The lesson: Understand how to form and use comparisons of equality and comparisons of inequality. Figure out the superlative and how to use it. Learn all of the irregular forms. Make it make sense. Make it work. Have fun. Go.
The semester is winding to an end and I have just about had it with our textbook. The book chops up grammar into such staccato little bits of kibble that it is easy to see why an exhausted group of students, at the end of a semester, might just throw in the towel and give up. Language, when it is dissected and isolated and “chunked” as it tends to be in so many well-being but flawed textbooks, soon becomes lifeless and soul-less.
I think I have opened the book a total of three times this semester in class. I would have opened it more if students had specific questions or needed answers. But from the beginning of the term I told them: in class we will apply the grammar and use it in conversations and in context. They could use it as a guide for their take home exams. But in class? Let’s explore and go way outside of the text.
Our work as teachers, therefore, is to breathe life back into these tired texts and help our students find relevance and value in the forms they are being asked to master.
Enter: the ancillary materials.
Long ago, when my now teenage sons were infants, I moonlighted for a textbook company that needed writers to create ancillary exercises. Ever wonder why it is the workbook exercises seem to be written by someone other than the textbook authors? Well, at least back then, they were. The authors write the text and get their names on the cover. Meanwhile a small batallion of freelancers flesh out the exercises.
One of the oddest assignments I ever has was to take a series of 100+ foto flash cards — some of the strangest and less than complimentary fotos I have ever seen– that were left over from one textbook and then needed to be recycled and made to correspond with a new version of a different textbook.
This collection of images has followed me over the years and I bring them out to try and inspire conversation, commentaries and a few laughs. But this time of year? Ugh. I needed hard core inspiration for these tired, congested, overwhelmed estudiantes.
Enter: the college art museum.
Thanks to the wonderful efforts of our noble curator, Liliana Milkova (apologies for the previous typo!!), we were able to visit with several original and awesome works of art in the Museum Print Room that are a part of our museum’s collection but were normally tucked away in storage. They were taken out just for us.
The assignment: Before you are a series of self portraits. Spend time with them, ask questions about them, talk with your classmates about them. Think about the stories they are trying to tell. Choose two (or more) and compare and contrast, using comparisons of equality, inequality, and the superlative. Choose works that inspire, intrigue, addle you. Write a 250 word, well-organized essay. Have fun.
The essays? They were incredible. It was the first time I have ever had students ask to exceed a word limit because “there is so much more I want to say.”
Their final exam will also involve the museum. At a time in the semester when everything seems to be swirling out of control, I have required them to sit and think, and reflect…in the quiet (and the beauty) of the museum.
Find a work in the permanent collection that interests you… it could be a painting, a sculpture, a print…whatever. Spend time with the work in the museum. Visit it. Look at it closely. Enjoy it. Take notes on it.
Write a fairy tale / a story using your chosen artwork as its focus. If it is a fairy tale, begin with “Érase una vez….” (once upon a time)
Incorporate a wide variety of grammar we have covered to date in your story. Use your textbook as a guide. Be sure to use the past, present and future and the subjunctive mood in logical ways. Add perfect tenses when appropriate. Use past participles as adjectives. Add dialogue and incorporate commands where possible. Create something that you think is representative of your abilities in this class. Have fun.
Your final exam has two parts: (1) your written 1-2 page story and (2) a Voicethread recording of your story. (http://voicethread.com)
For part 2:
-Find a digital representation of your artwork here: http://rubens.cc.oberlin.edu/emuseum/ and upload it to Voicethread.
-Using either the video or the audio recording tool (or both!), tell your story.
-Read your work as if you were telling a story. Add inflection, enthusiasm.
With their permission, their final voicethread projects will be posted on the AMAM’s website.