When I think about teaching cultural lessons I usually come up with a list of excuses that looks something like this:
Who can relate to these excuses? I know that focusing on cultural topics is something that I want to do more of with my students, but I always find reasons not to...until now! At ACTFL I was inspired by Martina Bex's session on teaching language through culture. In her presentation, Martina took us through the steps of how to take a cultural product, practice or perspective and create an entire comprehensible input (CI) friendly unit (did I mention that she also made this process look totally effortless?). I'm taking baby steps, so instead of making an entire unit I created a mini unit that I can finish before winter break.
My mini unit focuses on el Día de los Reyes in Spain. I started the unit by looking at pictures and reading an explanation of the holiday with my students.
El Día de Reyes es una celebración en España. Los niños escriben cartas a los Reyes Magos con una lista de los regalos que quieren. Los Reyes Magos llegan a las casas el 5 de enero. Los Reyes Magos tienen regalos para los niños buenos y carbón para los niños malos. Los Reyes Magos ponen los regalos en los zapatos. El 6 de enero los niños se despiertan y abren los regalos.
Phew! Talk about something that looks easier than it is! Writing a summary that is interesting and comprehensible is tough! It was hard to not include so many of the details that I find interesting about this holiday, but my new mantra for writing is less is more!
After the reading I used MovieTalk to show a short video from Nickelodeon. The video is about the anxiety that one boy feels when he can't find one of his shoes on the night the Reyes are coming. I focused on the following vocabulary structures for this MovieTalk:
After we watched the video we acted out different variations of the video using All the World's a Stage (I narrated the story and all of the students silently acted out what they are hearing). It was fun to think of creative places to make them look for the shoe and to see their reactions when I told them different items were in the box!
My younger students wrote letters to the Reyes Magos. In the letter the students explained how they behaved this year (I had them circle different smiley faces), drew a picture of one item they wanted and signed their name. I shared each of the letters, circling vocabulary words as I went, and finally the students put their letters in an envelope addressed to the Reyes.
If you would rather write the letter as a class here are some great online platforms where you can email a letter to the Reyes.
If your students are too old to write a letter and you are looking for a service project the group 'Reyes Magos de Verdad' is an organization that emails you a letter that a child wrote to the Reyes Magos and asks you to send a gift.
Even though I am still far away from creating a cultural unit as complete as the ones that Martina presented, I am excited to start creating CI lessons that focus more on culture!