Using Children's Books in the College Spanish Class.
Background: Integrating reading in foreign language (FL) classes is sometimes a difficult task because of lack of appropriate methodology and poor textbook support. In addition, college students find many readings too difficult to understand or not interesting. Purpose: The purpose of this study is to investigate how a teacher-researcher implements children's literature in a FL college class using innovative methods and how students respond to these texts. Setting: Two Spanish classes in an intensive, immersion program in a western U.S. university during the summer of 2004. Study Sample: Six students in the beginners' class (first and second semester Spanish) and three students in the intermediate class (third and fourth semester Spanish), plus the teacher-research and the teacher of the beginners' class. In the beginners' class there were 3 males and 3 females (ages 44, 17, 20, 20, 20 and 20); one of the male students was not from the United States. In the intermediate class there were two females and one male (ages mid-40s, mid-20s and mid-20s). The teacher-researcher was a Spanish female in her 30s with moderate teaching experience and the beginners' class teacher was a Mexican American female in her late 20s with moderate teaching experience. Intervention: The curriculum was created purposefully based on the readings from children's books, integrating grammar and vocabulary into the context of the stories and emphasizing pre-reading, reading and post-reading activities. The books and magazines were purchased in advanced and left around for students to have free access at all times. Children's books were selected because they were simple for these low proficiency levels yet interesting and challenging. The approach included top-down and bottom-up processing modes, activations of background knowledge, teaching of reading strategies, student-centered curriculum and other aspects of different methodologies and teaching philosophies. The beginners' class teacher taught most of the beginner class and the teacher-researcher helped her for a couple of hours a week (classes were held M-F, 8:30 am-12 pm, plus lunch, plus extra-curricular activities). Since the intermediate class teacher did not want to participate, intermediate students only read children's books outside of class, for pleasure. Data Collection and Analysis: Daily observations by the teacher and by the teacher-researcher were carried out. Eight of these one-hour sessions were video recorded. Informal out-of-class observations were also performed during lunch, cultural activities and visits to the community. Documents were also collected, including students' journals, evaluations, self-assessments, class exercises, exams and pictures. The teacher-researcher's journal was also collected. The data was coded letting for categories to bring up patterns that addressed research questions. Findings: Many aspects of the approach were difficult to implement because of teachers' lack of experience, such as using top-down processing, thoroughly checking students' background knowledge, using adequate assessment methods, or explicitly teaching reading strategies. Others were easier to implement, such as integrating children's literature with course goals and other curriculum components, finding the time to work on reading activities, letting students choose their own books or doing free voluntary reading. Students were found to love children's literature and believed they were beneficial for Spanish learning. The only students who had slight difficulties with children's books were the high school student and the international student, yet they appreciated the books and saw the benefits. Conclusion: Children's literature was found to be an appropriate and beneficial tool in the college Spanish class. Students found the books challenging yet comprehensible and also very interesting. Some characteristics of the teaching approach adopted were difficult to implement because of the teachers' lack of experience with those practices, but some others were easier and successfully achieved. It is suggested that further studies are carried out with a larger population and more varied books in terms of genres and formats. Citation: Garcia, M.P. (2004). Using Children's Books in the Spanish College Class. Texas Papers in Foreign Language Education, 8(1), 43-66.
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|Date:||Jun 1, 2004|
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