My path to proficiency as a language educator has taken many different turns. From new jobs to new adventures in the language community at large, I have tried to never get so comfortable that I stop moving down the path.
Last summer, at IFLT in Denver, a friend asked me if I had ever considered National Geographic certification. To be honest, I hadn’t even heard of it. I’d used many National Geographic video resources over the years but had never gone to the National Geographic Education site and looked at their resources. What I found when I began to explore put my mind directly into planning mode. All I could think was “so many resources, so little time”!
The National Geographic certification process was not hard. It took some time and some planning but never anything excessive and it was all very rewarding. I did mine by rebuilding an existing, favorite unit and adding resources that National Geographic had already created.
The first step of the process is to become familiar with the Nat Geo learning framework and its acronym, ASK. From Attitudes to Skills to Knowledge, National Geographic explained what they looked for in their explorers and I immediately found things that connected with me and with my students.
Attitudes: Two of the words that jumped out at me immediately were persistant and empowered. When I taught by breaking language down into its component parts, my students’ attitudes toward language were poor. There were students, typically those who liked playing the game of school, who studied and memorized and did well but they did not persist in their language study! They were compliant. They conjugated, accented, and filled in blanks but they never emotionally engaged with the language. They didn’t feel empowered to use it. For several years now, I have been shifting my focus from typical thematic units to content as the vehicle of language acquisition. As I looked at the National Geographic content, I realized that it was a perfect complement to the units I’ve been designing to empower my students to use their new language to communicate and to persist in their studies beyond my classroom walls.
Skills: One of the skills that National Geographic values in its explorers is communication. National Geographic students are storytellers. What is more important in language class than developing narrative? Our story as individuals, as a class, and even as part of the bigger world are all narratives that students are learning to tell.
Knowledge: I’ve taught about the world’s water crisis, climate change, food insecurity, and biodiversity and conservation. When I read that the three key subject areas of National Geographic’s were “Our Changing Planet”, “Our Human Journey”, and “Wildlife and Wild Places”, I knew that this certification was a perfect fit for my curriculum. Incorporating new pieces into my well-loved units has let me bring in this year’s current events like the effects of climate change on coffee and chocolate, the melting arctic ice, and the first rainforest city.
One of my favorite new activities was suggested to me by fellow National Geographic certified Spanish teacher, Abra Koch. Using the National Geographic table top maps, I can introduce my students to the geography of an area by “map talking” what they see. For example, we are studying the Civil War in El Salvador and how many fled the war to the United States via Guatemala and Mexico. I am able to talk about their journey as the students follow along on their maps! They can draw in details, color and outline important features, and even practice giving directions!
The world is so much bigger than the inside of a textbook. Check out National Geographic certification and see for yourself! If you have any questions about the process, tweet at me (@senoraCMT) and we can connect.