Sneak Peek: Inside you will find a detailed explanation of my third year teaching the heritage language learners course, through the lens of the curriculum I created.
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I have finished the third year of creating a brand new curriculum for my heritage speaker class. Personally, I approach curriculum for heritage speakers in a way that is centered on content-based instruction while also incorporating language arts, history, culture, and a touch of grammar instruction. My focus is on high-engagement activities because students are only learning when they are hooked on the content.
Three-year Curriculum Cycle
At my school, we combine all high school heritage speaking students into one course, regardless of language abilities or reading level. I have created a new curriculum for three years because students are able to repeat my course for up to three years. I like to think of it as a curriculum cycle. Teaching 9-12 graders, every year I have a new group of ninth-grade students added to the mix, along with the other students who took my course the previous year(s).
This model is great for fostering relationships, but because we don’t have the numbers to divide students into different heritage course levels according to ability, I have to find ways to differentiate for my students.
The best way to differentiate is by incorporating FVR into our daily routine. I am very grateful for the grants my classroom has received in order to provide a wide selection of books for my students. We begin each day with 10 minutes of FVR, hardly ever missing a day. This consistency is very important in order to set the tone, and my students have really embraced the time frame within the class hour.
Let’s take a look at what I taught my students this year, shall we?
First Week of School
I tend to be anxious at the start of the year, so I like to have my plans all ready to go. This year, I actually shared my detailed lesson plans for the first week of school in this blog post.
This first week, I like to start out with icebreakers and end the week with classroom procedures. The overall focus was creating a welcoming environment, interviewing my students individually, and teaching students about the FVR routines we would be implementing. Incorporating a lot of group work during the first week gives students the chance to know one another and feel out the new school year’s dynamic.
Highlights from the week:
We did a fun digital-scavenger-hunt icebreaker about their summer in which students practiced the preterite tense. My students loved it because they had to insert real pictures from their summer into the bingo board!
Students worked in groups on a reading assignment from an online news article about the environment. The article focused on a crazy hail storm that happened in Mexico. I modified the article by splitting it into sections so that each group member would get a fair chunk of the article, and all students would take ownership of their contributions to the group effort.
As a class we discussed what it means to be a heritage speaker, as different from being a native speaker. We broke down the two terms and looked at them objectively, one not necessarily being better or worse than the other…just different. So in that, we talked about why heritage speakers shouldn’t compare their abilities to native speakers. Students reflected on their unique language journey and the language input they have from various avenues in their life (family, friends, sports, music, religion, work) that has shaped their bilingualism. The point of this lesson is to foster a growth mindset! You can read more about it here.
Student placement is sometimes an issue at the start of the year, so I gave students a digital comprehension assessment to make sure that they were accurately placed in my heritage class. I need to know that my students understand spoken Spanish, if this is a struggle, that is fine, but I know that they are better served in a regular Spanish class. Beyond just knowing if they are at the level necessary for heritage speakers class, the assessment gives me a feel for each student’s writing ability as the assessment has them do a writing sample. You can access this for free in my Freebie Folder.
We took care of business by going over the classroom procedures. I presented to the class using a Slideshow while students took notes on this graphic organizer.
The other thing we did this week was explore the classroom library in order to prepare for beginning our FVR routine the following week (grab this FVR introduction worksheet for free in my TPT store). I want my students to know their options and take ownership in maintaining the library space. I love being able to collect meaningful, fun, inspiring, or relaxing novels, comics, and biographies for them; however, I know that this will fall apart quickly if my students do not understand the expectations of using and returning books each day! Things have gone really well to this point, maybe lost a book or two, but by and large, the norm is that their library is well stocked and well kept.
Poema acróstico de mi nombre
The following week, to continue getting to know one another, students wrote an acrostic poem using their name. First, they highlighted words that identified with them personally, and then created a visual acrostic poem featuring their first or last name. I posted these around the classroom and had students do a gallery walk to explore what interests they had in common with their classmates. It serves as a sort of…introverted ice breaker for students, which can be a nice way for some students to put themselves out there!
Mi identidad híbrida
Next, we transitioned into our first official unit of the year: hybrid identity. I have to say that this is one of my all-time favorite units to teach! The unit was so hands-on and helped my students clarify their identity and find their voice. Interestingly enough, this 13-day unit also happens to be hybrid in the way that is partly digital and partly on paper.
To begin this unit, students identified the different aspects of their life that come from the Latino culture in their lives and from the American culture in their lives with this activity called Los dos lados de mi vida (<– free download).
They went into more depth identifying their unique hybridity by inserting pictures of the duality of their existence into a table in a Google Doc.
We watched a couple of videos that caused students to reflect on the pros and cons of living a hybrid life, as well as the juxtaposition. As an exit slip, students wrote out their feelings on a Twitter card I later posted on the classroom walls for students to read their peers’ reactions.
You can grab this Twitter template in my Freebie Folder.
Code-switching is an important linguistic aspect of living a hybrid life. Students explored this topic by completing a WebQuest.
Cultura visible y cultura invisible
The cultural components that make up a hybrid identity go much deeper than just the obvious cultural practices like food, dance, and language. In groups, students first listed out the “above the surface” cultural aspects for both their Latino culture and American culture. Next, they listed out the “below the surface” cultural aspects for both their Latino culture and American culture.
The next day, the groups created a poster to illustrate their collaboration. Each group presented their posters throughout the week, and upon completion of their presentation, I hung their posters in the hallway on display. The work they produced was powerful!
La sociedad y yo
For the next week-and-a-half, we focused on discrimination, generalizations, and stereotypes that students experience due to their identity.
The point of this unit was to define the terms and understand the difference between them, while also empowering students to express themselves and feel that they aren’t alone in these difficult experiences. There is strength in unity, strength in speaking your truth, and strength in being heard and understood.
To introduce the topic, I used a Pear Deck for students to interact with digitally. This allowed the class to express themselves in a more subtle, indirect way. Since this is a very tense topic, I wanted to ease them into it, by allowing them to share their responses with the class in a more anonymous way. In this lesson students shared their experiences of discrimination, but also reflected on their own biases that they knowingly or unknowingly held.
To express themselves further, students created a poster about a stereotype about Latinos that isn’t true about them.
This was really powerful and I ended up hanging them in the hallway.
This also happened to coincide with a campaign going around our school called #seeme so I showed students the video our school made. Aligning with a school initiative was not the goal, but it added a macro sense to what our class was discussing at the time. In that way, the gravity was helpful!
We focused on defining and memorizing the definitions for discrimination, generalization, and stereotype and students were eventually assessed on these terms.
Because we had learned about code-switching earlier in the unit, the next project would tie into that theme and attempt to harness that energy channeling it in another direction. Students were asked to use code-switching in a short poem they wrote, accompanied by a drawing to represent how they see themselves versus how they feel society sees them.
Their poems were so honest and raw. Sometimes you hope a discussion or topic connects in a meaningful way, but you are not sure how things will go in reality…but I have to say, my students really dug into this and I learned so much about their inner selves in the process. The side that can be so hidden in public spaces such as a high school classroom.
I loved reading what my students wrote! I cut off the names and then posted these in the hallway for a gallery walk.
I used this gallery walk template (grab it in my Freebie folder) as a way for students to react as they walked around and read each poem.
Discrimination is a heavy topic, so to end things on a lighter note, we watched a Ted Talk about how to overcome stereotypes. Students also listened to the song “Soy yo” by Bomba Estéreo and filled in the missing lyrics. The positive message that we left off on was that there will always be stereotypes, but you can’t let them define your own perception of yourself. Be proud of who you are, be open-minded and be kind to others.
East Side Sushi
To transition from our hybrid identity unit to our food project unit, we watched the movie East Side Sushi, because perfectly enough, it includes both topics. My students were very engaged with this storyline and it fostered some solid class discussion. See more about this movie on this blog post I wrote about it. You can also grab the free movie reflection questionnaire in my Freebie Folder.
El proyecto de la comida
After a unit of some intense self-discovery, it was time to switch gears, lighten the mood with a food project…which of course, means a class party!
This unit consists of learning about personification by watching Taco Chronicles, creating posters of a favorite family recipe and writing a paragraph to personify the ingredients. I really wanted to ensure that my students are able to play with written language, and use writing in a way that expresses their intellect and grasp of the language in fun and playful ways as well. Also, I won’t lie, some of the recipes they bring in taste SO GOOD!!
We ended the unit with a party where students who felt so inclined, could bring in their family recipe to share!
Having a hybrid identity usually includes some sort of bilingualism. So for that reason, it just felt like a natural unit to move into next. In this 8-day unit, students learned about the different types of bilingualism, bilingualism around the world, the language history of the United States, and the use of “Spanglish” in the United States.
The first lesson was bilingual fact task cards that I posted throughout the hallway.
Each task card had a QR code so students could easily access the website to find the information.
Finally, students wrote thank you cards to the people in their life that have helped them become bilingual or maintain their bilingualism. I’m all about finding ways to teach gratitude and include students’ families in the educational journey. Some of the cards were really touching and all of them expressed a beautiful sense of gratitude! For most, the cards were addressed to a family member. I love to see that!
You can download this free thank you card template in my Freebie Folder.
Traducción e interpretación
The topic of bilingualism transitioned us into this 5-day unit about translation and interpreting. Most of my students have had some sort of experience translating for family members. In this unit, we explored best practices of interpreting, the difference between translation and interpreting, and what it takes to become a professional interpreter or translator. I’m all for teaching students how to take their abilities and help them explore ways to make money doing it!
We ended the unit with guest speakers (our cultural liaisons in the school) sharing about their own training, experiences, and mishaps in their interpreting career.
Time for a unit focused heavily on language arts! For this unit, I offered 8 different book titles and students could choose which one they preferred. I didn’t require that they read with the students in their group, but some did opt to do so.
Students were given a literary analysis packet to work through as they read the book they chose. I assigned certain pages for certain days of class, and some days I pre-taught the concept before I allowed them to get to work.
My favorite part about this literary analysis packet is the front page that has all the objectives for the unit. Once students finish a page, they show me their work and I stamp their objective on the first page once they have completed it correctly. At the end of the unit, grading the packets is simple, I just look for how many stamps they earned on the first page because I had been grading it as we went. Score one for the home team!
I also love that you can use this packet with any book! Originally, I had planned on using TPRS novels, but later changed my mind and decided on these titles:
Antes de ser libres by Julia Álvarez
Viaje a la tierra del abuelo by Mario Bencastro
Esperanza Renace by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Nacer Bailando by Alma Flor Ada & Gabriel M Zubizarreta
El color de mis Palabras by Lynn Joseph
I chose these titles because they all have a similar theme of adjusting to life in the United States while still carrying with you, your family’s culture. This tied in well with the hybrid identity unit we studied earlier this year.
For Valentine’s Day this year, we learned about self-love and the importance of caring for yourself and prioritizing your mental health. Students worked through this four-page packet in which they reflected on what they love about themselves, how well they care for themselves, how their needs are or aren’t being met, and finally they wrote a letter to themselves.
This was a good way to connect what we had learned the previous year in our happiness unit. It’s always fun to review past themes.
During spring break, I had just finished up creating our next unit about Latino representation in the media, when I found out we would be transitioning to distance learning due to COVID-19. I then took all the content I had created and made it compatible with learning online.
I designed this unit to last 16 days, but due to the pacing of distance learning we didn’t even get through all of the content in 12 weeks. What can you do?!
In this unit, students watched Ted Talks, learned about terms relating to representation, like “tokenism” and “proportional representation.”
They analyzed what the stereotypical Latino characters are, and what type of characters would be better representation.
They researched the Latino representation on different streaming services.
They learned about the term intersectionality and how it relates to representation.
They read articles and answered comprehension questions about new shows that have great Latino representation.
They researched Latino music throughout the last ten years to see how representation has changed.
I found out that parents of my students LOVED this part of the distance learning experience. Apparently, there were some major family dance sessions going on. I was happy to have provided a fun memory in what was such a stressful and cooped up season!
They created their own Latino character that they would like to see represented in a show or movie.
They learned about what Latinos are doing to make a difference in Hollywood’s representation. They also learned about email etiquette and then used what they learned to write an email to Latino influencers in Hollywood.
Lastly, they researched colorism in Mexican telenovelas.
This unit was jam-packed with lots of activities that engaged students, even when learning from a distance.
It was a bummer to not be able to have our culminating class discussion how I had planned, but we used Flipgrid instead so that students could share their opinions with one another.
I should also add that throughout the year, on Fridays we watched half of an episode of a show called Alta Mar. This show is available for streaming on Netflix. Watching this show exposed my students to a different dialect of Spanish than they are used to (Spain), had them reading without realizing it (subtitles), and gave us a common storyline we could use to analyze character types during our literary analysis unit.
I learned that the best way to engage students in the show was to give them a short quiz directly after viewing it. This helped them prioritize watching the show in class over working on other homework, phone games or snoozing. You can download all of my season one quizzes for free in my Freebie Folder.
If you are interested in purchasing all the materials I used to teach this Year Three curriculum, click the image below.
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