It’s been a very busy fall! I can’t believe that I haven’t had a chance to post about my trip to San Sebastián, Spain. Missing an entire week of school in September was a challenge, but it was SO worth it! I hand-wrote a blog entry on the plane ride home but never got around to typing it! So, if you’d like to know more about Nipmuc’s exploratory trip to Donostia in the hopes of creating a student exchange program with the Sta. Teresa school there, please check out AP Moran’s post on Mr. Clements’s blog or Superintendent Maruszczak’s blog! I’m going to write a little bit about how the relationships that I’ve formed there are impacting what’s going on in my classroom right now!
Although it took a little while to figure out how WHEN to Skype due to the 6 hour time difference, my new friend Begoña, the head of the English department at Sta. Teresa, and I were able to connect in real time in class twice last week. The first try was short due to come technical difficulties, but the second time we worked around those and also came up with a better strategy for running our conversation. Instead of having the entire class on camera, we set up pairs that were prepared to speak on a certain topic in either Spanish or English. Since we both want to practice L2, we are going to have to thoughtfully decide which language to speak and when. Of course, the students didn’t necessarily follow our instructions in the excitement of the moment and there was more English spoken than Spanish this time. But that did not impact my students’ enthusiasm – staying into break to keep talking with their peers in Spain! I experimented with @Snagit to record both sides of our Skype conversation and I’m hoping that in the future, I’ll be able to review the recordings with entire class.
Later on in the day, one of the students who traveled to Spain with us for the exploratory trip showed up in my room to let me know how awesome it was to see a “familiar” face on the other side of the computer when she saw the photo that I had tweeted of the Skype call. I’m not exactly sure how things are going to go from here, but I know they are just going to get more and more exciting and REAL! I’ve started a Flipgrid in order to help us connect and not have to worry about the time difference. In addition to personal introductions, I’ve asked students in Spain to share their views on topics like bullfighting, Columbus Day/Día de la Hispanidad/Día de la Raza and the current situation in Cataluña. How amazing it is for my students to be able to hear from their peers in the target language on the topics that we have been discussing in class! Actually, we have another teacher at school whose daughter is currently teaching in Córdoba and after our discussion in class today about the Arabic influence in Spanish culture, I’m hoping to convince her to send me some Flipgrid videos of her students showing us examples of Arabic architecture, art and culture that abound in that city. And of course, in return, our students will be able to answer questions about the English language and life here in the USA.
Our next step forward in our planning for our in-person exchange next year is an informational meeting for parents and students. We hope for a good turnout to match the enthusiasm we have seen so far in San Sebastián. In the meantime, I hope to continue to improve both the quality and quantity of our digital “exchanges” and help my students to find an authentic use for their language skills!