I finished up the April 18 issue of EL MUNDO EN TUS MANOS early because my sister took the three big boys for the weekend and I didn’t want to spend my precious toddler-free time on the computer! This meant that Saturday’s earthquake in Ecuador didn’t make it into the news. Since it is such an important event from the Spanish-speaking world, I wrote up a one-page article as a ‘Special Edition’ addition to Monday’s issue. If you purchased the two month subscription or the stand-alone April 18 issue, make sure to re-download the file from “My Purchases” when you read this in order to get the updated file. If you are not a subscriber or have not purchased the April 18 issue, you can download the one-page article about the earthquake here for free. I say it’s a one-page article, but there are actually three different articles that all say the same thing, each one a little more challenging so that you can meet the needs of students at different levels. A great follow-on to the reading is to discuss if your students are prepared for natural disasters that your area experiences and how they could help the situation in Ecuador. Here is an article from CNN with some basic ideas.
Publishing weekly news summaries has taken much more time than I anticipated, but it’s been good for me. For one, it has forced me to stay on top of current events beyond who just hit whom and who is hungry for what and who wants to go where. I’ve also been learning history, as the understanding of so many current events depends on the understanding of the backstory. For example, Keiko Fujimori’s advance to the second round of elections in Peru is significant not just because she is a woman and of Japanese descent, but because her father is the ex-President and currently serving a 25 year sentence for atrocious crimes committed during his presidency. As I choose the articles to share with students, I have to modify them enough so that students understand why those particular stories are important. It’s also been a fun way for me to work with a different set of high frequency vocabulary than that which I target in my curriculum units. There are words that appear over and over again in news articles that are not all that common in conversation. So just like I strategically choose the words that I use to tell stories in class, recycling old words, I can strategically choose and recycle different words in news stories. In this earthquake article, for example, I was able to get in repetitions of words like balneario, dejar a, muertos, heridos, tras, and cuerpos de socorro that appeared in other recent issues. To me, it speaks to the importance of using NON-AUTHENTIC texts in your beginning levels. Short readings, novels, articles, etc. that are written strategically for language learners expose your students to highly concentrated repetitions of high frequency vocabulary and the underlying structure of the language. With a couple years of intense reading of non-authentic texts, students are able to understand authentic texts without difficulty.