Friday, October 16, 2009

Spicing Up Spanish Class by Cawood Cornelius and Terri Vest

This article provides a spiced up lesson that we can all use as teachers and throw out the old fashioned way of reporting on a different culture or country. This lesson engages first year Spanish language students in an in depth study of Spanish speaking countries. This article is supported by 21st century tools to get students excited about an assignment that traditionally is not exciting or intriguing. In most cases, the teacher instructs the students to gather facts about a culture and put together a report with images and a typed essay. With this project, the students will use online databases, graphic organizers, e-mail, wikis, PowerPoint, and photo story to give a 21st century spice to a country report. The Project consisted of one week in the media library center collecting information and the other week analyzing this information for a presentation. The students used a variety of different sources; books, references, sets, encyclopedias, Spanish language set, complete graphic organizer with an overview of the country. Something that I have never heard of, the students were each given an e-mail address through the ePALs program which is safe and protected. The students also created their own wiki using the online tool PB wiki. They were able to integrate print and online resources. During the second week, they had access to a mobile cart with wireless laptops from the library media center. They created a one power point slide with at least 5 images that represented that culture or country. With these images they wrote a script describing the countries in Spanish. Each student then gave a live presentation using a single power point slide and script. Through practicing their presentation orally, their Spanish skills improved dramatically. As an assessment standpoint, there was an evaluation of a two week project that the students created by ranking how involved and engaged they were. The creative students came up with a scale of grading using heat factors of peppers. This allowed them to get familiar with Spanish and Latin American cooking. A checklist was also used to evaluate each of the presentations. The scripts and images reflected the countries history, geography, economy, art, and also at least one notable person. With the presentations, the students were able to learn about one particular country and culture in depth while listening to others present on drastically different countries and cultures compared to yours.

I love this idea of spicing up the old way off reporting with the use of technology and computers. It allows reports to be more intriguing and exciting with images as well as video clips and sound. In my elementary school, we held a multicultural festival that taught the students about the different countries and cultures in our world. We performed dances of their culture and sang songs that were significant. When performing these songs and dances, we also took on the role by dressing up like that culture. I would definitely incorporate this lesson and project into my curriculum as it excites me just reading about it. I think i would add an extra element by having the students taste the foods of the different cultures and countries as well. One day or week would be designated to a particular country or culture. We would first learn about that culture then get into the hands on and fun stuff by listening to music, dancing, and tasting the scrumptious food. A lot of time and work is needed for this project but with the help from teachers and guidance from supporting staff will help make it run smoothly and very worthwhile!


  1. what a fun idea. getting them to learn about other countries and having them use technology. i work with a group of students that are mostly Hispanic. this would be a great way to have them teach each other. we also provide a cooking class. they could look up recipes and prepare them for each other. and i work with the kids twice a week. so this could spread out in a longer spanned of time. this would be an interesting activity to do with them because some of them don't know there family background and they would have a chance to find out. thank for the great article.

  2. Sounds like a great project - I would love to find a way to use something similar in my class. I only wish my Spanish in highschool was as fun as this one sounds! I like the additions you would have made to the lesson, and like you said this project would definatly take some time to complete. Sounds like a fun article... I expecially liked the idea of using the chili peppers as a grading tool - that way it's more fun for the students rather than it beingmore high stakes. Good job!