Culture Assignments: Language/Culture Logs and Sudamericanos Famosos

As many long time readers know, I have a passion for culturally rich units.  I learned that this emphasis on culture should be considered Content-Based Instruction (CBI) after taking AMLA 622 through Concordia College.  The CBI “gurus” do not consider culture content because in their opinion content has to be content from another course (mathematics, science, etc.).  However, I would like to argue that culture IS content for world language classes because it is one of ACTFL’s standards.  Not only does culture merit its own standard, but many other standards refer to or include culture, as well.

After revamping my gradebook to be Standards-Based, I quickly ran into a problem.  In addition to Interpretive, Interpersonal, and Presentational skills I added Culture for 10% of the grade.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe it was to make the math easier for the other categories, or maybe it was because I find Culture so important I want it to have its own grade.  Here’s the problem I quickly ran into: How do you give a separate culture grade when your students’ interpretive/presentational skills are already culture based?

This year I decided to have a separate culture assignment for students to work on that would go in this section of the gradebook.  I completely stole this idea from an #iwla13 presentation by the  Waukee CSD ladies.  I took their handouts on their website, and adapted them for my classes. So here is a brief description of what their current culture assignment is with the documents I typed up:

  • Spanish 1 – Quarter 1 – Language/Cultural Connections Log: Essentially, this is the Real World Homework Choice that is so popular amongst many bloggers.  I think I could have a more ample list, but I’m OK start with what I have for the first time.  Here is the assignment overview that I give students and here is the form that students fill out through Google Classroom.
  • Spanish 2/3 – Quarter 1 – Los sudamericanos famosos: Students research a famous South American.  They then write a very basic description of the famous person in Spanish and answer some reflection questions in English.  Why are both Spanish 2 and 3 working on the same thing?  Truth be told I got a little lazy and didn’t create another list for a separate country.  I should have made a list of famous Dominicans to match our Felipe Alou study for Spanish 3, and a list of famous Mexicans for Spanish 2 to match their Tumba study.  Here is the Sudamericanos Famosos assignment overview that I give students for this assignment and here is the form that students receive each week to fill in through Google Classroom.

So far, it has gone really well.  I like that students are exploring extra culture without me leading them through every minute of it.  However, I will not tell you this whole process is perfect.  It takes me WAY longer to grade these than I thought it would.  I’m not sure if this is because I customize my feedback (I’m considering a generic rubric or a list of common issues that I could copy and paste) or because grading digital work just naturally takes longer. This is my main argument against the assignment.  My other problems with the assignments are related to growing pains, as my students are still trying to figure out Google Classroom and their Chromebooks in general.

Please feel free to use my resources that I’ve shared here with you, but keep in mind that Christina McCormick and Keeka Baedke are the original creators and give them credit for their work!

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