Sunday, January 20, 2013

Choosing original material for our Spanish bilingual class

I have already spoken about the criteria for producing good CLIL resources. I am sure that we all have our own methods for identifying good resources and we probably follow most, if not all, the steps in this previous post. I am always on the look of good authentic resources, that is,  materials that are not specifically created for teaching purposes. The possibilities are endless: magazine articles, newspapers, novels and short stories, commercials, travel brochures... and of course, feature films and short films.

I have already mentioned my interest in short films, they are very flexible and, if we choose correctly, they can be a very good way of introducing "authentic language and authentic language use, which is an important criteria in creating CLIL resources.

These are some ideas that I pay attention to when I choose a short film for a Spanish bilingual class are simple:
  • I look for a story first that can be of interest for the students and fulfills some of the general outcomes in the programs of studies of SLA.
  • In terms of language, I always try to find materials that can "foster academic language proficiency" and can be a linguistic challenge for the students, but always under the umbrella of the curriculum outcomes. 
  • Materials that lead to the creation of projects, students' research and the use of different cognitive tools would be considered "best choices".
  • Resources that can be linked to activities done in other subject areas. As educators, we have to be able to include our teaching in a broader educational frame.
I would like to introduce two short films which can be very useful in a high school bilingual program, which fulfill the above criteria.

Paseo by Arturo Ruíz Serrano. This short film is a homage to all "los paseados", all the prisoners that after a war are taken for a walk (paseo), from which they never return. We don't know exactly the historical backdrop of this particular story but we can assume it takes place right after the Spanish Civil War (the countryside where it is set, the outfit of the characters, one of them states that he is from Águilas, Spain, the similarities with Lorca's death). However, the poem the poet recites in the film was written much later in time by Mario Benedetti, from Uruguay.  The director wants to keep this ambiguity to focus in the main ideas of the film:
  • the fate of helpless people under an abusive ideology
  • the need of solidarity, even in the hardest situations.

From a linguistic point of view, the richness of accents and registers used in the film are very realistic and useful. Two of the characters use a very colloquial Spanish whereas the poet uses a much higher register. To fully understand the story, students will need scaffolding in the language.
Naturally, one more activity we can do is to read and critique the poem recited in the short film. Mario Benedetti, the writer, is a very example of an artist who always cared for human rights all his life.

Voluntario by Javier San Román. The second short film is about the importance of volunteering and the reasons that drive a person to help others in an altruistic way. The main character in the film decides to help others after his personal experience when he was a child. A member of the Red Crescent saved his life when he was on vacation in Morocco at age 10. Many years later, he revives another child from another culture who is living in Spain. To fully understand this urge to help others, you only need to understand the eyes expressions of another person, as it is stated in the short film. This topic, altruism and solidarity, can lead to discussions, research and to talk about our experience as a person and as a member of a community.
Another very important topic in the short story is the role of social media in society. The short film is presented like a TV program in which the volunteer is asked about the search of a ten year old boy lost in the mountains for four days. The presenter is only worried about giving a professional impression in front of the camera. She doesn't show any sympathy about the fate of the young boy who is lost and she addresses him with distaste. Does she appreciate the volunteer's perspective? Can she not see the boy's look of distress?

In conclusion, two short films which can be used in a high school Spanish bilingual (or IB ) program. Both fit some of the general outcomes of the Program of Studies, both are linguistically challenging and can lead to discussion, research and collaborative work for the students, who can link some of the these themes with previous knowledge from other subject areas.