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Teaching with AHLOT: A Spanish Teacher Shares Her Classroom Tips

(This post is by AHLOT Curator and Hispanic Division Reference Librarian, Catalina Gómez)

Earlier this year, Sirianna Santacrose, a Spanish teacher from the School of Ethics and Global Leadership, approached us with an interest in incorporating our Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape (AHLOT) into her class curriculum. She had learned of the collection and quickly realized that this historic archive of audio recordings of literary figures from the Hispanic world would be a useful tool for enhancing her students’ language skills and their knowledge about Hispanic literature and culture. As someone who works closely with this archive, I was thrilled to see the creative ways that Ms. Santacrose used the recordings in the classroom. Her students’ activities culminated with a visit to the Library where I met with the group, shared insights about archival work, and discussed what they found valuable about the recordings.

I interviewed Ms. Santacrose to learn, in more detail, about her experience using the collection. I hope that her methods will inspire other educators teaching literature, Spanish, Portuguese, or any of the languages represented in the material (the archive has recordings in more than 10 languages) to take advantage of this digital resource.

Catalina Gómez with students.

  • Catalina Gómez: Tell us about the school where you serve as a teacher, your class, and a bit about your approach to teaching Spanish as a second language.

Sirianna Santacrose: I teach Spanish at The School for Ethics and Global Leadership, a residential program for 11th graders from around the United States. SEGL students, who come from a range of socio-economic, political, and educational backgrounds, study ethics and leadership in the nation’s capital for one semester of their junior year. In my classes, we explore the history and culture of Spanish-speaking countries through the lens of leadership studies. One of my favorite parts of teaching Spanish as a second language in Washington, DC, is that this setting provides an incredible opportunity to combine classroom learning with field trips to local embassies, museums, and cultural institutions like the Hispanic Reading Room. As an educator, seeing my students engage with an embassy official or Library of Congress librarian in the target language is incredibly rewarding.

  • CG: What attracted you to our Archive of Hispanic literature?

SS: Last year, I was looking for a way to integrate more Spanish literature and poetry into my curriculum. When I discovered the Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape online, I was immediately excited! The Archive provides the public with access to audio clips of some of the most famous Latin American and Spanish writers in the world reading their works, and I felt I could not pass up the chance to share this unique resource with my students.

  • CG: You incorporated some content from our collection in your class syllabus. Can you tell us how you went about doing this?

SS: Last semester, I based my class’s final assignment on the Archive. We listened to audio clips from it together, and I asked my students to pay close attention to the choices the authors made in terms of intonation, volume, and speed; factors like these played a key role in how I graded their projects. They were tasked with researching an author from the Archive and writing a short biography of their life. They then wrote an analysis of one of their chosen author’s works and recorded themselves reciting this work aloud. Each student also performed this piece on the final day of class, providing an opportunity to both visually and orally interpret it in front of an audience. The auditory nature of the Archive provided the perfect inspiration for this final assignment.

  • CG: What were your observations about what the students got out of interacting with our material? Were there any surprises?

SS: In addition to using the Archive as inspiration for their final projects, my students got to meet with you, the Archive curator, at the Library of Congress’ Hispanic Reading Room. Their eyes lit up when learning about how many authors and countries are represented within the Archive, and it was especially exciting for them to listen to an audio clip from the Aymara language, which none of them had previously heard. You also showed us various recording devices that have been used over the years to capture these audio clips. My students were exposed to an entirely new way of thinking about the preservation of languages, and many of them remarked that learning about the Archive and meeting with you was one of their favorite parts of the semester.

  • CG: Would you recommend this material to other Spanish or Portuguese teachers or university professors? What advice would you give them?

SS: I would recommend that teachers or professors of Spanish and Portuguese consider incorporating this material into their courses. I was so pleased with the way my students actively engaged with the Archive and its history that I plan to integrate this material into my future classes. My one piece of advice for educators would be to plan a class visit to the Hispanic Reading Room if they can; it is an invaluable resource and the librarians there are so willing to help. I am grateful to you and your colleagues for your work on building this digital archive and truly hope that more people learn about it!

Click here to learn more about the Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape. Currently, 259 out of the 800 recordings from the archive are available for online streaming. To consult the rest of the Archive, contact the Hispanic Division through our Ask a Librarian portal.

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