The 4º Encuentro de Profesores de Español de Alberta just took place on April 27th at the University of Calgary. This is possible thanks to the leadership of the Centro de Recursos del Español in Edmonton, represented by its director, Melissa Valdés, the support of Alberta Education and the organization of Calgary Regional Consortium. Publishers, book stores, the Universities of Calgary and Alberta also contribute to make the Encuentro a success with around 120 participants. For teachers, it is a great opportunity to get to know available resources, talk to some of the resource writers, and see new tendencies in teaching in the 15 presentations available. The best part for me is to have the time and space to "talk shop" with colleagues. The conference always offers good examples of best practices, ongoing projects and inspiring activities.
I attended two very interesting presentations. One of them was about how better introduce in the classroom the fifth component of second language teaching, the cultural component. The presenter, Isabel Vázquez, insisted in the importance of cultural awareness and the need to start introducing this component in all the class levels. She also gave us different examples of "cultural products" and how to present them in the classroom.
The second presentation was about an activity organized by bilingual school Senator Patrick Burns (SPB), Calgary Board of Education. Belén Álvarez, one of the participant teachers, told us about the experience of taking 27 grade 9 students from Senator Patrick Middle school to a linguistic and cultural program in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The program designed by the Instituto Cervantes included Spanish classes in the morning, and cultural excursions to heritage locations and biological relevant sites in the vicinity in the afternoon. The program also offered cultural activities such as cooking, photography or drama workshops. Needless to say all these activities and classes were conducted in Spanish.
Students gained confidence in their skills in Spanish, something that they sometimes are not fully aware of until they start using the language outside the classroom. They also gained awareness about a unique cultural legacy that combines elements from the aboriginal peoples with the culture of the European settlers, Spanish and English. They also realized that they can use Spanish as a tool to learn about different and diversified topics.
Belén Álvarez gave us detailed information about all the activities done prior to the trip, the program in New Mexico and the follow-up after the activity. I particularly liked that
- the activity was integrated in the curriculum of the school
- the goals of the activity matched with outcomes in the program of studies of Spanish Language Arts but also in other subject areas such as Social Studies or Art.
- the follow-up activities with the students have given teachers a lot of insight about continuing with the activity next year.
The program in Albuquerque was a great success and is one of the multiple activities that SPB is conducting to make their Spanish bilingual program more attractive.
In the third time slot I did a presentation about blogging and its pedagogical value. All the links provided will be available in my next post. I hope that the Encuentros continue in the future, it is a great opportunity for everyone working in the Spanish programs in Alberta to review resources and discuss with colleagues and presenters about the challenges of teaching Spanish.