Extra Credit: Lazy Days of Summer- Resources for your Spanish Classroom
Lazy Days of Summer?
You’ve finished the school year and a few well-deserved weeks of vacation sparkle in front of you. Maybe you’re planning on some leisurely days by the pool or on the beach. Maybe you’ve traded the teacher’s hat for a chauffeur’s cap as you jockey your kids to their summer activities. Or maybe you have to take some classes to maintain your certification or to earn an advanced degree. Here are some suggestions that can help you with your classes, help you reach students who have a variety of challenges, and help you build your skills. They may even be…fun.
The choice of classes specifically for world language teachers is not always ample. In fact, outside of advanced degree programs, you may have little to no choice. Another option is to take technology courses. There are so many tech tools that we can use in our classes, but they can be intimidating to those of us who are something much less than tech-savvy. Look for something that will be useful or a class that will build your skills in new technologies and teaching tools. If smart boards are something that you haven’t used or haven’t used much, bone up on those skills because those smart boards are popping up in more schools each year. These classes can help you utilize this tool to the limits of your creativity. It’s not just a screen for a Power Point presentation. Explore eBook options and what they can do for your classes. Take classes that can help you and your students utilize the Internet effectively and safely. Look into web design which is something you can use to create even better web pages and assist students in creating web pages for their classes.
If you feel fairly tech-savvy, consider taking a reading class. Although the classes are geared to developing your skills teaching literacy in English, those skills are very transferable to Spanish teachers. Literacy strategies are rarely, if ever, part of world language education programs—but they should be. We do have students that have reading issues and these classes can help us address them. We can also learn how to make reading an even more meaningful part of our lessons. We can ensure that our students are comprehending what they are reading and help them develop their critical thinking skills by guiding them through simple comprehension questions, to inferring, to synthesizing the information they have read. Using these strategies, of which many of your students may already employ in English, will also help students see that skills and content in one class can also be pertinent and useful in others.
One of the most beneficial classes I took as part of keeping my certification current was a special education course. The course was actually intended for teachers who were not specifically special education or special needs teachers. I learned strategies to accommodate a variety of students with special needs and also how to identify students who may be special needs. When it came time to sign off on IEPs, I had a better grasp of what those “accommodations”—which were not always specified, entailed. I have to say that it was time well spent and I felt that I was more effectively helping my students. And after all, that’s what I was there to do.
Another possibility is doing some volunteer work within the Latino community. Any volunteering is so worthwhile, but utilizing your Spanish skills could be a huge boon to the organization you work with and can also provide you with a rewarding experience as well as some connections to Spanish-speaking people in your community. Why do I say work with the Latino population rather than something else? First of all, your teaching skills and experience can be extremely useful to the organization. Secondly, for those of us who are not native or heritage speakers, it is a good way to keep your “chops”. Lastly, you could be connecting with people who may be excellent guest speakers, who can put you “in the loop” for community activities which can interest both you and your students, and who can provide opportunities for your students and the youth the organization serves to meet and get to know each other. Again, from personal experience, I found that by volunteering at our local Hispanic Community Center I not only met some wonderful people and could help some wonderful people whether it was with immigration papers, government bureaucracy, enrolling their kids in school, or teaching English, but I was able to have a number of people come to my classes and take my students to festivals and fairs which they really enjoyed. Working in a mostly white school district, these relationships I built from volunteering helped contextualize what the kids in learned in class, but more importantly, erased some of the sense of “us vs. them” which can be so damaging. Who knows? Maybe some of your students will follow in your footsteps.
Recharging Your Batteries
Whatever you choose to do with your time, be sure to take some time for yourself. Summer was my time to read, something I dearly love to do. Catch up on contemporary authors, reread classics, or unfamiliar works from old friends. It’s amazing how much you might appreciate that novel you struggled through or even hated when you had to read it as an undergrad. More life experience and less pressure can make a huge difference. I had to read Rayuela as a sophomore and loathed it. I read it again ten years later and loved it. I got it, finally.
For many of us, summer means travel. When you travel, if you don’t already do this, remember that nearly ANYTHING can be useful for your classes. Don’t overlook very portable items such as menus, advertising posters, newspapers (while we still have printed ones), receipts, clothing tags, flyers, the limit is your imagination. Realia is realia. And realia is really good. Obviously photos are also another great help, don’t be shy—just don’t use flash. Some of my favorite and my students’ favorite things were all kinds of Día de los Muertos things I got when a family member was visiting San Antonio. By the way, if you don’t have any travel plans but know someone who does, enlist their help. They often come back with a treasure trove. By the way, when you are travelling and pick up realia along with your souvenirs, it never hurts to mention that you are a teacher and are looking for things to use in your class. I have gotten quite a few little bonuses or even discounts because of that. Hey, it never hurts to try!
So there are a few ideas for you. You may already have done them, maybe not. If you have some ideas, please let us know so we can share them here at the Plaza. Enjoy your summer and relax! School is just around the corner…but not just yet.
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