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Telling Stories in Spanish

By Rodrigo Cea
Telling Stories in Spanish

“Mister, do you think that the little kids are going to laugh at our accent when we read them our stories in Spanish?”
This was one of the first questions my Spanish as a Second Language (SSL) students asked when I presented them with the idea of taking on a creative writing project in our target language. In the sessions that followed, students developed characters, settings, and themes. This language-based project lasted two weeks, during which middle school students experienced the five stages of the Writer’s Workshop and used an iPad app called “educreations” to publish their stories. The outcome was fantastic, and proved to SSL students that they could become competent writers at a novice level in a second language.
Their initial nervousness decreased as students began to plot their stories and add their own drawings or images borrowed from the Internet. SSL students received help from other experts in our school community. Once they had written their stories, for example, the elementary school librarian gave them some effective tips on how to read to little ones to ensure their maximum enjoyment, and technology teachers offered support in using the iPads.
Once the stories were digitally published, SSL students had the opportunity to read them to an actual audience made up of Pre-K and first-grade students, who were delighted with the array of appealing characters, settings, and themes. After a period of written refinement and oral rehearsal, SSL students worked with two student-generated rubrics that combined the two major language components of this activity: written and oral use of the Spanish language. The written component of the rubric was used to assess the students’ stories according to the guidelines given in class, and the oral component was used to assess the actual presentation of their stories to the audience.
This project was based on the principle of authentic assessment that evaluates students’ understanding and achievement through their oral and written competences in Spanish. I extended the application of such linguistic competences to foster language-based “real world” scenarios. In addition, this project encouraged SSL students to use Spanish in a context outside of the classroom, promoting authentic communication and pride in their work. Furthermore, reading to an audience of young learners lessened the stress of performing orally and writing in a second language.
In the end, my SSL students came away from this project feeling successful. No one had laughed at their accents! On the contrary, they were thrilled by the young audience’s excitement and heartfelt reaction to their stories.

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