Warning: This entry is rated PG-13
People often ask me what I do exactly as a cultural and language assistant. While my job can vary a little sometimes, most often I act as a lectora, or reader. Meaning, I go to classrooms of bilingual students, the teacher hands me the day’s text or worksheet, and I read it in front of the class. To explain this in further detail, I thought I’d share a recent experience during a particularly interesting class.
As soon as I walked into class with the terceros (15-16 years olds) and the biology teacher told me that we would be starting the unit on the Reproductive System, I knew it would be an interesting hour. My job as a lectora is usually quite simple and straightforward. Normally, I read through the text paragraph by paragraph, stopping each time to ask a student to reread the paragraph and to check if there is any vocabulary that they do not understand. I write the words that they don’t know on the whiteboard, try to explain them using other words in English, and then eventually translate them into Spanish. Finally, I read each word on the board out loud a few times and have my students repeat after me to ensure that they know the correct pronunciation.
Like I said, this is pretty easy when the topic is something like Rocks and Minerals, the Stone Age, or the Circulatory System. However, when I had to go through this process with words like protuberance and spermatozoids things got a lot more interesting. At one point during the class while attempting to respond to a student’s question about a particular male reproductive organ, another classmate helped me out by yelling out, “The Balls!” That certainly cleared things up and confirmed that at least we are successfully teaching them colloquial language too.
While this class was a little wackier due to the fact that this topic with teenagers, let alone teenagers learning it in another language, is always in danger of provoking giggles, it’s a pretty good representation of some of the adventures a language and cultural assistant in a Spanish secondary school faces. As for the rest of the unit with my biology class, a review activity I have often used for other topics is Simon Says. For example, with the Skeletal System, Simon would say: “Touch your patella, touch your fibula, touch your metatarsals, etc.” Unfortunately, with this unit I think I’m going to need to come up with a new review activity.