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Strategies and methods for teadching Spanish to Spanish speakers

1 August 1998


In this study, I sought to gain an overview of the practice underlying a class in Spanish for Spanish speakers which is part of the ESL program at a rural secondary school. Its purpose was to answer the question: What are the most effective strategies and methods for teaching Spanish to Spanish-speaking and Spanish-English bilingual students in a rural US second~ school? To this end, I began by exploring the theoretical principles in bilingual education through a review of the literature in the field, guided by the question: What are the goals ~f a Spanish class, for bilingual Spanish speakers? The writings of Jim Cummins and others pointed to the goal of what is known as additive bilingualism and to the apparently paradoxical principle of developing native-language literacy in order to promote second-language acquisition. I then tackled the practical aspects of the class by asking: What general strategies, given those goals, prove effective for shaping the methods of instruction in a Spanish class for bilingual Spanish speakers? and What specific methods, given the goals and strategies of a Spanish class for bilingual Spanish speakers, stand out as effective for use with these students? As with the issue of goals, I began by examining the recommendations given in the literature of the field, and then I compared this with actual classroom practice through field observations. The latter consisted of direct observation of class sessions, interviews with the teacher, interviews with a representative cross-section of students, and examination of student writing samples as contained in their in-class diaries. Although classroom practice was generally in agreement with the indications given in the literature, interesting and sometimes surprising contrasts did arise, This was most evident in the setting of goals for the class, in the areas of the role of dialects in the classroom and in the teaching of reading and writing. The study also highlighted strategies, methods and techniques used by the teacher to good effect and well-received by students, particularly in the teaching of grammar and culture, as well as the teaching of writing through the use of student diaries.


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