Heritage Spanish Guest Speakers

In my post about my goals for the school year, one of my goals was to have Spanish speaking guests.  

I also went to a session at IWLA this fall about how to incorporate more native speakers in language classes with Mark Bates and Sharon Wilkinson from Simpson College. 
Having native speakers visit language classes should be a given, but in my first two years I had an embarrassing total of ONE guest speaker. Why so few?I would say the overarching reason was fear. As a non-native speaker I was afraid of looking dumb in front of my students. I was scared to reach out to the heritage speakers in the community. Most of all, I was worried my students could not handle speaking with someone who really knew the language. How terrible it that!?! The whole point of learning a language is to be able to COMMUNICATE and USE the language in the real world. I needed to be pushing students out of their comfort zones and allowing them the opportunity to practice it with people who grew up speaking the language.
So this year in my quarter 1 newsletter, I asked parents to put me in contact with any Spanish speakers they know. One amazing parent contacted her Spanish speaking co-worker. He offered up his stay at home wife, who is an immigrant from Mexico, to come in and talk with my class, just as long as she could bring along her 4 and 2 year old children. So, I had someone who was willing to come in, now what?
Since Rocio was bringing her children, I wanted to keep her visit short and make sure that she did not need to prepare anything and was able to just show up. My Spanish IV class was preparing to study the novel La Calaca Alegre by Carrie Toth, which focuses on the theme of Chicano identity. Also, this bright and well behaved group would be a warm and welcoming class for a mother and her children.
Before Our Guests
  • All students prepared and posted 3-5 interview questions on Google Classroom for our guest, incorporating the ideas of identity, immigration, her former life in Mexico and her current life in Iowa. They were all asked to just make sure they participated.
  • I had cookies, children’s books and coloring materials ready to hopefully occupy the children, so we would have a chance to chat.
  • Students met our guests in the parking lot and brought them to class.
During Class
  • We let our guests pick where they would like to sit, and we all then formed a semi-circle around them. We all sat to keep the conversation natural and more informal.
  • Students started the discussion, and asked her questions. There were a few awkward,giggly pauses where the students stopped and nervously waited for someone else to ask a question.
  • I sat in the discussion and helped to rephrase the student’s questions when she did not understand them, and repeat her answers to make sure the students caught everything she said.
  • At first her children were incredibly shy and wanted to cling to mom, but once they warmed up we were able to talk to them as well.
  • We were very lucky that without meeting the guest first, she was very open to questions, school appropriate, and overall was pretty easy to understand.
After Class
  • We thanked our guests profusely as they were leaving, as well as through a thank you note from the class.
  • We debriefed as a class and discussed what they learned, what surprised them, and how the overall discussion went.
Notes for next time
  • I wish I would have had everyone go around and introduce themselves at the beginning. The students were so excited to see the adorable kids, that they just kind of started.
  • I am glad the students prepared questions, but it would be nice to discuss them, and decide who would ask what in what kind of order.
  • Also, their questions were on their computer, and next time I would have them print them off so their computers would not have to be open.
Now that we had such a great experience, we need to bring more speakers in!

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