Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Day 6: Podcasting in the Classroom

After reading the article by Maya Payne Smart and listening to a few podcasts from Mr.Cooley's Literature Circles, I am convinced that podcasting is an effective way for motivating students by allowing them to share their learning experiences. Making their work public motivates students to produce their most creative, meaningful work.  In addition, students can use a wide range of skills to plan, prepare, and record a podcast.  They can work collaboratively to brainstorm ideas, write a script, practice their lines, and edit their work before sharing it with other students and listeners on the web.  The application of all these skills potentially enhances their learning and gives them a sense of pride and ownership.  It can also enhance student engagement and it may be useful for a variety of learning styles.   

In the language classroom, podcasting would be a great opportunity for students to practice their listening skills, their pronunciation, their reading and their writing.  There are lots of possibilities for leading the students into meaningful learning experiences, as Smart points out, and I can see myself using podcasting in my classroom. 

Las estaciones with Bookr

This is such a great idea for creating interesting and fun displays for teaching students vocabulary or for incorporating authentic materials in lessons. I did, however, give up after a while, because it was so slow. Not sure if it was the program itself or if there is a problem with Firefox today!!! Very frustrating!!! If it actually is time consuming, I can not justify using it on a regular basis. In any case, I can see its usefuleness for any language classroom.

Spanish Vocabulary Building Activities

Unit 3: Days, months, seasons and weather

Monday, 30 July 2012

Day 5: Online Translators

Online translators can be a blessing and a curse.  Since different languages have different rules governing grammar and syntax, it is quite difficult to translate from one language to another by using an online translation program.  Although I can see that translation tools can be useful for my students, for instance when translating individual words, problems can arise when translating words and sentences that include idioms, thoughts, sentiments, etc.  Every language is rich and unique in nuances and patterns that cannot be duplicated or reflected by a computer program.  If you're fluent in at least two languages, I'm sure you can think of a phrase in one language that doesn't translate well into another, or if it does, doesn't carry the same feeling, depth or meaning.  Online translators can't make that distinction.  And language students need to understand that, especially when using them in order to lessen their workload.  The article offers teachers some interesting ideas for conveying to students that online translators can distort meaning which results in bad communication. 

Or you could try Bad Translator!  It is a humorous way for showing to students how the end result of online translation can be completely distorted. Here is the link:  


I don't mean to imply, however, that online translators are not a good source of information.  Rather, I am saying that we need to be aware that they  cannot always capture the true meanings of natural language and, thus, we should teach our students to avoid them when looking to translate large chunks of text for projects, essays, etc.  Using the old-fashioned dictionary is a good alternative and more conducive to learning.    

Short Stories for Oral Spanish

This is such a great book for younger or older students, since the stories are fairly easy to read, and applicable not only for oral work but also for a variety of in-class or homework activities.  It's great for practicing pronunciation, introducing vocabulary, introducing or practicing grammatical concepts, etc.  I can use it for my classes as an alternative to the textbook and, if posted on my blog, students can access it for homework purposes or for doing their own reading.  

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Day 4: Reading Matters

One of the ideas that this article emphasizes is the reading of texts with a focus on deciphering context.  This is one of the strategies that I used in reading first in my L2 and then in my L3 in order to understand information from the texts that I read.  As an L2 reader I always looked for contextual clues that could help me predict the meanings of words that I was not familiar with.  This at times became frustrating, as the article also points out, but as I became a more proficient reader, I developed better skills in predicting meaning from contextual clues.  In my L3, deciphering meaning became easier, as I had wider background knowledge from my L1 and L2 to pull from in order to make links with my L3.  The article offers some good ideas for choosing texts and setting the stage for student learning, such as designing reading tasks that allow the students to infer meaning by making predictions from relevant information and text construction.  However, I would have found it useful if it addressed step by step the issue of how a reading lesson should be structured, what elements it should include (e.g, pre-reading, post-reading, and extension tasks), which tasks are best to help students assimilate textual information, and how to increase student motivation or interest.   

Links to Ideas for Teaching with Music and Music Videos in Spanish

Here are some links for teaching with music in Spanish that I have used in the past:

miscositas authentic materials 

canciones para la clase 

spanish music videos  

spanish immersion tv 

A couple of these links also offer listening games and dictionaries, as well as lesson plans for teaching with music, cultural videos and authentic materials for the classroom.  The others are strictly suggestions on videos and artists for teaching specific grammatical concepts with music.  I hope you find them useful!!!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Song and Lyrics

Carlos Vives  “El Amor De Mi Tierra”

Para adorarte con esa locura
que solo tiene el amor de mi tierra.
Para adorarte con esa locura
que sólo tiene el amor de mi tierra.
Voy a regalarte en un beso la luna.
Voy a acariciarte bajo el frío de la Sierra.
Voy a regalarte en un beso la luna.
Voy a acariciarte bajo el frío de la Sierra.

Y te daré una noche
de versos y luceros
como es la noche mía.
La cáscara de besos
de donde bebo a sorbos
tu amor y tu poesía.

Quiero que lleves en ti la vida mía.
Quiero que te llenes del amor de mi tierra.
Quiero que lleves en ti la vida mía.
Que tengo prendida del amor de mi tierra.

Por regalarte el olor de los campos
que solo tiene la flor de mi tierra.
Por regalarte el olor de los campos
que solo tiene la flor de mi tierra.

Voy a robarte en secreto la noche.
Voy a ser tuyo por siempre mi negra.
Voy a robarte en secreto la noche.
Voy a ser tuyo por siempre mi negra.
Seré la brisa fresca
que juega entre tus faldas
y un sol de medio día.
El agua, la corriente,
la música que cantas
cuando te vuelves mía.

Y te daré una noche
de cumbias y luceros
como es la noche mía. La cáscara de besos
de donde bebo a sorbos
tu amor y tu poesía.

Quiero que lleves en ti la vida mía.
Quiero que te llenes del amor de mi tierra.
Quiero que lleves en ti la vida mía.
Que tengo prendida del amor de mi tierra. (bis)

 This Carlos Vives song is good for studying and practicing the voy+a grammatical structure (immediate future).  The song has also a good contrast of the prepositions por and para, beginning in the first verse with para adorarte and in the second with por regalarte and these are also good examples of the infinitive following a preposition in Spanish.  Because of the theme of the song, there’s quite a bit of nature vocabulary: tierra, luna, olor, flor, brisa, sol, campos, agua, corriente, luceros, cascada.  Some cultural elements, too, that can be introduced to the students is the cumbia, music and dance typical of the Caribbean coast of Colombia.

I could utilize this song in my Spanish classes either with fill-in-the-blanks handouts with the missing  song lyrics or with an assembling the cut-out lyrics activity.  It would be a good song for introducing, one of the concepts discussed above, e.g vocabulary, or for practicing those concepts after learning them.   

Using Screenr

Here is my first attempt at using Screenr.  Very useful for the language classroom, since it can have many applications.  The only issue I may have with it is finding material that I can apply it to.  

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Day 3: Teaching culture in a FL classroom

Barry Tomalin's article and some of the responses to it resonate with my experiences in teaching a foreign language and my struggle to incorporate and teach culturally relevant material in my lessons.  In my opinion, the teacher's attitude and enthusiasm in exploring and learning about different countries and cultures will inspire the students to enquire and learn about other cultures themselves and will enhance their learning.  Understanding a language involves not only learning its phonology and vocabulary but also certain features and characteristics of the culture.  If we want learners to master a foreign language, we need to help them become communicatively competent as much as possible.  I believe that successful learning of a foreign language involves not only using grammatically correct vocabulary and forms but also when to use them and under what circumstances.  In other words, language learning should involve not only communicative competence but also cultural competence.  Classroom textbooks are usually a good resource for developing and teaching culturally relevant topics, such as the daily life of peers in the designated cultural group, their family, their habits, etc.  In looking back, I always supplemented the textbook information with doing research that would facilitate my classroom lectures and discussions about similarities or differences between the culture in question and Canadian culture or by prompting the students to do their own research, as part of their homework or of a larger project.  I found that my students were always enthusiastic in learning about those similarities or differences and developed an increased curiosity about the language itself.  In this sense, I strongly disagree with Barry Tomalin that culture should be taught as "a 5th language skill".  Language cannot be separated from the culture in which it is deeply embedded.  If language learners are to communicate at a personal level with individuals from other cultural backgrounds, they will need to understand not only the language at work, but also the culture that drives the behaviours and activities of those individuals.

Youtube Video for teaching regular -ar verbs in Spanish

Here is the link for a cool Youtube video for teaching regular -ar verb conjugations.  It was created by students in the United States as a final project for their Spanish class.  I can be used it after teaching the verb conjugations.  This video is appropriate for a variety of learning styles, from visual to auditory to musical, and students would love the upbeat music as well.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Day 2: The pros and cons of video use in the language classroom

Being a visual learner myself, I understand the importance of addressing the needs of different types of learners in our language classrooms.  Having the visual accompany the aural is very important in any learning environment or context. In my L2 and L3 contexts, I always look for visual cues to support speech perception. In addition, by watching movies in my L2 and L3 I managed to enhance my communicative abilities with the addition of vocabulary not available in textbooks.  If questions arise regarding the usefuleness of video materials in the language classroom, I believe that they pertain to questions that teachers may have with regard to using video materials most effectively in order to enhance students' listening and communication skills.  Since language teaching programs usually do not address strategies in using video based materials, teachers may be reluctant in integrating them in their teaching repertoire.  At the same time, the concern that simultaneous processing of visual and auditory information may be overburdening for the students is quite valid.  In any case, I believe that authentic video materials are very important in the language classroom where interactions with native speakers are limited.  They can help expose students to cultural contexts, values and attitudes, varied language, such as voice and dialects other than their teacher's, and also provide a rich source for classroom discussion and communication. That is not to say that video can replace all other types of language exposure.  Reading, writing and communicative activities with peers are equally important.  However, given the fact that students have been using visual based technology in their everyday lives more extensively, the use of video in the language classroom should become an integral teaching component.   


Lesson warmer or hook created with Voki

One of the things that I struggled with during my practicum, was creating appropriate warmers or hooks for my Spanish class.  In exploring the different possibilities for listening opportunities for my students, I discovered Voki and created an audio sample.  Audio samples can be used as hooks in order to reintroduce content and vocabulary in my daily lessons.  Having the ease of choosing the audio that accompanies each video is really important with this type of listening activity, since I can choose the video characters' utterances to reflect the contexts and contents of my lessons.  

This audio sample can be found at:

Audio recording

Audio recording and upload >>

Day 1: Teaching Listening

"Listening strategies in the L2 classroom: more practice, less testing" brought me back to my language learning experiences and to the ways that I practiced listening in my language lab classes, mostly with listening drills.  It also reminded me of the teachings of the Communicative Language Approach which focuses on the information-processing model and breaks it down to the three different phases, as explained in detail by Cecilia Aponte-de-Hanna.  However, although the article focuses heavily on the cognitive processes of listening, deciphering, and storing information, it does not mention the effects of the listener's background knowledge, the advantage of collaborative listening situations, and the importance of visual cues in the processing of the L2.  At the same time, while the author talks about strategies of listening practice, the strategies  mentioned are hardly a summation of the endless listening situations a teacher can create in the classroom.  Through my own experience, I am aware that the classroom is hardly ideal for developing listening skills, but it is nonetheless a good starting point where the teacher can create a learning environment that manipulates and expands the students' exposure to aural language.  Interactions among the students and the teacher allow the students to develop interpersonal skills (listening and speaking) and to use communication strategies, such as asking questions or asking for clarification, that support the comprehension process.  In any case, I agree with the author in that listening skills should always be addressed and integrated in the curriculum at all stages of instruction, because, they "empower[] the learner".  And I think that one of the points that this article intends to make is that the teacher's choices and design of listening tasks play a key role in the L2 learners' success or failure.  

Some interesting links on Teaching Listening in CLT: