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Student-Centered Instruction in Spanish Courses

06 September, 2019

My name is Yasmin Valerio and this is my story; I was born in the Dominican republic and by the age of 14 moved to the united states where my troubles as a student of a second language began.
I must say that learning a second language is not an easy task to accomplish unless there is something that drives us; we either have a very strong desire and passion to learn, or a huge necessity to survive.

The first day in the United States was already for me a very bitter place to be in since I left everything I knew behind, and this was topped by shadowed traumatic childhood. Indeed I was a child that had a very stressful life who was not very quaint in being a grown up, and here I was trying to use the wits that I never had the chance to develop.

I was placed in a school that supposedly was bilingual where all the classes were in English except the Spanish class. I felt like a fish out of water. Everything to me was a danger trap or some sort of evil obstacle course; mind you I was 14 years old. Yes I could say that I wasn’t a child but not really a grown up either. I was angry, frustrated, confused and in all the sense of the word lost! Eventually, I learned to cope and along the way had unlimited epiphanies that helped shape the way I am today. I can tell you that these epiphanies did more than just help me cope, they taught me the way to learn a different language by listening. I learned to speak English within a few months. My teachers were very surprised at the way I could speak; that in such a short time I was able to accomplish something that other children like me weren’t able to do. I was better than my own classmates. Maybe you are thinking “hey, you were fourteen, of course you were able to learn” let me tell you that many years later I was able to learn Turkish as well by just listening. I do agree that grammar is necessary but the stress that this idea imposes on a student that might be already stressed is unnecessary specially when what we are looking for is to speak fluently.
Please don’t misunderstand me. What I mean to say is that at least to gain the students interest we need to let them fall naturally to their conclusions of how to learn to let them see that they can do it on their own. Obviously after they have gain enough confidence in themselves they will automatically look for a way on leaning the grammar, in which time it won’t feel as alien as it might have felt if they started right off with just grammar which is often the case. Students most of the time feel overwhelmed and I believe is the main reason of why many of us give up on learning a new language.
So it dawn to me and I asked my self-why not pass this knowledge along? This is when I decided to take this course (CURSO DE PROFESORES DE ESPAÑOL ELE – Instituto Hemingway) in the hopes that like me I can inspire someone to learn as I have, and if I am successful in teaching at least one person then I would feel very happy because my troubles were not in vain..

In researching on the views that I already had in mind I came across an article talking about exactly what I would have loved to have when I was struggling to learn: Student-Centered Instruction.
So what is Student-Centered Instruction? To me: is a way for students to take control, feel valuable and confident. It is helping the new generation to believe in themselves. It is a way to keep students engaged and motivated while they shape the way they learn at their own pace. They choose how and what to learn.
Student-Centered Instruction

"In our multicultural society, culturally responsive teaching reflects democracy at its highest level. [It] means doing whatever it takes to ensure that every child is achieving and ever moving toward realizing her or his potential."
--Joyce Taylor-Gibson (*)
Student-centered instruction differs from the traditional teacher-centered instruction. Learning is cooperative, collaborative, and community-oriented. Students are encouraged to direct their own learning and to work with other students on research projects and assignments that are both culturally and socially relevant to them. Students become self-confident, self-directed, and proactive.
Learning is a socially mediated process (Goldstein, 1999; Vygotsky, 1978). Children develop cognitively by interacting with both adults and more knowledgeable peers. These interactions allow students to hypothesize, experiment with new ideas, and receive feedback (Darling-Hammond, 1997). And that is why student centered classroom is necessary.
There are many ways that teachers can follow to create the environment for a student centered classroom.
The teacher can have students make generate lists of topics they wish to study and/or research. Allowing students to select their own reading material will be very effective. It is fun and helpful when students share the responsibility with the teacher as in sharing responsibility of instruction. One of the fundamental rules for a student centered classroom is to initiate cooperative learning groups (Padron, Waxman, & Rivera, 2002), and in these groups have students lead discussion or reteach concepts
It is recommended to create inquiry based/discovery oriented curriculum as well. Interactıve teachers create classroom projects that involve the community. Moreover, students will be more involved and connected by forming book clubs or literature circles (Daniels, 2002) for reading discussions. Finally, teachers can use cooperative learning strategies such as Jigsaw to have a more interaction from the students (Brisk & Harrington, 2000)


References
Brisk, M. E., & Harrington, M. M. (2000). Literacy and bilingualism: A handbook for all teachers. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Daniels, H. (2002). Literature circles: Voice and choice in book clubs and reading groups. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.
Darling-Hammond, L. (1997). The right to learn: A blueprint for creating schools that work. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Goldstein, L. (1999). The relational zone: The role of caring relationships in the co-construction of mind. American Educational Research Journal, 36(3), 647-673.
Padron, Y. N., Waxman, H. C., and Rivera, H. H. (2002). Educating Hispanic students: Effective instructional practices(Practitioner Brief #5).
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes (M. Cole, V. John-Steiner, S. Scribner, & E. Souberman, Eds. and Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.
Resource from Brown University:
https://www.brown.edu/academics/education-alliance/teaching-diverse-learners/student-centered-instruction

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