Discussions already happening in public and independent schools all over the United States, Canada, Japan, Europe and New Zealand!
Straightforward Stories in Spanish
Provide students with access to short novels with characters with whom they can identify and allow the context serve as a springboard for discussion. Identity is who we are as individuals - a fundamental topic to humankind, but one rarely given space for dialogue.
Give kids a book that they can read with facility and let them find themselves in the process.
I have been a lifelong student of Spanish since my very first exposure as a high school exchange student to Bolivia over 30 years ago. With only five Spanish words in my repertoire at the time (naturally I had taken French for over four years when I was selected to go to South America for the year), I quickly learned that in order to connect with my host family and the other students at school, I had to learn some Spanish – and fast. Fortunately, I love to talk. And while I was concerned about getting it “right,” I was more concerned about not communicating. The lack of inhibition was imperative as I tried to apply the nuts and bolts I’d learned in French class to the new sounds, vocabulary and phrases in Spanish, all while attempting to acclimate to the altitude of Cochabamba, Bolivia (over 8,000 feet). By the end of the first week I was able to utter my name, where I was from and how old I was, and the language just took off from there.
As a high school teacher I delighted in delivering Spanish in an authentic and real way, providing students with the same basics that I received while learning the language in immersion. In other words, I wanted to make sure that students had the confidence to say something, as I knew that no communication would happen if no language escaped their lips. My students were far from perfect in their practice as I was when learning French (and language learning is a practice - a lifelong journey, if you will), I encouraged them to try.
Towards the end of my 20+ year teaching career, I had the absolute honor and pleasure to teach students who found themselves with learning challenges, even in English. At one point when using the traditional textbook, the students and I, tired of the same idiotic questions about nothing in particular – and ones that were not generating any conversation – looked at each other, all of us bored out of our minds. I thought that there had to be a better way to deliver the same material in a more engaging fashion. Thus was born La chica nueva, a present day love story a la Romeo and Juliet, but in simple, usable Spanish. From there, I delighted in creating a program for them that allowed them access to Spanish, but without all of the tedious demands of a traditional course. Students were given necessary vocabulary and grammar structures from which they could create language, and the starting point from which they could then go forth to engage in conversation with Spanish-speakers.
It was those same students who then encouraged me to publish the story, they loved it that much. Spanish became accessible to the students through a simple tale told in the present tense. Then for me, the stories just keep coming. The platform is describing and highlighting culture and linguistics through simple stories for students learning the language.