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Textbook Analysis: Realidades


Reading Level The textbook, Realidades, used in Spanish 1 classroom was ranked on the Fry readability graph as being between a 8th and 11th grade reading level. Because this textbook features a lot of graphs and pictures, it was difficult to find passages long enough to use for this. I think this is why the range of grade levels was so large. The following chart compares the data collected from three passages in the textbook. Page Number 44-45 66 80-81 Average Syllables 494 476 464 478 Sentences 20 23 24 22.3 The Fry graph that came out of this data was very different for each of the three passages. I have included them here for comparison. Page 44-45:

Page 66:

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Page 80-81:

I found this information on readability by using different passages throughout the textbook from three different areas with approximately 300 words in each selection. The Fry graph determines the number of syllables per

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100 words, and contrasts this with the average number of sentences per 100 words. Syllables are the way that students break down unfamiliar words into phonemes and morphemes, to break down meaning and try to understand the word. Similarly, sentences are the ways that students break down ideas in paragraphs or passages into smaller more manageable pieces of information. Most readability formulas operate on the assumptions that sentence length gives an estimate of syntactic complexity, and similarly that word length also determines complexity (Alvermann et. al, 161). The idea is that the shorter the sentences are, on average, the easier they are to comprehend, because the student has the opportunity to stop more frequently and process information in smaller sizes. This textbook, according to the Fry model, is somewhere between an 8th and 11th grade reading level. This is a huge range of ages, and therefore doesnt tell me much in regards to who is best served by this textbook. One interesting fact is that this textbook is supposed to be used for Spanish level 1 students, but students arent required to take Spanish 1 at a specific age, so these students could be anywhere from late elementary/early middle school, to adults. Because of this, creating a textbook to be used for Spanish level 1 doesnt allow textbook creators to really think about the age of the students. It is pretty much impossible to create a textbook that is readable for all Spanish level 1 students. For this reason, quantitative data in regards to readability is not as valuable as qualitative when analyzing a foreign language textbook. Below is an example of one of the assessed passages from the textbook:

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The Spanish empire once included parts of Italy and the Netherlands, much of the Americas and the Caribbean, the Philippines, and colonies in Africa. Today, Spain is a country of rich regional and cultural traditions with a population of more than 40 million people. Spain was one of the most important province of the ancient Roman empire. The Spanish language is very closely related to Latin, the language of that empire. Roman engineering also left its mark on the Spanish after almost 2,000 years! This photo shows the Roman aquaduct in Segovia, which was constructed entirely without mortar or clamps. Sabes que? Spain has five official languages: Spanish, Catalan, Basque, Galician, and Valencian. Originally the language of Castile in central Spain, Spanish is the primary national language and is also spoken in most of Spains former empire in North, Central, and South America. Para pensar. Spain has been influenced by many civilizations, including those of the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Moors. What civilizations have the most affected the language, culture, and customs of the United States? Originally a royal retreat, the Parque del Buen Retiro is now a favorite place for the traditional Sunday-afternoon paseo (stroll). Throngs of people come to enjoy the Retiros lakes, gardens, and museums or simply to spend time with friends or family. What are your favorite places to go walking with friends? Why?

Arabic-speaking Moors from North Africa ruled much of Spain for nearly 800 years. Crdoba in southern Spain became one of the most important cities in

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Islam, and its mosque, the Mezquita, was one of the largest in the world. The Alhambra in Granada (shown above) is a strongly fortified and beautiful complex of palaces and gardens. It was also the last stronghold of the Moors in Spain, falling to Spains Catholic monarchs in 1492. (Boyles et. al, 44-45). Textbook Boyles, P. P., Met, M., Sayers, R. S., & Wargin, C. E. (2008). Realidades. Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall. Evaluation Based on the model presented by Alvermann (et. al), this text evaluation is based upon the areas of content, format, utility and style. As previously stated, it is extremely difficulty to evaluate a foreign language textbook quantitatively, and I find that assessing these four more qualitative areas allows for a more cohesive judgment of the effectiveness of this particular textbook. Alvermann states that The whole concept of reading level is subject to question, whether it is applied to people or to texts, and as such, a formula cannot tell us everything we need to know about a text to decide whether it is effective or appropriate for our students (Alvermann et al, 163). Frys model provides a framework, but more information is necessary to judge a textbook for specific classrooms. Content: This textbook is designed to give students an introduction into the Spanish languages, vocabulary, and culture associated with speakers of the language. It operates on the assumption that students have no previous experience with Spanish, but that they are proficient readers in English, and are

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in middle school or early high school. It attempts to provide framework for instruction based on the national standards goals of communication, culture, connections, comparisons and communities. This provides strong framework for ensuring that standards are met in the curriculum. One of the weaknesses in the content of this textbook is that the examples in the content and the visuals used are not extremely current. This edition of the textbook was only published eight years ago, but because foreign language focuses so much on day-to-day life, and how to talk about things that are going on currently, for examples to be relevant and engaging for students they need to be extremely current. Overall, the content of this textbook does what it intends to do. It provides a framework for language learning by covering several different units focusing on different areas of life. These include authentic text, vocabulary lists, grammatical explanations, and application activities. It is connected between chapters to an effective extent, allowing students to use it as a resource when studying the Spanish language. Format This textbook is formatted in a way that provides units correlating with each chapter or theme sometimes including a few related chapters. For example, the the first theme is Me and my friends and is broken down into two sections, the first dealing with activities students like to do, and the second focusing on physical description and character traits. Each chapter contains visualized vocabulary, which gives pictures of each vocabulary word within context. Then there is included a short passage which uses the new vocabulary. Next there are several listening and reading practice exercises. There is a

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reading in the form of a dialogue to be read aloud, accompanied by comprehension questions, and opportunities to show supplemental videos. Finally there are more practice opportunities, and sections highlighting cultural references, and connections to other disciplines. In addition, each chapter has a section called Adelante! which provides a bulk of the culture section for each unit. Within this there are authentic readings, descriptions of different cultural practices and products, and ideas for hands on activities dealing with these cultural practices. The chapter culminates into a performance based speaking or writing task that is outlined next in the text. The chapter ends with a full list of the vocabulary and a review of everything discussed in the chapter. At first glance, having all of these aspects in each chapter seems like it would make this textbook extremely successful. In many ways it attempts to provide everything needed to present new information to students and provide them with ample practice for the skills they are learning. However, our standards call for integrated learning, with connections to other content areas and to new information through the use of the new language (Curtain et. al, 149). Foreign language teachers are told to teach entirely integrated content through culture. Thematic planning means that our students are immersed in language and through culturally authentic activities they are taught the language. Our intention is to teach them to use language instead of simply about language concepts, and as such we are taught to avoid using isolated grammar and vocabulary activities. This format of textbook isolates these concepts, and places culture as a final, extra piece that is unrelated to the

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language skills being learned. We would need to adapt the content in this textbook to use it in a way that meets the demands of thematic planning. Some positive aspects to the layout of this textbook is that it contains numerous visuals in the form of charts, and photos. Some of these photos are out of date because this textbook was published about eight years ago, but they are still useful in communicating the desired ideas. The layout is attractive and engaging because it is colorful and filled with interesting visuals. Utility The activities at the end of the chapters in this textbook are useful in that they provide many opportunities to practice the concept being taught in each chapter in a scaffolded and straight forward manner, increasing in difficulty as they go on. However, as previously addressed, they do not approach these activities in a thematic, culture based manner, thus not working extremely well with the most current ideas on best practice in the classroom. Another aspect that is really useful in this textbook is the outside material connected to it. At the end of most chapters, there are options for the use of videos that correlate specifically with the content in that theme. In addition, the textbook comes with a TeacherEXPRESS CD-ROM, PresentationEXPRESS CD-ROM, and opportunities for online practice. These are all helpful additions to make the content in the chapters more culturally contextualized than it is as a standalone book. As I mentioned previously, this text also features an abundance of images both in the form of drawing and photos. These are somewhat helpful because they provide visual support for the language which is immensely needed in authentic teaching of Foreign Language, but as I indicated earlier, these images

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are often out of date, therefore not being especially relevant to the students using the textbook. Finally, this book features as teachers edition which provides even more practice than what is in the textbook, and ideas for related projects, including rubrics and grading guidelines. Although many of these activity ideas do not follow thematic planning, they can be useful when modified. Style This textbook features large sized, clear, font, which is easily readable and not like the small font found in a more standard textbook. Each page features bright colors and images, and sections are organized clearly through the use of boxes and lines on the page. Information is clearly organized and logically flows. The images featured on each page are expressive and obvious representations of the text, although not current enough to consistently be relevant for students. Vocabulary words are bolded within text and dialogues, emphasizing where the focus should be as students are reading and trying to comprehend new words and concepts. One clear and glaring downfall to this text is that a majority of the written information is in English. Best practice teaches us that 90% of the input given to foreign language students, either auditory or written, should be in the target language, even at the lowest level (Curtain et. al, 40-41). This textbook does not do this at all. However, in the text that it does have, varied sentence structure and length provide a strong syntactic element. Evaluation Summary Strengths

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This book is jam packed with visual support, through graphs, charts and images. These should enhance engagement of students when reading the text. Because the subject is foreign language, images also help students to make connections between words and their meaning (Allen, 5). The additional material attached to this book (videos, online resources, CDs, Ms Practica workbook, etc) are help to contextualize the book and provide support from a variety of media, supporting different style learners and allowing for differentiated instruction. Emphasizing key vocabulary through bolding in text is also a strong aspect of this book because it redirects student attention to the new concepts and helps them to find them within a larger text. Weaknesses First and foremost a weakness of this text is the fact that a majority of it is in English. This directly conflicts with the idea of immersion education, which is at the forefront of the foreign language instruction philosophy. Decoding by switching back and forth between Spanish and English teaches students about the language, but true communicative instruction means teaching through the language and teaching students to use the language in an authentic manner. Decoding heavily inhibits this process. Another clear weakness is the separation of culture, vocabulary and grammar into distinct lesson points instead of contextualizing them within culture as thematic planning suggests (Curtain et. al, 42). In addition, the inconclusiveness about the readability of this textbook means that it will be difficult to find a class for which this textbook is appropriate, based solely on reading level. Finally, the images included in the textbook, while helpful in supporting text, are often

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outdated, thus restricting the amount of engagement they will promote, and lessening their relevance to students lives. Adapting Text for Students Although its weaknesses are clear and many, this textbook can be useful in the classroom if adapted and not relied on too heavily. Many of the exercises, if placed within a more thematic, contextualized lesson, are useful in reinforcing vocabulary, and providing practice for using the different information learned in each unit. Many of the culture points, as well, are well crafted and useful (these are often the portions of the book that are actually written in Spanish), so taking these texts, and pairing them with extra, more authentic material, could help to provide framework for a contextualized, culture based lesson. This text should be used more as a supplemental material than a basis for instruction, because it does contain helpful elements, but the structure inhibits authentic language instruction based on best practice.

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Borges, J. L., Mrquez, G. G., & Cela, C. J. (1966). Spanish short stories (Cuentos hispnicos) (J. Franco, Ed.). New York, NY: Penguin.

This text features the full Spanish text of eight authentic Spanish short stories, written by native speakers, and presenting authentic cultural contextualization. The full Spanish and English texts are included in this book, along with study, practice, and discussion material to go with each.

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Keenan, Joseph J. (1994). Breaking Out of Beginners Spanish. Austin, TX: University of Texas. This book is a uniquely useful supplemental source. Written by an American who learned Spanish as a second language through immersion, this narrative includes tons of tips that helped Keenan learn the language in an authentic way. It also includes activities and practice created by Keenan in response to his language learning experience that he promotes as a helpful supplement to the authentic comprehensible input of immersion language learning.

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Canales, V. (2005). The tequila worm. New York, NY: Random House.

The Tequila Worm follows the story of a Mexican American student in Texas. This is a highly valuable text, because it highlights things that are not addressed when studying Latin American or Spanish culture. This text highlights the nature of border culture, and the influence that Latin American culture has had and continues to have on the United States. This gives a relevant example that will provide motivation for learning language.

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Ryan, Pam Muoz (2000). Esperanza Rising. New York: NY, Scholastic.

Esperanza Rising, a novel that exists both in English and in Spanish, provides authentic cultural comparison between Hispanic culture in Latin America (specifically Mexico), and in the United States (specifically California), through the narrative of a young girl, and the story of her familys struggle during the Great Depression. This gives historical content, linking foreign language to the social studies class, while remaining relevant to them because it is from the perspective of a young person.

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Cortzar, J., Cerrunto, O., et. al (1992). 16 Cuentos Latinoamericanos. (M. Muoz de Coronado, Ed.). Argentina: Promocin Editorial Inca S. A.

16 Cuentos is described by its editor as an anthology promoted and sponsored for young people. It includes sixteen short stories from various genres, eras, and countries in Latin America. This is a useful text in addition to the anthology by Franco, because this text was organized and published by native speakers in Latin America. It is as authentic, culturally, as a text can be, and thus provides authentic input for students to use.

Works Cited Allen, J. (2007). Inside words: Tools for teaching academic vocabulary grades 412. Portland, ME: Stenhouse. Alvermann, D. E., Phelps, S. F., & Gillis, V. R., (2009). Content area reading and literacy (6th ed. Pp. 124-165). New York, NY: Pearson.

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Curtain, H., Dahlberg, C. A., (2010). Languages and children. (4th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson. Appendix of Text Sample: The following are photos of the pages I used in my readability analysis:

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