Here is a short case study from The International School Nido de Aguilas, Santiago, Chile.
Often parents and students think that foreign language classes are a bit monotonous and boring, especially when they are loaded with grammar rules and decontextualized vocabulary. After 25 years of teaching Spanish as an Additional Language (SAL) in the US and Chile, I conclude that it is ultimately in the hands of the teacher to craft new ideas to rejuvenate student interest by using fun, meaningful and memorable methodology.
The reading of advanced novels in Spanish paired with a variety of thematic units, gave me the first nudge to embark upon the creation of picture books in Spanish. After reading the novel ‘La habitación de arriba‘ by Joanna Reiss, my 8th-grade SAL students identified themes throughout the novel to write and illustrate their own stories. One of the biggest challenges for the students was how to develop a theme from the Holocaust, and adapt it into an understandable, child-friendly version.
The entire process took about two weeks. This included pre-writing activities, mini-lessons on characterization, plot development and illustration basics. Students wrote individually, provided peer-editing, and participated in one-on-one conferences to finalize their written work with the teacher’s guidance.
Once the story was ready, students used Book Creator to publish their picture books. As an extension of this project, students created some coloring, matching and maze activities to engage their younger audience. Here’s an example from Kotomi Tsuchiya.
We printed the books, and the day the students shared their stories with the first graders finally came. It was a delightful and rewarding experience for me as a teacher to see the level of involvement, the students’ happiness, and their use of the Spanish language in a real-world context. Without a doubt, obsolete learning language paradigms can be changed when there is willingness and room for creativity. Students did an amazing job accomplishing their goal, and they felt very successful.
Rodrigo is a Middle School EAL/SAL teacher at International School Nido de Aguilas, a private, co-educational school serving over 1,742 students from more than 50 countries in Santiago, Chile.