AU’s Newest Spanish Course Takes a Unique Approach
Athabasca University’s Centre for Language and Literature has launched a new Spanish course: Textual Analysis and Composition (SPAN 330). This three-credit humanities course requires SPAN 301 as its prerequisite, and is offered through individualized study, with an online component.
How does SPAN 330 differ from AU’s other Spanish courses? Course author and coordinator Michael Dabrowski explains: SPAN 330 is unique in that it doesn’t simply teach the language at a higher level. Instead, it focuses on developing fluency through writing in a variety of styles and genres.
Although the course zeroes in on common grammatical pitfalls, It’s not a traditional class with grammar exercises and ?huge vocabulary lists for students to memorize,? Dabrowski says. Rather, he notes, the ?written and oral texts provide a context from which the student builds up their vocabulary through application.? He feels confident that students who have taken the course prerequisites will be able to handle the vocabulary component.
SPAN 330 has several course objectives. Students focus on writing ?with a purpose? instead of rote memorization and demonstration of grammatical concepts, Dabrowski explains. Although the course mainly concentrates on informal writing, some aspects of formal written Spanish are also taught.
Student evaluation in SPAN 330 consists of eight assignments, six of which are written essays. The two non-essay assignments accompany students throughout the course: the Diario de Reflexiones (worth 10 per cent) is a basic reflection upon ?discoveries made during the writing process,? and the Trabajos Escritos (worth 30 per cent) consists of textbook-based homework.
The goal of the essays is to allow students to practice writing in different contexts; students are encouraged to draw upon the wide range of styles of written Spanish to which the course materials have exposed them.
The first essay (worth five per cent) starts out gently, providing a ?series of questions? to encourage students to describe a personal experience. The second (also worth five per cent) similarly promotes freestyle writing: students respond to a newspaper article, gaining ?practice arguing for or against an issue? in Spanish. Students explore a bit of history and current events in the third essay (also worth five per cent), submitting an ?editorial about a political, social, economic, or scientific event.?
The fourth and fifth essays, worth 10 per cent each, allow students to explore their creativity within the confines of the Spanish language. In Essay #4, students ?[rewrite] a traditional fairy-tale from a different perspective.? Dabrowksi encourages imaginative responses, indicating that ?pretty much anything goes as long as the basic story structure remains the same.? For instance, some students have changed the classic Little Red Riding Hood into an ?an undercover spy transmitting secret messages during WWII . . . a drug runner between Colombia and the United States . . . [and] the ?hottie? that the wolf and woodcutter were fighting over.? He’s also seen ?the three little pigs in outer space and as devious charlatans out to destroy the wolf’s reputation.?
Essay #5 is ?one of the most challenging and satisfying assignments,? says Dabrowski: students write their own short story in Spanish.
The final essay (worth 25 per cent) is a research paper that focuses on formal written Spanish.
Course author Michael Dabrowski coordinates all five of AU’s current Spanish courses. He holds a post-secondary degree in the Spanish language, and prior to his time at AU spent two years in Guatemala, immersing himself in the Spanish language and local culture and history.
For more information on SPAN 330, visit the course website.