How to infuse problem-based thinking into your world language classroom
A few year back when I was teaching in an International Baccalaureate middle school, I started the year dreamy-eyed with this cool social media project. I could not wait to implement it. Coming off a summer of PD around the Personal Project, a design cycle research project for students, I was sure this was going to be the year that we do big things and tackle relevant themes such:
- How do we interact with social media?
- What digital footprints are we leaving on the world?
- How to use social media thoughtfully and responsibly?
I’d walk my students step by step in the target language. Then it happened. My hopes were dashed. This critical and awe-inspiring week was met with three challenges:
- We had no working technology in school
- We had no access to computers
- We could not use the textbook
This was not going to work because the whole crux of my plan was to get them to design their own websites of something of import to them; then it hit me:
- How am I teaching them problem-solving skills when I am vexed with a problem like this?
Limited connectivity, no problem!
So I had this paper website idea. The idea was for students to create a futuristic social media outlet dissimilar in style and purpose from the ones we have today. Essentially, they could not rebrand Facebook. My 6th graders had to include the normal suite of buttons such as upload, download and the like (see activities below). They also had to think of a novel idea for the media outlet and a purpose it would serve- in basic Spanish. We charted our course with these essential questions:
If I could design a website in the future, what will it look like?
How will it be useful?
Who will be my targeted audience
For the final product (more to come on the brainstorming sessions and planning documents), they had to include the following on their paper website all in the target language:
- Title (creative title in Spanish)
- About me section (Descriptive adjectives, gustar, family)
- Tabs and links (vocabulary for technology use)
- Picture or description of service
- Testimony (very simple) (persuasive writing)
- Email links
The assessment for this activity as a presentation of their website to the class. I neglected to mention that students worked in pairs.
(I will be doing this again this year, so stay tuned for the final format)
How did we prepare?
To prepare, we work with the vocabulary beforehand. Students used something similar to this Vocabulario para la tecnología sheet to familiarize themselves with the verbs. Students used activities such as This activity helped students to:
- Practice core verbs needed to discuss how they use technology
- Familiarize themselves with core vocabulary such as redes sociales, aplicación, etc.
- Engage in conversation about their social media usage.
- Share about their favorite sites and usage.
An expansion of these activities in all including but not limited to reading texts, debates and student experiences with social media in the target language are included in my social media school unit. I actually spread these throughout and because this was the middle school we used only use the reading and for the short debates the story Yo no puedo vivir sin mi celular. This text is about a boy who:
- Talks about his phone
- His use of technology
- Why cellphones should be used in school
The second story is “El uso de celular destruyó mi vida is more for Spanish 2 (or the end of Spanish I as it has some preterit). This story narrates the negative side of technology, cyber bullying, and students’ insensitive behavior.
If you are interested in combing your love for technology with a crime thriller, this short story may satisfy your fancy… oh, and did I mention the Teacher’s Manual was absolutely free?
Infographics on the use of technology
This was a tesoro that I found online and I am considering using this as an interpretive assessment. Stay tuned for more activities!