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Introduction to the textbook and its methodology for students and instructors

  • Page ID
    163928
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    Thanks

    I wish to thank my colleagues and students at Angelina College for all of their support and encouragement. I also wish to thank all those who have shared their knowledge and insights with me throughout the years, in Spanish and otherwise. So many have been an inspiration to me and the reason why my greatest endeavors in life are focused on the sharing of knowledge and understanding.

    Background and preliminary notes

    The author believes that products should be released with a statement of both their strengths and weaknesses with an eye towards continual improvement.

    This book was created to fulfill the need for a beginning Spanish language OER. Although I received a lot of encouragement and support, I have created it as a single author with a full-time teaching load without a budget. Due to these factors, it does not live up to all of the expectations that one would have of a book published by an editing company. It is being released to the public as a work in progress that will be continually improved upon.

    The author recognizes the importance of addressing the 5 C´s in any language program: Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities. However, due to the limitations under which this textbook was created, the main focus upon its initial release is that of communication. Ideally, the 5 C´s would be fully integrated in the textbook and the author will continue to edit the book with this in mind.

    Language laboratory and other practice

    Up until this point, the language laboratory has consisted of learning logs that guide students to meet the learning objectives through the use of outside sources. The main disadvantage to this is that students have to take more independent responsibility for their own learning journeys. This is also the principal advantage. Admittedly, it is much easier for students to go to a publisher´s lab and just do exactly as they are told every day. However, each individual´s learning needs and styles are different. A more open homework arrangement allows students to experiment and find what works best for them.

    Another disadvantage is that the instructor can´t easily verify that the student has done everything he or she was supposed to. One can rely on the honor system and emphasize to students that if they do not put in the effort, they will not get the results they are looking for. Students may feel at first that filling out the learning log is busy work, but the instructor can make it clear that if they use it to their advantage in a reflective and critical way, it should serve them well.

    I first created this book as Power Points which I then converted to pdfs. In addition to the learning log, I included links to practice of each grammatical topic within the corresponding section of the textbook. As soon as I get an opportunity to do so, I will begin to integrate practice exercises from the ADAPT homework system so that instructors can more easily keep track of progress and integrate with their LMS.

    Language teaching methodology and teaching philosophy

    The author first wants to mention that she will now be using first person in this introduction, as is accepted practice in professional work in Spain. I am adopting this practice to show that the work comes from my personal perspective. I am aware of this and I want this awareness to be clear in my writing.

    Immersion

    I am inclined towards learning languages through immersion. I attended Middlebury College in Vermont and appreciate how much the language pledge contributed to my learning of the Spanish language. When I began teaching university classes as a teaching assistant at the University of Houston, my evaluators remarked that I conducted my classes 99% in Spanish. I still prefer the immersion method. However, I think that it works best the more time one spends with the language. If students are only in class two days a week for an hour and fifteen minutes each time, I find the immersion method more difficult. I also find it more difficult in the online environment. Due to these considerations, I do use more English in the classroom than I used to, although students still comment on how much they appreciate our use of the target language in the classroom. I would like to progress towards getting closer to the immersive method again, but his textbook is not 100% in the target language. I use only Spanish when I think students will be likely to guess the meaning from cognates, context, or prior knowledge. I use English when I feel like it is needed for clarity or to keep students from becoming overwhelmed. In this iteration of the book, I have placed the English translations at a distance from the Spanish words so that students can give themselves a chance to guess at the translation or check their recall of prior learning before verifying the translation.

    Inductive framework

    This textbook is intended to help students learn more through the use of illustrative examples than through the use of detailed explanations. This should guide them to question and hypothesize. Thinking about the language in this way so that they come to conclusions about the rules before being told what they are should help them focus on the learning process and remember the material. Some brief explanations are given, but for those who prefer more in depth grammatical explanations, I have provided links to other sources.

    Communicative framework

    I believe in a communicative framework to language learning. The purpose of learning a language is communication. Being able to fill in blanks with the correct conjugation of verbs fulfills no real-world purpose. Of course, learning conjugations is important to being able to communicate one´s message accurately and effectively, but it should not be confused with the end goal. Each lesson is tied directly to communicative tasks which students will use to get to know each other in the target language.

    Diversity and inclusion

    I have too often encountered students who have been misled or even traumatized to some extent by the limited views of language expressed by instructors and other people in positions of power. Such views include those that see some dialects as being better than others, even to the extent of viewing one dialect as the only correct one. Some may dismiss words that come from indigenous languages as being incorrect Spanish. Some instructors go to the damaging extreme of telling students that their language is trash. They may also tell them that they should already know the material being taught, presumably due to nothing more than their last name or the color of their skin. Students may even have had family members laugh at them because their Spanish is different (influenced by English). The student is taught to have a negative view of the way they speak and may be uncomfortable using Spanish, at least in certain environments.

    My goal is to counteract the negative results of these harmful practices with knowledge and a supportive environment. In order to receive positive results in both affect and attitude towards the language, students should understand that there is no “bad” language except that language which is employed to bring about harmful results. Otherwise, language should not be attached, as it often seems to be, to some ideal looked at from a perspective which approaches morality. All dialects are valid. I mention this in the introduction to the student book. I will continue to look for more ways to validate what students already know. My desire is for students to appreciate their dialects and idiolects while they also understand the benefits of expanding their language knowledge and use in order that they can feel comfortable speaking and writing in a variety of contexts and environments. They can be comfortable knowing that the language they use at home and with friends is correct according to the rules of that dialect and also confident that they can employ a different prescriptively correct grammar and vocabulary when they choose to do so.

    Just as each person´s first language idiolect is individual to them, so will each of their additional language idiolects be. We each have our own language learning journey. While they have many things in common, they are also distinctly shaped by our unique interests, goals, desires, and connections. I want students to be aware that we all have choices to make along our learning journeys, which is another reason to allow and encourage students to explore in their learning of the objectives.

    As I continue to integrate culture with communication, I will keep a focus on diversity and inclusion as I search for materials.

    Permission to edit book

    While I like the idea of each instructor being able to adapt the book as they see fit, I do want to make sure that any adaptations to the original do not contradict the perspectives of language and learning that I see as essential components to the intent of the original. Principally I am dedicated to being respectful of language and cultural variety. If you wish to help in editing this source textbook please don’t hesitate to contact me at agillum@angelina.edu. I recognize that what I am releasing lacks a lot and I would be grateful to have help in making this textbook better. Of course, you may edit your own copy, adaptation, or remix of the body of the textbook as you see fit, without prior permission.

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