El mundo de Sra. Brown

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3D Family Trees

Family

I have my sixth grade students practice their family vocabulary by building three-tiered family trees using the chairs and tables in our classroom.  Grandparents stand on the tables, parents on the chairs and children sit cross-legged on the floor.  This year I borrowed one of my colleagues handmade puppets so that the students would get a better visual of the age and gender of the family vocabulary words.  It was also fun to include a pet dragon in the family.

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Why Culture Part Two

I am incredibly lucky to have Callie Rabe, an extraordinary teacher, as a colleague and mentor.  Because she used to have my position as a middle school teacher, she is able to give me great insight on what is developmentally appropriate for each level that I teach.  As I say to anyone who will listen, all of my best teaching ideas come directly from Señora Rabe.  This year, I’ve implemented her Culture Points project with my students.

Culture Points is an independent project where students have the opportunity to connect themes of Spanish language and Spanish-speaking cultures to an area of personal interest or passion.  I give the students a list of ideas for things they might do being sure to let them know that these are only suggestions.  Students then fill out a Culture Points contract which explains what they are planning to learn and how they will present their learning to their peers.  Their project is graded on this rubric criteria.

AC Rocks

I have been really impressed with the unique and interesting projects that have been presented so far this year.  At the top of this post, you see a student perform his rendition of José Feliciano’s “Feliz navidad” to our small class.  Above, you see one student’s drawing Blue and White Day, one of our school’s signature traditions, in the style of the great Mexican artist Jose Guadalupe Posada.  He told me, “Señora, I couldn’t color in the t-shirts blue because all of Posada’s drawings are in black and white.”  Other projects have included students taping themselves ordering food in Spanish to a native speaker in a Mexican restaurant as well as a “Name That Tune” style gameshow where students had to guess the English language song that a Spanish language cover tune was based on.


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Gingerbread International House

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This year my school added a residential component to it’s already robust international program.  Ten ninth and tenth grade boys from China moved into a building adjacent to our campus and attend classes and participate in our sports programs.  As a way of welcoming them and introducing them to some of our holiday traditions, upper schoolers created a gingerbread house to be put on display at the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY.

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AC Upper School students met six times throughout October to design and construct a gingerbread house for the annual Sweet Creations silent auction at the George Eastman House. Students worked together to create a representation of the school that integrates AC traditions with elements from the home countries of our international students.

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The finished project includes flags from the United States, China, Korea, Norway, and Nepal as well as the school name written in both English and Chinese. A wolf-drawn sleigh driven by a panda in a Santa suit tops off the display. The house will be exhibited through December 12 at the George Eastman House. Thank you to parent Lori Colella, who generously contributed her time and expertise to the project. Click here to see more photos.

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Why Culture?

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Why Culture?

Sometimes in the day-to-day rush of a world language classroom culture can seem like an optional kind of icing on the cake: great for the Friday after a test or the day before Thanksgiving break.

The fantastic Isabelle Jones, a language teacher in the UK, recently posted this study to her Twitter stream. It outlines how a student’s attitude toward the target culture profoundly affects their language acquisition progress. This highlights to me that teaching culture deserves equal footing with grammar and vocabulary because it gives them context, affect and real-world meaning.

This year my middle school students recognized Mexico’s Day of the Dead by making their own ofrenda and decorating it with papel picado. We talked about the contrasting treatment of death by American and Mexican culture and students made personal connections to the traditions of the holiday.

I knew the lesson had stuck a few weeks later when students were completing a writing prompt to list all of the family members attending their Thanksgiving Day feast. One student asked, “Can we also put relatives that have passed away and that we want to come back to share our meal?”

Make the Vocabulary Stick!

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Make the Vocabulary Stick!

In a time of ever-increasing ways to access, present and recombine information, it is easy to forget tried and true pre-digital classroom tools. This recent post inspired me to bring back the sticky note!

Students made a peek-a-boo vocabulary list of places using small sticky notes and then timed themselves trying to match them. Then they made sequence schedules of places they were going to go during a trip around the city, narrating them to the rest of the class. Finally, they grouped the places into verb circles–for instance places you could RUN or places you could READ or places you could CLIMB.

It was so much fun that I overlooked the unauthorized use of sticky notes to simulate facial hair.

Hispanic Heritage Month

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Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage month runs from September 15th to October 15th each year. I am lucky to be able to collaborate with the Upper School Spanish teacher at my school to create a bulletin board displayed in the dining commons of our school where students from kindergarten to twelfth grade can see it.

It’s important for me to discuss the historic and growing influence that the Latin diaspora has on our national identity. Hispanic heritage is all of our heritage and I want my students to connect with it. I have my students listen to stories of American Latinos in English and in Spanish. I also discuss with them the growing political influence of latinos in the United States. We examined La Voz, our city’s Spanish newspaper and discussed events celebrating Hispanic Heritage happening around our community.

Sixth and seventh graders looked at census data compiled by the Pew Center showing the geographic distribution and country of origin of Latinos in the United States. Students then marked a large map with the areas of greatest concentration and the countries of origin of the population. The Spanish I class wrote mini-bios of famous Latinamericans, including profession, nationality, and descriptive adjectives. Meanwhile, Spanish III students researched and compiled regional expressions used in different Spanish-speaking countries. In addition, photos of Latinos in our school community were posted along with their names and where they or their families are from.