The three día de los muertos workshops held in the department of Modern Languages and Literatures created a memorable experience for students of Spanish, as well as School of Education students taking Meeting the Needs of English Language Learners (LTEL 201).
Professor Osa-Melero, who teaches both in the department of Modern Languages the School of Education, built a bridge between the cultural and linguistic content of a día de los muertos workshop and the learning outcomes of LTEL 201. The workshops, conducted entirely in Spanish simulated the experience of an ELL in an unfamiliar culture by addressing foreign cultural material.
Professor Osa-Melero felt the workshop presented a rare opportunity to closely simulate the English language learner classroom experience for her students. More often than not, English language learners are placed in contexts where their first language is not spoken, understood, and in some cases, not even acknowledged. ELLs are often placed into the educational system without much support as they attempt to manage and advance their education.
LTEL 201 students experienced first-hand what an English language learner experiences when placed in an English language academic context.
Some reflections from participating students:
During the Dia de los Muertos workshop, I truly felt like an ELL. Having taken Spanish classes through elementary school, two years in high school, and now in college, I could follow along with what you and Señora Lopez were saying to a certain extent. However, I’m not fluent in Spanish, so I could not understand fully. Due to hand gestures and instruction, I, along with my classmates, were able to finish the activity. It put in perspective for me what it was like to be in a classroom with a language barrier and will help me in the future if I have ELLs in my classroom.
This experience really put me in the shoes of an ELL. I know very little Spanish and had no clue what was going on until things were translated to me. It was pretty intimidating being in a room full of people speaking a different language. I was really confused on directions and what was being discussed the entire time. That workshop offered me a new perspective. I have never had the chance to see what it feels like to be the only one, or one of a few, who does not speak the same language as everybody else. It was very overwhelming and uncomfortable. I gained a lot of respect for ELLs because I felt first hand how hard it is to be in their situation. It was a very useful workshop and it will be a helpful reminder if I teach ELLs in the future.