BRINGING TEXTS TO LIFE

Photo by Angélica Echeverry 

It is the year 2020 and yet sometimes we insist on continuing to teach the same way as it has been taught for centuries. There is no doubt that, as the world has changed, our students do not see the world in the same way as those students did in the past.

Today we receive information quickly through the internet, television and social networks that also amuse or distract while reporting. Today’s students do not understand knowledge as a series of disconnected information, but rather as a whole, as an entity that connects everything. We cannot pretend to continue using our classes to simply provide our students with different information each day.  21st century education must be a reflection of the current world where knowledge is transmitted in a connected and enjoyable way. 

We must make our language classes a great narrative. Instead of trying to teach the different parts of a language in a decontextualized way, we must contextualize each one of those parts to narrate something that is related to the reality of our students.

María Acaso, Spanish professor and researcher, who is also a world leader in Disruptive Education, maintains that as teachers we can learn a lot about presenting content to our students from the narrative techniques of cinema.

Today I want to propose a different way to work with any type of reading that our world language students must work on. It is common to work on reading from vocabulary, grammar, and some comprehension questions. Through my experience, I have been able to verify that there is a more effective and fun way to work with readings. We can bring reading material to life.

The fundamental idea is to turn the text into a script. We are going to identify spaces, things, characters, attitudes, and messages. We are going to break the text down into these aspects to bring it to life and allow our students to connect with it in a deeper way.

Let’s see an example:

The following is an article that was published in the newspaper El Paìs (Amèricas) and that is used in many AP Spanish classes. HERE you can find the link.

How to bring the text to life:

1- After a first general reading as a class, distribute among the students the places, things, characters, attitudes and messages that form the text.

2- Explain to students that each one of them will specialize in one or two aspects and that they will concentrate their reading on looking for details and information about that assigned aspect. If there is not much information on the assigned aspect, the student can go online to find out more.

3- Once each student has specialized in their aspect, reread the text as a class but stopping at those parts where students can contribute something more after completing their research.

Example:

Taken from: La desglaciación de la cordillera andina (El País)

Desde el glaciar Yanapaccha, de 5.460 metros y situado en el corazón de la Cordillera Blanca, en los Andes peruanos, la vista no podría ser más imponente. Empinadas cumbres nevadas llegan hasta el horizonte mientras que abajo, a través de las nubes, quebradas escarpadas desembocan en lagunas de una turquesa perfecta.

Pero, mientras los crampones crujen en el hielo duro de la mañana, queda claro que no todo va bien en este espectacular paisaje. “El glaciar parece un paciente muriendo de un virus,” dice Richard Hidalgo, uno de los más destacados montañistas peruanos. “La enfermedad lo está carcomiendo desde adentro.” El cambio climático empiece a asolar la Cordillera Blanca.

Assign one or two aspects per student. Students specialize in their aspect (s) to later enrich a second collective reading of the text.

Places:  Los Andes,  Perù

Things:  Cordillera Blanca, Cambio climàtico, Crampones, Montañista, Metros, Glaciar

Characters:  Richard Hidalgo

Messages/ ideas: The cordillera Blanca is imposing and beautiful

4- The activity ends with the personalization of the text. In groups we discuss how the subject of reading personally affects the students and their community. Then each group shares its most relevant conclusions.

Example for a Spanish literature class:

¡Ay de mi Alhama!

Lugares: Granada, La Puerta de Elvira, La puerta de Villarrambla, Alhama, Zacatín.

Cosas: Carta, fuego, mula, caballo, trompetas, añafiles, (hay más)

Personajes: El Rey Moro, mensajero, moros, mor viejo, Alfaquí, (hay más)

Actitudes: Violencia, orgullo, derrota, (hay más)

Mensajes: Falta de liderazgo, cobardía, escuchar a la gente, (hay más)

La idea es que después de escoger los elementos más significativos del texto, cada estudiante en la clase va a adoptar uno de ellos. No se trata de dramatizar el texto, sino de que cada estudiante se convierta en un especialista de su elemento adoptado.  Así quien ha adoptado el Rey Moro, no solo pondrá atención a los detalles del personaje en el poema, sino que también investigará por fuera del texto  un poco acerca de su elemento.  De esta manera, cada estudiante se convertirá en especialista de su elemento y podrá dar diferentes puntos de vista que enriquecerán una conversación o un análisis colectivo del texto.

En otras palabras se estará re narrando cada texto desde una perspectiva conectada con los intereses del estudiante, lo que redundará en la consecución de un pensamiento crítico.

Otro ejemplo puede ser el del estudiante que ha adoptado el elemento de la carta, que aunque no es un personaje, sino una cosa, también puede darnos información muy importante que nos ayudará a comprender mejor el contexto social e histórico del poema.  El estudiante que ha adoptado la carta se concentrará en encontrar la importancia de dicho elemento en el contexto del poema a la vez que investigará las características que las cartas llevadas por mensajeros tenían en la época en la que se desarrolla la historia del poema.

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@Copyright 2020 Diego Ojeda,  this material is intended for educational purposes and it’s free.  It is prohibited to profit from it in any way or form. For questions contact Diego Ojeda @ diego@srojeda.com

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