The new school year is upon us! I want to share with you my year at a glance. This is my 15th year teaching. I teach kindergarten through eighth grade Spanish. One of my first tasks as a first year teacher was I had to pick the textbook for middle school, even though I had never taught in my life. For elementary classes, I was given a three ring binder with lesson plans written in shorthand from the last Spanish teacher, with no explanation of what all these acronyms meant. If I walked into that kind of situation now, I would be in a panic, but I didn’t know any different.
It’s taken me a long time to figure out how to evaluate, choose curriculum and create a 9 year vertical curriculum map. Full disclosure, this is a work in progress. I doubt I will ever be 100% happy with it and will continually change and move things around. But I decided not to wait until it was perfect to share what I do in my classroom.
Because I teach Spanish, kindergarten through eighth grade, which means I teach five year olds and I teach 14 year olds, I have nine classes and nine curriculums going at the same time. It can be hard to keep it all straight! Each year, I tend to focus on one group like my K/1/2 group. I really try to hone in and
This is my curriculum plan for the year for kindergarten through eighth grade. You might see some gaps and overlaps and that’s because it is a work in progress. Sometimes life happens and my curriculum doesn’t always go as planned, but it’s still necessary to have a plan! My year plan is divided into 3 sections: K-2, 3-5, and 6-8. I see K-5 twice a week, for 30 to 45 minutes. I see 6th through 8th grades 3-4 times a week, for about 45 minutes.
For K-2, I have created my own curriculum. You can find it here on Teachers Pay Teachers. When I first started looking for a curriculum, there wasn’t a lot of Comprehensible Input (CI) curriculum to use, so I created my own. I started out with Hola Niños from Fluency Matters, which is good, but somewhat outdated now. As I started getting more and more comfortable with CI and different grade levels, I started creating my own stuff. Then I realized, wait a minute, maybe somebody else could use this! The curriculum is called ¡No me digas! Reading is such a foundational part of learning language, if you look at any kind of CI, or even just theory in language acquisition, reading is such a huge part. It’s a tool that will speed up language acquisition incredibly, and so it needs to be a huge pillar of your class. Reading changes from a 5 year old to a 14 year old, so we have to meet the needs of the children in the reading stage that they’re in, in their first language. K-2 is in the Learning to Read stage. Kindergarteners are learning their letters, their letter sounds, how to put sounds together, and sight words. By second grade, hopefully they’re working on fluency, being able to take a full paragraph, and they’re not having to sound out every single word. There can be really big gaps at this level, until things balance out in third or fourth grade. We need to keep in mind during K-2 years, that you’re still dealing with a wide and diverse spectrum of readers.
So, what does that mean? That means that for K-2, you provide a text rich environment, you definitely let them see Spanish, you sound things out but you don’t focus on the reading aspect of it as much as you might later on. A lot of what I like to do in second grade is write and discuss, where students tell me verbally what I should write. Then they start to see and make those connections between what they’ve heard for two or three years now, and what they see. Instead of reading, I’m doubling up my listening, and I’m working towards teaching them to read and match the sounds and the meaning they hear to what they see visually.
In 3-5, students switch from Learning to Read, to Reading to Learn. As I mentioned before, that comprehension and fluency gap has narrowed, so I’m working with readers that are closer to each other in their ability to read. So now I’m going to teach them how to read in Spanish: how to approach a text in another language, how to bring meaning out of that when there is no audio or visual support, and building up their stamina.
For third through fifth grade I use Somos by Comprehensible Classroom (Martina Bex). You can find it here on Teachers Pay Teachers. I do have to adapt it, because it’s written for middle school and high school so I think I use the first six units and one of those units I actually substitute some other materials from the Comprehensible Classroom, because of the content. I also use ¡Cuéntame! by Fluency Matters. I always feel a little uncomfortable recommending this one, because it can be kind of expensive and I only use the first 4-5 units out of 25, and it’s older and not digital. But what I love about ¡Cuéntame!, is that it is such a good bridge for early readers. It bridges the gap between, “I’ve learned to read, but I’m not ready for larger texts that you might see in early units of Somos.” I highly recommend it. That being said, Somos is great. I’m sure you probably heard of it before, and I highly recommend it but it’s going to need some adaptations for third through fifth grade, maybe I can do a post later on that.
I target Novice-Mid to Novice-High in 3-5. You might think they should be beyond that after “3 years of Spanish”, but when I first started, I felt like my students should be going through proficiency levels a lot faster, but it’s really not so. I mean, when you really get into the nitty gritty descriptors of these proficiency levels, students are not making a proficiency level change every year, especially with the time that I have them. That doesn’t mean I’m not getting improvement from them, but you have to remember that while it would be nice if learners could move up the levels very systematically correlated to school years no matter how many hours we actually have with our students, language isn’t like that. Language is really messy. So while we make progress, a lot of times to make progress between certain levels, it can be a really long time and it’s never equal. Lots of people just stay in that intermediate stage for years before they move on to advance whereas, moving from novice to intermediate doesn’t might not take as long.
Finally, there is 6-8. I use Somos for that and then I also supplement with readers from Fluency Matters and other publishers. We’re doing El Mundo en Tus Manos which is Martina Beck’s as well (Comprehensible Classroom). It’s current events, and I like that because it’s past tense, but it’s also compelling, current events and culture. I haven’t learned to use it as well as I would like to, but I’ve got a plan in my head, and if it works, I’ll let you know! I also add in Grammar in Context, which is a series of activities to discuss grammar from Comprehensible Classroom. I do discuss grammar in sixth through eighth grade a little bit more heavily. I start to use more grammatical terms, for two reasons. First of all, they’ve got a base foundation of language to connect to. I’m basing it in the context of what they know. And second of all, I’m sending them to lots of different high schools soon, and they’re going to need to know those grammatical terms and how to talk about Spanish in those grammatical terms. So I’m prepping them for a more traditional teacher or situations where they’re going to need to know those kinds of things. Then of course, I use Senor Wooly, which I’ve talked about before. I use it a lot as supplemental and independent student use. For those kids who really like it, I want to give the opportunity for them to use it, but I don’t teach songs very much in middle school anymore. I do like to teach the newer ones, because that’s just fun. This is on my to-do list to figure out if and where I would use it more since it is such a good resource.
Novice Mid to Intermediate Low is where I’m headed with my middle schoolers. We’ve gone from Learning to Read to Reading to Learn and now I’m focusing on independent reading. I’m training them to be able to read on their own, choose books that are compelling to them and comprehensible to them and really pushing them to start independently reading which is my goal for them because I want them to not need me! Right? That’s what we want as much as we love them, if they’re going to continue on this language journey eventually they’re going to have to do it on their own.
This is my general overview. In Part 2, we’ll take a closer look at each level.