The Somos Flex curriculum is a unique, multi-strand Spanish curriculum that takes care of lesson planning so that you can focus on the most important thing: connecting with your students.
Just as the original SOMOS curriculum has given thousands of teachers the confidence to step into a new way of teaching, so has Somos Flex given teachers the tools they need to feel confident teaching for acquisition during the last several years of the pandemic, no matter the instructional context. In addition to step-by-step lesson plans for classroom instruction, Somos Flex lays out unit plans for a variety of non-traditional instruction formats, including synchronous and asynchronous online learning and students who are stuck at home without internet.
In this post, I will walk you through the structure of our FLEX units for Spanish, French, and Latin, as well as other online learning options available from The Comprehensible Classroom.
What is a FLEX Unit?
Each Flex unit is a communicative unit that has language acquisition as the goal. Each unit begins by introducing students to a small set of Core Vocabulary words that are then used throughout the unit in communicative contexts. Students see the Core Vocabulary words in various stories and informational texts, and the words are used in discussion activities and games. By the end of the unit, not only are students comfortable interpreting the Core Vocabulary words in context, but they have learned stories and information about a variety of topics along the way.
A Flex unit includes everything that the teacher needs to teach the unit: detailed instructions as well as all materials that are needed to execute on the plans, including printable and digital assignments, interactive Slides presentations, and more.
Each FLEX unit is aligned in terms of content with the corresponding unit of the original Somos, Nous sommes, or Sumus curriculum unit. The vocabulary, stories, and topics all go together so that teachers who own and follow the original Somos* curriculum can easily switch back and forth between original and flex, or seamlessly combine the two.
Watch this 50-second overview video to learn more:
Somos Flex works for classroom and online teaching
What sets the Flex curriculum apart is the multi-strand daily lesson plans. Each Flex unit provides 7+ days of lesson plans and explicit, step-by-step daily instructions for five groups:
- THE TEACHER: The plans tell you what you should be doing during every activity.
- CLASSROOM LEARNERS: Students that are physically present in the classroom space
- LIVESTREAM AND SYNCHRONOUS REMOTE: Students that are attending the class live from home via a screen
- ASYNCHRONOUS VIRTUAL: Students that are completing tasks remotely and have internet access, but are not streaming in to live instruction
- HOME WITH NO INTERNET: for remote students that must complete coursework but have no internet access
All learning strands are fully synchronized so that all students in the course will be working through the same material, at the same pace, regardless of the instructional strand that they are currently in.
What FLEX units are available?
Flex units are available for every unit of the original Somos curriculum.
Somos 1 Flex is a Novice language curriculum that consists of 27 units and fills a minimum of 43 weeks of daily instruction.
Somos 2 Flex is an Intermediate language curriculum that consists of 13 units and fills a minimum of 19 weeks of daily instruction.
SOMOS ORIGINAL VS SOMOS FLEX
Each Somos Flex unit offers a simplified version of the lessons from the original SOMOS Curriculum. Because it was designed for teachers that were juggling multiple strands of learners, including learners in virtual spaces, it was important to keep the content more consistent and predictable for both the teacher and the student. The original Somos and Nous sommes plans include a much wider variety of activities and go more in-depth with cultural exploration.
Watch this video for a detailed comparison between the two versions of the curriculum, or read on for more information:
FEWER ACTIVITIES TO FIGURE OUT
As teachers work through the original Somos and Nous sommes lesson plans, they are trying out new, input-focused activities each week. Typically, activities are only repeated once or twice per marking period. This is great for engagement (as Carol Gaab always says, “The brain craves novelty!”), but it takes more time in planning for the teacher that is reading about how to implement each new activity, and it takes more class time in teaching students how to participate in the activity.
The FLEX plans are on a 2-unit on, 2 unit-off cycle, in which the same activities are used for 2 units in a row, then a different set of activities is repeated for the second pair of units. In the third pair of units, the activities cycle back to those used in the first two units. In this way, neither planning time nor class time is wasted.
The original Somos and Nous sommes units all follow a similar unit structure (Vocabulary Introduction » Story-based acquisition » Informational-based acquisition), but they vary greatly both in terms of unit length and in the kinds of ways that information is explored. Some units work with multiple songs, many kinds of authentic resources, and collaborative exploration, while others offer students just an introductory glance at the unit topic.
The Flex plans are very formulaic: each unit follows the same, 7-day pattern:
Predictable planning is critical for students that are learning from home. Without the immediate presence of a teacher to guide them through the plans for each day and to answer clarifying questions about what tasks should be completed and how, students need routine to thrive.
Likewise, predictable planning will allow you to survive the impossible task that you are being asked to undertake. You have no additional planning time, and yet your planning needs have just doubled or tripled, at least.
MAINTENANCE OF A HEALTHY CLASSROOM SPACE
Some of our favorite input-focused activities were not possible when taking into account the need for social distancing and the inability for students to share classroom supplies, such as scissors and markers. Activities like Write, Draw, Pass; Stations; Pencil Grab; Quiz Quiz Trade, and Running Dictation all had to be left behind or be reimagined in order to maintain a safe and healthy classroom environment.
The Somos* Flex plans take all of this into account. We included only activities that allow for social distancing and personal use of materials only, and we have provided instructions for modifying some of our old favorites.
Which SOMOS plans should I use?
The decision about which version Somos plans to use (original or flex) will depend on whether you own both kinds of materials (Original and Flex) or are just now considering the purchase of your first materials.
Scenario 1: You own both Original and Flex
The original Somos curriculum is the more robust of the two curricula, and we recommend using the original Somos Curriculum as the foundation of your instruction. As teachers spend time working with both curricula, the overwhelming feedback that we hear is, “USE BOTH!”. The great news is that BOTH curricula are one-time purchases, so once you own each one, you own them forever. The Somos Flex curriculum is a valuable addition that you can use for several kinds of differentiation.
The Somos Flex curriculum features more stories than the original curriculum. Extend your units by teaching some of the stories that are exclusive to Somos Flex!
Each Flex unit includes a Print Packet that features seven days of independent learning materials. There are SIX printable texts plus SIX processing activities in each Print Packet – which makes it perfect for you to use for sub plans, for students that miss class, for students that join your class late or that need additional support.
Not everyone loves storyasking (TPRS®), and that’s okay! An interactive, choose-your-own-ending presentation called a Storybuilder® is included with every Flex unit. Storybuilders are meant to parallel the process of Asking a Story. Instead of a teacher and students working collaboratively to co-create a story, an individual student uses a Storybuilder to create their own story by choosing between many pre-determined options that are embedded within a story. If you are familiar with Choose your Own Adventure® stories, the Storybuilder for each unit will feel similar in structure.
Teachers that do not yet feel confident in Storyasking might even opt to use the Storybuilder in class as an alternative to co-creating a story. You can project the Storybuilder presentation on your front board, and you can read through the text with students, working together to choose the path that you collectively want your character to follow. Use the Storybuilder® instead of creating a story from the script in each unit!
Need to miss a day of class? No problem! Leave the print packet materials or the asynchronous lesson plan materials for your sub so that you stay on pace with the unit. Each unit also includes an audio recording of one of the stories, which is a GREAT way for you to build listening content into sub days, even when your sub does not speak Spanish!
Not everyone loves storyasking (TPRS®), and that’s okay! An interactive, choose-your-own-ending presentation called a Storybuilder® is included with every Flex unit. Storybuilders are meant to parallel the process of Asking a Story. Instead of a teacher and students working collaboratively to co-create a story,
Scenario 2: You don’t yet own Original or Flex plans
Many teachers that were already planning to purchase the Original Somos or Nous sommes plans for the fall are now wondering: which kind of materials should I get?
Before answering this question, it is important to note that schools should be funding your evolving curricular needs. Even though it is true that most school budgets are shrinking, it is unethical for them to expect you to take on more responsibility, a greater workload, learn new skills, and pay for curriculum that meets the needs of your new instructional reality. Advocate for yourself and for your students. The cost of all of our materials is incredibly small compared to the cost of hard copy textbooks and online textbook subscriptions. Even if you purchase ALL the digital materials that we offer and plan to offer, you are looking at a one-time purchase of less than $1000.00, which is less expensive than just 10 student textbooks.
The original Somos Curriculum IS the better curriculum. It contains more robust cultural studies, more opportunities to play and sing and connect with your students, and a wider variety of activities. However, if you have a limited budget and already know that you will be managing multiple strands of learners, starting with Somos Flex might be the better option.
Ideally, your administrator or school purchasing officer will support you in acquiring BOTH kinds of resources. Purchasing both the original Somos materials and the Flex plans will allow teachers to access the full depth of the curriculum with learners in the Traditional strand, while still providing the Flexibility needed through the Flex plans.
What do the Flex plans look like?
We realize that teachers are relying on web-based tools more than ever. The Flex plans are created and stored in Google Drive, and they are ready for integration with Learning Management Systems like Google Classroom, Schoology, and Canvas. Most of the materials can be easily converted to Microsoft programs for use in Microsoft Teams. With the Flex plans, the teacher has an unprecedented level of creative control over the content, as nearly every resource is fully editable in Google Slides.
Where does Garbanzo fit in?
When we launched Garbanzo last year, we did so with the intention of solving some common problems faced by teachers that desire to focus instruction on highly processable input. We could never have imagined just how BIG those problems would become as the school year progressed and moved to the digital realm.
The Garbanzo library includes more than 600 stories and informational texts, and so it is more than capable of being the thread of continuity that runs through everything you do in class. Last spring, many teachers used Garbanzo exclusively with their students to keep them moving forward on their paths to proficiency, even when not in the classroom. This fall, we will be adding audio–making Garbanzo a feasible, long-term option for individual language learning from beginning to end of the school year. We have a team of 5 Voice Artists, from different regions of the Spanish-speaking world, recording the audio for every lesson in our library. Once launched, your students will be able to listen to the texts as they read them on the screen.
Garbanzo works well as a supplement to instruction for learners in ANY of the strands. As long as students have access to a device and an Internet connection, they can use Garbanzo. Each Flex unit comes with a list of Garbanzo lessons that pair with the unit, although you must have an active subscription to Garbanzo to take advantage.
- Read a text in class, assign it as a Garbanzo lesson for follow-up
- Assign lessons in sequence through the Core paths to gradually build working vocabulary
- For differentiation and personalized learning, create smaller classes based on interest or proficiency level. Students can be enrolled in multiple classes at once!
Find Garbanzo lessons for any curriculum
For teachers that are not able to adopt SOMOS/a new curriculum at this time, Garbanzo provides the perfect way for you to enrich your students’ learning experience with acquisition-friendly materials that are an appropriate challenge for their level of proficiency. Search for lessons by topic, AP theme, country, or level of difficulty so that you can build more reading into your current coursework.
We are here to support you.
No matter what the future holds, the team here at The Comprehensible Classroom will be with you every step of the way. Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive updates about new products and availability of resources currently in development. We will also notify you when we run sales and send you practical tips and tools that you can use to make Comprehension-based teaching happen this year and every year, no matter what your classroom looks like.
You’ve got this!!