Teaching Transparently: Scuba diving in 2nd year college Spanish


This fall we had an overabundance of enrollments in the first semester of 2nd year Spanish class. And with that came the opportunity for me teach in the fall as well as the spring…something that I have been hankering to do for a while now.

HISP 202 is where a lot of first year students land after several years of high school Spanish (other than the AP kids…they jump right to third year). I am sure it is like a lot of intermediate level college language classes… there are 12 chapters in the book, we have to get through the first 6 my the end of the semester so the next class will pick up at chapter 7. We start off with the preterite and the imperfect and then dive right in to the fabulous world of the subjunctive (usually right after drop/add is over…funny how that happens). The themes for the chapters? The same as always: the environment, human rights, fads and hobbies, celebrations… you know the drill.

I have used social media to teach a Spanish conversation class. When I have talked about this at conferences or on this blog, generally people have been supportive, but a few folks have wondered whether the use of these tools could be as successful, or even successful at all, if it were a non terminal class, that is, a class that is part of a series of classes that forms a requirement. (My conversation class does not lead to another course, does not follow a textbook, and sometimes is the ONLY language class a non major takes)

Would it be possible incorporate social media (as a way to bring the outside world into the class) with a syllabus that follows a textbook, has a prescribed beginning, middle and end, and is one of several sections of the same course ??

More important than the tools…would students be able to scuba dive (vs snorkel) through the course…pausing where needed, when needed…and still make it to the finish line? And (my personal goal): could I get students to move from completing isolated grammar exercises and fill in the blank tests to assessments that required them to listen, write, speak, and interact with native speakers… even with the equivalent of two semesters of college Spanish under their belt?

I dunno the answers, but as we round the bend to the mid term and approach fall break in this class I have a few observations to share. More to follow.

Series Navigation<< Professional development: Simple, small-scale, and cost-effectiveEnding the semester, Lessons Learned (Part 4: Assessment) >>

Barbara is a Lecturer in Hispanic Studies at a small liberal arts college in Maine. Rumor has it this was also her alma mater. She used to work for a small liberal arts college in the cornfields of Ohio for almost 20 years as a teacher and language center director. Prior to these adventures in higher ed she taught high school Spanish and loved it. She wishes she had more time in her life to play with her dogs, write, read, swim, do yoga things and making stuff out of clay. To see her online portfolio please click here!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: