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Resources

Online Resources: Digests

December 2003
EDO-FL-03-11

Selecting Materials to Teach Spanish to Spanish Speakers

Paula Winke, Center for Applied Linguistics
Cathy Stafford, Georgetown University

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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 (Valdés, 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

Reports of textbooks and materials for SNS instruction have existed since the 1970s (see, e.g., Valdés-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 for teachers.

Many publishers of SNS materials have Web pages or catalog sections devoted to SNS materials, including the following:

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 Español Escrito: Curso Para Hispanohablantes Bilingües (4th ed.) (Valdés & Teschner, 1999); Nuevos Mundos (Roca, 1999); Selecciones Literarias (Kiraithe-Córdova, 2000); and the revised Nuestro Mundo: Curso Para Hispanohablantes (Samaniego, Alarcón, 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 (Valdés, 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 district.

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, & Alarcón, 2001) has "heritage language components," which include a textbook edition for SNS—the Edición Alternativa—and ancillary materials such as an SNS workbook, Cuaderno de Actividades Para Hispanohablantes.

Guidelines for Selecting SNS Materials

Westbury (1990) 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 selecting materials.

  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 separated.

  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: Español Para Hispanohablantes (Jelinski, 2001), (4th ed.) (Lepeley, 1999), Tu Mundo: Primer Curso Para Hispanohablantes and Nuestro Mundo: Segundo Curso Para Hispanohablantes (Pardiñas-Barnes, 1998).

Conclusion

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 selection process.

References

American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese. (2000). Professional development series handbook for teachers K-16: Vol. 1. Spanish for native speakers. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt College. Available from Thomson Learning, 5191 Natorp Blvd., Mason, OH 45040, 1-800-355-9983 (phone), 1-800-451-3661 (fax).

Brecht, R.D., & Rivers, W.P. (2000). Language and national security in the 21st century: The role of Title VI/Fulbright-Hays in supporting national language capacity. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt.

Carreira, M.C., & Armengol, R. (2001). Professional opportunities for heritage language speakers. In J. K. Peyton, D. A. Ranard, & S. McGinnis (Eds.). Heritage languages in America: Preserving a national resource (pp. 109-142). McHenry, IL, and Washington, DC: Delta Systems and Center for Applied Linguistics.

Center for Applied Linguistics (2001). Spanish textbooks and materials for Spanish native speakers (LangNet annotated bibliography project). Retrieved May 14, 2002, from http://epsilon3.georgetown.edu/~pmw2/sns_materials.html

Faingold, E. D. (1998). [Review of the book La lengua que heredamos. Spanish for bilinguals]. Modern Language Journal, 82, 141-142.

Gynan, S. H. (1998). [Review of the book Entre mundos: An integrated approach for the native speaker]. Modern Language Journal, 82, 139-140.

Jelinski, J. B. (2001). [Review of the book Nuevos destinos: Español para hispanohablantes]. Hispania, 84, 248-249.

Lepeley, C. (1999). [Review of the book Avanzando: Gramática español y lectura]. Hispania, 82, 94-95.

Otheguy, R., & Toro, J. (2000). Tests for Spanish-for-native-speaker classes. In American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese, Professional development series handbook for teachers K-16: Vol. 1. Spanish for native speakers (pp. 91-98). Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt College. Available from Thomson Publishing.

Pardiñas-Barnes, P. (1998). [Review of the books Tu mundo: Primer curso para hispanohablantes and Nuestro mundo: Segundo curso para hispanohablantes and of the test Prueba de ubicación para hispanohablantes]. Hispania, 81, 116-118.

Peyton, J. K., Lewelling, V. W., & Winke, P. (2001). Spanish for native speakers: Developing dual language proficiency. ERIC digest. Washington, DC: ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics. Retrieved May 14, 2002, from http://www.cal.org/resources/digest/spanish_native.html

Roca, A., Marcos, K., & Winke, P. (2001). Teaching Spanish to Spanish speakers (Resource Guide Online). Washington, DC: ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics. Retrieved May 14, 2002, from http://www.cal.org/resources/archive/rgos/sns.html

U.S. Bureau of the Census. (2001, May). Race data. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved May 14, 2002, from http://www.census.gov/population/www/cen2000/phc-t1.html

Valdés, G. (1997). The teaching of Spanish to bilingual Spanish-speaking students: Outstanding issues and unanswered questions. In M. C. Colombi & F. X. Alarcón (Eds.), La enseñanza del español a hispanohablantes. Praxis y teor­a (pp. 8-44). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Valdés, G. (2001). Heritage language students: Profiles and possibilities. In J. K. Peyton, D. A. Ranard, & S. McGinnis (Eds.). Heritage languages in America: Preserving a national resource (pp. 37-77). McHenry, IL, and Washington, DC: Delta Systems and Center for Applied Linguistics.

Valdés-Fallis, G., & Teschner, R. V. (1977). Spanish for the Spanish-speaking: A descriptive bibliography of materials. Austin, TX: National Educational Laboratory.

Westbury, I. (1990). Textbooks, textbook publishers, and the quality of schooling. In D. L. Elliot & A. Woodward (Eds.), Textbooks and schooling in the United States (pp. 1-22). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

We are grateful to Carmen Tesser and Lynn Sandstedt for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this digest.


This digest was prepared with funding from the U.S. Dept. of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, National Library of Education, under contract no. ED-99-CO-0008. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of ED, OERI, or NLE.