This post is part of my series where I describe how I planned without a textbook and made it less daunting for me to do so.
In my previous post, I described how I decided on units that I wanted to use. Once I had decided on my overall units, I then decided on my goals for each unit. Many times with some topics, it can seem obvious. With a description theme, you can think- well I want them to be able to describe their friends. That can be true- but when has someone ever asked you to describe your friends in a normal conversation. You rarely do- you only discuss them when you have stories to tell about them. Therefore, you don’t need to have your students stand up a describe their friends or write a letter about a description of their friends.
However, if you are going to the movies with some friends, you may have to tell a new friend about who is coming about them- but this idea can deepen the theme. Something even more compelling is that there are some tricky issues! Tell your friend about a problem that two of your friends have. Or maybe there is a topic not to bring up. This also makes some of your talking points ahead of the final goal more compelling.
Overall, I try to think of:
- why would I need to talk about this in real life.
- when have I talked about this- especially in the Spanish language.
- how can I make this compelling for my students.
- when did I discuss this abroad.
Here I am going to deviate some from what some people have stated. Some have said that studying or living abroad may not be in the students’ future and may be too far off, so it isn’t as compelling. However, I think that we still need to equip students for this situation. Also, based on the progress of topics in traditional foreign language classes from middle school or high school to college, I need to teach my students some themes that the educational system considers introductory when they are in middle school or high school. If we assume that students will learn this vocabulary in college before studying abroad, it may not happen. Then, how would I have known what my host abuelo was talking about when he was giving me a tour of the house?
For the sake of honesty, some of my goals aren’t always great, but as I have worked with them, many times, they evolve into interesting conversations. For example, I decided to change the traditional house unit into discussing what activities students do in different rooms of their house to recycle some of our previous units. While this isn’t my favorite transformation of my unit, I ended up discussing with students about if they were able to cook or not and what they made for themselves in the kitchen. Once you start to transform and broaden your units, you will find more to discuss with your students.
Some of my other favorite goals have included:
- be able to offer opinions on restaurants (around a food unit) or clothes.
- explain why teenagers are busy and not lazy.
- explain if I agree or disagree with the message of a song/video/show.
- leave a review for a product.
- discuss what holiday traditions are important to my family. (This can also lead to a comparison of other holiday traditions in the countries that you are studying.)
Overall, in this post, I discussed how I transformed units that are traditionally in a textbook. I believe that you can incorporate culture into these topics which I will talk about later. However, you could apply some of these same concepts to a cultural unit if you want to start there. Many times, you can have students evaluate either the products, practices or perspectives. For example, if you are watching the lottery commercial from Spain and studying that, you could have students explain what aspects of the culture are important in Spain and if we consider them important in the US. With a fast food unit, students could discuss if the fast food menus from one country are healthier than in the US and why. You can also start by having students pose questions about the cultural aspects then investigate them which is also a real life application.
As I continue to plan, having a large goal in mind typically shapes up my assessments and any language chunks that I want to concentrate on. This is important because it will also help you shake some of the vocabulary or grammar that isn’t as significant. By defining your goal, you can decide what language chunks that you need- and that is the next step.