eLearning: Spanish Language Instruction- ¿Cómo eres?
In the past, the city of Waterbury, Connecticut had many neighborhood schools. Over the years, these neighborhood schools closed down and it was not until 2009, that they began to resurface. Prior to being elected Mayor, while serving as commissioner on the Board of Education, Neil O’Leary began his initiative to re-create neighborhood schools in the city of Waterbury, in order to raise the city’s attainment rate (Office of the Mayor, 2013, para 5). These PK-8 schools also known as “elemiddle schools,” (Hough, 2009, p. 82) began to open in 2010, with the first being Gilmartin. The second elemiddle school to open was Duggan in 2011, followed by Jonathan E. Reed in 2012, and most recently, in 2013, Carrington.
One of the things that separates the elemiddle from the traditional middle school in the city of Waterbury, other than the fact that the schools are neighborhood schools, is the fact that there is no foreign language instruction. Students in grades 6 through 8 in the elemiddle schools have a schedule of courses that consist of: Reading, Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies and then depending on the day, students have electives of Art, Music, Physical Education, Library, and at some schools, Tech Ed or Family and Consumer Sciences. At a regular middle school, the students have exposure to all of these courses, including more that are not available at the elemiddle school.
In a recent news article by Puffer (2014) in the Waterbury Republican-American , a concerned parent of an elemiddle student spoke at a Board of Education meeting requesting that Spanish be offered to her child next year. The parent expressed her concern that there is no foreign language being offered to the students at the elemiddle schools by stating, “We want our kids to be at the same level as the rest of the kids in the city” (Local). One of the main reasons for the lack of courses available at the elemiddle school is due to lack of finances available to hire educators. Goertler, Bollen, and Gaff (2012) discuss that at the higher education level, “it is unlikely that additional instructional staff will be hired or additional instructional space will become available at public universities in the US” (p. 298). Remarks were made by Waterbury Board of Education officials that foreign language will be offered at the elemiddle schools next year, however, nothing has been shared with teachers and in a recent job posting, there were no postings for foreign language teachers at the elemiddle schools.
The best and most efficient way to implement foreign language at the elemiddle schools is through eLearning. eLearning, or online learning is referred to as, “the technology which can extend the availability of information for training. It appears vital technology because improve the political and cultural future of the society” (Hoshyar & Sulaiman, 2010, p. 456). eLearning provides students with an opportunity to work on a larger range of skills that they need in order to be successful in the world that they live in.
According to Betts, Hartman, and Oxholm III (2009), “34% of the US population is minority” (p.11). The majority of students in the city of Waterbury are categorized under the 34% and come from very poor neighborhoods. Wong and Langevin (2007) reported that there was a “greater distributive equity for minority students whose educational needs were previously neglected in public schools” (p. 452). The city of Waterbury currently has 4,026 sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students with 414 students enrolled in an elemiddle school (Puffer, 2014). The schools are ethnically diverse with students of all races, with the most prominent race being African-American and Latino. Furthermore, within the category of 414 students, consists students who are English Language Learners, Special Education students who have IEPs due to vision involvement, hearing involvement, or cognitive involvement (Lewis & Sullivan, n.d., p.351) and/or students who have been identified as 504 students. Overall, this population is extremely diverse and although there are native speakers in the district, students need the proper instruction to make them even more marketable in the future.
The purpose of this eLearning lesson is to create a program that meets the needs of the students at the elemiddle schools in the city of Waterbury that promotes growth of each student in their studies of foreign language while meeting the same demands implemented on the students at the general middle schools in the city.
In order to complete this lesson, students will need to first, fully understand how to read, write, and speak the Spanish that is required of them to have a conversation with their peers. Also in order to complete this lesson, students will need to have a general knowledge of how to operate a computer, including the use of Google Chrome and Skype Classroom. Due to the diversity that the city brings, some students have had more exposure to computers than others. There are some students who do not know how to comfortably and independently navigate their way on a computer, especially those with cognitive involvement issues. These students will need extra help to work through the eLearning lesson. By the time a learner finishes this eLearning lesson, he or she will be able to: list the descriptive adjectives in Spanish and English, conjugate the verb ‘ser’, describe themselves and the other person in Spanish, and have a full conversation in Spanish.
The entire eLearning lesson is divided into various online activities consisting of videos and games, with the final assessment being a Skype Classroom conversation with another student in the district. All activities are student-centered and use the internet site Prezi.com
First, when developing a lesson, eLearning or not, one of the most important parts of planning the lesson is through the use of strong grouping and sequencing. The main purpose of grouping and sequencing is to allow there to be a flow in the lesson with any activities that are to be done so everything makes sense to the students and does not overwhelm them. When there is a strong grouping and sequencing evident in the lesson, especially in a student-centered eLearning lesson, the teacher and students are more organized and the lesson is more effective and efficient. The hook that was chosen for the eLearning lesson is a video that is a song on the verb ‘Ser’. The reason for this video is to review the conjugation of the verb ‘ser’ for students. If students do not know how to conjugate the verb, they will not be able to have a conversation with another student in the Skype Classroom activity. The song is extremely repetitive but helps students remember the conjugations that they need to know.
As previously stated, a majority of the lesson is centered on games that the students have to play in order to review. The reason that this instructional method is being used is because games can be very beneficial in the learning process. Shute, Rieber, and Van Eck (n.d.) write:
Prensky (2001) includes goals, feedback, interaction, and representation (or story) into the mix of essential game elements. Pulling from each, our list of educational-game ‘must haves’ includes: (a) conflict or challenge (i.e., a problem to be solved), (b) rules of engagement, (c) particular goals or outcomes to achieve (which often includes many subgoals), (d) continuous feedback (mostly implicit, but may be explicityly cognitive and/or affective), (e) interaction within the environment, and (f) compelling story line” (p. 321-322).
The games provide a repetition for the students that they need in order to ensure that the learning is staying with them. Students will be able to recall the information quicker and will feel more confident when they have to have a conversation in Spanish. The game activities also serve as one formative assessment because it allows the students to identify their own strengths and weaknesses that they may be having with the Spanish language in reference to the verb ‘Ser’ and the adjectives that they need to know in order to participate in the Skype Classroom activity. The other formative assessment that takes place in the eLearning activity is through the brainstorming activity where students are require to write out the questions that they are going to ask to their peer at another school, using the correct form of the verb ‘ser’ and they will also write a descriptive paragraph about themselves prior to completing the Skype Classroom activity. This will allow the students and the teacher to make sure that they are grasping the concepts of the verb ‘ser’ and the adjectives, and are fully prepared to have a Spanish conversation.
The final activity, or summative assessment, for this eLearning lesson is the Spanish conversation with a peer at another school via Skype Classroom. Skype Classroom is an excellent videoconferencing tool that allows students to connect to people across the globe. Journell and Dressman (2011) assert that “videoconferencing can be a powerful way to bring diverse perspectives into the classroom in all academic disciplines” (p. 111). The population of students that are working on this project is diverse to begin with, however, by incorporating videoconferencing with other people in other states, towns or cities, and/or countries, students are learning positive communication skills and are becoming more culturally aware of the world around them, especially in their own city.
Guiding Material for Teacher and Students
Guiding Material for Students: http://prezi.com/kewfs6uyyvcr/como-eres/
Guiding Material for Teacher:
- Students will log-on to their assigned computer in the computer lab.
- Username: elstudent
- Password: student
- Once logged on, students will go on Google Chrome and will visit the Prezi (http://prezi.com/kewfs6uyyvcr/untitled-prezi/)
- Once students get onto the created Prezi they will view the Hook: “Ser Song” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yi8VW4xKciQ)
- Once students have viewed the Hook, they will continue on to the next slide where they will watch the Youtube video that reviews the verb “Ser” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6QzEmSJvHPw)
- Students will then quiz themselves by playing the “Ser” Game: http://www.digitaldialects.com/Spanish/tobetohave.htm
- Once the “Ser” Game is complete, students will continue onto the next slide that will lead them to the “Whack-A-Word” Game
- Students will play 3 rounds of “Whack-A-Word”: http://www.queondaspanish.com/whack_a_word
i. Under “Choose Category”, select “Beginner”.
ii. Choose Lesson for Round 1: “Describing People”
iii. Choose Lesson for Round 2: “Emotions”
iv. Choose Lesson for Round 3: “Personality”
- Students will continue onto the next slide where they will read the following instructions:
- Write questions that you are going to ask your peer at another school, using the correct form of the verb ‘ser’.
- Write a descriptive paragraph about yourself prior to completing the Skype Classroom portion of the activity.
- Once students are completed writing their questions and their descriptive paragraph, students need to turn in their questions and paragraph to the teacher for review.
- Once the teacher approves of their questions and paragraph, students will then connect to Skype Classroom.
- Students will sign-in using the username and password that they have been assigned.
- Once students are signed in to Skype, they will then make the call to their peer across town and have a conversation (5 minutes per student).
- The Skype video call will be recorded so the teacher can later review the conversation to grade the student on their speaking.
Conversation Assessment (Rubric)
When reflecting on my eLearning lesson, I strongly believe that my lesson has been designed with all of the eLearning best practices and theories in mind. I thoroughly researched the topic regarding designing eLearning lessons and how to design eLearning lessons with foreign language instruction as the topic.
Also, one of the things I believe makes my eLearning lesson very strong is I have applied my knowledge from my other classes as well as designed with my learners at the forefront of my mind. The design of the Prezi is clean and easy to navigate for students who may have some difficulties navigating computers on their own. One of the things that might need to be altered are the amount of games for some students who are labeled as Special Education students. A separate but similar Prezi will need to be created in order to cater to the needs of those students.
To view the full Student-Centered eLearning lesson visit: http://prezi.com/kewfs6uyyvcr/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy
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Office of the Mayor. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.waterburyct.org/content/9569/10414/
Puffer, M. (2014, May 1). Elementary language gap. Retrieved from
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Spanish 2 Conversation Rubric [Rubric]. (2011). Retrieved from Docstoc website: http://www.docstoc.com/docs/71994352/Spanish-2-Conversation-Rubric
Wong, K., & Langevin, W. (2007). Policy expansion of school choice in the american states. Peabody Journal of Education, 82(2-3), 440-472.