Boosting the Confidence of Heritage Learners
Change is inevitable and abundant! This has proven true in my life recently:
I have moved from hot, hot, hot Florida to cozy Wisconsin and have also changed jobs. With a new town and a new school, I have found a different set of students (of course!) Although my new school has an international program, the students they host are usually one-year European students with high English proficiency. There is a much smaller need for ELL work. My ELL responsibilities are now simply an addition to my main role as Spanish teacher instead of my sole responsibility. (That won’t keep me from blogging about it!)
I had to adjust to the needs of my new school and found myself a fun project on which to expend some of my creative juices. After teaching Spanish I, II and III last year I asked my administration if I could start a Spanish for Heritage Learners class for the 2019-20 school year. They said yes! In fact, they loved the idea almost as much as me!
Why did we need a Spanish for Heritage Learners class? Let me explain.
In my Spanish I, II and III classes I had a range of students that already speak Spanish. They signed up for Spanish classes usually because they lacked any confidence in their academic abilities in Spanish although they would never explain it like that. They would say things like, “Mrs. Newberry, I’m terrible at Spanish! ” Technically that wasn’t true. Usually, they are bilingual, just not biliterate. Once I explained the difference, they got interested and I saw an immediate boost of confidence. “Do you mean I’m not stupid?”
In addition to that, these kids vacillated from being bored to tears through half of a Spanish course (the learning vocabulary part) or freaked out and failing the other part (the reading and writing part.) Spelling, grammar, phonetics….all alien concepts. These kids were speaking fluent, conversational Spanish but their literacy skills were elementary at best!
The first thing I did was sign up for the Heritage Leaners course run by CARLA (The Center For Advanced Research on Language Acquisition.) There was a summer session held at the University of Minnesota which is not far from my new digs in Wisconsin. I learned piles of information and met with like-minded educators from around the country. I highly recommend joining the Facebook group Teachers of Spanish Heritage Speakers to hear questions and answers from newbies and experienced Heritage Learner teachers.
So, my blog will no doubt have a wider expanse of topics as I work through my first year teaching Spanish for Heritage Learners. I hope to hear from you as well! Let me know what’s happening in your Spanish, ELL or Heritage Learning language classes!