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McDougal-Littel "En Espanol"

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I taught somewhat using that book last year, and wasn't too impressed. I actually wrote a review of it for a grad class I was taking. Let me see if I can find it.


Well, I think it's on the other computer. I can find it tomorrow and post it or PM it to you.

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OK here's my review. Keep in mind that I was writing this for a class where "only communicative all the time" was the professor's belief!


The text I have reviewed is En Español (hereafter EE) by Estella Gahala, Patricia Hamilton Carlin, Audrey L. Heining-Boynton, Ricardo Otheguy, and Barbara J. Rupert. This series was published in 2000 for secondary school use and consists of Levels 1, 2, and 3. Each level’s text has a preliminary unit at the beginning of the book, and then six more units. Each of these units is divided into three smaller “etapasâ€, making a total of 19 sections. This structure does not easily lend itself to dividing up the work over a 36-week school year. The grammar and vocabulary for units 5 and 6 in each level are repeated in the next level’s first and second units, which are supposed to be review. However, many classes may not have covered those units, meaning that they would start the following year learning new material instead of reviewing as the authors intended. Also, the preliminary units in Levels 2 and 3 review an overwhelming amount of material.

The first page of each etapa lists communicative goals such as “Describe family.†The next double-page spread presents vocabulary “En contexto.†For example, pages 70-71 of Level 1 have photographs of a girl’s quinceañera and a family tree. The girl is a cousin of a previously introduced character. The accompanying video shows the family and has the girl introduce all her family members. The next two pages show pictures from the video with more information about the family and is called “En vivo.†On the next two pages, the student is supposed to start using the information in a variety of drills: identifying the characters, true and false about family relationships, fill in the blanks with the proper term and ending, and describing the characters. None of these drills can be considered communicative.

The next double-page spread presents the paradigm of “tener.†This is actually the first verb paradigm in the book and is given with very little explanation. The next exercise asks the student to take clues like “ella: hermana/inteligente†and create the sentence “Ella tiene una hermana inteligente.†This activity uses all the conjugations of tener and so contradicts Lee and Van Patten’s directive of presenting one thing at a time. Again, as on the previous page, it is purely a mechanical exercise meant to make the student conjugate tener properly and also to practice adjective/noun agreement. This double-page spread also presents the use of tener with age in Spanish, and then has a chart of the numbers from 11-100. Now the students are asked to use all forms of tener plus new numbers and create sentences saying people’s ages. After a listening comprehension activity, the students are asked to interview another student about the ages of their family members. This activity, while communicative in that the students are supplying previously unknown information, does not have the students do anything with the information they receive, and requires the use of all the singular forms of tener.

The etapa continues on in the same manner, presenting grammar and vocabulary and having the students use them in various mechanical drills. Then there is cultural information, a review, and finally, one page of communicative activities, where the students are asked to make their own family trees and describe their families. A bilingual vocabulary list completes the section. The pages of the text appear very crowded, with all different colors and fonts. It is hard to tell where the important information is on the page.

EE has many ancillaries from which the teacher can choose. Each unit of each level has a Resource Book for the teacher that has the student workbook pages (students receive a separate workbook), information gap activities, video activities and scripts, audioscripts of the CDs, a quiz for each etapa, and two versions of an exam. EE also has CDs of the activities and readings in the text, and a CD of songs. There is also a “copymaster†book with activity sheets the teacher can copy, an electronic test generator, and overhead transparencies of many pages. The video program for Level 1 has a recurring storyline, in which the characters are working on a contest about what it means to be Latino. In Level 2, the winner works for the magazine that sponsored the contest and travels to different Spanish-speaking parts of the world. While the video program is worthwhile, it runs the risk of the students finding the story uninteresting. Also, the students may find the shifts in focus confusing: the first section is about Francisco moving to Miami, the next section shows his friends in San Antonio, the next shows his cousin’s family in Los Angeles.

EE tries to integrate heritage speakers into the program by providing a separate workbook for “hispanohablantes†and making suggestions in the teacher’s guide for them. However, the workbook is simply the same student workbook with the instructions written in Spanish. Many of the suggestions in the Teacher’s Guide ask the heritage speakers to provide more vocabulary, which the others students may find overwhelming, or uses them as models of pronunciation. In other words, the suggestions and activities for heritage speakers do not really challenge them, nor do they provide much help for the teacher who is trying to integrate them into his or her class.

I would prefer that the text be more focused, exploring one country or city at a time, with less cluttered pages. Authentic video clips using the target vocabulary would have more of an impact and hold student interest better. For example, instead of having the video describe fictional characters, it could show stars arriving at the Latin Grammys and describe what they look like and what they are wearing. That would also teach culture, giving maximum input for class time. Additionally, while the authors claim that the program balances “teaching for communication and accuracy,†the focus is clearly on accuracy. Of 28 activities in the section reviewed, only three can be considered communicative. However, there are positive aspects to this program, and a discerning teacher can choose from among the variety of offerings to use in the classroom in a more communicative approach.


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However, more important than the text is what the teachers do. In a big high school with different teachers at different levels, they probably follow the book more. When I taught last year, I was the only teacher and I was free to do what I liked. Since I didn't like EE very much, I hardly used it. I made up my own activities, and the things we covered were from a list the students created in the beginning of the year, of the things that they would need to know if they were in a place where people only spoke Spanish.

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Wow Cathmom. That is quite a review!


I was asking about En Espanol because that is the curriculum that our local school district uses. My dd is starting an "enrichment" class at our local school for homeschoolers (parent-partner program) through the district. This Wednesday class is just for fun & enrichment, but they do refer to that series a bit.


What is your Spanish background?


What is your ideal program for students? I want to purchase a program for my little girls (almost 5 & 6).


I also want to supplement at home for my older kids (almost 12 & 14). The tutor has them read/write/speak daily. They write sentences, speak to each other and memorize vocab. I have them to RS also.


I have heard it is good for students to "think" in Spanish for at least 1 hour per day using a variety to tools/materials. Do you agree?


For myself, I purchased Madrigals Magic Key to Spanish, Practice Makes Perfect.


Thanks again!!

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I have a minor in Spanish and some grad study and I taught Spanish 1 and 2 at a charter high school last year.


For high school I really like Destinos, which you can get on the Annenberg site. For dc as young as yours, I don't really have a favorite. I do like "Learn Spanish with Grace" but it's Catholic.


I think it's good to use a variety of resources, and make sure that a lot of it is presented in the child's learning style.


Sounds like you are doing great!

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Thank you. Yes, I think a variety of sources/methods is the key.


We did RS exclusively for the last 6 months (day after day after day....). Now we are mixing it up with this hodge-podge of resources:


Easy Spanish Reader (it's amazing what they can understand)

1.5 hour enrichment class at local district w/ other kids -- fun, fun, fun

Verbos vocab cards

Tutor on Monday nights for an hour

Rosetta Stone randomly

Spanish sentence writing 3x week

Practice Makes Perfect workbooks

lots of videos from the library (picking up Muzzy today actually)


For myself, I bought Madrigals Magic Key To Spanish.


Here's to hoping my grand experiment works...:)

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  • 2 months later...

I am also a Spanish teacher, and when it comes to textbooks for the classroom En Espanol is probably one of the better ones. However, keep in mind it was designed for teaching Spanish to 25+ students at one time. Therefore, the textbook is only as good as the teacher. I agree that it does not have a communicative approach alone, but when a district purchases the text it does come with a great audio and video component that assist with communication. I think it would be a great book to have around as a resource for Spanish grammar and vocabulary.

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