ERIC Identifier: ED464516
Publication Date: 2002-05-00
Author: Winke, Paula - Stafford, Cathy
Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics Washington DC.
Selecting Materials To Teach Spanish to Spanish Speakers. ERIC Digest.
Rapid demographic changes and an increasing recognition of the critical need
for professionals who are proficient in languages other than English (Brecht
& Rivers, 2000; Carreira & Armengol, 2001) have led to an interest in
developing language programs and classes for "heritage language
learners"--students who are raised in a home where a non-English language is
spoken and who speak or at least understand that language (Valdes, 2001). The
fastest growing heritage language population in the United States is Hispanic
Americans (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2001), and the number of Spanish speakers
studying Spanish is on the rise. As a result, language educators are developing
programs, classes, and instructional strategies to address the needs of these
students, which are different from those of native-English-speaking students
studying Spanish as a foreign language. Appropriate instructional materials are
essential for these classes, which are often referred to as Spanish for Spanish
speakers (SNS) classes. Although the development of SNS materials has a 30-year
history, and many new SNS textbooks and materials continue to appear, developing
a well-articulated sequence for SNS instruction continues to be a challenge
(Peyton, Lewelling, & Winke, 2001).
The purpose of this digest is twofold--to raise awareness of the range of SNS
materials available to teachers and school districts, and to emphasize the
importance of articulated SNS programs with well-sequenced materials. It
describes published resources that list and review available SNS materials and
gives an overview of the types of materials available. It also provides
guidelines for selecting textbooks and other materials for SNS classes or for
classes with both English-speaking and Spanish-speaking students.
RESOURCES FOR SELECTING SNS INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS
of textbooks and materials for SNS instruction have existed since the 1970s
(see, e.g., Valdes-Fallis & Teschner, 1977). More recently, the American
Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (2000) has published a
handbook for K-16 teachers that includes a list of 29 secondary- and
college-level SNS textbooks.
The National Foreign Language Center, in collaboration with the Center for
Applied Linguistics (CAL), has developed an extensive bibliography of textbooks
and materials used for SNS instruction in K-12 and university classes, derived
from a survey of Spanish programs across the country (Center for Applied
Linguistics, 2001). Materials in the bibliography are annotated and coded by
search criteria that include level of instruction, content focus and skills
developed, cost, publisher, and date of publication. This bibliography will be
available on the National Foreign Language Center's Project REACH Web site, a
Web-based resource for the teaching of Spanish and Hispanic and Latino cultures
to heritage Spanish speakers, under development by the NFLC and AATSP.
CAL has produced an online resource guide (Roca, Marcos, & Winke, 2001)
that lists curricula and teaching materials for SNS instruction and links to the
publishers. The guide also includes information about the LangNet Web site; SNS
Web sites; and SNS journal articles, books, conferences, and summer institutes
Many publishers of SNS materials have Web pages or catalog sections devoted
to SNS materials, including the following:
Mifflin College Division
Rinehart and Winston
Hill Higher Education
Hall School Group http://www.phschool.com/catalog/
Information provided by publishing companies should be used with caution,
however. Publishers may claim that their materials can be used for SNS
instruction when in reality they were not created to address the needs of
Spanish-speaking students in Spanish classes.
TYPES OF SNS MATERIALS AVAILABLE
The range of SNS textbooks
and materials now available represents the expanding diversification within the
growing SNS field. Many SNS textbooks are part of well-developed instructional
series that have supplementary workbooks, readers, multimedia supplements, and
Web sites with online activities, including "Espanol Escrito: Curso Para
Hispanohablantes Bilingues" (4th ed.) (Valdes & Teschner, 1999); "Nuevos
Mundos" (Roca, 1999); "Selecciones Literarias" (Kiraithe-Cordova, 2000); and the
revised "Nuestro Mundo: Curso Para Hispanohablantes" (Samaniego, Alarcon, Rojas,
& Gorman, 2002).
States such as Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas have large,
well-established SNS programs where the instruction of Spanish-speaking students
is carried out in classes separate from English-speaking students (Valdes,
1997). However, not all school programs have enough Spanish-speaking students to
consistently support separate classroom instruction for them. One public school
teacher responding to a 2001 survey about her use of SNS materials wrote that at
her school "there are several native speakers who elect to take Spanish each
year thinking it an 'easy grade.'" She added that district staff wonder if they
should purchase alternative texts for these students, who are now in traditional
Spanish classes, or form special sections just for them. Unfortunately, small
numbers of such students have so far made separate classes impossible in this
No matter how small the population of Spanish-speaking students, they need
not go without specialized instruction and materials that will build on their
existing language competencies while addressing their particular language needs,
developing their literacy skills, and fostering their bilingualism. Some newer
textbook series, such as Juntos by Prentice Hall School Group and Ven Conmigo!
by Holt, Rinehart and Winston, provide course textbooks that are written for use
by both Spanish and English speakers in mixed classes, while separate sets of
workbooks and ancillary materials are offered for the different groups. The
series Mundo 21 (Samaniego, Rojas, Ohara, & Alarcon, 2001) has "heritage
language components," which include a textbook edition for SNS--the Edicion
Alternativa--and ancillary materials such as an SNS workbook, Cuaderno de
Actividades Para Hispanohablantes.
GUIDELINES FOR SELECTING SNS MATERIALS
states, "The textbooks teachers have are the most significant resource for their
teaching and often the most significant limiting force they face as they seek to
accomplish their purposes"(p. 1). We propose the following guidelines for
1. Know your student population.
Teachers selecting materials must know the grade level and Spanish
proficiency levels of their students and the type of class in which the
materials will be used. Students in a given class may include Spanish speakers
only, English speakers only, or both Spanish speakers and English speakers. If
the class includes both, one should consider whether it is possible to work
effectively with both groups in the same class or whether they should be
2. Know the language proficiency levels of your students.
Students who speak Spanish can have various levels of proficiency in both
English and Spanish. Their skills in reading, writing, listening, and speaking
for each language must be assessed before instructional materials can be
selected. Teachers may use locally or individually developed assessments or
commercially available proficiency tests to determine students' proficiency
levels. Otheguy and Toro (2000) describe published tests for SNS students at the
elementary and high school levels. A challenge for SNS programs is the dearth of
assessment materials and the lack of a national proficiency scale for
benchmarking language competencies of SNS students. Therefore all materials,
even those designed specifically for SNS students, must be reviewed to see if
they match the student population to be taught.
3. Know about the technology available in your school and classrooms.
Many SNS instructional materials have multimedia packages in addition to
textbooks. Consider whether technology-based materials, such as computer
activities delivered via CD-ROM or the Web, DVD supplemental materials, cassette
tapes, CDs, or video components are appropriate for your situation. Knowing what
technical capabilities your school has will help to expand or limit your search.
4. Have clear goals and objectives in mind.
Teachers must consider the skills that students need to develop in light of
the goals of the students and other stakeholders such as parents and district
and state supervisors. Textbooks and materials for Spanish-speaking students may
concentrate on oral language or on literacy skills. Some focus on grammar
review, while others focus on critical thinking, phonetics, acquisition of
standard Spanish varieties, or Spanish fluency.
5. Read published reviews of the materials.
Several journals have published reviews of SNS materials. "The Modern
Language Journal" has printed reviews of "EntreMundos: An Integrated Approach
for the Native Speaker" (Gynan, 1998) and "La Lengua que Heredamos, Spanish for
Bilinguals" (Faingold, 1998). "Hispania" has published reviews of "Nuevos
Destinos: Espanol Para Hispanohablantes" (Jelinski, 2001), (4th ed.) (Lepeley,
1999), "Tu Mundo: Primer Curso Para Hispanohablantes" and "Nuestro Mundo:
Segundo Curso Para Hispanohablantes" (Pardinas-Barnes, 1998).
The expansion of the SNS field has seen
simultaneous growth in the number of textbooks and materials designed for SNS
instruction. Textbook demand has created a market for materials that can be used
in separate classes or in mixed classes when separate instruction is not
possible. Selection of textbooks for SNS classes or classes with mixed groups is
a complicated process. Teachers and district supervisors must carefully and
critically evaluate SNS materials before adopting them to ensure that they fit
the proficiency levels and needs of their students and the goals of instruction.
Finally, teachers who use SNS materials should consider submitting reviews of
them to professional journals to aid other teachers in their own SNS textbook
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