Los Árboles Hablan:

 

A Spanish Language Curriculum Unit Based on the

Study of Latin American Rain Forests

 
 

Paper presented at the 22nd Annual Conference of

The North American Association for Environmental Education

 

Big Sky, MT

September 28, 1993

Dr. John P. Zuman

Intercultural Center for Research in Education (INCRE)

Arlington MA

 
 


I. INTRODUCTION

Los Arboles Hablan is a video-based curriculum unit that promotes the learning of Spanish as a foreign language through the study of Latin American forests. The project, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education International Research and Studies Program, consists of a video and accompanying instructional materials for middle school students in grades 7-9, integrating science, social studies and environmental education while teaching the Spanish language. The content specifically focuses on the Amazon rain forest, the virgin forests of Chile and Costa Rica's cloud forest.

The approach to the development of the instructional materials has been grounded in INCRE's belief that language and culture are inseparable and that students are more open to acquiring foreign language skills and to improving existing skills if they develop an interest in and an understanding of the subject matter on which language learning is based. The project focuses on the conservation of forests and provides an opportunity to introduce American students to an environmental issue that is critically important to Latin America and to the world. Los Arboles Hablan offers teachers and students a valuable opportunity to engage in Spanish language learning which is geared to and respectful of a wide spectrum of learning styles. In addition, these materials promote respect for Latin American culture, and encourage concern for the preservation of our environment and its inhabitants.

The videotape and printed components of the curriculum unit have been designed to be used in an integrated manner in the Spanish language learning classroom. The curriculum is divided into twelve segments, with activities in each segment designed to take up one or two class periods. If used daily, the curriculum unit takes approximately three weeks to complete, with the possibility of spending at least one or two additional weeks on suggested follow-up and integrative activities.

In the videotape, students are introduced to Teresa and Ricardo, two Hispanic-American high school-aged teenagers who are their guides throughout the video. Each curriculum day, the students view approximately six to eight minutes of video, watching the adventures of Teresa and Ricardo as they become intrigued by and concerned for the rain forests of Latin America. Content and language learning are offered in an engaging, appealing format as Teresa and Ricardo receive letters and calls from relatives in Latin America, and eventually go on their own expeditions to the forests. Actual footage from rain forests of Chile, Brazil, and Costa Rica has been used throughout the video production to offer students the opportunity to see the beauty of the forests and its inhabitants, as well as to witness the effects of deforestation. The classroom activities have been specifically designed to complement the video, with related vocabulary and language learning exercises for each day available for middle school level Spanish language classes. Both the video and written materials contain English and Spanish sections, so as to sufficiently introduce content area while strengthening Spanish language skills. The written materials include scripts of all the video segments, so that students and teachers may read the scripts before-hand or follow along as appropriate. Some Spanish segments of the video also include Spanish subtitles, so that the students may see and hear the words simultaneously. A dictionary of all vocabulary used in the unit is included.

An accompanying Teachers Guide provides 1) the rationale for the development of the materials, 2) a description of the organization of the curriculum, 3) directions for duplication of the student materials, 4) suggestions for integration with other subject area teachers, 5) a discussion of utilizing the video dialogues to promote language learning, 6) a fully classroom-tested set of student evaluation instruments and suggestions for grading, 7) detailed day-by-day lesson plans, teaching tips and background information for each lesson, and 8) a complete set of student materials with answers.

II. THE DEVELOPED INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS

Prototype versions of the video, student and teacher materials were field tested and readied for dissemination on schedule and within budget by June 1993. In this section, details of the three components of the curriculum are presented.

A. THE VIDEOTAPE

The use of video is a fundamental component of the Los Arboles Hablan curriculum. Brief video segments are used each day to motivate student interest and to provide a visual context for language and content learning. The student activities are woven around the video segments, reinforcing and amplifying language and content introduced in the video.

The video tells the story of two bilingual Latino teen-agers,Teresa and Ricardo, who become interested in studying the Amazon rain forest through a science project. After some research, which includes watching a television program about forests and a video on the Amazon rain forest, they prepare for a trip to the tropical rain forest. Students see Teresa pack for her trip to Brazil, and watch as Ricardo and Teresa obtain flight information from a travel agent. Finally, they take a trip to the Amazon, where they see the beauty and immenseness of the forest, the plants and animals of the forest and the indigenous people who call the rain forest their home. They also witness the destruction of forest by logging and burning.Some time after her return from Brazil, Teresa receives a letter from her sister in Costa Rica, inviting her and Ricardo to visit the Costa Rican cloud forest, which is a lush tropical rain forest that only grows on a few mountain peaks in Central America. The two teen-agers set off again, this time to visit the cloud forest, with its rich plant life and many eco-tourists.

By this time, Teresa and Ricardo have learned a great deal about tropical rain forests. Teresa's aunt, who lives in Chile, learns of their interest in forests and calls to invite them on an expedition to the temperate rain forest in the south of Chile, where some of the oldest and tallest trees in the world grow. Teresa and Ricardo join the expedition, completing their study of the Latin American rain forests.

The video, which runs a total of 55 minutes and 22 seconds, consists of 10 brief video segments that are summarized in Table 1 below.
 
 

TABLE 1: LOS ARBOLES HABLAN VIDEO SEGMENTS
SCENE # and TITLE TIME
1. Meeting Teresa and Ricardo 3:00
2. Teresa and Ricardo watch a television program 8:15
3. Teresa and Ricardo watch a video 9:49
4. Teresa and Ricardo call a travel agent 3:33
5. Teresa packs for Brazil 1:50
6. Teresa and Ricardo go to Brazil 6:54
7. Teresa gets a letter from Costa Rica 4:35
8. Teresa and Ricardo visit the cloud forest 5:08
9. Teresa gets a phone call from Chile 2:40
10. Teresa and Ricardo go to Chile 9:38
TOTAL PROGRAM TIME 55:22

The video combines file footage of Latin American rain forests with original scenes of Teresa and Ricardo that were shot locally. All file footage was purchased in 3/4" NTSC format from the following sources, with explicit permission granted to INCRE for its use in this educational project:

Videociência Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Jean P. Bouciaut Productions Brookline MA

Canal 13 San José, Costa Rica

Videosphere Studio Arlington VA

Ancient Forests International Redway CA

Additional original footage was shot for this project in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in Costa Rica. Original music for the soundtrack was provided by the Brazilian group Manga-Rosa, based in Jamaica Plain MA, and the Andean musician Hector Salgado of Berkeley CA. Narration for the travel scenes was recorded at Effectside Music Studio in Arlington MA, and the soundtrack was edited and remixed at INCRE.

All off-line editing for the production was conducted in-house at INCRE using professional quality computer controlled video editing equipment that ensured the highest video resolution and precision. The final on-line edit was mastered in Betacam SP at Continental Cablevision studios in Cambridge MA. A complete list of credits for the video production is included in Appendix A.

B. STUDENT MATERIALS

The curriculum is based on a whole-language approach to learning, and the student activities consist of a wide variety of language exercises based on vocabulary and content from the video segments. Student activities for the 12-day unit are summarized in Table 2 below.

TABLE 2: LOS ARBOLES HABLAN STUDENT ACTIVITIES
DAY 1 Learning Objectives
Introductory Reading in English

- Orientation to unit
- Introduction of key Spanish vocabulary
- Background information on Chico Mendes 
Bilingual Dialogue: Introducing Teresa and Ricardo  - Introduce fully bilingual characters
- Promote Spanish listening skills 
Spanish Dialogue: T+R Watch a TV Program  - Spanish reading, listening and comprehension
- Vocabulary acquisition, Cooperative learning 
Homework: Characteristics of rain forests

- Latin American geography Location of 3 types of rain forest
- Main characteristics of rain forests Environmental importance of forests
- Alternatives to forest destruction 

DAY 2 Learning Objectives
Spanish written exercise

- Reinforcement of rain forest location
- Spanish sentence construction
- Cooperative learning 
Spanish Dialogue: T+R Watch a Video

- Spanish reading, listening and comprehensionVocabulary acquisition
- Cooperative learning 
Video about rain forests narrated in English
 
 

- Latin American geography
- Location of 3 types of rain forest
- Main characteristics of rain forests
- Environmental importance of forests
- Alternatives to forest destruction 
Homework: Reading in English and Spanish
on Tropical Rain Forest; Spanish sentence comp.

- Spanish reading and comprehension
- Spanish sentence construction
- Main characteristics of tropical rain forests
- Environmental importance of forests 

DAY 3 Learning Objectives
Spanish carrousel exercise

- Main characteristics of tropical rain forest
- Spanish sentence construction
- Cooperative learning 
Spanish verbal exercise

- Latin American geography
- Proximity of countries to the equator
- Oral Spanish sentence response 
Homework: Spanish reading comp.; True/False

- Spanish sentence construction
- Reading comprehension
- Reinforcement of content in Spanish 

Student Investigation: Calling Travel Agent 

 

- Data gathering, real-world connection 

DAY 4

Learning Objectives
Spanish dialogue: T+R call a travel agent 

- Spanish reading, listening and comprehension
- Vocabulary acquisition, Cooperative learning 

Group exercise: calling a travel agency

- Spanish sentence construction
- Reading comprehension
- Reinforcement of content in Spanish Use of real-world data
- Reinforcement of Spanish numbers, days of the week 
Video vocabulary ex.: Teresa packs for Brazil  - Spanish vocabulary development 

Homework: Packing exercise 

 

- Spanish sentence completion
- Reading comprehension, vocabulary development 

DAY 5

Learning Objectives
Spanish Dialogue: T+R go to Brazil

- Spanish reading, listening and comprehension
- Geography and science content
- Vocabulary acquisition, Cooperative learning 
Quiz

- Spanish reading comprehension
- Spanish sentence construction
- Reinforcement of content in Spanish 

Word Search 

 

- Vocabulary Reinforcement 

DAY 6

Learning Objectives
Spanish Dialogue: T gets a letter from Costa Rica
 
 

- Spanish reading, listening and comprehension
- Geography and science content
- Authentic Central American dialogue
- Vocabulary acquisition
- Cooperative learning 
Calling a Tourist Agency Exercise

- Spanish reading and comprehension
- Reinforcement of lo/la forms
- Content re: cloud forest
- Cooperative learning 
Exercise: What to bring to the cloud forest?  - Spanish sentence completion
- Reading comprehension, Map reading 

Homework: Reading re: Cloud Forest of Costa Rica 

 

- Science and environmental content, Effects of ecotourism 

DAY 7

Learning Objectives
Spanish Dialogue: T+R visit the cloud forest

- Spanish reading, listening and comprehension
- Science content
- Vocabulary acquisition
- Cooperative learning 
After-Video Q&A Exercise  - Spanish reading comprehension, sentence construction
- Reinforcement of content 
Reading Comprehension Exercise  - Spanish reading comprehension, sentence construction
- Reinforcement of content 

Homework:
Reading re: Chilean Temperate Rain Forest 

 

- Science and Environmental Content 

DAY 8

Learning Objectives
Spanish Dialogue: T receives a call from Chile

- Spanish reading, listening and comprehension
- Science and environmental content, Vocabulary acquisition
- Cooperative learning 
Spanish True/False exercise  - Listening comprehension
- Content reinforcement 
Spanish conversation exercise  - Reading comprehension
- Cooperative learning 
Homework: Using Chilean Tourist Guide

- Reading Comprehension
- Sentence construction
- Vocabulary, geography 

DAY 9

Learning Objectives
Spanish Dialogue: T+R go to Chile

- Spanish reading, listening and comprehension
- Science and environmental content
- Vocabulary acquisition
- Cooperative learning 
Group dialogue exercise

- Spanish sentence completion
- Content reinforcement
- Cooperative learning 
Assign final project: bilingual poster

- Artistic creativity, focus on one type of rain forest, science and environmental content,
geography, Spanish vocabulary, paragraph construction 
Homework: Review exercise 

- Spanish reading comprehension, Content and vocabulary review 

 

DAY 10

Learning Objectives
Crossword puzzle  - Vocabulary review 
Exercise: What can we do now? 

- List of follow-up activities, ways to become more informed or actively participate
in rain forest preservation activities. 

Work on poster project

- Artistic creativity, focus on one type of rain forest, science and environmental content,
geography, Spanish vocabulary, paragraph construction 
Homework: Spanish review exercise  - Review of vocabulary, content of unit
- Students write their own dialogues 

DAY 11

Learning Objectives
Review exercises  Review of vocabulary, content of unit 

Dialogue exercise 

 

Students perform their dialogues 

DAY 12

Learning Objectives
Final Test, student feedback form  Assessment of content, sentence construction, sentence completion,
reading comprehension 
Each student activity is presented in written form and numbered by day. For example seven sheets are required for Day 1, and these are numbered 1-1 to 1-7. The sheets for Day 2 are numbered 2-1 to 2-6, and so on. At the end of the student activity sheets is the Los Arboles Dictionary that contains all the vocabulary used in the unit. There is a total of 78 student sheets, arranged on 42 double-sided pages.

A master copy of the student materials is provided for photocopying, along with specific instructions for teachers on how to copy the materials back-to-back. Teachers are asked to copy the student materials on pre-drilled 3-hole punch paper (preferably using recycled paper), and to distribute all the materials on the first day of the unit. Each student is asked to supply a small 3 ring binder to store all materials for the unit. Students are asked to bring their binders with the materials with them to class every day, and no additional materials are needed.

The 3-ring binder for student materials allows students to take out and replace certain pages (for example homework sheets turned in for grading, or dialogue sheets when reading in class). It also allows students to look for information throughout the materials (for example when using the dictionary, or when referring to one of the maps). Finally, the binder keeps student work organized throughout the unit so they are able to review all their work to prepare for the final assessment. Students do all of their writing on the sheets that are provided, so there is no need for a notebook or loose papers.

 

C. TEACHER'S GUIDE

The Teachers Guide that accompanies the video and student materials is designed to provide a comprehensive collection of background information, organizational guidance and teaching strategies for the unit. The guide includes the following 9 resources:

1) An introduction to the curriculum, with a basic rationale for and overview of the curriculum.

2) A description of the organization of the curriculum, so that teachers are oriented to how the materials are organized.

3) Directions for duplication of the student materials, which explain how materials should be copied and disseminated to students.

4) Suggestions for integration with other subject area teachers. The curriculum offers many opportunities for integration with science and social studies to teach about the scientific and environmental roles of rain forests, and the geography and culture of Latin America.

5) A discussion of utilizing the video dialogues to promote language learning. Teachers are encouraged to review dialogues in English before viewing each video segment, then to have students practice the dialogues after watching the video. The text of the narration for the three trips appears on the video with Spanish subtitles, so students hear the Spanish pronunciation and see the written Spanish simultaneously, while watching images that provide a context for the dialogue and enhance their understanding of the spoken language.

6) A fully classroom-tested set of student evaluation instruments and suggestions for grading. There are many opportunities for assessing student progress throughout the curriculum unit, including daily homework assignments, a quiz after day 5, a final test, and a poster project. In addition, teachers can grade student participation in a variety of individual, group and whole-class activities.

7) Detailed day-by-day lesson plans, teaching tips and background information for each lesson. The approximate time for each classroom activity is given, and lesson plans have been designed for a 45-minute class period. In addition, background information for teachers is provided in order to enhance discussion of environmental and science questions that may come up in class. Suggestions for optional follow-up activities are also provided.

8) A complete set of student materials with answers. All student materials are reproduced in the teacher's guide along with answers in italics. The materials are organized sequentially by day, so that the lesson plan for each day is followed by the corresponding student materials. The Los Arboles Dictionary is also included.

9) A teacher feedback form is provided at the end of the guide and teachers are solicited to send their assessment of the curriculum unit to INCRE, with suggestions for improvement and ideas for new activities that could be included in revisions of the materials. A student feedback form is also provided, so that students using the curriculum can also give their reactions to the unit and make suggestions for improvements.

 

III. FIELD TESTING AND EVALUATION

The Los Arboles Hablan materials have been classroom tested and evaluated in 17 middle school Spanish I and Spanish II classes in the spring of 1993. This section describes the nature of the field test sites, the evaluation methodology, the evaluation results and conclusions, and recommendations based on the field testing of the curriculum unit.

 

A. FIELD TEST SITES

Two middle school sites were selected for field testing and evaluation of the curriculum unit. One site was the Fairgrounds Junior High School in Nashua NH, and the other was the Randolph Junior High School in Randolph MA. Fairgrounds Junior High has won awards as the best junior high school in New Hampshire and was nationally recognized in 1989 as an outstanding school by then-President Bush. It is located in a small town environment in southern New Hampshire. Its student population is predominantly white and from relatively affluent families. Spanish instruction at the school begins in 8th grade, and classes meet daily for 50 minutes. All 275 8th and 9th grade students in Spanish I and Spanish II participated in the field test.

Randolph Junior High School, the other field test site, is located in a predominantly blue-collar suburb of Boston. School enrollment includes 31% non-white and Hispanic students, and 17% are students whose first language is not English. Spanish instruction at the school begins in 7th grade and classes meet daily for 45 minutes. All 190 8th grade students in Spanish II participated in the field test.

 

B. METHODOLOGY

The two goals of the field testing and evaluation were 1) to obtain feedback from teachers and students and classroom observers that would be useful in improving the content and organization of the curriculum unit, and 2) to assess the extent to which the curriculum unit engaged student interest and promoted learning of Spanish and content related to Latin American forests.

The first phase of field testing at each site was a day-long teacher training workshop. The objective of the workshop was to familiarize the participating teachers with the entire curriculum, and at the same time to obtain their feedback about the appropriateness of activities and assessment items for their students. The workshop also provided an opportunity for teachers to record the correct answers for all activities, and to point out typographical and grammatical errors that somehow managed to creep into the student materials.

Selected classes were pre-tested using the final assessment instrument. The instrument assesses content knowledge related to rain forests and Latin American geography, as well as testing Spanish reading comprehension, sentence construction and sentence completion.

Teachers were given photocopied sets of student materials for all participating students on 3-hole punch paper, which were distributed to students on the first day of the unit, and which students kept in 3-ring binders.

INCRE evaluators logged a total of 45 hours of classroom observation, and collected data on student reaction to the materials, amount of class time per activity, difficulties with organization or content of activities, effective teaching strategies, and errors and additions in the student materials. Each curriculum day was observed in at least 3 different Spanish I and Spanish II classes. The classroom observations also offered a lot of informal and immediate feedback about the materials from the participating teachers. Changes in the curriculum materials based on observations and teacher feedback were noted and materials were revised as appropriate.

Several evaluation activities were conducted as the unit came to a close at each site. All students took the post-test, which was the same instrument as the pre-test. Students also completed a feedback form that solicited their opinions of the curriculum unit, asked them which activities they enjoyed the most and the least, and solicited their suggestions on how to improve the curriculum.

At the close of the unit, INCRE evaluators organized a teacher focus group at each site to debrief. Teachers were able to assess the impact of the curriculum, make more general suggestions for improvements, and share the results of the student poster projects. The debriefing meeting was also an opportunity to thank the teachers for their time and effort in field testing the unit. Finally, teachers were provided with a feedback form in order to give individual written feedback about the unit.

 

C. RESULTS

All data indicate that the curriculum unit was very well received and achieved defined learning objectives. Student and teacher reaction was overwhelmingly positive, and results of pre-post testing showed large gains in Spanish language skills and in content knowledge related to Latin American geography and rain forests. This section presents the results obtained from the various data collection instruments.

1. Test Results

Of the 465 participating students, a total of 177 students in 8 classes were sampled to take the pre- and post-tests. All other students only took the post-test. The pre-post sample consisted of 64 Spanish I and 113 Spanish II students.

The test results showed consistent and highly significant gains in all sections of the test. The composite score on the written test increased from a mean of 65.4 (s = 10.8) on the pre-test to a mean of 81.8 (s = 11.3) on the post test, a mean gain of 16.4 points, or 25.1% (t=34.8, p<.001). There were no significant differences in the pre-test scores between students in Spanish I and Spanish II. The average gain of Spanish I students was actually somewhat higher than the average gain of Spanish II students: Spanish I students increased their scores by an average of 18.2 points, while Spanish II students increased their scores by an average of 15.5 points (F=7.6, p<.05).

The gains held consistently across the different sections of the test. The test has two main components. The first component (Sections I to IV of the test) assesses Spanish vocabulary and reading comprehension, as well as content knowledge related to the three types of rain forest. The first component counts for 70% of the total test score. The second component (Sections V to VII of the test) assesses content knowledge related to the three types of rain forest in English, and accounts for 30% of the total test score. Table 3 below shows the gains from pretest to post-test on both components of the instrument.

TABLE 3: PRE/POST TEST GAINS
    Percent Gain
Component 1:

Spanish Vocabulary
Spanish Reading Comprehension
Content Knowlede 
27.3%
Component 2: Content Knowledge in English 
19.9%
Composite  
25.1%

It should be noted that the sample that was pre/post tested was representative of all students participating in the field test. There was no significant difference in the mean post-test scores of the pretested group and the students who only took the post-test.

2. Student Feedback

A total of 319 students at the two field test sites completed the feedback form. 50% said that they enjoyed the Los Arboles Hablan curriculum "a lot" or "quite a bit", and only 13% said they enjoyed the curriculum "a little" or "not at all". 70% thought that the curriculum unit was more interesting than their regular Spanish class, and only 8% thought that the unit was less interesting than their regular class. 87% thought that the curriculum unit should be used in Spanish class again next year.

The most popular activity by far was watching the videos, which was cited by 66% of students as the activity they liked the most. Other popular activities that were listed by students included (in order of popularity) the final poster project, working in groups, learning about rain forests, the crossword puzzle, the dialogues, the worksheets, and calling the travel agency.

By far the least popular activity named by students (not surprisingly, perhaps) were the final test, quiz and homework, which were cited by 40% of students. Only 5% of student respondents named watching the videos as one of their least favorite activities.

The most interesting result on the student feedback form involved how much students thought they learned during the unit. While students thought that they learned some Spanish (3.2 on the 5 point Leikert scale), they thought that they learned quite a bit about Latin American forests (4.1 on the scale). This difference was most notable for the Spanish II students in Nashua, who averaged 2.9 on the scale for learning Spanish, but 4.1 for learning about Latin American forests. 81% of the Nashua students thought they learned "a lot" or "quite a bit" about Latin American forests, but only 22% thought they learned "a lot" or "quite a bit" of Spanish. The results of these questions are particularly interesting when compared with the final test results (reported in section 1 above), which showed that students advanced considerably in their Spanish language skills as well as in their knowledge of Latin American forests.

Another interesting finding was that while 33% of Randolph students thought that the unit was harder than their regular Spanish class, only 2% of Nashua students thought that the unit was harder. However, many of the Randolph students who thought the unit was hard also thought it was more interesting than their regular Spanish class. Also, it is notable that the majority of Nashua students who found the unit easier than their regular Spanish class were 9th grade Spanish II students.

Students also had a variety of comments about the unit, including the following:

"It makes students more willing to learn when the learning is based on something like the rain forests."

"You not only learn about the forests, you learn more Spanish while your (sic) at it."

"It's interesting to learn about the problems of the world in a different language."

"I enjoyed it. I learned about rain forests, even different cultures. I also learned about some of the different species. It was interesting."

"It helps you learn more about the culture of Latin America."

"I think it is an easier and more efficient way to learn Spanish. I would like to see units about all the other natural features of the world."

"The dictionary was a good idea because now I can keep it and know how to say a few words that I otherwise would not know how to say."

"I had no idea about the rain forests and the danger they are in."

"I really enjoyed being able to try out your new way of teaching Spanish to the kids."

"It gave us a good break from the textbook and is a more interesting way to learn."

"It is a good subject to head out of school with. I know that during the summer I will think about the rain forests."

"We learned a lot of Spanish and about working together. Also about the rain forests and how we can save or conserve them."

"It teaches Spanish vocabulary and it teaches geography we didn't know."

"I think there should be a program for elementary school kids too (Not in Spanish though). My little sister enjoyed looking at the unit and I translated for her."

"Make it longer. It was fun."

3. Teacher Feedback

All 6 teachers who field tested Los Arboles Hablan were unanimous in their praise of the curriculum unit. On the feedback form, all six said that their students enjoyed the curriculum unit "A lot", and all six also concurred that they enjoyed teaching the unit "A lot". All six also said that they are planning to use the curriculum unit again next year.

Teacher comments included the following:

"I think the unit is great, well timed and informative. I think you have done a great job putting this together."

"The students really enjoyed the project and they learned a lot of Spanish too. I also learned a great deal using the materials."

"The message is important and the change of pace was great."

"The unit was very well organized. I didn't have to do lesson plans for two weeks. What a treat!"

"The videos were great. I just wish you could have made them longer."

"This unit is terrific. The only problem was that my students wanted more, they did not want to stop. Are you going to make a sequel?"

In addition to their positive comments about the curriculum, teachers had many excellent suggestions for improvements and additions to the materials. Their suggestions were incorporated in revising and expanding the curriculum whenever it was appropriate.

The teachers who teach the 9th grade advanced Spanish II classes in Nashua thought that some of the true/false exercises were too easy, and felt that overall the unit was somewhat easier than their regular curriculum. The teachers who worked with Spanish I and 8th grade Spanish II classes all thought that the unit was about the same or harder than their regular class work in Spanish. All teachers concurred that Los Arboles Hablan is suitable for use at the end of the year in middle school Spanish I and at any time during the year in Spanish II.

All teachers concurred that students learned "A lot" of Spanish in this unit, and also learned "A lot" about Latin American forests.

4. Classroom Observations

The extensive classroom observation by INCRE evaluators yielded the following results:

Students were engaged and on-task throughout the unit. The videos served to generate a lot of student interest which translated to rich discussions and attention to classwork and homework. Some students complained on the one day that a video segment is not used (Day 3).

The extensive cooperative learning activities in pairs and small groups were integrated very well into the flow of the unit. There was no time lost to classroom mechanics or disruptive behavior.

The length of all activities was very close to the times suggested in the lesson plans, and teachers had no difficulty in following the daily schedule. The teachers in Nashua, where classes are 50 minutes long, felt very comfortable with the timing of the unit. The teachers in Randolph, where some classes are as short as 42 minutes, felt that the timing was at times a little tight.

The teacher's guide provided sufficient materials and guidance for teachers, none of whom needed additional support at any time during the field tests. Teachers felt that the materials and lessons provided in the teacher's guide were fully adequate.

Nearly all activities were at an appropriate level of difficulty for middle school Spanish I and Spanish II students. Advanced Spanish II students found a few activities too easy.

Teachers had no difficulty in operating the VCR and using the videotape. Teachers use the audiovisual equipment almost daily, and need to make arrangements to have exclusive access to the equipment throughout the unit. If more than one teacher is using the unit simultaneously, each teacher must have their own copy of the videotape and teacher's guide.

The distribution of student materials on 3-hole punched paper works very well as long as all students supply a 3-ring binder. Handing out all student materials at the beginning of the unit is far preferable to passing out the pages day by day.

Students were very motivated by the final poster project. Students are asked to make a fully bilingual poster showing one type of Latin American rain forest. Their interest in the theme was evident in the products, which were displayed in school corridors and generated many positive comments from school administrators and other teachers.

D. CONCLUSIONS

The main conclusion is that the curriculum unit Los Arboles Hablan has proved to be very popular with teachers and students alike, and has been shown to be effective in promoting Spanish language skills and knowledge of geography, science and environmental content related to the rain forests of Latin America. The success of the unit demonstrates that video can effectively be used as an integral component of instruction, and that an interdisciplinary curriculum can be effective in promoting language learning while teaching substantive content knowledge. For additional information about Los Arboles Hablan, please contact INCRE at 366 Massachusetts Avenue, Arlington MA, Phone (781) 643-2142, Fax (781) 643 1315, or E-mail at mail@incre.org

 

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