Day of the dead; day of the living

By Diego Ojeda
www.srojeda.com
@diegoojeda66

Celebrations such as the Day of the Dead allow us, Spanish teachers, to reflect on the purpose of our classes. Do we teach Spanish so that our students learn to decode the language? Or is it also our responsibility to teach about culture? A language is not only its syntax, but also its semantics, and it is semantics combined with cultural expressions that allows us to find the ultimate meaning of each interaction.

The Day of the Dead is one of those celebrations that can cause problems for more than one Spanish teacher. In Western European culture, death is a dreary, sad and sometimes even forbidden topic.

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Beyond the piñatas: An authentic celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month

By Diego Ojeda
www.srojeda.com
@diegoojeda66

It was my first year of teaching Spanish in the United States when just a few weeks after I started the school year one of my colleagues approached me and asked me about my plans to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. I confess that I was a bit perplexed because I had never heard about this celebration. For a moment I thought she was referring to Día de la Raza, a celebration of Latin American countries where we honor our roots and our identity.  But I soon realized that we were in September and that Día de la Raza is celebrated on October 12, the same date of the federal holiday that celebrates the life of the man who left so much poverty and sadness after the “discovery” of America.

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The power of authentic resources

By Ed Weiss

During my teaching career, I always had a true affinity for the use of authentic materials.  All the research indicates that student proficiency increases with exposure to a variety of authentic materials.  Perhaps even more compelling than the research, is the memory of my secondary education.  My teachers were well trained and had clearly mastered the language, but those were the days of grammar-centric world language classes.  Verb conjugations and vocabulary lists were featured aspects of instruction.  My only memories of authentic materials were posters from Air France and SNCF and the weekly arrival of Paris Match magazine.  The tasks that we were assigned were essentially decontextualized sentences accompanied by verb form drills.  The curriculum was primarily based on mastery of forms with minimal real life applications of language skills.  From a student perspective, we didn’t know any better.  We couldn’t envision an intercultural, multimedia course with internet access to enrich and connect with students.  Our teachers were limited by their lack of resources and the pedagogical philosophy of that era. 

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It’s a risk worth taking: Helping students overcome their fear of mistakes

By Elena Spathis
@ElenaSpathis

As a high school Spanish teacher I often ask myself: would my students feel comfortable using the target language with a complete stranger in a foreign country? Or would they feel paralyzed by their fear of saying something incorrectly? As a perfectionist myself, I can relate to many of my students who hesitate or who always “play it safe” in fear of making a mistake. But in order to see our students really use the language successfully and authentically, we must encourage risk-taking in our world language classrooms. We need to put the right supports in place and equip our students with the ability and willingness to use the language in real contexts—errors and all.

So how can we encourage risk-taking?

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Salvador Dalí meets Lady Gaga: Art and culture in the language classroom

By Cecilia Herrera

The role of emotion has been referenced in language acquisition theory for decades. One of the most effective ways to elicit emotion-driven learning in language classes is through the universal medium of art. Unfortunately, visual art appears too often as a haphazard add-on or a decorative afterthought to other types of cultural content. If you feel like you lack time or resources to successfully include art in your lessons, keep reading for ideas on types of artwork and artists that will engage your high school students and promote relevant cultural learning.

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How fewer, intentional goals will make you a happier, better language teacher

By Meredith White
@PRHSpanish

On social media #goals is usually shorthand for: “Wow, I’d really like to do that, too.” As teachers, we are used to setting goals: I want my students to be able to ___ by ___; by December I need to have ___; this year I’m really going to ____; the list goes on. But, what if our goal was, shockingly… to have fewer goals?

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Activities that help create a safe classroom space

By Angelika Becker
@diebestefrau

At the beginning of the school year I like to ignore the old advice “don’t smile before Thanksgiving” and start with a big smile on my face and a lot of community building. Students need to know that my classroom is a safe place to learn and that it is okay to make mistakes; they need to know that I care about each and every individual student and they need to know that their classmates will be supportive.

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Summer: A time to pause, a time to plan

By Elena Spathis
@ElenaSpathis

Teachers all over the world face a similar dilemma: how to regroup during the summer while still taking small steps to prepare for the new school year? What can we do to avoid that anxious rush at the start of the new school year?

Thinking ahead and planning gradually with a clear mind can make all the difference once the hustle and bustle of your school routine kicks in. In the case that you are assigned to teach new courses for the first time, the first month of school may seem like a complete blur. You may even start to feel like a brand-new teacher again!

Here are some steps that will help you prepare for the upcoming year without breaking a sweat.

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5 tips for making the most of online learning communities

By Ashley Uyaguari
@profeashley

During my first year teaching, I remember feeling very alone. My department wasn’t supportive, I didn’t have a mentor, I didn’t have anyone to inspire me. It was exhausting pulling everything out from myself to do my best every day. Alone. That cup empties quickly.

How many of you have felt like an island as you did your planning, grading, and relationship building with your students?

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