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POPCast, Episode 15: Interview with Caroline Sweet

Posted by admin on Aug 13, 2021 9:00:00 AM


About this episode

Welcome to POPCAST, Episode 15! Jeff and Travis welcome Caroline Sweet, coauthor of Patterns of Power en español: Inviting Bilingual Writers into the Conventions of Spanish, Grades 1–5. Caroline is a bilingual teacher and coach and has adapted lesson sets from the bestselling book Patterns of Power: Inviting Young Writers into the Conventions of Language, Grades 1–5 for use in the bilingual classroom.



Meet Jeff and Travis

Jeff and TravisFor over thirty years, Jeff Anderson has inspired writers and teachers of grades K-8 with the power and joy of writing and grammar. He has written eight books for Stenhouse Publishers. He also writes middle-grade novels. Travis Leech is currently a middle school instructional coach in Northside Independent School District in San Antonio, TX. He has thirteen years of experience in education, including teaching middle school English Language Arts and as a gifted and talented specialist. Follow Jeff and Travis on Twitter.




Read the transcript

Jeff: Welcome to POPCast, the Patterns of Power podcast, discussing grammar in the context of the reading-writing connections. I'm Jeff Anders-

Travis: I’m Travis Leech.

Jeff: All right. We're in competition!

Travis: Yeah!

Jeff: And we've got with us today a great guest who can kind of help mediate. Her name is Caroline Sweet. She is the author of Patterns of Power en español, Inviting Bilingual Writers into the Conventions of Spanish, Grades One Through Five.

Jeff: Now it says it's written by me and Whitney La Rocca, but really it's written by Caroline Sweet. It was just based on an idea that Whitney La Rocca and Jeff Anderson had. It's her book. It should have her name in big letters. And the next thing which we'll be talking about coming along in the Patterns of Power en español family will have her name on it first. We insist. So Travis, why don't you ask our ... Actually, let's just ask the audience to give her a hand for being here.

Caroline: Thank you, Mr. Anderson. Thank you. Thank you, Travis.

Travis: The first question, I guess, is I know that Patterns of Power en español is not a translated text. Why don't you talk to us about the reasoning for having text that is in Spanish language, not translated literature.

Caroline: Yeah. Thanks Travis. This is actually one of my favorite things to talk about with the book. When Jeff and Whitney wrote the book and it came out, I was in the fourth grade classroom teaching fourth grade, and just so excited for this resource because it was so different than anything else we had been using. And I told Mr. Anderson, I'm going to do these lessons. I'm going to do them in Spanish. And I just started doing it. From articles we were reading, from books we were reading, but it just never really made sense or worked to just pull a translation.

Caroline: So here's one of the examples. In Patterns of Power by Jeff and Whitney, there's a lesson, for example, from Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes. And that book exists in Spanish, Crisantemos. And the sentence is the same and the convention is the same, but the lesson in Patterns of Power and Español that corresponds to the Chrysanthemum lesson is actually from a text called Agua, Agüita (Water, Little Water) by Jorge Argueta. And Jorge Argueta is a very prolific poet. Has many children's books.

Caroline: He's an immigrant himself from El Salvador. I believe he still resides in El Salvador now. And he identifies as Pipil Nahua. So that's his indigenous identity. And this reverence for nature comes through his poetry. So instead of taking the sentence in Spanish from, Crisantemos, which is really pretty devoid of culture or connection to students' lived experiences, or are really elevating language or reflecting family dynamics. We take a sentence it's really beautiful. The first sentence in Jorge Argueta's book, and we're still able to teach that same pattern of language.

Caroline: We're still able to teach that same convention. But when we're doing it, we're elevating a bilingual author. We're elevating him to rockstar status in our classroom, looking to Jorge Argueta as one of our mentors. And then in our classroom, really setting ourselves up as apprentice writers. What does Jorge Argueta do? Can we do that too? And then writing and being a writer is a possibility, becomes a possibility for the students in my classroom who come from Spanish-speaking homes.

Travis: That's beautiful. I notice you said something about the lesson in Patterns of Power, the yellow book en español being used along with the lessons in the orange book. Tell us more about that.

Caroline: I think in a lot of situations in Texas and across the United States, in bilingual classrooms there's quite a variety of how much Spanish is taught and how much English is taught. So in many of the classrooms that I work in, it's a 50/50 model. And so there will be essentially as much English language arts taught as Spanish language arts. But in some other classrooms, there might be a whole lot more Spanish or more English just depending on the program model.

Caroline: But I think one of the things that teachers are doing now is really looking at how to thread the two books together. So they don't run just parallel to each other, but we look for these opportunities to cross over and to see the similarities and differences in English and Spanish. And so I think for the most part, what teachers are doing that I work with is teaching in Spanish first a concept, and really taking it through to mastery.

Caroline: So really looking for multiple opportunities. So for example, something like commas in a series. There is a slight difference in English and Spanish. It's essentially like the argument of the Oxford comma. In Spanish, we won't use the comma right after the penultimate idea, right? But in English, for the most part we will. And so we might teach commas in a series first with one lesson. And that takes us a week or two. And then a few weeks down the road we might hit it again as we look at it in a different pattern, and really develop that understanding of commas in a series. And once we felt like we've taught that to mastery in Spanish, and we've provided many opportunities to turn it around to apply it in our own writing, to find it in our reading, then we'll bring in a sentence in English.

Caroline: Now it could be the whole lesson set from the red book, from Jeff and Whitney's book, but it could be just this moment of contrastive analysis. We're going to go right back to sort of an invitation to compare and contrast and look at that original sentence in Spanish next to a sentence in English, and notice what they have in common and how they're different. And I think what's important is that we still want to pull an author's craft at that moment. We still want a beautifully crafted sentence in English, so that we are really experimenting with language and understanding that conventions are a part of how we express ourselves.

Travis: Yeah. So I'm hearing a lot about you talking about building this community of bilingual writers through highlighting authors in Spanish. Making those contrasts between English and Spanish, all these wonderful things. Is there anything else similar to, or different from if teachers are experienced with the red book that they may see as resources for continuing to build this community of bilingual writers?

Caroline: So the steps in the lesson are the same, right? We're asking students to notice, to compare and contrast, to imitate, to celebrate, apply, and edit just like we would in English. And so I think the comfort in a bilingual classroom comes from that routine. And for anyone who's learned a second language, I think we all know that lowering risk is essential to experimentation and to growth. So at any point we can, we always want to lower that effective filter, so students feel comfortable reaching and trying in a language in which maybe they don't spend as much time or don't have as much confidence.

Caroline: And in a school like I work in where we have a dual language classroom where students come from English-speaking, households and Spanish-speaking households, and are working together in a bilingual community of writers, we love this moment in invitation to imitate where students get to support each other, maybe as the teacher scribes ideas. We love this moment of kind of peer-to-peer interaction as an imitation is done in pairs. And then if we're really working on creating this bilingual community of writers, the celebration happens so naturally and so often as children recognize that their peers are reaching, are trying something new. And so I think that's one of the really beautiful pieces in a bilingual classroom, as we all celebrate everyone's language development.

Travis: So Caroline, we know this is a passion of yours, culturally relevant literature. Could you tell us a little bit more about culturally relevant literature and why it's so important to the Patterns of Power en español process?

Caroline: 10 minutes of your day is not much, right? But in those 10 minutes, we want to make sure that the literature that we have chosen shows students that their voices are important, that their stories are essential, that they need to bring their stories into our classroom, and that we value their experiences and their language. And the language of the home, the language of their parents and our bilingual identities.

Caroline: So the literature pieces are essential to building up our bilingual identities as writers. And so we will step into this role of the apprentice in our writing workshop, as we focus in on these texts that certain conventions that we're trying to teach, but we also might bring that literature into our writing workshop as that author continues to be a mentor for us. It might come into our reading workshop as well.

Caroline: And I think as teachers, we're very aware now and more so than ever probably issues with representation and diversity in children's literature. And so this is the perfect spot to really start to pull that into your classroom and to let that culturally relevant literature start to permeate your language arts classrooms. And I think once a student really sees themself reflected in literature, the engagement goes up. The investment goes up, and that's what we are always hoping for. And you talk about this a lot in a grammar classroom where we are dependent on worksheets or correct-alls. The engagement goes down, the meaning is not there. And students are just kind of grasping. But we want this to feel like meaningful, important work to give students the tools to really share their voices and experiences.

Jeff: Okay. So it sounds like it's really important that we have that reflection, that mirror coming back to us. And then that inspires us. That's what we said about the Patterns of Power and whether in English or en español, it's to do something different than worksheets. It's to inspire, to get them on fire, to get them to want to write and to be heard. And I love the way you said it becomes possible. It's about possibility because that matches. That's the power of possibility is everything for Patterns of Power, plus for everything else that we try to is to get that possibility out there. And kind of try to take it away from the negative viewpoint of look, these are all the mistakes you should avoid. And then instead saying, here are the things we could do.

Travis: So Caroline as teachers get comfy with this resource and continue using it, do you have some suggestions for maybe next steps for them as they build their confidence with using this resource and the process?

Caroline: I think you'll get to this moment in your classroom where you're ready to write your own lessons. And I think one of the really important things about doing that is that as new writers, especially new Latinx authors come onto the scene, we'll be able to highlight them and their work and bring it into our classroom. It'll happen where you're in a read-aloud of a book somebody gave you, or you just got, and you'll just see a sentence and be like, oh yes, this is it. This is the next one we can use. And the investment will just automatically be there. As students are excited to look to these authors, to experiment with language like these authors do. And really to try on the patterns of language that published authors use in their own work, whether your students are eight or 10 or 14.

Jeff: Well, I'm hearing that they're even using, even though the book says grades one through five, it's getting used in other places, even in Spanish language programs, right? Were you saying that, like Spanish language teachers that are teaching?

Caroline: That's correct. So they're using it in the middle school level at times as students are prepping to take advanced Spanish courses. So I've seen teachers use the sentences and lessons from the book and maybe bump up the level of the focus phrase so that it really reflects what they have to teach in Spanish as a foreign language, and as they push students towards a Spanish AP test. So there's quite a lot of possibility within the yellow book.

Caroline: The other thing I've seen teachers do is to expand the number of lessons they have to teach from. Since many of the lessons in the yellow book come from bilingual texts, I will sometimes see a teacher teach that same lesson in English, with the English sentence from that book. And so at my school, that's what my fifth grade team does because fifth grade teachers always feel like, hey, they've used all the lessons in first, second, third, fourth. So this is the way my fifth grade team sort of expands the lessons they can teach.

Jeff: That's a great idea.

Travis: Cool.

Jeff: Well, I hear the theme song and what does that mean, Travis?

Travis: Oh, that means it is time to go, but can we hang out a little bit more in the next episode maybe?

Jeff: Absolutely. But we want to thank Stenhouse, our publisher for sponsoring this podcast.

Travis: Oh yeah. You can find them at Thanks Stenhouse, we appreciate you.

Jeff: And all sorts of resources there on the website for you to find videos and other things. So give us a look. Thanks Caroline, for taking some time out of your morning, and we'll see you real soon.

Caroline: Thanks for having me.