Looking for Jobs?
The school year is coming to a close and many schools are still looking for qualified Spanish/World Language teachers. Below are a few openings with many others posted at Cerra. If your school district is looking for a Spanish/Portuguese teacher, feel free to send your openings to Trixi at email@example.com for posting here. Feel free to share these openings with others.
Maintaining Your Second Language Skills: Tips from an English/Spanish-Speaking Mom of an English-Speaking Family
By Amanda Gomes
For those of us who are not native speakers of the language we teach, it can be tricky business keeping our second language skills strong! I have found this to be especially true after marriage and kids; it’s difficult to dedicate the same time you did before you truly began “adulting”. Of course, that is if you didn’t end up marrying a native speaker of that language! Obviously this would be the number one way to keep up with the language! So if you’re still out there looking for love… well, you catch my drift. (wink, wink)
For the rest of us, let’s explore some ways we can maintain our second language skills!
Listen to international music.
When I first became interested in learning Spanish, I used to watch VH1 (“bay-otcheh-uno”, the español version) all the time. Eventually I’d have some favorite songs and artists, and would run to the store to pick up their CDs (I KNOW! CDs!). I’d memorize the lyrics and look up any words I didn’t know to figure out the song’s meaning. This was such a great tool for learning, and for practicing pronunciation too! The grammar, vocabulary, and context would often present itself in later real life conversations, and just click. What I found most surprising about this practice was that after a car ride of singing along with some of my favorite Spanish music, my mouth would be so sore from working muscles I didn’t normally use in English! That’s got to be a sure sign that it’s doing something for your pronunciation! And I’ve had numerous conversations where people were surprised to learn that I wasn’t a native speaker; thanks VH1!
Now there are all kinds of music streaming apps like Pandora, and, my family’s favorite, Spotify. We can use these apps to keep our international music on in the background and immerse ourselves in our second language while our everyday lives truck on! Eventually familiar songs will pop out, and you’ll be singing (and maybe dancing) along in no time!
Search for foreign movies and shows on streaming services.
Can you remember life before Google and TV streaming services?! These days you can easily search Google for “Spanish (or Portuguese!) shows on Netflix/Hulu/Kodi (You pick the app too!)”, and get a comprehensive list of shows and their descriptions! If you’re like me, your TV time is minimal, and usually shared with someone who isn’t interested in watching a Spanish movie. (Ugh!) When the rare opportunity to watch whatever I want presents itself, I like to make the most of it and really indulge my interests.
You can also put a new spin on familiar movies by selecting your language of choice in the menu settings! I used to do this for my kids all the time. Seriously, Frozen will never be as entertaining it is in español! “♪Libre soy, libre soy…♪”
Audit classes at the local college or university.
Some colleges will allow people to audit classes. This allows you the chance to sit in on courses without receiving a grade. Typically there isn’t a fee associated with this either because you aren’t receiving credit, but you would need to check with the specific college or university. Some require an official process, while some allow instructors to give clearance. I have audited a Spanish conversation course in the past when I needed to improve my language skills. Enjoy the perks of a class, without the stress of a grade! (High-five!)
Attend church services in the language.
In my community there are churches that offer services in Spanish. Ask around! I have visited a friend’s church many times, and really enjoyed their all-Spanish praise and worship, and service. I’m also Catholic, and the Catholic Church on the other side of my town offers misa en español as well. This allows one the opportunity to meet and connect with a community of Spanish-speaking people which can potentially lead to a number of language experiences.
One thing you want to remember when meeting new people is that it’s important to establish those relationships in Spanish! I have a few Spanish-speaking friends with whom I converse in English! (Boooo!) It’s a strange thing how hard it can be to make the official switch from one language to the other!
Work part-time in the language.
When I was a college student I spent time working for a local insurance agency geared toward my local Hispanic community. Aside from one of the co-owners, I was the only native English speaker on staff. The learning and practice I gained from this employment has been unmatched in my other language adventures! As a single mother, semesters and/or years abroad were not an option for me. Instead, I spent most of six days a week submersed in the language for a year and a half before returning to education.
I often think it would be amazing to work in a Spanish-speaking environment again, and consider this when I’m visiting Spanish-speaking businesses. If it’s something you haven’t done before, I highly recommend you give it a go! Imagine everything in your current work place, but in your second language – language, friends, culture, experiences, AND money – win win WIN!
But it isn’t always about money, right? I mean, we are teachers. Volunteering is another way to improve language skills. A Spanish-speaking friend of mine spends part of her summers off working as a volunteer at a summer camp geared toward Spanish-speaking children in her community. I also entertain the idea of offering English lessons to native Spanish-speakers. Basically anything that gets you involved with the Spanish or Portuguese speaking community is a win in my book!
I’m willing to bet that as a foreign language teacher, travel is something that always peaks your interest! There is nothing more satisfying than proving your language skills in their native land. (Seriously, relevant travel should be automatic PD credit!) However, funding, or finding a travel partner, can sometimes prove difficult. But there are resources out there to help you make it happen! Often times there are available scholarships and summer travel opportunities designed especially for teachers, some of which include travel expenses and actual courses overseas! Here are some links that I have explored in the past:
The American Association of Teacher of Spanish and Portuguese:
South Carolina Department of Education:
Tía Tula, Colegio de Español:
Opportunities to use your second language skills don’t always come easy; sometimes you have to seek them out, or create them! As teachers, many of us are afforded the summers to do our own thing. What better way to spend them than reigniting the passion that attracted us to our language studies in the first place? So go out, make connections, and get creative! ¡Diviértate!
Dr. Marcos Protheroe, Barnwell High School
They came, they saw, they won.
Three students earned Spanish awards for Barnwell High. At the Augusta University Spanish Contest, Loren Eubanks took First Place in the spelling bee. She went through several competition rounds and defeated a college student to take the top prize. The contest was open to all academic levels.
Kimani Pelote won First Place in the singing competition. She sang Porque te quiero (Because I Love You). The selection is a love-song parody from the classic 1969 Spanish textbook Usted y yo by Zenia Sacks da Silva. Perlote sang a cappella during the competition.
Johnathan Carrillo received a bronze medal for his high score on the National Spanish Examination (NSE). He competed against more than 160,000 students in grades 6-12 in the United States. The test measures proficiency in grammar, reading, listening, and vocabulary.
Carrillo competed in the “outside experience” category, which is a higher level of competition than the “classroom experience” category reserved for English-dominant students. Carrillo has had some limited exposure to Spanish at home.
During the present spring semester, Carrillo transferred to Bamberg-Ehrhart High School, but he represented Barnwell High on the NSE, since the test is computer-based. The NSE is sponsored by the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP).
Last year, Carrillo won a silver medal on the NSE.
Perlote, Eubanks, and Carrillo are presently Spanish 2 students. Their teacher, Dr. Marcos Protheroe, has taught at Barnwell High for three years. He holds a doctorate in Spanish American literature from the University of Puerto Rico.
Five Tips to Teaching a Language Online
As an online Spanish teacher, I am often asked, “How DO you teach a language online?”
The answer varies from program to program, and it certainly varies from a traditional brick & mortar approach to language learning. Teaching a language online is often more challenging when it comes to interpersonal and sometimes presentational tasks in the language. However, offering language courses online can be beneficial to students. Many students consider speaking into their computer, rather than standing and speaking in front of a class, to be the greatest benefit of an online language course, but there are other benefits as well. In some cases, taking a language online might be the only way that a student can take a language if it isn’t offered at their school, or it won’t fit into their schedule. By offering languages online, we are able to reach more students with greater course offerings.
Here are my top five tips to help you when teaching a language online:
- Communication, Communication & Communication! Clearly communication is important in any online course, but especially in a second language course where students may be trying to learn how to navigate a course as well as learn a second language. Make sure that directions that are related to the navigation of the course are presented to students in their first language. Ideally we want to use the target language as much as possible, but students should be given instructions on how to move within their course in English. I also suggest that teachers find multiple ways to communicate with their students. I tell my students that I will communicate with them in any manner they are comfortable, whether that is Skype, email, text message, or emojis. ☺ I send out weekly messages in at least 2-3 forms of communication so that students have access to the information in several places.
- Be Creative! Sending out weekly communication to students can get just as boring for the teacher as it does for the student! I like to use memes to help convey my messages to students, but I always remind my students that my messages are intended as humorous reminders. Recently I have begun to really make a fool out of myself by changing the lyrics of popular songs and sending them to my students; i.e my version of “Hello” https://goo.gl/QaDV5q or feel free to check out the others https://goo.gl/pLtjDC
- Create a Community – Get everyone involved! Whenever possible get parents involved in their student’s learning. Don’t wait until a grade drops or students fall behind to contact parents. Encourage students to get their parents involved with them in learning a new language. Offer suggestions on ways the entire family can get involved in learning the language and culture, such as eating at a restaurant, shopping at an authentic grocery store, or learning a new dance.
- Give good feedback! In an online course, giving good feedback is crucial to student growth. One of the strengths of online courses is that students do receive some immediate feedback in activities. Make sure that this feedback is well developed and encouraging. Feedback for assignments should not just include corrections, but explanations of errors. When applicable, I include a screencast with my feedback or an audio response using screencast-o-matic.com or vocaroo.com.
- Add an APP! Finally, in addition to coursework, suggest that students add an app to their phone that will encourage additional practice of the target language. Students are much more likely to practice the language in their spare time if they can access it via their phones.
Teaching a language online is extremely challenging, but can be very rewarding for students and teachers, plus it’s a great way to spend time in your pajamas!
Teaching World Languages in Middle School
While some of these ‘tips’ are true to education in general, here I offer my two cents on teaching world languages at the middle school level
- Keep the energy up! You have to remember, they are still kids and thrive on energetic and passionate teachers. Standing at the front of the room and just going on and on will do nothing to inspire learning and creativity in these young minds.
- Build relationships. While this is true for any level, these middle school kids are generally confused and emotional, hormonal drama factories. I do the best I can to greet each child with a high five, handshake, or a quick ‘pound it’ as they enter, and make a point to learn as much about their lives as I can.
- Play Games and competitions! I’ve found that younger kids enjoy competitions and language games more than older students. Whether it be playing Kahoot! Or Quizlet Live to review concepts, or writing/speaking competitions, the kids thrive on competition (keep it civil!) and are learning language at the same time.
- Stick to the target language. ACTFL suggests 90% target language use, and this is especially important for younger children. Their brains are more receptive to language acquisition (I suggest reading up on Chomsky’s Critical Period theories if you are not familiar with them) at the middle school age (compared to high school), meaning they’re much more likely to soak up and retain the language. After all the main focus of class time is comprehensible input!
- Use gestures/act things out! Many times, in order to make myself understood, I’ll use gestures and generally look insane to get the kids laughing, but also understanding what I’m saying without having to dip into English and tarnish the target-language environment that I’ve created in my classroom.