That Tricky Community “C” - Free Resources for Spanish Teachers
The ACTFL standards are an excellent guide for us to be sure to teach what we should and to give some consistency of teaching throughout the country. They are thoughtful standards when compared to those in other disciplines. They are broad enough to cover all kinds of information, skills, and activities. The Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons are easy enough and can be met frequently and meaningfully. But that Communities C…that can be a tricky one to meet on a regular basis. I’m referring to the strand that says use the language beyond the school setting. The other part of that strand says within the school setting, that’s relatively easy. But how can we provide opportunities for our kids to use Spanish beyond the four walls of the classroom AND be meaningful AND know that it is happening?
One way to get to that elusive C is to create e-pal accounts for your students. If you haven’t checked out this option, the web site is at www.epals.com. It is designed for K-12 students and is a SAFE forum for them. It’s FREE! Not only can your students connect to other Spanish-speaking students, but you can work with teachers all over the world to collaborate on projects. Did I mention it is specifically for students and teachers? This is not a promotion for e-pals, but it is one way to meet that standard in a way that will be safe for your students.
Why do I recommend something like this? Well, often these exchanges via computer can get even the most hesitant students more engaged with their language learning. That affective filter that can prevent a student from progressing, from taking risks using the language, from enjoying learning the language is often lowered when students work with peers and have a one-on-one exchange with another person via emails, blogs, or wikis. Several students have shown that students are willing to take the risks and feel more at ease without the perceived pressures of a classroom. Along with this benefit, e-pals can also provide students with rich first-hand cross-cultural experiences. The language becomes even more personalized because that is how he or she “talks” to a friend. A student who was timid using the language may feel more self-confident, not just about using Spanish, but also about him or herself. That’s a pretty good bonus, especially for our middle school students who are constantly battling with self-image.
What do you do to meet that tricky Communities C? What has worked well for you and where have you had challenges? Let’s get as much feedback as we can so we can help each other out. So we can meet our own Communities C!
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