Thursday, November 21, 2013

CLIL Resources and Best Practices

I have spoken about the work done by the CPR in Córdoba, Spain, with bilingual programs, multilingualism and CLIL. CPR stands for 'Centro del Profesorado'. They are public institutions funded by the deparments of education in Spain that offers professional development courses for teachers in the city of Córdoba in this case. In a previous post I introduced Pilar Torres' blog. He is an advisor at the aforementioned CPR and coordinates the professional development program for second languages and literacy programs.

At the beginning of every school year, the CPR in Córdoba organizes a course for those teachers who have just started working in one of the bilingual schools in the city. Bilingual programs are getting more and more popular and there are always new teachers entering the programs. The course takes place several evenings after school. They have presenters with various backgrounds but there are always teachers with experience who share their experience and expertise. The new teachers get insight of what it means to work in a bilingual program and what the expectations are. There are always theoretical presentations in which key concepts in the implementation of bilingual programs are reviewed. Linguistic concepts such as BICS and CALP,  language scaffolding, integrated teaching,  the need of working with the 5 language skills etc. are introduced and explained. Teachers have access to a theoretical framework that will help them in their daily work.

This is a very important part for new teachers but I find it even more interesting that teachers share their experiences about how they create their lesson plans following a CLIL approach. There are examples for secondary education in subject areas such as Maths, Science, Social Studies and CTS . Most of these examples are available online and I highly recommend to have a thorough look at them because they are real examples implemented in a bilingual program and can be very inspirational for teachers working in North America. Naturally, the target language in most of these programs in Spain is English so the examples that we are going to see use mainly this language. The presentations are available in this link.

The CPR also offers continuous possibilities for professional development. Experts in bilingual education also share their expertize. Naturally some presentations by these keynote speakers are also available. In 2012, the CPR invited David Marsh, one of the leading experts in Europe in the implementation of CLIL programs and bilingualism. His presentations are also available online. Both deal with very important issues related to the implementation of bilingual programs using a CLIL approach:
  • The Added Value of CLIL in Enhancing Educational Outcomes
  • Benefits of Bilingualism. Insights from the Neurosciences

Pilar Torres has also included an extensive interview with Davis Marsh in her blog taken during his stay in Córdoba in 2012.

All the presentations, pictures and links embedded in this post are taken from the blog by Pilar Torres. I highly recommend everyone interested in bilingual programs, second language acquisition and multiculturalism to visit this blog.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Manual de Acentuación in Spanish

This is a post about a very interesting blog I just came across, Blog de Lengua, by Alberto Bustos. Alberto Bustos is a professor of Language and Literature Pedagogics at the University of Extremadura in Spain. He has extensive experience working at universities in numerous countries. His rationale for keeping his blog is very exciting: he thinks knowledge has to be "free and accessible to everyone" and he considers that sharing his expertise is "a good way of giving back to society", a society that gave him the chance of "studying for years what" he likes best. 

I have not had time to go through all the sections in the blog but I plan to do it soon. Today I just want to point out a a great resource that Mr Bustos offers for free. It is a thorough review of the rules to place accents in Spanish. Mr Bustos explains the different kinds of accentuation patterns in Spanish and the rules of accentuation, the rules for diphthongs, "triptongos" and hiatus and even the diacritic accentuation. He also provides exercises to practice Spanish accent pattern. Overall, a great tool to be used in IB and bilingual programs.
Manual de acentuación
Bustos, Alberto. 2013. “Manual de Acentuacion”. En Blog de Lengua [documento en línea: ; acceso: 14 de noviembre de 2013].

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Commercials in Spanish at SLIC conference

On October 26, I did a presentation on commercials and how to use them in the Spanish class at the SLIC conference. SLIC is the Second Languages and Intercultural Council hosted by the Alberta Teachers' Association. SLIC, among other activities, organizes a language conference every year in Alberta. There are keynotes speakers and presentations on the different languages by teachers and other experts in second language pedagogics. To have a conference where language teachers, team leaders and administrators can discuss about language programs and second language teaching strategies should be an important annual event for everyone working directly in the implementation of these programs. Unfortunately, perhaps due to snow and other reasons, the turnout rate amongst attendees was lower than expected. I hope that everyone in the organization and specially language teachers could take time before the next conference to engage in conversation to ensure great PD opportunities are not missed next fall. 

My presentation was about the use of commercials in the Spanish class. I have been introducing commercials which I find interesting for a Spanish class in this blog. All of them are accessible under the tag "commercials".

During my presentation we discussed the importance of introducing authentic resources in the Spanish class and more specifically, commercials. I also introduced the article, "TV Commercials as Authentic Materials Communication, Culture and Critical Thinking" (by Odilea Rocha Erkaya. MEXTESOL Journal, Vol. 29. No1, 2005. ISSN 1405-3470). The author has deep insight of the values and possibilities that using commercials give students in ESL classes. The author's ideas can easily be applied to teaching Spanish. This is a must read for those teachers who want to get familiar with using commercials in a class.

In the rest of the presentation, we watched some of the commercials that I had previously introduced in my blog and new ones that can be accessed via this link.  We watched the Pancho's series for Lotería Primitiva and the campaigns created for soccer team Atlético de Madrid. We discussed linguistic and cultural elements that can be discussed in our classes. For example, what it means to support a soccer team in countries such as Argentina or Spain. This video taken in a football stadium in Spain shows how supporting a soccer team runs deep in Spanish families.
Another very important aspect we spoke about, was the use of commercials to promote critical thinking with our students. We agreed that the commercials created by non-profit organizations or government agencies are good tools to promote critical thinking and to introduce hot topics for discussion in our classes. Some companies have copied this pattern to increase their sales, there are some examples in the file with the links. By watching these commercials, students will not only be learning about culture but also but be able to utilize their critical thinking skills to assess commercial biases.
And here is the bitter parody they did in Mexico about this commercial:
We did not have time to go through all the commercials that appear in the supplied list; therefore, for those who attended the session and for those reading this post I'd like to make a request:
  • If you know a commercial that you like to use in your class  and it is not included on the list, let me  know.
  • It would be very useful to create and share a database with the scripts of the commercials we use in our classes. 
During the conference I just had time to attend one more presentation. Two Visiting Teachers from Spain working at the bilingual elementary school, Canyon Meadows, shared with us two activities which I enjoyed very much.
Paula Mendivil presented an activity she did with her grade 2 students. She introduced the Three Wise Men using dance and organized a performance during the Christmas school festival. However, the dancing part led to many other activities that required the use of Spanish (write a script, become familiar with instructions in Spanish etc.), and helped develop the students' organizational skills and increase their self-esteem.

The second activity was to create a theatre performance which includes dancing and singing based on the story of most famous Spanish knight, Don Quijote. In this case, Lali Molina, the other presenter, worked with her students for the whole school year to create a 50 minute performance for the year end celebration. Creating the play meant that students had to rehearse their parts and the singing,  do research and learn about the historical times when El Quijote was written, learn dances and design the set for the play. They also created all of the posters and tickets.

I find both activities very inspiring because different subjects were integrated in the same project. Moreover, students needed to use different skills and collaborate with their peers to create an activity that would be shared with the rest of the school.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Spanish Civil War 2, the International Brigades

A chapter in the Spanish Civil War that has always interested me is the involvement of other countries in the conflict. Just before the war, Europe experienced the rise of non-democratic regimes in Germany, Italy and the Soviet Union. Germany and Italy supported Franco's nationalistic side with troops and arms. The famous Guernica mural by Picasso portrays one of the most outrageous episodes of the civil war when German planes of the Condor Legion and Italian planes destroyed the defenseless small town of Guernica. The Republicans were supported mainly by the Soviet Union and Mexico. Both countries sent arms although the involvement of Mexico after the war was much more intense, opening the country to thousands of Spanish refugees. Something that still surprises many people is the lack of involvement of Western democracies in the conflict to help a democratic regime in Spain, a fact which influenced  the outcome of the war profoundly.

This part is important but I am much more interested in the anonymous citizens who decided to go to Spain to support the democratic government and to stop the rise of totalitarianism in Europe. The reasons that moved these young people to go to Spain were varied but all of them thought that they were helping to stop the spreading of fascism. In most cases their governments were against their participation in the war. According to the website of La Asociación de Amigos de las Brigadas Internacionales the number of members that fought in the Brigadas Internacional is still unclear today but probably close to 50,000 members from around 50 countries. Information about the amount of people going to Spain, the nationalities and the battles in which they took part can be found on the website. Many of these people did not take part in the military action and worked as journalists, in medical care, as translators etc.

Naturally, some members of the International Brigades were already known before going to Spain and some others will become famous after the war. In the Wikipedia article, International Brigades, there is a list of people who are famous for different reasons. The list includes politicians like German former chancellor Willy Brandt, writers like George Orwell and artists like Mexican David Alfaro Siqueiro.

There is not an official number for the Canadians who fought in Spain. The website of La Asociación de Amigos de las Brigadas Internacionales speaks of about 512. Other sources raise the number up to 1,600 men and women. They were integrated into the Mackenzie-Gatineau Battalion, which was part of the Lincoln Brigade. This Brigade had 3 more battalions, one of them was Lincoln Battalion integrated mainly by Americans. A documentary by the National Board Film of Canada shows the political and economical situation both in Spain and Canada before the war and how it pushed young Canadians to travel to Spain even though the Canadian government forbade them to do so. The documentary also shows the battles where they fought and their lives back in Canada.

A very interesting documentary is also about the Lincoln Brigade and the young Americans who participated in the war. It was probably the first time in history that an American military unit was led by an Afro-American.

Most of the members of the International Brigades were not well received back in their countries by their governments. Many lived a life of ostracism and were never recognized by their generosity. In the case of Canada, many were not allowed to join the Canadian army when the World War started just months after the end of the Spanish Civil War.
In 1996, 21 years after Franco's death, the Spanish government decided to offer Spanish nationality to the members of the International Brigades who were still alive. It was the first time I ever heard about them and I was impressed by the emotions they demonstrated when they returned to Spain and being granted citizenship. A documentary on the Spanish television shows that historical moment.

The last Canadian fighter Jules Paivoo, died in September 2013 at 97. When he was 94 he received Spanish citizenship in a ceremony at the Spanish Embassy in Canada. Even then he still thought of visiting Spain with his brand new passport.

In 2000 the British newspaper The Guardian interviewed 23 of the 40 survivors from the Spanish Civil War. They were the last 40 of the 2500 British citizens who traveled to Spain to support the Republican government. Again their opinions are worth being listened to.

Some of the writers who went to Spain wrote novels portraying their experiences in the war. Homage to Catalonia, by George Orwell, and For whom the bells toll, by Ernest Hemingway, are the most famous ones. While I was researching for this post I came across the story of James Neugass, an American who went to Spain and was driving an ambulance during the war. After he went back to the States, he married, had a family but died when he was 44, leaving two young sons. In 2000, Jim Neugass, the youngest son, got a phone from a professor asking for his permission to publish some of his dad's poems. The professor also mentioned the manuscript of the diary that the father wrote during his time in Spain and the whole family has never heard of. The book was published in 2008 and in 2012, Jim Neugass went to Spain to visit the places where his dad had driven the ambulance. In turn, he took part in a documentary produced and directed by a doctoral student at Oxford University. Here we can read about his journey.

I'd like to finish this post with a reference to El Quijote, the most universal book of Spanish literature. In  chapter LVIII Cervantes, who had been in prison several times, puts the following words in the mouth of the main character Don Quijote: "Freedom, Sancho, is one of the most precious gifts that heaven has bestowed upon men; no treasures that the earth holds buried or the sea conceals can compare with it; for freedom, as for honour, life may and should be ventured; and on the other hand, captivity is the greatest evil that can fall to the lot of man." To those who dreamt and fought for freedom in Spain and all over the world I give my deepest respect and my gratitude.