Two weeks ago the Practicum Total started at the University of Seville, a project with 10 students of the Master in Teaching of Spanish as a Foreign Language at the University of Seville and 8 students of the Master in Teaching of Chinese as a Foreign Language at the Polytechnic University of Hong Kong. The Chinese students have come to Seville to teach Chinese and at the same time the 10 Spanish Master students are part of the in total 60 students that attend Chinese class twice a week. A Spanish course for the 8 Chinese students, which consists of three hours a week, is organised by the Seville-based Master students, and each of them prepares two didactic units and teaches approximately 2 to 2,5 hours. This week, it was my turn.
The theme of the day was “the supermarket” and for this class I wanted to focus on the Spanish fruits and vegetables. In the first place, because the Spanish names of fruits and vegetables are rather different from English, like zanahoria (carrot), melocotón (peach) and manzana (apple), for instance. In the second place, a lot of fruits and vegetables begin with either /b/ or /p/ and those familiar with the Chinese language, and in particular those familiar to teaching languages to Chinese people, might know that distinguishing between these sounds is ultimately hard. My aim was to quite unconsciously practice this phonological issue outside of phonological context with words like pimiento (pepper bell), pepino (cucumber), puerro (leek), plátano (banana), berenjena (eggplant), calabacín (zucchini) and cebolla (onion).
But how should I present them all that vocabulary? Obviously, the fact that these students learn Spanish in a context of language immersion should already help to get them motivated. So, I could go for a kind of traditional way with a PowerPoint of some sorts, but I actually wanted to do something that would be more challenging and, by all means, more affective. A PowerPoint presentation with all the images and the names of the fruit and vegetables is in my opinion not highly effective, especially for those students that don’t have a visual way of learning. So, I decided to take advantage of the relatively cheap prices of vegetables and fruits here in Spain and bought some “didactic material” to take with me to the class. (In Iceland, on the other hand, this may turn out to be a rather expensive activity).
The class started off in a traditional way: me presenting the fruit and vegetables by images in a PowerPoint presentation. But then, when I considered the students had more or less managed to remember the names on a short term, I changed to the real life fruits and vegetables. One by one I took them out of a bag, and I myself didn’t know either what was to come out of it next. From one apple, we went to two apples. To those two apples we added two oranges, making four. How much will we have if we add three bananas? And so we practiced not only the vegetables and fruits, but the numbers as well.
During the second part, everyone got one of the fruits on her table and we started asking “who has the banana?” and “who has the eggplant?”. It was surprising to see how well it turned out and how those real life products on their tables and on my desk lead to much more affectivity and eventually will lead to better memorization. What´s more, that very same afternoon I saw that one my students had gone to the supermarket to buy some fruits. And that was exactly what I had aimed for.