Dr. Krashen @ #FLENJ15

This past Saturday I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Dr. Stephen Krashen, thanks to the Foreign Language Educators of New Jersey. Dr. Krashen delivered the keynote address at the FLENJ Annual Conference. Dr. Krashen’s hypotheses have informed my practice and driven my instruction of Spanish from the moment that I was exposed to them. Considering the “affective filter” when approaching each lesson, for instance, has become fundamental in determining my effectiveness as a teacher, as I conceptualize it as an invisible aura that allows me to either engage my students or lose them in five seconds.

I could probably write and talk for hours about how Dr. Krashen has influenced my work. This time, however, I want to share some of the statements that were my AHA! moments during his keynote address.

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“Grammar is the result of comprehensible input.”

“Reading is the source of our literacy competence.”

“Input has to be compelling!”

“They (students) care about the story.”

“Language cannot be taught through skills methodology.”

“You cannot standardize education…you have to help people find who they are.”

I refrained from commenting on each statement as they can have a different meaning to our practice based on our individual experiences as educators. I hope one or more of these spark thoughtful consideration and meaningful discussion. To learn more about Dr. Krashen’s work click on the following link: http://www.sdkrashen.com/

¡Hasta pronto!

Misi

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What?! ! I can’t read Spanish!!

Whenever I give my students a reading in Spanish for the first time they react with a “How am I supposed to read this, I don’t know Spanish!!” I then have to calm them down by explaining that I will teach them some “tricks” so that they can understand a reading without having to translate word for word.

The thesis I completed for the MA in World Language Education from NJCU, was about the transferability of reading skills between English (first language) and Spanish (target language). The results of the research led me to the conclusion that students do transfer skills from their native language to the target language. You’re not surprised, right?! I wasn’t either. My question, however, was how could I teach students to make use of these skills consciously so that they can understand a text in Spanish even though they don’t have enough vocabulary.

Based on the findings I chose the following strategies, and designed a lesson I could teach in the beginning of the school year: looking at the text format, title and illustrations, scanning for cognates, tapping into their background knowledge and focusing on the context. I also created a study guide, and what I call a “reading warm up” sheet.

The execution of the lesson has varied but it basically consists of: introduction of the vocabulary, completion of a reading warm up as a class using a selected text, and individual practice. This year instead of giving the information to the students first, I posted the keywords on the board and asked them to write down their own definitions. Surprisingly, the students came up with great ways of explaining the different terms. We all learned that they underestimate the knowledge they possess.

After the initial lesson I usually reinforce it throughout the year by the use of reading strategies in the following ways:

• Weekly reading journals in which students choose a reading from a magazine and complete a reading task (combination of reading warm up with a summary and inferring of the main idea).

• Regular reading assignments (same text for all students) accompanied by the reading warm up and an interpretive task specific to the reading.

At this point students no longer yell at me for asking them to do the seemingly impossible but start asking questions that can help them complete the reading task successfully.

Happy reading!

For the forms go to http://erickacollado.weebly.com/reading.html

Copyright © 2015 Ericka Collado
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