Film and Novel studies by level

I was asked to share my cultural studies with you and I would like to do that but must preface the post by saying that I am…

A. In a very small district where I am the only full time language teacher

B. In a dual credit program with the college that only gives credit for levels 101 and 102 so I am freer in Spanish 3 and 4 than I used to be

C. I use Carol Gaab’s Cuéntame más/mucho curriculum in levels 1 and 2 and no specific curriculum in 3/4.. we go where the mood takes us!

In level 1 we begin the year with two films in English that I think are priceless to setting up an atmosphere of understanding immigration.  All discussion is VERY simple and in Spanish as we watch the movies.  I lead off with the short and free film “Viva la Causa” from Teaching Tolerance.  It comes with some great ideas in a booklet.. Worth ordering!  The second film is Sweet 15 which is OLD and the clothes are hilarious but the message is great and we have a lot of opportunity to talk about the mom/dad/kids dynamic and about illegal immigration/amnesty.  I usually show Selena at some point when one of my kids is sick and then tie it into the curriculum by looking at the Tejano music scene.  In the fourth quarter we watch La Misma Luna and discuss.  I have the film study from FilmArobics but you could easily make your own.  The novels we read are Piratas del Caribe, El Nuevo Houdini, and Esperanza.  Esperanza is a great read just before watching La Misma Luna and it is a wonderful tie in to the theme of immigration throughout Spanish I.

In level 2 I am up in the air.  Last year I tried the film Camila to lay a foundation for the study we do in Spanish 4 of the Dirty War in Argentina but as a film study, it is too draggy… This year I may try to show it in a little faster form.  We watch Casi Casi and Valentín and discuss how comedies are similar/different and also discuss how kids’ lives are similar/different.  We read Problemas en Paraíso, Robo en la Noche (and do a study of ecology, environment, save the animals, etc), and Los Baker van a Peru (although next year I’m replacing that one).

In level 3 we can really get hardcore into a cultural curriculum.  We spend 1st semester in El Salvador.  I actually start with the novel Rebeldes de Tejas because they come away with some great vocabulary for jumping into war studies after they read that novel… and they get a lot of reading confidence, which helps because the next novel is more challenging!  We watch Romero (its in English but crucial to understanding the civil war in my opinion), Voces Inocentes, the National Geographic special on MS13, and we read Vida y Muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha.  2nd semester we go to Spain for their civil war.  We watch the film Butterfly and at the end watch Pan’s Labyrinth.  This year we are going to read the novel La hija del sastre when it becomes available from TPRS publishing.  (Good book!  LOL  I wrote it so that is just a shameless plug…)

In level 4 we start in Argentina and study the dirty war… Read Guerra Sucia, watch De amor y de sombra (in English and in Chile but it does a good job showing the southern cone dictatorships and I don’t think our other films give enough of the background), La historia oficial (which I have decided is too dull for a film study) and Cautiva.  Second semester (and this is new this year) we are trying our hand at some human rights films.  I had them give Esperanza a quick read (I may re-read with the freshmen when they get to Spanish 4 just because it is a great bridge) so that we could tie the information to the film El Norte.  Then later I think we’re going to watch The Motorcycle Diaries.  (That will be new this year too).  They haven’t read my novel so I think that will be the last thing of the second semester and it should refresh them on Spain’s Civil War… Then for their final I may show them The Devil’s Backbone and Carol’s Journey and have them identify the war theme as it appears in the movies…
I have permission slips on file for all students and I do not show any questionable sexy scenes… It is too hard to edit out all of the bad language so I have to just be careful what films I show at what levels… and I mention on the permission forms that there is some bad language in some of the films we watch.  I tried a Cuba unit in Spanish 2 this year and the movie Viva Cuba went over very well but the only follow up was Azucar Amarga and I felt like that was too much for them.  I am throwing that unit out for now…

Whew….  So that’s what we do in my room… Lots of CI every step of the way.  We get into some deep topics but I love to see what they can come up with!  🙂

Questions? Comments?



Confessions of a reformed (accidentally bad) teacher…

I went to get some milk tonight and ran into a former student.  He’s probably 22 now and had a hard time in high school.  He struggled with English so Old Me was shocked that he would sign up for Spanish… Didn’t he read the pre-requisites?  You must have a C or better in English to come here!  This is a class for 4%ers!!!  He was lost in the mountain of textbook vocabulary and grammar structures and he failed.  I just assumed that it was because some kids just weren’t cut out for language class… Oh Old Me!   I wish I could go back and fix all of those kids who You let slip through!!!

The last four years I have had kids with all sorts of English grades, IEPs, opposites of 4%ers…. Man do some of them love to learn Spanish.  Of course, spelling issues in English carry over into the target language but after spending a year with me, these kids know WAY more Spanish than they would if they didn’t get the chance to take the class… AND they enjoy it… Dare I say some even love it!

How do I get over the guilty feelings for not making language lovers during those first 13 years in the classroom????  Class was fun (in a textbooky way) and interesting (in an verb conjugating game sort of way) but few kids just loved it… fewer appreciated the culture and the people who speak Spanish.  If only those old me students could meet New Me!!!  Wouldn’t they be surprised???  Maybe I should plan a reunion… with a sneak attack of CI?