Every year on December 7th, Colombia celebrates “La Noche de las Velitas” (also known as El Día de las Velitas), a night filled with candles and joy to celebrate Virgin Mary. This night also marks the beginning of all Christmas activities in Colombia.
What a good opportunity to bring some culture to your Spanish classes. Use a map and invite your students to find Colombia. You can also use Google Earth to make the trip more interactive and use a play passport for the trip. Share with them some information about this important celebration. Here are some useful resources for teachers to learn about the celebration:
La Fiesta de la Luz (Historia)
The Beautiful Noche de la Velitas in Bogota
Some videos of the celebration:
In the main parts of the big cities, people gather together to watch fireworks and shows.
Finding stories that are short and comprehensible is not an easy task, even more when looking for elementary or beginning levels. These are some of the stories that I have written and successfully used with my students.
This story goes well with the Monarch butterfly migration. In this story, Monarca is finding her way to Michoacán. On her way there, she asks a few animals for directions to Michoacán, until she finally finds a kind caterpillar that guides her there.
La Noche de las Velitas is a unique Colombian celebration that happens every year on December 7th. Felipe is getting ready for this celebration, but suddenly he realizes that he doesn’t have any candles for the celebration. He is worried and visits different supermarkets. He finally finds some candles at his last stop. He goes home and celebrates the ‘Night of the Little Candles’ with his family and friends.
This story works wonders to introduce the Three Kings Celebration in Puerto Rico. Daniel needs a box to put some grass for the Three Kings’ camels. He is looking for his box. Daniel even asks his dog, but there was no way for him to tell Daniel where the box was!
This is another fun story with a lot of repetition. Abuelita takes the time to make a big doll called “Año Viejo”. In some countries in Latin America, años viejos are burned on the last day of the year at midnight to get rid of the bad things that happen during the year. Burning the año viejo represents a kind of closure and cleaning for some people. In this story the año viejo becomes alive and runs away from a grandfather, a baker, and a parrot. What will happen at the end?
More stories available on Teachers Pay Teachers
To be able to talk about the integration of culture in a Comprehensible Input class, it is first necessary to define “Comprehensible Input” and “culture.”
The “Comprehensible Input” theory is one of the theories of language acquisition proposed by the American linguist Stephen Krashen. In his hypothesis, Dr. Krashen explains that there can only be the acquisition of a language when the input, linguistic component or message is understood by the learner, but in addition to being understandable it should be of interest to the learner and that it be about an issue with which the learner can relate and connect. Visit Comprensible.com to learn more about CI.
Culture is a term that has been defined by different authors in different fields. The definition most commonly used and that challenges people in different fields is that of Clifford Geertz (cited in Ortner, 1999) who defines culture as “a system of values and beliefs that represent a group, as a network of meanings within which people live. Meanings encoded in symbolic forms (language, artifacts, etiquette, rituals, calendars, etc.)” (p.3).
Taking into account the definitions of “Comprehensible Input” and “culture,” I will explain a little the process of how I integrate these two elements in practice and offer you some advice, too.
I find it helpful to start with the goal or the objective of the topic. Why do I want to share this topic in my class? Where do I want my students to arrive with the exploration of this topic in class?
Then I think about the developmental stage and the linguistic level of the students. Is it a topic that is easily understood with the level of L2? Is the subject relevant to the students’ age?
I suggest you consider this approach:
Define the theme or cultural content that will be shared with the student. Once the theme is defined, make sure that the content that is going to be shared is true and does not fall into the perpetuation of stereotypes. If possible, check that information with someone from the culture. Another important aspect to take into account, especially at the beginner levels or early grades, is whether it is a specific issue and whether it allows generating connections and space for comparisons. The cultural theme should not be limited only to the culture of L2.
Determine the input: In this case, it is not important for the students to understand each word, but the input must be by context and the use of cognates.
Determine what type of material can be used to support the topic: Photos, videos, songs, artifacts or authentic resources, etc.
It is possible to teach culture in a world language class, but in this case, it is very important that this input is understandable so that there is a success in the fusion of culture and Comprehensible Input.
Here are some resources that might help you get started with this topic. Ready, set, go!
Orter, S. (1999). Introduction. The fate of “culture”. California, University of California Press, p.1.