Feeling good about SpanishLearning Spanish by producing music videos? One hundred and forty students taking the recent three-week Spanish Immersion Summer Institute at Sequoia Middle School discovered many ways to become fluent in a foreign language -- including producing a music video.
July 25 and 26 were the last two days of the institute. A time for participants to show how well they could “talk the talk.” For two weeks, they had been totally dependent on their understanding of Spanish. They were taught lessons, how to sing and dance in Spanish. Every time they opened their mouths -- in class, on breaks and at daily ethnic lunches in the Sequoia cafeteria -- Spanish was the required means of communication. The third week was spent preparing and then presenting a 15-minute skit entirely in Spanish before a large audience.
Ridgeview High instructor Craig Morley has taught at the institute for nine years. Donning wigs and costumes, Morley played the dual role of Garth Brooks and Austin Powers in one skit, singing, dancing and trading Spanish one-liners with students assuming the personalities of Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Gloria Estefan and Winona Ryder.
“Most of these students are teachers working on improving their Spanish skills,” Morley said. “Taking the course, gets them a little culture shocked. Everywhere they go the culture, food and language is different. Struggling to speak Spanish all the time, they realize 'I can succeed.' The course helps breakdown stereotypes, and they come out feeling like they have been in another country.”
Karl F. Clemens School (Wasco) second-grade teacher Marlene Diaz sees the value of immersion. “A lot of my students' parents are Spanish-speaking, and the school is in a Latin American neighborhood,” Diaz said. “Speaking with parents will be easier now.”
Pat Rice, Kern County Superintendent of Schools coordinator of foreign language/language arts, has been a major force in operating the institute for the last 14 years.
“As the requirement for more Spanish certificated teachers has grown, so has the size of our classes, “Rice said. “This is our second largest ever, only exceeded by a class of 180 students a few years ago. We had to hire two more teachers this year.”
In all, the institute provides eight teachers, three cooks for the daily Spanish meals and two student helpers. Beginner, intermediate and advanced classes are offered.
When July 25 arrived, it was time for Stacy Scott, Valley Oaks Charter School professional expert, and her class to put on a skit called “Law and Disorder.” The plot included an old lady victimized by a purse-snatcher, a trial and surprise witness - a Swedish artist who was at the scene and sketched the criminal's face. Scott played the defense attorney.
“We only had two days to come up with the idea, write the script and hold one dress rehearsal,” Scott said, waiting to go on. “I'm nervous. I'm shaking. Break a leg? I probably will.”
She didn't. In fact, Scott delivered her lines flawlessly without having to rely on notes.
Another instructor, Ridgeview High teacher Scott Peterson, added a new twist. His class spent two hours a day, the last week, videotaping and computer editing music videos for a skit called “The Latin Grammy Awards Show.” Class members blocked out wacky scenes to Spanish hits with unlikely titles such as “Donde Esta Mi Gato” (Where Is My Cat) and “A Juan No le Dan Tortillas de Maiz” (No Corn Tortillas for Juan).
“There are great benefits to doing videos,” Rice said. “Singing and the repetition of editing scenes, actually using the words continuously, speeds up language learning. In fact, we will be incorporating video-making in our Second Language Instruction during the regular school term this year.”
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