Cultural Competency: Mi idioma, mi comunidad is designed for students to recognize their own linguistic and cultural backgrounds as not only valid but valuable. Throughout our activities, we invite students to reflect on their own experiences and perspectives and to build on them by recognizing the diversity of experiences represented among their classmates and the stories and cultural products presented throughout the text. Students also have multiple opportunities to draw comparisons between these cultural perspectives and products, not to reinforce the idea that one is superior to the other, but to promote flexibility and generosity in recognizing that there is more than one way to perceive the world. One of our beliefs and motivations for offering this text is that commonalities among Latin@ communities should not be foregrounded in ways that erase differences. Instead, we strive to offer linguistic and cultural content from a variety of Latin@ communities to privilege difference and even contradiction. Rather than memorize lists of discrete facts, students are challenged to develop critical thinking skills through a number of reflection activities.
Media: Storytelling is a primary way that we aim to recover the history of Latin@ placemaking in the Midwest. For this reason, each chapter offers oral histories, podcasts, or other media that engage students in recognizing the multiplicity and complexity of Latin@ experiences and perspectives. Students are challenged to develop their digital competencies by interacting with this media and using them as models for their final course project in which they will create their own digital storytelling while reflecting on their learning and plans for the future.
Projects: We find that project-based learning empowers heritage language learners build on their strengths and take a stake in their own learning by tackling real-world situations. We encourage instructors to explicitly address the learning objectives at the opening of each chapter, making sure that students understand exactly how they will demonstrate their learning through each project following the principles of backward design. In order to make learning engaging and student-centered, we have endeavored to include student choice in our projects. For example, students may choose the university event and Spanish-language site explored in projects 1 and 2 as well as research the festival of their choice in project 3. However, we also suggest that, when not completed as group work during class, instructors provide differentiated instruction by allowing students to complete one of the “extensión” activities from the “lectura” section as an alternative chapter project. The instructions may be modified to address students’ interest and needs as well as to elicit similar kinds of language structures and problem-solving as found in the chapter project.
Grammar: Mi idioma, mi comunidad is content driven and intends to provide students with opportunities to strengthen grammatical forms and put them to use in real-world contexts. We do not offer a comprehensive grammar exploration, but rather offer a series of short grammar videos accompanied by a written explanation including additional information not explored during the video such as irregular forms, etc. As María Carreira and Claire Hitchins Chik (2018) suggest for pedagogy with heritage language learners, we encourage instructors to use a flip model and “spot-treat” grammar. In other words, rather than dedicate a large amount of class time to grammar, students can be asked to view the videos and complete the grammar exercises outside of class. When students find a particular grammar concept difficult and complete an activity with less than 100% accuracy, they are prompted to review the relevant video again and repeat the exercise. These activities are self-checked, but could be programmed in learning management systems if instructors would like to record or grade individual student results. Instructors may also provide additional practice and assessment as needed, but our model suggests grading grammar as just one of several components in each project assessment.
Vocabulary: Vocabulary practice is content based and intended to expand students’ access to formal terminology. We also highlight vocabulary needed for students to communicate effectively by connecting ideas. For example, Chapter 3 offers both vocabulary to discuss frequency and make comparisons. Because our content related vocabulary is limited to a short list and a few activities per chapter, we suggest students make their own personalized digital dictionaries. While there are many ways to design this activity, one possibility is to create an individual Excel spreadsheet with tabs for each letter of the alphabet so that students may add the words that are new to them across the different components of each chapter (media as well as readings). Some instructional time could be dedicated to additional group vocabulary activities and assessments based on students’ needs and interests. One particularly impactful activity could be to begin every chapter by brainstorming a list of vocabulary that students already know that relates to each theme or that they anticipate/predict will be used. This kind of activity allows students to recognize and build on their background knowledge. Students can support each other’s learning and see each other as sources of knowledge by adding terms that they are unfamiliar with to their personal dictionaries.
As the definitions and synonyms that we use are from www.wordreference.com, we encourage both students and instructors to explore the various tools that it provides. We particularly encourage students to use this resource when exploring new words because it provides examples of multiple meanings in contextualized sentences so that students may make the most appropriate choices.
Additional Resources: Each chapter provides additional resources that instructors and/or students may choose to investigate to expand their understanding of particular themes. While these resources are not exhaustive, we hope that they inspire instructors to provide their own lists of resources and archives specific to the region and community in which students encounter Spanish and Spanish speakers. We also encourage instructors to participate in professional development and/or review the research and teaching materials organized by the National Heritage Language Resource Center.
Carreira, María and Claire Hitchins Chik. “Project-based Learning for Heritage Language Learners.” National Heritage Language Resource Center Pre-conference Workshop, 2018.
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