Not a Research Paper

I can’t believe how long it’s been since my last post! I feel like it was just last week, but my life’s been so busy, both in and out of school, that time has flown! Things are starting to settle down and I’m starting to get excited for Christmas!

Last year, I assigned my Spanish 3 students a research project. They each researched an influential person from Spanish or Latin America and completed a pretty standard assignment – a presentations and a report. I gave them lots of time in class to work on the projects, and tried to take the first few minutes of class to talk about a different historical figure (who no one was assigned to) so that they would get some input and information during class. It also served as an example of what they should do when their turn came.

In general, I hate presentations. In general, I have a really hard time listening to people read, and memorized speech is almost as bad. I have never successfully listened to a book on tape. There’s just something about the rhythm of someone reading or reciting that I just can’t focus on. So the presentations last year were rough. I knew I didn’t want to do that again. I also knew that I didn’t want my students to write reports this year.

So instead, I assigned them to create books. I originally called them children’s books, because my idea was that they would have pictures and relatively little text per page. Ultimately, it’s hard to write a “children’s book” about Pablo Escobar, so maybe that wasn’t a great title, but I still like this idea better overall.

Additionally, this year, rather than creating presentations for the kids, I searched the internet for infographics about influential people in Hispanic history. My goal was to use these as a jumping-off point for discussions as a class. Since there are only 8 students in Spanish 3 this year, and I’ve been struggling to get them to talk to me, I thought this might be a good option. And they’re learning a little about important parts of Latin American and Spanish history and culture at the same time.

Man, is it ever difficult to get kids to talk! This group is made up of 8 good students. They were attentive and (I think) interested in the people we talked about, but in the end, there was not nearly as much interaction as I wanted. I’m not sure if it’s because the kids don’t have the language to answer my questions or if they’re just naturally quiet. Regardless, the infographics didn’t lead to as much discussion as I would have liked, and I found myself filling the silence with my own opinions, thoughts, and observations. Great input, but not doing much for their ability to produce.

Next time, I’m going to try to do more pre-planning of discussion questions, rather than just trying to go off of the topic at hand, but I’m really looking forward to trying again with a group next year that 1) has a year of communicating in Spanish under their belts and 2) is a generally more outgoing group (depending on who chooses to stick with me for another year, of course).

I haven’t had a chance to look at their final products yet, but I saw their drafts several time over the last week or so. I think I’m going to be pretty pleased with the outcomes. Now I just have to find a way to get these kids to talk a little more. What do you do with particularly quiet classes?

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