Monday, June 8, 2009

Activity analysis: "¡Somos Arqueólogos!"

One of the things I should do a lot more of is examining my activities to see if they're doing what they should, and how to improve them. My methodology teacher, Michael Braun (maybe more about him someday--he also taught me Spanish in high school, and looking at his classes would probably go a long way towards explaining why I think about teaching Spanish the way I do), suggested keeping a binder with assignment sheets in it, and writing notes on post-it notes. I'm going to work on having that system in place by the start of the next school year, but in the meantime, I offer you this:


Imagínate que eres arqueólog@, quinientos años adelante de hoy. Tú (arqueólog@) descubriste la casa en que tú (estudiante) vives.

¿Cómo es este domicilio tan raro? Identifica 5 cosas en la casa. ¿Cómo son estos artefactos? ¿Para qué crees que sirven? (Acuérdate: Tú vives en el futuro. El mundo es muy distinto. Imagina que no sabes nada de la vida actual.)

[Imagine you're an arqueologist, five hundred years from now. You (the archaeologist) have discovered the house in which you (the student) lives.

What is this strange structure like? Identify 5 things in the house. What are these artifacts like? What do you think they're for? (Remember: You live in the future. The world is very different. Imagine you don't know anything about life today.)]

LEVEL: This project was designed for 2nd-year high school students. There's no reason it couldn't be adapted for 1st-year students, or indeed for any time a description of the house becomes necessary.

OBJECTIVE: Students will describe objects in their house from the perspective of someone who doesn't know what they're for. This will help them think of common household objects in Spanish, contextualize vocabulary of common household objects, and establish background knowledge for comparisons of common household items in their house and a house in a Spanish-speaking country. It will also provide students with the vocabulary and language necessary to describe their houses to other students in Spanish.

1.1.N.RW.g Ask questions in writing about the attributes of places and things in their immediate environment and answer using a list of traits
1.2.N.R.c Understand written interpersonal communication on topics of personal interest such as preferences, family life, friends, leisure and school activities, and everyday occurrences (email, letters, messages, notes, and text messages)
1.3.N.W.c Write brief personal descriptions on familiar topics in Spanish such as self, friends, family, home and school

ASSUMED KNOWLEDGE: Students are expected to have an awareness of, but not yet be entirely comfortable with, the vocabulary of household items, and have a good working knowledge of words that describe physical features of objects (size, color, etc.).

ASSESSMENT: Students show their comprehension of the knowledge by successfully communicating with other students about the objects in their house. This is a formative assessment of vocabulary; it's also a practice activity for other activities to come.

STUDENT OUTPUT: Students' responses ranged from 3-5 word descriptions for each item to a bullet-pointed list in English.

THOUGHTS: I continually butt up against the difference between World Languages and core-content classes, just in terms of learning matter. In this activity, students aren't expected to learn anything new, they're expected to think about what they already know in a different way. This is designed to permit students' minds to focus exclusively on the language acquisition. I recently went to a conference that suggested it might be better on all levels if students are engaging in the culture at the same time as the language.

CHANGES: First, I need to clarify the expectations. Students did not know what was expected of them. Second, rather than having students imagine their own house a different way, it might be better to have them "excavate" a typical house of the Spanish-speaking world, being sure to include a few things the students probably don't have in their own house. (I still think it's important for students to look at their own activities in a new way, but maybe this isn't the format for it.)

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