vocabulary that they think applies to their ritual. Allow them to curate the vocabulary they find important to the learning targets in whatever way makes sense to them.
6. After your students have created the ritual document, pair them up and instruct them to present their Happiness Rituals to their partners. It might be helpful to scaffold for them by posting a word bank of ordinal expressions and transitions on the screen so they can use them as they present to each other. Instruct them to listen to each other, but to also jot down interesting vocabulary they hear their partners use that could be helpful to them later.
7. After presenting to one partner, have them form a group of four with another pair in the room and present one more time to each other. Again, they should be on the lookout for new and interesting words and phrases to steal from each other.
Notes from Amy:
As you can see, this is just day one of the instruction in a new unit. The focus of the days following can be a different mood or emotion because our actions are different when feel differently. In this way, you are making them think about what words they need to express themselves in different situations. Also, they are having to think about expressing themselves at sentence level from day one. In fact, the sentences we are trying to elicit from them are more like how they would speak in their first language.
Designing units and lessons in this way made me realize that when I hand my students a list of vocabulary I am telling them THIS is what we are going to talk about. What I really want is to have a real life conversation with them and I want to encourage them to do the same with their peers. A real life conversation may start with, "How are you?" Ï am tired," but where it ends, who knows?
Finally, you have the ideas for assessments here and learning targets to guide you, so the rest of the journey really depends on what needs you see need meeting from day to day. You will have to scaffold highly at the beginning of the unit, but as the unit progresses you must take that support system away. I think you will find that teaching in this way is not only linked to an authentic resource, but it is authentic language that mimics what they would sound like in L1 and this type of lesson also teaches more than just language. A lesson like this makes them self-reflect and think about their how they deal with emotion, what in life makes them happy and why that is so often a choice.
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