It’s a strange time of year. We’re close to the end of the school year, and it’s graduation testing time, so for 3 days a week for 3 weeks, we’re on shortened schedules, with 2 normal days mixed in. Add prom on top of that, and I have a perfect storm of inattentive and worn out students. On the other hand, I am strangely unaffected by the impending finals – it just doesn’t feel like the end of the year yet, so I’m still going pretty strong.
In Spanish 2, we (finally) wrapped up Felipe Alou, which was a great unit, but now I have time for just one more unit before we’re done for the summer. Last year, I was pretty happy with a travel unit I did in Spanish 2, and decided to do something similar – what better way to end the school year than talking about vacation? I’ll admit – another reason I chose a travel unit was because Amy Lenord recently posted some really activity ideas and resources that made my life easy.
In her post, Amy mentions that she started her unit talking about the benefits of traveling, which I thought was a great idea and a good way to ease into some of the related vocabulary. First, I sent my students to Trip Advisor‘s vacation inspiration page in Spanish (if you change the .es you can get other languages!). What a great, comprehensible, personal way to start things out! After they took the quiz, I had them get into groups and “plan” a trip (Where? When? Why? With whom? How to travel? What to do?).
The next day, I sent them to an infographic about the benefits of travel and had them talk and brainstorm about more. I also gave them several different video options to watch, also about the benefits of travel. I gave them links with a brief description about the kind of language, accents, speed, difficulty, etc. that they would find in each video. I asked them to watch at least 2 until they felt that they more or less understood what was going on. (I should have given them a graphic organizer to guide them but, confession time, until about a week ago I honestly didn’t know what a graphic organizer was or how to create or use one. Seriously, this tool that people talk about all the time, that I’ve heard about many times in different contexts, and I didn’t have a grasp on what it actually was. #embarrassed)
Next, I asked them to get in groups and brainstorm some more – some comparisons of the videos and infographic, their own ideas about the benefits of travel. My end goal was to have them record themselves convincing their mom (who could this be that’s more authentic?) to let them go on a trip. In theory, I know that writing is a good step before speaking, but it seems so boring to me to say, “write a paragraph about this,” and then, a day later “now record yourself talking about that,” and I wanted to find something a little more interesting.
For once, I actually had a good idea to answer that dilemma. I had them create their own infographics about the benefits of travel specifically for teens using Piktochart. Several kids sent me links, and the ones I saw were great, but I didn’t give them a whole lot of time in class (due to testing) and honestly, I was more concerned about this as a stepping stone to their speaking, so I didn’t push to have them all “turned in.”
Today, at the beginning of class, I had them get into groups and (once again) discuss the benefits of travel. I told them they’d have about 8 minutes and then we would be doing something else. While they were talking, I projected the prompt for their speaking. Some groups noticed and took some “extra” prep time (I’m so sneaky), but I pointed it out after a couple of minutes for those groups who didn’t notice at first.
This is the least complaining I have ever had about a speaking assignment. The kids could clearly see how what we’ve been doing for the last week lead directly into this assignment. It’s amazing how willing kids are to work when they feel like they’re following a logical pattern and it’s clear how things connect. (This isn’t a new idea to me, just the best I’ve managed to implement it).
Their recordings? Well, I identified some areas where I can improve to make them better, but all things considered, I thought they went really well. A couple of girls took the prompt to a new level that would never have occurred to me – instead of talking just to their mom, they recorded together, convincing both of their moms together (I mean, isn’t this what kids actually do!?). They were the first to finish and told me their idea right away, so I extended the option to the rest of the class. Most kids chose it. I liked it because it wasn’t them recording their own (practiced) conversation – it was a real situation where presentational communication might be used. It also made the kids more comfortable and relaxed to work with someone.
One other thing that I feel like I should have figured out long ago: ONE slide show for the whole unit. With all the links, all the activities. Really good for keeping me in order and on track.
So, if you sometimes feel like you’re figuring things out that you should have known long ago, or if you’re realizing things and then feeling embarrassed that you didn’t make that simple connection ages ago – you’re not alone. Go at your speed, do what works for you, and be committed to growth – both yours and your students’.