A Culturally Rich CI Classroom

In the newsletter two weeks ago I discussed oral story-telling as a path to developing students’ cultural fluency. Rich target language culture is sometimes lost in a pure student-centered approach to CI. Today I want to highlight my maravillas, an activity that I created to really bring Latin America into my Spanish classroom. I have also worked with French teacher Cécile Lainé to develop a small set of French maravillas, Les merveilles, which you can now find in the Master Class in the “Voices of Others” module.

The last quarter of the school year is the perfect time to bring the maravillas into your Spanish class. After a year of crazy class created stories, I like to get serious with some authentic target culture scaffolded so that students of all levels can embrace it. I originally developed the maravillas to introduce inspiring Latin Americans to my students, who had only known the cardboard stereotypes of Latin America portrayed in US media. I have since expanded the project to include places and cultural customs that beguile, intrigue and lead my students to marvel.

I am making two maravillas publicly available even to those of you who do not subscribe to the CI Master Class. The first maravilla is about a woman who was sad about the many stray dogs in Costa Rica, so she decided to create a home for them in the mountains. That quickly spiraled out of control!

Each maravilla has four parts: (1) a picture talk, (2) a captioned video, (3) an embedded reading, (4) a Write & Discuss activity. I present these to every level I teach, from level one beginners to my level 4 AP students… just modify your language and remain comprehensible to your class. Write on the board when necessary to clarify and watch their eyes for signs of confusion. If you choose to add an assessment, I recommend that you have your students copy the Write & Discuss created in class and base the assessment on that text so that the assessment closely mirrors their actual comprehension. If you have never done a Write & Discuss before, please see my description of how to do this powerful activity with your students.

The second maravilla is about a group of young people in rural Mexico who create machines out of bicycle parts to make rural living easier and healthier. This is captioned in Spanish, but do not worry if your students do not catch every word. The purpose of the picture talk and captioned video is simply to prepare students for the embedded reading that follows. We know that struggling readers often do not visualize the reading, so the first two activities serve to create images in the minds of students… any language they pick up in these first two activities is bonus! During the last two activities, the embedded reading and the Write & Discuss activity, students process the language while relying on the “pictures in their minds”.

All subscribers to the CI Master Class have access to the full library of Spanish Maravillas and the French Merveilles (be sure to download them before your subscription ends!), but non-subscribers can purchase access to just the Spanish Maravillas by clicking here or purchase the French Merveilles here.