Standards-Based Teaching and Instructional Materials in the Spanish as a Foreign Language Classroom

Dr. David McAlpine University of Arkansas at Little Rock

The students in my Methods of Teaching Second Language class don’t believe me when I tell them that my best Spanish teaching experience in forty years was in a middle school classroom! It’s true! Those of you just beginning your career in a middle school will soon learn this, and those of you who are middle school “lifers” already know that these youngsters in grades 5-8 respond to content that is connected to their everyday lives and to instruction that actively involves them in the learning process. Your middle school Spanish students may show higher competencies in the three modes of communication than many of their high school counterparts because of their openness to learning new concepts, their curiosity about themselves and others, and their unabashed willingness to be a part of real-life situations.

How can the Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century help create an engaging atmosphere for middle school students? Let’s look at the 5Cs and try to draw some classroom ideas from them.

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Restaurant Visit Activity

Andrea Roberson

Students can learn a lot about the different cultures around the Spanish-speaking world by visiting the restaurants in your community where Spanish is spoken. At the beginning of each school year, I challenged my students to find and visit these restaurants. Of course, I offered extra credit if the students brought in a receipt and wrote one paragraph essays detailing their experience, but my students were happy to learn about the culture, so they did it for their personal enjoyment and not the extra credit (at least that’s what I like to think).

Now that I look back at the extra credit I gave out, I realized the kids mostly went to Mexican restaurants. Yes, Mexican food is delicious and yes, it is a Spanish-speaking country, but we want our students to look beyond Mexico and gain some experiences from other Spanish-speaking countries. And we want to remind students that food is a great way to incorporate cultures from the Spanish-speaking world into our everyday lives.

So I think I’d like to issue another CHALLENGE:

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No Bake Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

By: Andrea Roberson

No Bake Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

Yields: 24 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked rice

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 2 cups cocoa powder
  • ½ cup flour
  • 8 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

Directions:

  • Combine rice, peanut butter, coconut, 1 cup cocoa powder, flour, 4 tablespoons cinnamon, chili powder, cayenne, and brown sugar in a blender or food processor. Pulse until all the ingredients are well combined and stick to the sides of the bowl.

  • Use a small scoop or a tablespoon to form the mixture into small balls.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the remaining cocoa power and cinnamon. Roll the balls into cocoa powder and cinnamon.
  • Place the balls on a sheet pan, two inches apart, and flatten. Refrigerate for at least two hours.

Teaching Vocabulary and Grammar Using Authentic Literary Texts and Other Reading Selections

Dr. Emily Spinelli Executive Director, American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese. Professor Emerita of Spanish, University of Michigan-Dearborne

For many years the foreign language profession viewed the teaching of language and the teaching of literature as two very separate and distinct activities. At all educational levels the reading of literary texts was often seen as a task that only very advanced students could undertake. As a result, the early years of instruction were generally devoted to learning the language so that students could study literature in upper-level courses.

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Teaching and Learning: Language and Culture

Janet Glass Dwight Englewood School, Englewood, New Jersey

Rutgers University

Alfred Nobel’s Peace Prize wished to reward, “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations.” What could be more critical today? As teachers of world languages, our medium is language but our message is one of cultural ambassador. Besides, what is more intriguing to a student than to learn how to make a new friend from another culture, to enter another world? This motivation is what stimulates our students’ curiosity and helps them master the language. But once hooked, how can we make the most of their interest?

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The Importance of Embedding Culture into the Teaching of Foreign Languages

 Dr. Peter B.  Swanson

Georgia State University

For years it has been noted that language teaching and learning are social processes and that the teaching of language is the teaching of culture. Thanasoulas (2001) suggests that culture and communication are inseparable because “culture not only dictates who talks to whom, about what, and how the communication proceeds, it also helps to determine how people encode messages, the meanings they have for messages, and the conditions and circumstances under which various messages may or may not be sent, noticed, or interpreted.”

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Meeting the Needs of all Students in FLES Classrooms: A Call for Differentiated Instruction

Dr. Frances S. Hoch

Raleigh, North  Carolina

The FLES (Foreign Languages in the Elementary Schools) program model is designed to provide a sequential language learning experience to all students. Access and equity lead the list of characteristics that the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign  Languages (ACTFL) has designated for effective elementary school programs. ACTFL states: “All students, regardless of learning styles, achievement levels, race/ethnic origin, socioeconomic status, home language or future academic goals, have opportunities for language study.”

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The Spanish Language of the United States

Gerardo Piña-Rosales, The North American Academy of Spanish Language

First of all, dear reader, let us focus on the title of this essay: "The Spanish Language of the United States" instead of "The Spanish Language in the United States." The difference between these two propositions is an essential one: it implies that we have begun to speak of a United Stated Spanish with its own characteristics, as one more of the multiple variants of the Spanish language spoken around the world.

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Motivation

Jan Kucerik, Pinellas County Public Schools, Pinellas County, Florida

A 7th grade student known to his Spanish teacher as "Juanito" ambles reluctantly into his beginning Spanish classroom. He greets the teacher, not with an enthusiastic "Buenos días, señora," but instead with the question on the mind of many of his classmates, "What are we doing in here today?" Although we would like to believe that the question has been posed out of genuine interest in the classroom activities, we realize that Juanito's question is motivated by self-preservation. He worries that he might be unprepared for, or embarrassed by, the activities Señora has planned for today.

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