Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Shifting Context

  Averting war is the work of politicians, establishing peace is the work of education.
Maria Montessori

Without context, it's very difficult to learn another language. In order to acquire language, we need to struggle with negotiating context.   Thinking about my own language learning, I faintly remember the many textbooks my teachers used that laid out units that jumped from topic to topic-travel, school, clothing, weather, food-all without much cultural context that ever veered off the beaten path of tacos and tapas. 

 In 6th grade Spanish we are wrapping up a unit on food. Well, not on food exactly.  At the beginning of the unit,  students were asked the question, "Qué come el mundo?" What does the world eat?  We starting by considering the book Hungry Planet which documents families from around the world and a week's worth of groceries.  After describing and comparing photos, it became clear that not all families have access to the same quantities or quality of food.  Later in the unit, we considered the work of the Spanish aid organization  Acción contra el hambre which explores some of the reasons for hunger in our world, and solutions to it.  Finally, the children reflected on their work with Common Pantry, and how they can support the hungry in Chicago.  What resulted was using Spanish language to create a campaign to build support for Common Pantry in our community.  Sure, the children learned food words  during the unit, but the enduring understanding is about increasing justice, peace and equality in our community and world.  It's all about shifting the context.

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