Saturday, July 29, 2017

Engineering Castells - Culture & STEM in the FLES classroom

This is the third post in my series on how to connect STEM and Spanish. Check out the other posts in this series Experimenting in the Target Language and La migracion de las mariposas.


We've played with blocks before in kindergarten and it was fun but I hadn't realized that it was kind of a STEM project in disguise. So with a little more intention and an injection of some Spanish culture I made it into a mini unit for that crazy time at the end of the year where you may or may not have class and when you do the students are antsy for summer break. Plus it was a great review of vocabulary we had learned earlier in the year.

Target vocabulary:

I like/I don't like
tall/short
fast/slow
strong/weak
big/small
colors
Oh no!
numbers 1-10

We started by first looking at some photos and watching a video of castells in Barcelona and Tarragona. I first learned about these human tower teams and the exhibitions and competitions they have while traveling in Spain in 2015. I was instantly captivated and I ended up buying stacking toys that look like the castellers that my students love playing with as a fast finisher.

The top of the towers are usually young kids - just about the age of my students.


Why yes that kid IS dressed like Michael Jackson. I don't remember the reason why.


Check out the Tarragona Tourism site for more beautiful photos. 


We also watched videos of the castellers in action. The students cracked me up with their commentary - I heard a lot of ¡No me gusta! as they watched the castell get higher and higher. Afterwards, we looked at where Spain was on the map. We also discussed whether the castell was tall or short, big or small, and if the castellers moved slow or fast. We counted how many levels they had and I asked them if they would be scared to go to the top or not.



After discussing the castells we got out the blocks and made towers of our own. I challenged them to build their towers at least 10 cubes high. What strikes me is that while they usually start out just one cube on top of another they quickly transition to making it with a wider base at the bottom. I heard lots of ¡Ay carambas! and ¡No me gusta! as their towers fell. And they counted as they went higher and higher.




In the next two classes we reviewed what and where castells are and then we worked with a partner to build a tower together. One partner looked at a tower I had built behind a screen and relayed what they saw to their partner back at the table. Like before this task was a little confusing and some of them forgot to use their Spanish in their excitement but by the second class most of them had the hang of it.

The last two classes we took what we knew about how to build the best towers and how to communicate with our friends and applied it. First the students made a plan on paper. Then they took their 2D representation and with a partner they took turns building a 3D version of their designs. It was pretty hilarious when they realized they got to build what they had drawn before. Needless to say they were pretty excited.



All in all it was a great mini-unit to end the year on. Do you use STEM activities in your classroom? Have you seen the crazy castells in Catalonia? Share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

La migración de las mariposas

This is the second post in my ongoing series of connecting STEM with Spanish class. Check out the first post Experimenting in the Target Language here.

For the last several years I have had one grade level participate in Journey North's Symbolic Migration. If you haven't checked out Journey North's amazing resources I'm telling you to open a new tab, go there now, and then come back. I'll wait here while you have a look.....
So you've seen the site? And it's amazing right? Did you see the section about the Symbolic Migration? Each class makes their own butterfly out of a file folder and each student colors their own true to life paper monarch butterfly. After assembling all the necessary pieces I send off our butterflies which then "migrate" to Mexico for the winter.



Last summer I attended the KY Center's Arts Integration Academy where me and other Spanish teachers as well as arts teachers learned how to either integrate the arts into our Spanish classrooms. I left this Academy knowing that somehow I wanted to take our symbolic migration and incorporate the Arts. So this past year I did it with 4th grade and it turned into a year long project that extended into Library and Computer classes and ended with artwork in the hallways and displayed at the local public library.

In Spanish class we looked at the Journey North maps to see if the butterflies had made it to Mexico yet. We played a matching game where they had to match pictures with sentences about migration. We colored and wrote about butterflies in our interactive notebooks. We talked about Day of the Dead and the role butterflies play in that tradition. And we got our file folder butterflies ready to migrate.

Target vocabulary:

Need to go
Need to return
Months of the year
It's cold.
It's hot.
North, south, east, west
Where?
When?
Why?
Animals
What animal do you like?

In Library and Computer class, the students did research and filled out a graphic organizer about butterfly conservation and what we can do to help sustain and grow the butterfly population in our own community. Keeping the elements of design in mind they then created an informational poster about what they had learned in Computer class. (This is my secret tip to including more cross curricular content and stay in the target language - get other teachers to teach the English parts for you!)



Our local library down the street has a butterfly way station with butterfly friendly plants and feeders so I contacted them and asked if they would be willing to display a few of our best informational posters. We decided that in the spring when they had classes about gardening would be the best time and they did a great job creating a beautiful display!

I selected a few posters to be displayed at the public library.


In addition to creating posters to display, the students also used their interpersonal skills to create a 3-D mural on one of the hallway bulletin boards. They worked in teams to staple and glue the butterflies in place with a strict ¡No inglés! policy while they worked. This was one of their favorite activities and at least once one of our administrators walked by and was amazed at how much Spanish she heard! We placed several of our posters by the artwork and discussed what other high traffic areas could we place the remaining so more people would read them and talked about how art impacts people's beliefs.



Finally after many months of waiting the butterflies returned to Kentucky...but they weren't our butterflies. They were from all over the United States AND they also had letters and pictures from the students in Mexico. So we dragged out the atlases, I put up the state abbreviations on the board, and the students busied themselves with finding out where all of las mariposas had come from. 



Overall, this year long project was a huge success. My students were engaged and excited to not only learn about butterflies and Mexico but also about how learning Spanish can help them cooperate to solve global problems. 


Monday, July 3, 2017

Experimenting in the Target Language - Connecting Science and Spanish

Yay for summer and finally having some time to catch up on blog posts! This post hopefully marks the start of a series on how to connect STEM and Spanish (technically, making it STEAM!)

I've worked to incorporate the Arts into my classes before but this past year I tried really hard to incorporate a little bit of STEM in Spanish class because our STEM lab teacher had to leave us. One small addition to my ¿Te gusta chocolate? unit was a quick science experiment where we tested the validity of Ricitos de Oro's story.

The learning targets for this unit were I can describe things by size, color, and temperature and I can tell you some foods I like and dislike. I usually tell the story of Ricitos de Oro, we sing the song chocolate, and then we try some authentic Mexican hot chocolate and graph whether we like it or not. More details on this post here.

But this time we tested what size mug we should drink our hot chocolate from. Turns out the smallest porridge would NOT have been perfect and the medium one cold. Since I tell this story in conjunction with the song Chocolate, Chocolate we decided to figure out what size cup we should use. 


The first class students made their prediction and in the second class we tested our hypotheses. Since we were using boiling water (boiled in my electric kettle I keep in my room for making afternoon tea) they just watched while I actually conducted the experiment (great interpretive exercise!)  They recorded their observations on their papers and we made our conclusions together as a class and individually on their papers (Hola, presentational writing!)

I love how this student made her tazas so kawaii. 

After deciding that we needed to drink our hot chocolate out of medium sized cups I made them Abuelita hot chocolate and we graphed who liked it and who didn't.



I have to say that in the past I have struggled with how to get students at the novice level to use higher order thinking but STEM activities like this one definitely makes that easier. They may not be able to express themselves as well but with some guidance we persevered. And they were also SUPER excited to test out their hypotheses, record them, and of course put what they learned into practice.

Do you incorporate STEM in your classroom? Share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang!