Navigating Project-based Learning in Level 1 Spanish Classes

Project-based learning sounds very daunting to do in one’s native language, let alone transferring the principles to a second language classroom. Can project-based learning be accomplished in the world language classroom?  Yes, it can and many teachers engage in this level of learning at the higher level. However, the vexing question for me was: can PBL be accomplished and sustained with my Spanish I, Novice-mid-intermediate students?

Click here for conference documents. Editable Word documents are included.

When I attempted to “solve for x” I was overwhelmed with crushing amount of information that I thought students had to know, in order to “PBL.” At the heart of Project-based learning lies a problem. This was essentially my PBL, and the questions inevitably led to an instructional shift, a “can do” attitude (yes, ACTFL pun!), and a curriculum whose currents intersected at the nucleus of a student-centered curriculum. This nagging question of student ownership, discovery, and design sparked my journey into developing curricula that married language acquisition with inquiry-based practices.

ACTFL Attendees 

So, if you are interested in learning about how to incorporate project-based learning principles into your novice curriculum or wanting to refine the tools already in your toolbox, join me Saturday, 11/18/2017 in Nashville.

The session will take place at the Music City Center, Room 106c at 11:15-12:15. Following the session, I will post all materials referenced during the presentation here in this post. See the agenda for topics below. These questions posed will be answered through the concrete resources that participants will have access to following the presentation.

Materials to be distributed at presentation 

  1.  ACTFL Unit Plan
  2. Guided Inquiry/ Internet Scavenger Hunt
  3. Vocabulary Packet/ideas
  4. Communicative activity
  5. Simple reading connected to topic
  6. Brochure example and rubric
  7. Presentational rubric
  8. Samples of products

Distance-Learning Participants

Not able to make it to ACTFL? No problem! You will have full access to the materials on this page!

Project-based learning materials from ACTFL

Click here for conference documents.

 Novelas para la clase de español

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TPT Store!

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El Cine Colombiano: 11 Activities for Teaching Film- ¡Qué Chévere!

Cine Colombiano- ¡Qué chévere! 

This year’s film unit is taking even a steeper climb through the South American Continent.( Click here to see the post about 5 film activities for your class. Most activities are free! ) I’ve added two films to explore cultural themes and social issues while conversing in the target language.  

On a personal/pedagogical note, this year I have been learning about MovieTalk, a TPRS strategy for enhancing listening comprehension and focusing on structures. I am still learning about this key strategy in facilitating conversation using film, I am no way an expert, but I have incorporated some of those practices in my class (Check out my Wanna-be-Movietalk activity: Eight free engaging activities for teaching the preterit and imperfect tenses). I am slowing incorporating these strategies as I go.  

Shall we take a peek? ¡Dale!

Film unit vocabulary and activities– absolutely free. Engage your students in the following activities: 

1. Vocabulary matching- in the target language

2. Writing about their favorite movie, using the vocabulary. 

3. Pique their interest in Hispanic movies by allowing them to view images of movies and read summaries/ respond to questions (I have used this activity in Spanish Club). 

4. A short activity of films shots, I go all out in my film unit!

I used the Free Film Unit to introduce vocabulary and get students discussing movies in Spanish. The movie images come with summaries (upgrade from last year, if you downloaded this activity) and the narratives really pull students in. This can be used as part of a film unit or as a teaser or cultural assignment… or even sub plans (I’m just saying).

Check out this teacher’s Movie Packet. I purchased it and use it every time I watch a movie. This resource is really my go-to for anytime I have found a great resource, but have not either created materials or found them online. It is very simple and I have used it mostly with series or in Spanish Club.

Now on to the films!

El Almuerzo 

This short eight-minute film highlights the challenges that poor families, especially children face in Colombia. It is about two young girls trying to get a meal. They face a few difficulties, which force them to be creative in solving their problem.  The resource below gives an overview of the film for students, vocabulary activities, especially Colombian regionalisms. It also gives students an opportunity to think about the broader themes touched upon in the Cortometraje. We had a great discussion and then went around the class greeting each other with “Qué hubo” a particularly Colombian expression. See the activities outlined below. Check out the preview on TPT! 

– Short introduction to the film in the target language 
– Vocabulary from the film and information gap activity using the vocabulary

– Watch and pause questions (freeze frame- paying homage to the Movietalk strategy).

– Discussion questions

– Deep Dive (more in-depth) questions

– Writing prompt

Maria, Llena Eres de Gracia 

This film has become a staple in my Cine Latino Series. It highlights the life of “mules” or people who transport drugs. I used the SparkEnthusiasm’s packet, click here for the link. I also created some of my own resources to widen the snapshot of this issue. You can see those resources below. They are totally free and were compiled by online resources and made more comprehensible for students. With the SparkEnthusiasm Kit, I was able to do a gallery walk around the class and have students jot down information about the movie. Also, this packet comes with tons of activities that could be used for pre, during and post. In fact, my summative assessment will consist of the viewing questions, listening, and summary. Had I more time, I would have organized stations. 

Current Event: Model turned Mule 

The featured article below is a sad but true event that occurred a few years ago. A model from Medellín, Colombia made the regretfully dreadful decision of becoming a mule. We read this article right after seeing the movie María, Llena Eres de Gracia. 

This news article sheds light on this issue and the kids were every surprised, even after watching the movie. Click on the original news article here, for your native speakers! Click here for the “Comprehensible Input Version.” I have to say that I only added a few things. I thought that most of the words used were cognates or easily identifiable. I might have changed phrases such as ” le cayeron veiente años” for “recibió veinte años.” 

After reading this article with two classes, I decided to change things up for the third class. Turns out that the students in my second class actually googled her and found out that she was sentenced to 15 years; hence my notation in the article. Also, they found a video of her modeling days.

Prior to giving the last class the article, we watched the modeling video. I told them that the video was about an up and coming model from Colombia. After the video, we read the article and, boy, were they surprised. This had more of an impact because this girl is young, beautiful, obviously not poor, had a youtube presence and was blossoming as a model. We then read the article and responded to questions.  Click below for the video, and it is totally appropriate.

Check out the film resources below!

Teacher Appreciation Sale! Save up to 28% on resources for class!

Teaching Spanish Made Easy

Click here for your curriculum companions! 

Check out the reading materials for class: comprehensible, creative and fun!

Click on titles to see preview and reviews!

La Clase de Confesiones (Spanish 1)

Carlos hates Spanish class with a passion but finds the will to survive when he lays eyes on Jessica. 86dcf-clase2bde2bconfesiones2bHer presence is both distracting and motivating. However, his secret crush is compromised when his teacher decides to “shake things up” in class. A simple writing assignment allows Carlos the creativity, which he has never had before in this class, and is a break from the teacher’s lecture teaching style. But the assignment is turning out to be a lethal injection to his social life and by extension his chances with Jessica. From the nosy teacher inadvertently trying to help him “to get his beloved’s attention” to one of the most embarrassing things that have every happens to him, he sees that all is not lost… but the adventures doesn’t stop here. La Bella Mentira, part 2, will have students on the edge of their seats. Want this in paperback? Check out the links below: 

Targeted structures: Present tense -Ar, -Er and -Ir verbs.

La Clase de Confesiones Part 2: La Bella Mentira (Spanish 1)

Carlos leaves Spanish class embarrassed. He had no idea that the teacher was going to pair him up with Jessica, the girls he writes about in his short essay. Adding insult to injury, the teacher reads his essay in from the class; e1efc-cover2bthe2bla2bbella2bmentira2beven the mean-spirited things he wrote about his teacher. Carlos goes to Math class and get’s his phone taken by the teacher: he never receives the redemptive text message from Jessica. When they meet in the lunchroom, his embarrassment, ignorance, and fear get the best of him. Now, he has to win Jessica back. Carlos learns that the truth always prevails over a lie. He learns how, to be honest, vulnerable and to take responsibilities for his actions. Will this be enough for Jessica?  Targeted structures: Present tense -Ar, -Er and -Ir verbs.

Casi Me Mata El Celular (Spanish 2+)

1Casi Me Mata El Celular  Spanish 2/3 (Preterite, Imperfect, some subjunctive) Federico and his friends learn that technology can prove to be deadly when abused. While hanging out at their favorite hideout in the abandoned building in an up and coming part of town, they stumble upon an uncanny situation. In an effort to satisfy their curiosity, they witness something will change their lives forever. Now the boys have to try to make it out of this situation, alive.

Las Apariencias Engañan (Part 1) (Spanish 3+)

Las apariencias engañan .pngCamilo is hiding a secret, and it won’t be long until his girlfriend finds out. She sets out to spy on her once romantic poem-writing boyfriend, who is being incredibly secretive as of late. Between poor grades, his erratic behavior, and her parents’ divorce, Salomé feels like she is going to implode. Her new discovery of a chica who is colada with her boyfriend puts her over the edge even más. Seeking help and sanity, she decides to visit a popular town psychiatrist; he forces her to change her perspective, and with that comes a cost. His advice ultimately leads her to discover a much greater truth about Camilo, his father and the town in which they live. She goes on a quest for truth but then gets more than she bargained for. Every chapter is a twisty rollercoaster that abruptly at a cliffhanger, right before it pushes you over the edge. Las Apariencias Engañan reveals the timeless truths that: things are never what they seem to be.

Tons of dialogue and easily adaptable to classroom skits and reader’s theater.

 Target Structures: Subjunctive, Preterit, Imperfect

El muerto cover- closet doorEl muerto en el armario (Part 2 of “Las apariencias”)

The second installment in the series El Muerto en el Armario ups the stakes for all the players involved. “Las cartas están sobre la mesa” as Salomé (Camilo’s girlfriend) holds all the players hostage to their secrets. Through a series of clever maneuvers, Camilo (Juan’s best friend) and Liliana (Juan’s girlfriend) are still able to evade the truth; but the time is running out. Situational “close calls, will put readers’ “pelos de punta” especially when Juan confronts Camilo on his secretive behavior and the steamy text messages found on his phone (nothing inappropriate). Liliana adds to her personal drama when she discovers a secret belonging to one of Camilo’s parents; this secret is the just tip of the iceberg. The second installment is chock full of confessions, secrets and mysterious people that will inevitably be at the center of the drama in the third installment ” Las sombras.” How will Camilo’s parents handle her knowing sensitive information? What price will she pay for this secret? Will Juan discover truth about his friends? How will Salomé exact revenge? Find out in part 2!

Target Structures: Subjunctive, Preterit, Imperfect

La fiesta inolvidableLa Fiesta Inolvidable (Spanish 2+) New Short Story/ Teacher’s materials included!

Antonio dreams about throwing the biggest party ever when he finally gets his big break: his parents are taking a short trip to take care of some “family business.”  Armed with the advice of his friend and teen blogger, Lucas, a.k.a. el parrandero (party animal), his weekend fiesta is destined to be unforgettable. Antonio follows Lucas’ five rules of “fiestas inolvidables” and everything is smooth sailing. Even better, Antonio’s love interest shows up; now the pressure is on. Everyone is having a blast when a few unexpected obstacles arise. Antonio has to think quick and problem-solve in order to have the best party ever. However, will his skills be enough?  Find out in La fiesta inolvidable… a night to remember!

Targeted structures: Imperfect, preterite and some past and present subjunctive.

La Nueva Alumna (Spanish 3+)  -Freebie – Activities included!

La Nueva Alumna is a fictionalized account of Vicky’s journey to the prestigious boarding school: El Internado. It gives a bit of a back story highlighting her working class roots, and her major crush on Iván, another pivotal character from the series. This story was originally written as a cloze text practice of language structures such as the present and past subjunctive and the preterite and imperfect. Said formative assessment was administered to students after viewing episode 5 of El Internado when it became clear that Vicky was colada con Iván. The story presents a mix of narration and dialogue, which could be easily acted out in class or in groups!

Informational Text Resources for enriching your curriculum; reading level appropriate materials in Spanish!

23 activities for teaching and discussion technology in Spanish

Franco, Picasso and Guernica: La guerra civil (Spanish 1+)

Inquiry-based activities and cultural readings on Spain (25 activities)

La breve historia de España (Spanish 1+ present tense)

La vida sana- reading and activities on healthy lifesyle- Spanish 1+ (Freebie)

Reflexive verbs reading and activities – 11 activities (Spanish 1+) 

¿Qué te gusta?- Activities with Gustar, speaking, reading, viewing and writing (Spanish 1+) Freebie 

Spanish class activity book- 30+ activities for class

Exploring Identity- reading on the politics of Identity in Latin America (16 activities)

Bull-fighting controversy: Debate (Spanish 1+)

Short Film “El Almuerzo” Colombia + viewing and comprehension activities 

The Deeper Purposes of Art: Walking Murals at the Women’s March

The Deeper Purposes of Art: Walking Murals 

It is an undeniable fact that this past weekend’s Women’s March was a powerful and courageous antidote to the incisively degrading political rhetoric that has dominated recent headlines. Due to it being slightly polarizing to some students and families, I had no intention of discussing the March in class, as we are dead in the heat of pre-finals warfare. However, I had a sudden mind shift when I received this picture from my department chair; it’s a great real world connection to our unit on Art. We are in the midst of deconstructing Frida, along with the significance of art and its multifaceted purposes.  This past week we looked at different art movements and the currents moving her work. This picture captures one of the purposes of art and could be placed in a variety of movements. I thought this was good food for thought, and my students ate it up!  

Prior to digging into Frida, we looked at an article I had curated titled “Qué es el arte “(I will share this in a later post). We learned, in several class periods, the different views of art and some of the basic movements; these documents were our guiding principles that we’d revisit with each artist.    

We started off with the question “what is art.” My students had a lot to say. You can see from the whiteboard collage we made in class.  I had students go to the board and write their own definition of art. We read the article, which highlighted quotes from several artists and art critics. You can see the quotes below. 


Monday’s Lesson 

On the Monday following the Women’s March (we are in Chicago), we looked at the poster first and then, described the picture, discussed the impact of the words (they used their art vocabulary, which can be found clicking this link to quizlet.) and lastly   impact of the social context (for aiding interpretation) and then like a math problem, we tried to solve for X. 

Guiding Questions 
1. ¿Qué evento fue y cómo lo sabes? 

2. En tu opinión, ¿es una obra de arte? ¿En qué consiste el arte? 

3. Describe lo que ves en la obra de arte. ¿Cuáles son los colores? ¿Qué impactan tienen? 

4. ¿Qué rol juega el contexto en nuestra interpretación del arte?

5. ¿Cuál cita de arte (de los críticos) mejor explique la función de arte? 

6.  Esta “obra de arte” puede ser un ejemplo del muralismo, ¿por qué  sí o no? 

7. ¿Cuál es el impact que tiene sobre ti?

8. ¿A qué movimiento pertence?

This was our Campanazo (supposedly, a five- minute warm-up) and what a great catalyst for discussion it was!. We discussed the symbolism of the picture and the meaning behind the lady’s mouth being covered. Many of my students, most of the boys, had a hard time relating. When I asked if they felt an impact or connection, most responded “no”. So then, I had really dig deep and flip the question so that gender quality could be neutralized: I followed up with these questions to bring them into the conversation; I started by asking:

Have you ever felt that your voice didn’t matter? 

¿Has sentido alguna vez sin el poder de decidir o sin una voz? 

Have you parents made decisions about you without your input? 

¿Tus padres han tomado decisiones sin involucrar tus ideas o perspectivas? 

Did you have a part in contributing to your final exams (this really got their hands up).

¿Has podido colaborar con los profesores en la creación de los exámenes finales? – this really got them!

After seeing the sea of hands, and the boys finding “their voice” the lesson was, we can all relate to the lady in the painting. We have all felt “silenced” one way or another. I guess my point was “no one is off the hook” and we could all relate to each other’s experience one way or another. 

The second “light bulb” moment was discussing the terms of Muralismo and then looking at the picture. From the article I curated, students had these definitions below of the art movements we studied prior to diving into Frida (I am still editing the article, and will share soon!). The lesson here was looking beyond a fixed definition and thinking more broadly in terms of the “spirit” of the movement or core philosophical values and purpose; looking at the “why” instead of being fixated on the “what.”

Muralismo- un movimiento artístico comenzado en México a principios del siglo XX. Fue creado por un grupo de intelectuales después de la revolución mexicana. Los artistas o muralistas transformaron espacios públicos en lienzos grandes donde se reflejaban sus mensajes politicos y sociales. 

The primary goal was to make them think “outside the canvas” and think more about the “spirit” of a movement and not the letter. Many students clung to the textbook example Muralismo, which centers on it being fixed in public spaces; but this was a public space, and the art was fluid, could it be Muralismo?   After going back and forth we came to the following conclusion: 

The artwork shares various elements of Muralismo, because it: 

-It shares a strong political message- directed to the people

-Transforms (albeit temporarily) a public place (I coined the term Muralismo Andante).

-Although it does not totally comply with technical definition (I am no expert, I dabble here and there in the arts), it does comply philosophically. 

It was a lively debate (and review for an upcoming assessment). We spent about 30 minutes discussing the picture. 

 Click here for the PPT

Click here for the editable version 

Stay tuned for more on Frida: Arte sin limites