Why I started January 21, 2009Posted by mrsmerritt in Getting Started, Lessons Learned.
In the 2007-2008 school year I had 4 native Spanish speakers in one my conversation Spanish level 1 classes, and lower numbers in the others. When I say conversational Spanish I don’t mean learning to say hola, ¿dónde está el baño? followed by a semester of article and adjective agreement. I mean conversational Spanish every day, all day, 180 school days of the year. It really isn’t the appropriate place for a native Speaker. They should be learning about Spanish literature, grammar and technical vocabulary. That’s not what I teach. Additionally, my class is not required. I teach in middle school and foreign language is an elective. For half a decade native speakers have been electing my class because they want an easy class. I don’t fault them that, it is human nature.
Every school year I have vowed that during the summer I would find some self directed grammar based program for future native speakers. You know how that always works out.
Then during meet the teacher night the week before the 2008-2009 school year it hit me. I can make them read. In their heritage language. And do reading projects of some kind. This would be the year. Who knows why it was that year that I picked to be different.
Well, school was starting and I didn’t have anything ready. I did have some Blaine Ray readers with accompanying worksheets etc. I was desperate. I just was not going to let another half dozen native speakers sleep through another year. In my opinion they were sitting in seats that could be filled by second language learners. Learners who would actually learn something. If my second language learns were going to be straining a brain cell every day to follow our storytelling, then the native speakers who were filling seats were going to strain a brain cell also.
As it happens my school district is really into differentiated learning and would not only support my idea, but herald it.
So, the first week native speakers worked with the class. The second week I gave each student a different Blaine Ray reader and accompanying packet. Meanwhile I was all over amazon.com. I was everywhere on line. I have a post here about best sources for books.
I went through my personal library. I had some Junie B Jones and Casa del Árbol books. I spent every spare waking moment reading Spanish books and making questions chapter by chapter.
That’s why I started. At some point early on I realized I really should start a blog so that I could share my work, thoughts and lessons learned with other teachers who may be facing similar situations.