Note: This class is organized and run by David Nance, but his wife, Rachel, teaches the Tuesday live class. Students are welcome to attend both sections if they’d like additional practice. More information about the Nances and their teaching experiences can be found at the end of this course description.
This class is unlike any other Spanish class that you will find, either online or in person. Rather than focusing on grammar, vocabulary, or rote practice, we learn the language by using the language to study another topic. We focus on understanding the message and on getting our point across, which allows each student to progress at his or her individual rate. Students of all ability levels work together in a class in which we all learn from one another. We use authentic materials from around the Spanish-speaking world to immerse ourselves in the language and culture.
Our class rotates on a four-year cycle. This year’s focus will be Current Events, and it will complete our cycle for the first time. Looking ahead, our cycle will be:
2019-2020 – Spanish with Embedded Current Events (this year)
2020-2021 – Spanish with Embedded Health (previously offered in 2016-2017)
2021-2022 – Spanish with Embedded Economics (previously offered in 2017-2018)
2022-2023 – Spanish with Embedded Geography (previously offered in 2018-2019)
2023-2024 – Spanish with Embedded Current Events (four years from now)
By focusing on content, we are using the language in natural, meaningful ways. The class is very low-stress, and allows students to pursue their own interests as they relate to the year’s topic.
Why do we take such a unique approach with our course? Sr. Nance has been teaching Spanish classes online since 2007, and has had the opportunity to continually experiment with and refine his approach to teaching. This class is partly the result of those efforts, and partly the result of what he has learned about second language acquisition, through years of reading and listening to what the experts have to say about it. We believe strongly in the power of “compelling comprehensible input” (to use Stephen Krashen’s phrase), used in authentic communicative contexts (to borrow an idea from Bill VanPatten).
We begin our course with a pretest, and will end it with a post-test, so that each student can see the progress that he or she has made throughout the year. Throughout the year, though, we do not have tests and quizzes; rather, we focus on hands-on learning with authentic materials from around the Spanish-speaking world.
From week to week, our class follows a consistent format:
– Live Class: We offer two weekly live class sessions. Students can choose which to attend, or can attend both each week.
– Weekly project: Each week, students will pick a current event and will create a project related to that event. These projects are very open-ended, and students are encouraged to be creative and have fun with them. We provide links and topics of interest, but students are encouraged to pursue topics that interest them, and are free to diverge from our suggestions.
– Timesheet: Students are expected to spend 45 minutes a day, at least five days a week, immersing themselves in Spanish. This can include reading and/or watching the news in Spanish, working on their projects, reading books, watching movies, attending our Live Class sessions, and many other things.
– Duolingo: Students are expected to complete a lesson or activity on Duolingo at least five times a week. This can count toward their timesheet.
Who should apply?
Students of any ability level and any level of experience with Spanish. Each year, we get students who have no previous experience with Spanish, and we get students who have studied for one, two, three, or more years. Students need to be at least relatively self-motivated, because this class has a lot of freedom and flexibility. Most students thrive with this flexibility, but if a student requires a lot of prodding to stay on schedule, this class may not be the best fit. We market the class as being for students in grades 6-12, but we are willing to discuss with parents the possibility of taking younger students. We regularly have 5th and 6th grade students who do well in our class, but some students that age are not ready for it.
- High speed, broadband Internet
- headset and microphone (for live sessions)
- Streaming video capabilities to watch recorded lectures
Evaluation and Feedback
As students submit their weekly projects, we focus on whether they have succeeded in getting their point across and on whether they are having meaningful interactions with the content. Any feedback we give regarding word choice or grammatical accuracy is tailored to the ability level and individual circumstances of the student.
We grade projects within a day or two of submission, and we always try to reply to student and parent emails within a day of receiving them.
Parents are welcome to contact us before registering their students for our class, but are not required to do so. Once a student is registered, we try to reach out to the student and parent within a day or two with a welcome email. Throughout the year, we are happy to answer questions from parents at any time, but we do not typically initiate much contact with the parents unless we notice a problem with a student. We do encourage parents to have a Canvas parent account so that they can check on their students’ progress throughout the year.