You may know that last year I taught Heritage for the first time ever, and let me tell you, there was a steep learning curve! I quickly discovered that my tried and true tools that work in my Spanish classes were not so accepted by my Heritage kiddos. (Like the cute Call and Response Quiet Signals…that was a hard no. Baile viernes was also quickly shot down). Poco a poco we figured out what worked for us and I was overwhelmed with emotion when 18 of 19 kiddos signed up to join me in Heritage 2 this year. (Then stupid Covid happened and a handful opted to do Online School, so I only have 13 in Heritage 2, but still!) We’re still figuring it out, and it hasn’t all been smooth sailing, in but I’m feeling much better than I did when we started. (If you’d like to read more about our Heritage Class journey, check out this post from last year “Wins and Loses in my Heritage Class”) Recently our reading routine has been updated and I’d love to share it with you.
Most of my Heritage kiddos are reluctant readers. Last year they were very vocal in expressing their hatred for reading (¡Ay, cómo me dolía!). They’re not quite as loud this year, but I think it’s because they like me now, not that they’ve falling in love with reading! Given the choice between “reading” and “anything else”, they’ll pick “anything else” 100% of the time!
I’ve really tried. We’ve talked about the benefits of reading. I model reading. I get excited about their books and tell them about the new additions to the library. I do all the things, and mostly they’re like “meh”.
They’re about 50/50 split between wanting to read all together and wanting to read independently (well, “wanting” is a stretch, but you know what I mean…) So, since the beginning of the year, we’ve alternated between a relato de Cajas de Cartón that we read and discuss todos juntos, then we’ll take a break and they’ll read a self-selected free reading book for a few weeks. I like bouncing back and forth, especially since the relatos in Cajas can stand alone. Either way, we read everyday, because I know that my heritage darlings, like all our language learners, need loads of input.
During a particularly long free reading stint (we were working hard writing ensayos argumentativos and set Cajas aside for about 6 weeks) they expressed concern that we were reading too much. Evidently, 15 minutes a class, 5 days a week nearly pushed them to the brink. (All my other classes are on a 90 minute block, but I see my heritage darlings every day for 50 minutes- weird schedule, I know!) I listened, considered their, ahem, “concerns” and struck a deal with them:
Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, everyone free reads at the beginning of class. I’m blessed to have lots of free reading options, ranging from leveled readers for language learners, to novels written for young adults/adults in Spanish. Everyone has a book they’re reading, which they keep in their binder, in my classroom. Once they finish their book (or they want a new one), their book “quarantines” for a few days before returning to the classroom library. Free reading is just that- they pick a book that interests them, stick with it for as long as it interests them, and they’re free to find something new at any point. And there’s no assignment attached. Nothing to do or fill out, although we often chat about our books after reading time.
Tuesdays and Thursdays (sort of) get a break. They have a choice at the beginning of class: free reading OR work on a puzzle (which is really reading in disguise, but shhhh). I traveled to Mérida a few summers ago and I found the coolest book. It’s called ¿Quién ha sido? 101 casos extraordinarios para resolver en 5 minutos (as always, if you buy anything using one of my Amazon links, you’ll be supporting this little blogcito without it costing you anything extra.) On Tuesdays and Thursdays about of the kiddos continue their free reading book while the rest work on a puzzle. For each caso extrodinario, there’s a question to answer at the bottom of each puzzle, but to be able to solve it, they have to read and understand the scenario. When students think they’ve figured out the solution they raise their hands and I check their answers. (The answers are all in the back of the book, Praise Jesus!) The puzzle kids feel like they’re getting a break. Sra. Chase knows the whole class is reading. Everyone is happy. (And, added bonus: we end up reading longer on Tuesdays and Thursdays because the puzzle kids are weirldly invested in figuring out the answers!)
There’s one exception to the reading/ puzzle routine. ONE lucky kiddo gets to work on the Foam Mexico Puzzle, that I bought 10 million years ago when I was doing my Masters in Guanajuato. That kid gets to work on it until it is complete, whether it is one class or several, during our Tuesday/Thursday reading time. There’s a printed map in the case to guide them, or they can assemble the puzzle without any help. Students who complete the puzzle get the honor of signing their name on the case, then the puzzle becomes available to the next kid who wants to assemble Mexico. Is that kiddo reading? No, but I’m OK with it. This year, all of my Heritage kiddos’ families came from Mexico, and in a way I don’t really understand, figuring out the Mexico puzzle feels really important to them. And that’s why it’s important to me, too.
The moral of the story:
The moral of the story is NOT come up with a gimmicky routine and by a few new flashy things. What’s working for my kiddos might not work for yours. The moral is to win over your Little Darlings, figure out what they need and play around until you learn how to make it as enjoyable as possible. It’s about being flexible enough to change the plan when something isn’t working and creating a space honest conversations can happen. It’s about experimenting until something feels right and finding new tools for our toolbox. And it’s about showing up with a smile, every day, even if we have no idea what we’re doing.
I was so anxious about teaching my first Heritage class last year, and now I’m so excited that these same kiddos are signed up to take AP with me next year. Pobrecitos, they’ll have another class with me in which I have no idea what to do or how to do it.
I am unable to express how encouraging and meaningful, supremely helpful, comforting and fun your posts are.
Many years ago I taught a Heritage Spanish class and I wanted so badly to be what my students needed me to be. They taught me way more than I was able to teach them and I still feel guilty about it.
Thank you for sharing your journey.
Lots of teacher love,
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I’m certain you were exactly what they needed and you don’t have anything to feel guilty about! (But I understand- these kiddos have opened not eyes to so much I was unaware of!)
This is such a real post. I identify with it and am inspired by it. Thank you for your example and for sharing it with us.
I’m happy to hear it resonates with you. Wishing you a good end to the school year!
I think that it’s wonderful that you’ve chronicled the “evolution” of a class. It happens EXACTLY that way…you plan and you scheme and you ponder and it happens all by itself. That chemistry that makes a group into a family! It’s that “sweet spot” right now too, isn’t it? I’m loving my classes SO MUCH even though MAY is looming. Thank you for all of your wonderful ideas, insights and support!
SIncerely, Patti Vincent
You are amazing. You being there for your kids is everything. thanks for taking risks in efforts to help kids succeed. thanks for sharing your risks, your successes, your insecurities with those risks, and all of your blogcito. Thanks for inspiring teachers. you rock!!!