The family topic is usually only brought up in lower levels of second language instruction. The main objective is to learn -memorize- the words related to this topic.
In a Comprehensible Input class we want any discussed topic to be relevant, interesting and communicative. Just learning a few words does not meet those CI requirements.
On the other hand, it is important that students try to analyze aspects of their reality and society through the second language. It’s this kind of reflection what will really help them gain different perspectives, the only way to understand different cultures.
In the following activity, the family topic will be worked from a realistic and critical perspective.
Here is a lesson I would like to share to make the topic of the family interesting, relevant and most of all, very real.
+Understand the real structure of 21st century families.
+Reflect on the role of family members in the 21st century
+Compare the families of the student community with the families in the target language
Ask students to draw on a sheet of paper what they think represents the idea of a traditional family.
Ask them to write a short a description of each family member, such as their age, their job or occupation, hobbies, favorite food, some physical trait, etc. For more advanced classes you can ask students to also describe their personality.
After giving them time to draw and to write some descriptions, the teacher goes to the board and asks his students to start describing their own drawings in the target language so that the teacher can draw a traditional family based on the students descriptions.
Once the teacher finishes drawing the family described by the class, then he asks for some written descriptions and writes them on the board.
After the teacher has drawn and written on the board, he asks his students to look at the drawing and read the descriptions. After a couple of minutes he will ask his students to raise their hands if their own family has the same characteristics of the family drawn and described on the board.
Chances are that most students´ families are not like the ones the teacher draw on the board. At this point the teacher can delve into the subject in different ways and according to the level of language proficiency of the class.
We could ask students about the differences between the family on the board and their real family, or we could have a class discussion on why the students drew a family so different from their own
The lesson can be extended by analyzing how families are still presented in the media. Students can compare their own families with those shown in magazines, television or internet advertising.
For a cultural comparison, students could do a little research on how traditional families are constituted in the target language countries to compare them with their own.
To me, the value of a second language class lays in the connections that students can make not only with the language, but those made between their own reality and the reality of other culture s, of other communities. This at the same time they use the second language.
Recently a student told me that one of the favorite aspects of his Spanish class with me is how students have the opportunity to talk about important issues, relevant to their life and sometimes even sensitive without feeling uncomfortable.
Speaking a second language definitely has therapeutic effects and in some mysterious ways can help our students express and communicate more easily some aspects of their life that they usually prefer not to share in their own language.
Click HERE for a real example of a modern Hispanic family
Click HERE to see how families are present in advertising
Webliography: Dinámica La Típica Familia
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