The philosophy behind Conectate is simple: take what we know about second-language learning, combine it with the best practices in second-language teaching, and infuse it throughout with stimulating cultural content that challenges students to see themselves and the world in new ways. The overarching goal is to help instructors teach a highly effective, consistently engaging, and truly inspirational course in Spanish that is based on solid research.
*Meaning-based activities: At its core, language is a way of expressing meaning, so all activities in Conectate guide students through the process of using Spanish meaningfully, either by understanding sentences that they hear or see, or by producing sentences that express what they want to communicate. Students are given myriad opportunities to engage in meaningful activities within a rich cultural context in all four skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
*Active-learning approach: Students learn best when they are fully engaged with the material and are actively participating in every stage of the learning process. There is strong evidence that learning improves when students try to anticipate what is about to be learned or when they test themselves on what they have just learned. To this end, Conectate incorporates these techniques in every chapter. Rather than simply presenting students with a vocabulary list, for instance, vocabulary activities in Conectate ask students to figure out which word goes with which meaning, requiring students to engage actively with the material. Grammar activities, similarly, have students use a grammar point in meaningful ways right from the start, allowing them to uncover some basic grammatical properties on their own before these have been explained to them. As the research literature and everyday experience show, this type of challenge leads to better learning outcomes.
*Input-to-output sequence: In every section of Conectate, students focus first on comprehension and then transition to production. This sequencing of activities ensures that students are fully prepared to do each activity and follows a fundamental principle of language acquisition: you learn to understand before you learn to produce. Whether focused on input or output, though, all activities are solidly meaning-based. In the initial activities, students see or hear the words and need to understand them, while in later activities, they need to speak or write the words in order to express an idea.
*Review: Students learn best when they revisit topics on a regular basis, so Conectate builds in review as an integral part of the program. Each grammar section, for instance, is preceded by a brief active-learning activity that refreshes students' awareness of a related grammatical point that they have already seen. In addition, for certain topics that are known to be challenging, such as object pronouns, students build up their knowledge incrementally over the course of several chapters, always reviewing what they have seen previously before proceeding.
*Authentic language and culture: Students will ultimately be using their Spanish in the real world, not in a classroom, so Conectate is infused throughout with videos of Spanish-speakers from all over the world, telling their stories in a spontaneous, unscripted, and natural way. From the very beginning, students learn to understand buenos dias, for example, the way people really say it, and as they proceed, they learn to understand more extended discourse. The activities are carefully designed so that beginning students can understand and engage with this natural speech, despite the fact that it is "real Spanish," not language artificially created for a textbook.