Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Using Portfolios in the classes taught in Spanish

I would like to share my reflections on Roy Lyster's very interesting presentation in Calgary that I spoke about on January 13th . The two main ideas I got out of that day are:
  • It is essential that teachers working in bilingual program are integrating both language and content when teaching.
  • It is important for teachers to collaborate though, in my experience,  it is always a challenge in a senior high school.
During his presentation, Mr Lyster introduced very inspiring examples of best practices by some teachers working in French Immersion schools in Quebec. They used different techniques to target the improvement of language skills while teaching content.

After reading his article and the notes I took from his presentation, a question rose in my mind: do we have to assess language in the subject areas taught in the target language? If so, are there any examples available that can inspire our teaching practice?

 My experience in this matter is limited because I have never taught any other subject than language arts. However,  from talking with teachers, their answer is usually that they don't consider language in the final grades for students. I am not pointing fingers at anyone; on the contrary, I know the work load teachers have and it is not easy to collaborate with the others because of different timetables and so on. But as we can see in the example below, there are many possibilities worth exploring.

I was very fortunate to meet the team leader of languages and coordinator of the bilingual program at the IES Llanes in Seville, Spain., Lola Aceituno. It is a Gr. 7-12 school but the bilingual program goes from grade 7 to grade 10. There are several aspects I liked about their project:
  • The team leader works hand in hand with the teachers in the bilingual program to identify and create resources together.
  • Teachers work in collaborative projects integrating different subject areas and different languages.
  • They use ICT to work together and make all the resources more accessible.
  • They have adapted the frame of the European Portfolio of Languages so that students can assess their improvements in the target language in the subject areas taught in English.
I'd like to introduce some of their interdisciplinary projects which I find particularly inspiring.  Students work on a project called "Unequal population distribution" and they focus on different aspects according the subject area from which they work. After completing the assignment in all the subject areas, students complete a final task in which all the learnt skills are applied. All of the resources are online are accessible to students, parents and teachers. Click on the image to get more information:

Another very interesting feature is the self-assessment sheet that students complete after the final task. The sheet follows the structure of the European Portfolio of Languages, so they use the "I can.." statements to be aware of how much "language"they have learnt working in the project. This is a great example of how to integrate language and content and how to assess the language piece in a subject area taught in the target language.

A second example of multidisciplinary task is this one on Fables. Students worked on fables from different perspectives and integrating different artistic means: literature, art, music, drama. To make things a bit more complex, students work the same topic in three different languages .

Portfolios are flexible and can be used for any subject area taught in the target language. Here is another example developed at the same school for Maths.

This is a very inspiring bilingual school project which shows that working collaboratively, being aware that language is as important as content and assessing this knowledge is essential to have in a successful bilingual program . Portfolios can be a useful tool to make students aware of their progress in the target language. I hope you have some time to check it out!