“My theory is intact; however”: Reflections on Teaching Spanish to Fifth Graders


  • Frank B. Brooks

    1. Florida State University
    2. Associate Professor of Multilingual/Multicultural Education at The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida.
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ABSTRACT: In this article, an experienced foreign language methods instructor presents his “private story” about teaching Spanish to fifth-graders as part of an elementary school's afternoon enrichment program. For the author, this one-semester experience was transformative, causing him to reconsider the nature of what he now considers to be the rather sanitized foreign language methods courses in undergraduate teacher-preparation programs. He discusses some ways he intends to alter his approach to the foreign language methods course, at the same time raising questions and making observations about classroom practices. For example, how can teachers acknowledge and explore the “messiness” of classroom life to their students' benefit? What does the odd and sometimes exasperating way that students “play” with language suggest in terms of classroom teaching approach? Professionally made foreign language training videos can lead to false expectations, even frustration. Visuals, hands-on objects, and realia, although important, can lead to problematic classroom behaviors if teachers are not prepared to react to them. Student verbal and nonverbal reactions to what teachers do need to be understood (is it Simply that they don't want to learn?). Moreover, teachers need other teachers with whom they can express their frustrations and work collaboratively on language-learning issues.