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Cultural Curriculum

When communicating with people from different backgrounds, cultural skills are just as important as language skills. Ritmos sets cultural learning on equal footing with language learning, since language and culture are inextricably bound and both are key to future success in life. All materials, as an authentic form of content-based education, are about real people and seek to reinforce the broad cultural understanding necessary to engage with people from Spanish-speaking countries.

Model-based writing

The Ritmos Cuaderno has a robust, model-based writing program far beyond anything in traditional textbooks. Normally, student writing at the novice level is very limited, and attempts to write beyond their level result either in incomprehensible Spanish or, when students give up, computer-translated text. By providing thorough scaffolding through writing models, students can “bootstrap” their writing and produce meaningful written discourse that is level appropriate and develops their awareness of how Spanish works in a successful manner.

Authentic materials

Our reading and listening texts are drawn from a corpus of hundreds of interviews with Spanish speakers, oriented around topics appropriate for novice and intermediate learners. This unscripted, natural language provides students with excellent training in listening and reading comprehension, preparing students for actual encounters in the target language and also providing models for students’ own language production. Careful selection of interview questions and responses, along with varied pedagogical interventions make this authentic language accessible and ‘doable’ for beginning and intermediate learners.

Integrated multiple media

The Cuaderno used in Ritmos does not attempt to do everything as a traditional textbook does. Rather, they are designed to handle the tasks that are best done in print and leave to the online learning platform the learning functions that work best in software. So our Cuaderno combines the best elements of a textbook and a workbook into one medium.

Learner focused interactions

Our online learning platform utilizes many interaction types to activate multiple learning channels for students. The book activities also utilize dozens of different activities, focusing on creating meaningful, real communication between students in class as well as encouraging students to think and express themselves interculturally through reading and writing.

Extensive Listening Practice

We conducted over 240 interviews with native speakers and long-time residents of Spain, Mexico and nearly all countries in Central and South America to form the basis for the listening program for Ritmos.  The interviews are all unscripted. We culled them for the best and most relevant language samples to serve as listening comprehension texts.

Students learn a very real spoken form of Spanish, and become accustomed to dealing with authentic audio. This prepares them very well for actually using Spanish in “real life”, either in Spanish speaking countries or with Spanish speakers in their own community. We feel that it is crucial to get students used to actual Spanish, because traditional listening texts, scripted to cover grammatical features and spoken slowly and clearly by professional voice talent, aids comprehension but does not actually prepare students well for listening “in the wild”.