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Title: Strategies for Understanding
Category: learning a new language
Description: How do you find meaning when you don't know all the words?
When you start to learn a language there are so many words you don't know.  How will you ever understand someone speaking or reading even short passages of authentic text?  In Spanish class we not only learn lots of vocabulary, we practice strategies for understanding when we don't know all the words. Especially in 7th grade, I explicitly teach and we practice in class, these strategies: (1)learn to notice and understand cognates.  Cognates are words that look similar in Spanish and English.  Most cognates are Latin words since both Spanish and English have their roots in Latin, but others are either Spanish words adopted into English (tacos, burritos) or English words adopted into Spanish (computadora, soft-ware), (2) use content (situation, visal clues, participants, topic, title of reading) to figure out what is being said, (3) use background knowledge (what you already know or have experienced) to induce meaning and (4) be able to generalize learned grammatical patterns to find meaning.  

The 7th graders are doing a fantastic job using the strategies to understand a picture book we are reading that was written to teach Mexican children about one of their holidays, las Posadas.  Our kids were able to use the above strategies to get meaning out of what they were reading.  We've also had a wonderful time singing Christmas carols (villancicos) from Spain and Latin America.  Finally, we are comparing the Mexican Christmas celebration to how we celebrate Christmas in the USA.  They do things differently, but much is the same.