Adapting Curriculum to Heritage Speakers


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Introducing Heritage Learners to an Individualized Spanish Curriculum


I am not a teacher, but an awakener.

Robert Frost.

Choosing to become a teacher is choosing to help students become happy and successful members of our community. Some students in our classes will have different learning abilities compared to the average student the curriculum aims to impact. Understanding how to guide those learners with different abilities is a challenge that we all face in our teaching careers, regardless of the school district in which we teach, our subject matter expertise or our years of professional experience.

While conducting research to develop this course, I had the opportunity to speak with an experienced Spanish teacher who shared an anecdote that had a profound impact on the way I designed this class. The teacher I interviewed told me about a conversation she had with the principal at her school. During this exchange, the principal congratulated her on the dedication she shows for her students and told her that he considers her to be the perfect Spanish educator.

This teacher has over thirty years of experience, has taught hundreds of students and won a variety of teaching awards. However, after she got that special compliment from the principal, all she could say in response was: “I don't think I am the perfect Spanish teacher yet. Not until I figure out how to create a differentiated curriculum that helps empower my Heritage speakers to reach their full potential”. In this online class, we will form a community of professionals who will support each other in solving this important problem.

Together, we will develop the confidence and acquire the skills to start offering a differentiated curriculum to Heritage Speakers in mixed Spanish classes.

Our common goal in the next few weeks will be to explore a variety of language acquisition and curriculum instruction concepts so that we can develop the necessary skills to teach a Spanish class in which Heritage Speakers can not only be engaged but also thrive as language learners. In particular, we will focus on how to help Spanish Heritage speakers use their time in the Spanish class productively and towards fulfilling their enormous potential as language learners. In this training, participants will explore new ideas to help you conduct a class in which students of different abilities can get the encouragement and structure they need to take their Spanish skills to a higher level.

I am so happy to have the opportunity to interact with you virtually through this training course. Together we will develop new lesson plans and curriculum to help Spanish heritage speakers become the best language learners they can possibly be.

And remember: You have the ability to empower ALL of your students!

Can this training be relevant to your teaching practice?

This course aims to provide Spanish teaching professionals with the tools they need to implement a differentiated curriculum for the Heritage Speakers in their classrooms. Introducing a new approach to teaching Spanish can present many challenges, from how to select new teaching materials, to assessing students and communicating the benefits of differentiated instruction to school administrators. In this course, you will compile a portfolio of documents that will help you get ready to teach Heritage speakers in different ways and equip you with the information you need to conduct a presentation in front of school administrators who can lend you support in this endeavor.

Your Roadmap To This Program

Below you will see a visual representation of all the major themes we will be covering in this course. This online training is divided into five modules which are designed to be completed in five weeks. However, depending on your work schedule and obligations you can choose to go through the materials at your own pace. I will be available by email to answer any questions that might come up as you work through the materials. You will have the opportunity to connect with me and other participants in our Google classroom (your classroom code is: xjnelz9). Use this Google classroom to ask questions and interact with other members of the Spanish teaching and learning community.


This class has been designed with the idea that you will complete the modules in the suggested sequence so that you can scaffold your knowledge in a way that helps you go from general concepts to more practical applications. If you have already worked with Heritage Speakers and are mostly looking for ideas on how to create differentiated lessons, feel free to go straight to section three where I will demonstrate how to use a project-based methodology to create a differentiated curriculum. If you are looking for more targeted learning that is not part of this introductory course, you are welcome to connect with me through our Google classroom and I will send you additional resources.

What will you do in this training?

Case Studies and Digital Journal

At the end of this course, you will have developed two important professional tools:

First, you will work on a professional portfolio containing three individualized teaching plans created by you. Your main task will be to apply the concepts learned in the training to three cases-studies and give your opinion on what would be a good teaching strategy to help heritage speakers like the ones in the case studies grow as language learners and young adults. The learning plans will correspond to different types of Heritage Speakers learners that are often represented in the Spanish classroom.

In addition, you will conduct relevant research to give a short presentation to your school administrators advocating for the need to offer a differentiated curriculum to Heritage Speakers in the Spanish program. In order to have enough material to give this presentation, you will keep a reflective digital journal which will serve as a place to record your thoughts, reactions to readings and videos, and answers to questions and activities. At the end of this training, you will turn the contents of your digital journal into an oral presentation in which you will have the opportunity to practice advocating for introducing a differentiated Spanish curriculum at your institution.

Summary of the Course

This online teacher training program includes five modules. Click on the title of a module to go to its page.

Module 1: Defining Heritage Speakers

During this week, the goal will be to understand what is a Heritage Speaker. After you complete all the readings and assignments for this module, you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of who is a Heritage Speaker.
  • Describe how a second language speaker is different than a Heritage speaker.
  • Explain why it is important to provide differentiated instruction to Heritage Speakers

Module 2: In-Class Assessment of Heritage Speakers

During this week, you will learn how to administer an in-class assessment of Heritage Speakers. After you complete all the readings and assignments for this module, you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of different assessment tools.
  • Develop the criteria to choose the right tool for students in the class based on student characteristics
  • Understand how to analyze the results of the assessment instrument

Module 3: Creating Individualized Curriculum

During this week, you will learn how to create an individualized curriculum for Heritage speakers After you complete all the readings and assignments for this module, you will be able to:

  • Understand how to differentiate curriculum using a project-based approach
  • Modify existing curriculum taught to second language speakers in the class
  • Create an independent study plan for each Heritage Speaker

Module 4: Measuring Heritage Speakers' Progress

During this week, you will learn how to measure Heritage speakers language acquisition progress as a result of using a differentiated curriculum. After you complete all the readings and assignments for this module, you will be able to:

  • Measure Heritage speakers language acquisition progress.
  • Develop a collaborative approach to set learning goals in collaboration with Heritage students
  • Create personalized learning goals at the beginning of term and assess results at key points during the course

Module 5: Case Studies and Final Project

During this week, you will demonstrate the skills and attitudes you acquire in the context of a case study exercise.

After you complete all the readings and assignments for this module, you will be able to:

  • Analyze three case studies describing the academic background of a high school student in a Spanish classroom and write a brief explaining a recommended teaching strategy for each student
  • Explain why each student in the case study should be considered a Heritage speaker or second language speaker
  • Describe what assessment tool would be used to determine language skill levels of hypothetical students
  • Design a short individualized curriculum for each hypothetical student
  • Develop the confidence to teach a Spanish class at two different skill levels simultaneously

To start your program now go to: Module 1: Defining Heritage Speakers