Sunday, October 21, 2012

Tips for Advocacy: Spanish Clubs

A language club is a great way to enhance your foreign language program. It shows that your language department as an important member of the school community, and it provides a great place for passionate language students to network and socialize with others who have common interests. It's also a great way to get publicity for the department. Get your administration to stop by a meeting or have a student write something about what they do in the school newspaper. Finally, it’s a way you too can connect with the community. The more people know about the language club and the program in general, the more support that will come your way.

The responsibility of advising a club is really what you make of it. If you really think outside the box, you can find plenty to do with a language club. This year, I will be starting the second Spanish Club in my career, and I am excited about it. Sometimes, I think others shy away from the responsibility of advising a club because of the perceived "work" it might be. I am here to show you that it's really what you make of it. If you really think outside the box, you can find plenty to do with the Spanish Club. Below I am going to outline what I have done with my Spanish Club in the past as well as a few new ideas I have for my soon-to-be Spanish Club.

1. Club Day

Most schools have a day where the students can showcase what their club does in the hopes of recruiting more people to join. First, get the students to create posters and flyers. It's a great way for the members to get to know each other. It's also a good time to figure out who your student leaders are going to be for that year. This is very important since many of the students are both motivated by the subject and the possibility of having a leadership role for their college application. Remember these are the possible foreign languages teachers of the future.

What we used for Club Day
2. Día de los Muertos

This one is a great activity to start the school year off with. Please, really do the holiday justice. Get your students to understand the origins of the Día de los Muertos and the symbolism behind the different cultural artifacts. Have them watch movies and then follow it up with a discussion. Also, a hands-on celebration really makes the event more memorable for them.

I want my students to understand that it's not a "Mexican" Halloween. In the past, we have recreated altars and incorporated all the important elements - food, water, flowers, sugar skulls, mementos of that person's life, candles, and pictures. I had them watch movies and then it was followed up with a discussion. Also, I have made sugar skulls the past two years which are actually really easy to make. The students really enjoy decorating the skulls. I think it's a good creative outlet for them.

Last year, we got to have this decorate the cafeteria. 

Two years ago, we made an altar for a student who had passed away.
3. Social Issues

It’s important to have foreign language students really become global citizens. To do that, it’s important to tackle some important social issues in different areas of the world. Provide examples of passionate people who used their language skills to help people in need. We need to provide positive role models for the teenagers today so they can use language to make the world a better place. 

One day, last year, we had a great discussion about social issues pertaining to Latin America. One of them had to do with TOMS shoes. Yes, the new "hot" must have shoe. After watching some of the videos about the company, the students were about ready to save the world. Do you know the origins of TOMS shoes? If not, then check this video out. After, you will understand why the logo is white and blue.

Another video that impacted the students a lot was a video about an NGO called Love-Futbol.  

Both these videos provide examples of passionate people who used their language skills to be able to help people in need. I hope (and relatively sure) that both Drew and Blake can speak Spanish.

4. Movie Night

Use the student’s time effectively by showing movies that students would not watch on their own. Of course, make sure it is age-appropriate and something that they can handle yet leaves the student with something to think about. These movies can leave a lasting impact on the student for years to come. 

We had two movie nights, and both were a success. The first semester we watched "Bajo la Misma Luna", and the second one we watched, "The Way". The first movie dealt with immigration along the US-Mexico border, but since it was from the point of view of a young boy, it wasn't as politically charged as a documentary might be. The other movie we watched was "The Way". As a treat, I made a torta de Santiago in honor of the Way of Saint James which is the name of the pilgrimage in Spain that ends in Santiago de Compostela. The students loved the cake, and it made an ordinary movie extraordinary.

Torta de Santiago
5. Work on a project

The first year of my first language club I had only four girls, but they came every week because they were invested in a video that we were making. It gave them a reason to come back week after week, and they were proud of their final product. The following year these girls became our leaders. When the students saw the video, more of them wanted to become a part of the club. 

I had gotten the idea from another teacher who submitted a video of her student drawing pictures that matched the lyrics of the song "Latinoamerica" by Calle 13. I chose to do the same with "Pobre Juan" by Mana. Once the girls translated it and began to draw the pictures, they really came to understand the meaning of the song. People from all over the country have commented on their video. I hope to do more in the future. Use the Spanish Club for the things we don't have time to do in class.

Latinoamerica video project:

Pobre Juan video project:

6. Games

While traveling, I found about games that people play in other countries. Bring those games into the classroom. This year, I hope to teach my students how to play dominoes which is a popular pastime in the Caribbean. I have also bought trompos which are good classic toys from years ago. Also, we are thinking of having a petanque/boule/bocche/bochas/bolas criollas competition between the different languages clubs since they are share in this common pastime. We can even play traditional games like Bananagrams, Bingo, or Scrabble in the target language.

 7.  Food and Restaurants

Students enjoy food, but sometimes they need encouragement to try traditional dishes. That is where the language clubs come in to the rescue. If you can’t find what you need at a local store, then go online to see what is available. Also, talk to local restaurants in your area. It’s a great way to make connections in the community. They might do a special menu for the club, offer a discount or speak to the students about their cuisine. 

Last year, I really made sure that students were getting access to real authentic food. They can buy chips and salsa whenever they want, but they probably won't buy sweet plantain chips on their own. How about Mexican chocolate? Or Colombian food? Living in the outskirts of Boston, I realize how lucky I am to have so much available to me at my local supermarket. The food I brought in was allergy free, usually healthy, and a crowd pleaser. Food always gets the kids interested.

At my new school, we have 3 restaurants within walking distance - two Mexican and one Argentinean. Find out if they would be willing to do something special for the students. I'm excited to try them out.

Trying Colombian food 
8. Art, Music, and Dance

High school students still enjoy coloring and drawing. There is something comforting in making something with your hands. Play music in the target language while the students work. Display their work for all to see. Talk to the art teachers to see if they are willing to help. Finally, contact a local dance studio to see if they would be interested in teaching a dance class. 

Last year, we made "calaveras", "molas" and "ojos de Dios" for the art projects. My students really wanted to do a lip dub, and I think that would be a fun way to get them to learn songs in Spanish by heart. 

Finally, we wanted to learn some dance steps. I found some videos from Just Dance and Dance Dance Revolution on You Tube. Much cheaper than bringing in the video console. Below is Asereje by Los Ketchup! 

My list is not exhaustive, and I would love to see what things others do with their clubs so please share!