I realized it’s been awhile since I’ve posted an update about teaching! At my school in Cenicero, the teachers I work with decided to follow a specific theme throughout the year to base the English classes off of. They chose “the Prehistoric times,” as in the Paleolithic, Neolithic, and Metal Ages. The end result will be a multiple-room exhibition for the parents to explore with their “English guide.” We’ve been going along with this since the beginning of the year, and here’s what we’ve accomplished so far.
The first weeks were dedicated to the Paleolithic area and cave paintings. The teaching theme was based around the different animals that lived in those times that were depicted in said cave paintings. This included: mammoth, lion, deer, ostrich, horse, saber tooth tiger, etc. After I presented the animals and they did a game with flashcards, we discussed how the paintings were accomplished (i.e. very basic colors available, non-detailed, figurative paintings). We spent quite a bit of time referencing the caves of Altamira, which are a perfect example of prehistoric cave paintings located just a few hours away in Northern Cantabria, Spain. Most of the kids had been there themselves with either their families or for a school trip. All of their paintings will be hung on the walls and ceiling of a classroom to create their own “cave.” Qué guay!
The result: Extreme excitement from the kids to be able to do finger painting, and a lot of brown outlined animals looking like they were laying in pools of blood because of the red paint, ha! In other news, I don’t know if there is a Spanish person out there who can correctly pronounce “saber tooth tiger.”
Our next project incorporated the Neolithic time period. First, we had to compare and contrast the living situations in the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods. For example, in the Paleolithic, the people lived in caves, and in the Neolithic they developed a way to make houses and small villages. Then it was my job to introduce different actions for the time period that were used in daily life. These included: building, hunting, harvesting, planting, weaving, making pottery, etc. The craft for the week was to make their own “weaving workshop” where we showed them how to make yarn bracelets. I was gone for part of a week because I was sick, and the teachers taught the names of fingers and other parts of the body.
The result: The actions were difficult for me to explain in English with their given English level. I did a lot of crazy miming and charades ’til they could guess what I meant. I didn’t even know the translations for the words I was explaining in Spanish. Now I know! I think we had too many actions introduced for the younger ones to keep up with. Again, they all loved the weaving craft. However, for the younger ones (first and second grade), they have still yet to finish their bracelets and it’s been over three weeks. It’s difficult for them… lots of knots!
Our most recent major project was pottery! Still focusing on the Neolithic period and the actions we introduced, they wanted to do some type of pottery activity. I didn’t know that a neighboring village, Navarette, is well known for its pottery and clay production. If you’re interested, here’s a quick video with some of the works on display there– including las ancianas balancing pots on their heads!
Sometimes I feel like we have to really stretch to introduce new vocabulary or outside concepts into this theme. For example, in the week of pottery I was asked to introduce some “sea animals.” My original thought what that those had nothing to do with pottery, right? However, they were wanting to say that those were the animals that people living nearby the sea and the river saw and ate, then they would use the clay from the riverbed or the materials similar to make their pottery. Do what works…
So, after presenting the names for whale, sea turtle, starfish, shell, octopus, eel, and so on, we described how the pottery was decorated with small geometric designs or patterns made from printing with sea shells. I say the instructions for making the bowls in English along with acting out an example, and they begin.
The result: Many small bowl/cups made in under twenty minutes. We didn’t really emphasize time to be careful and make a detailed pattern, and I wish we would have. Some students struggled and got frustrated, but I was pleasantly surprised with how creative some of them were. It was a
nextremely messy fun week.
Next week we will be talking about seasons and how that affected growing their crops and harvesting. That will, of course, be modeled by the grape plant because its at the core of La Rioja. We were joking that a field trip to a winery would be completely appropriate for this learning concept… ha! Even if we have to stretch for material in some weeks, I really enjoy following this theme and the projects that go along with it. The kids are all excited to show their parents and it’s nice to see.
— to be continued —