Saturday, April 11, 2009

wonderful week

There is so much to talk about this week. It was the first week of the new quarter, the last quarter. For some kids the last quarter is a "slow down" or "review" of materials...but in Spanish it's the hardest quarter. All the play, all the exploring, all the ideas and products that have been batted around, produced, it is time to bring it all together and make sense of it. I think that a long time of "play" in the language takes away most of the fear of "learning grammar". It is hard to learn grammar from a worksheet but play with it, see it, use it without penalty for a long time...and now let's see what we know about it.

So...freshmen and sophomores...doing the Integrated Performance Assessment on Diversity Day. I learned about the IPA at FLAME and have gone into it full-throttle with the kids. And...guess what!!! They are making sense of a senior level essay bit by bit and it makes sense to them! I heard squeals of delight this week, ah ha's, I got it, wow this makes sense. As much as possible in the interpretive portion of the task, I am modeling my own cognition of the material because I want them to see how I make the connections. Of course, I make the connections naturally because I have acquired this language to a great degree, but I am backing up and pointing out how and why I connect the dots.

Something else...instead of circle time like we usually have, I have been having each class of freshmen and sophomores gather round my teacher desk as if it were a campfire. I assemble the kids so they are right in front of me and practically elbow-to-elbow. Some kids are not keen on this and they are on the edges, which is fine with me. But there are some kids who eagerly sit not two feet from me, faces smiling, ready for this type of attention. We do interpretive tasks (without penalty for wrong answers) and then I model the interpretation and give the "correct" answers. Kids are so happy when they get something right!

I am using graphic organizers like crazy and requiring them to b bring all their notes each time. To motivate them we have started a 100% club on the board. Everyone there, all the pieces of the IPA there, something to write with. Get it all ten times in a row and I will gladly bake you all some cupcakes.

My sophomores, with slightly more experience, are having different conversations than the freshmen. They love that this is social and collaborative and not graded. (The graded task is the third task--so tons of scaffolding!)

My juniors have been kicking butt with their cooking units. They all did so well with the framework and scaffolding. I have to thank E. from my senior class for this. She developed a packet that laid it all out step by step--this was her midterm project. The kids have been using her framework to make sense of it and they will all cook this last quarter. They too will do the IPA and will also watch a film this quarter, so it is packed to the gills.

It's my seniors that REALLY MADE ME SMILE this week. I cannot believe the joy they bring me, the depths of their conversations with me. This week--get this--ALL OF MY KIDDOS spoke to me IN SPANISH with a wonderful degree of fluency and confidence. I cannot take credit for this, but I will say that when I introduced their final project, I basically told them how very proud I was of them, how wonderful and unique each of them are, and how intelligent and how creative they have shown themselves to be over and over and over.

The final project? They have to create a framework for a final product and presentation of their choice. Six weeks work time, one week presentation time, and the last two weeks of finals and pomp and circumstance will be when I celebrate them! Having R., from Venezuela, gives us a great excuse to party and celebrate.

Each student came up with wonderful ideas...and when they realized it could be ANYTHING, just through the lens of Spanish language, they took off with these ideas. And they are revising as they go.

To date:
A family album, including ancient real estate records, of one camp on Webb Lake and how it has cemented a family's experiences over the years. (Sitting with A. as she sparkled and glowed and spoke about each picture she brought in made me feel so good inside--she is so invested in this project).

In a similar vein, another presentation will be about family and how camp time brings them all together and has strengthened them as a family. Listen, Maine camps are where it is at! This project as well as the preceding one are to be presented as gifts to their families after me shivers.

A blog detailing a first generation college student's struggle to find the resources and do the steps to get to where she wants to go in life. (Tears were shed as she explained her struggle to me, and I just told her again and again and again, you have what it takes. You can do it. Your story will help others like you.)

A script, taken and translated from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy to be performed with a sophomore. (This kiddo loves to translate and act and his partner as well. Sure to be hilarious.)

An slide-show about Arizona, but more importantly, the effect a grandma's love had on her granddaughter. (I feel so proud of this project because she keeps making deeper and deeper connections.)

One brave soul is going to write a scene from a telenovela! Her research keeps cracking us up as she shares out in class all the craziness that surrounds this art form.

R., from Venezuela, is doing a compare/ valuable for him to look at Maine and Venezuela and understand the differences. Having him in class gives me such joy because he truly understands both places now, as I do. And I can make him laugh in an instant, just because we speak the same language and the same slang.

E., so quiet, is doing a presentation on the Italian opera, and she is going to SING. Yay!!!

And M., my chef, is going to do experimental cuisine based on the cuisine of Spain. Yes, her product will be food. She wanted to do sooo much and keeps narrowing her focus more and more. I know the final product will be worthy of a magazine spread.

So, a wonderful week. Connections, and deep meanings. Everyone working hard and feeling a degree of success.

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