Sunday, August 17, 2014

Giving Classroom Directions in Spanish?

I just got this email from my friend Liz:
Hi Jalen!  I have purchased your new books for level 1 and they look great.  

Hey, I was wondering if you would please describe for me your use of English in the classroom.  It's hard to give directions and such in Spanish for new beginners.  I'm okay with using English, but I'd just like to know what you do.


My response:
Hi Liz!  In levels 1 and 2 I did tend to use a lot of English directions.  Well, all English directions pretty much.  I let the daily skit, the Q&A afterwards, and the page of reading be the bulk of my target language input.  I'm teaching with a colleague now (Carrie) who uses almost exclusively Spanish in levels 1 and 2 and not just with my stories but somehow enforces them asking to go to the bathroom, everything, in Spanish.  This fall she moved classrooms and her door will be facing mine 5 feet away so I plan to spy and learn all her secrets.  (Or maybe I can get her to write a guest blog for me or something.)  Anyway, I still give some directions in English in levels 3, PreAP3, 4, and to be honest AP as well, because maybe I'm lazy or just not skilled in this area or I want to just hurry up and say, "hold up the grammar worksheet so I can see it when I look down your row and check off that you did it" and be done with it.  I will say, the Spanish directions I do give work best when they are repetitive things we always do every day, because then after about 4 class periods or so they know what I’m asking with no explanation.  And, it is my goal to increase my own use of Spanish every year and figure out all the tricks for how to make that work without whole-class-revolt.

I will also say that I have always been happy with how much Spanish my students were learning at levels 1 & 2, and that the main input of skits, questions about the skit, and readings in Spanish is key for language acquisition at those levels; directions in Spanish is probably is not key.  In my opinion.

Hope this helps!


Just to add a note for the upper levels:  in levels 3, PreAP3, and 4, I do ever-increasing amounts of Spanish class discussion in additions to the skits and readings, and in AP the instruction is reading and listening to authentic sources combined with class discussion in Spanish, so maybe this is how I get away with giving directions in English more than I probably should.

Hopefully more later this Fall on how my colleague Carrie maintains so much Spanish in 1 and 2...

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