Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Hispanic World from the Perspective of an 8th Grader ~ written by Rhounda de Windt

About the project:
The objective of this group of lessons is for students to be able to focus on several aspects of
Students searching Google Images for photos
that depict life in the countries they research. 
life in Hispanic countries through the eyes of an globally aware person. By researching relevant aspects:  geography, economy, government, culture and other aspects of interest and finding information they share with their classmates during a Google doc presentation. Students are applying most, if not all of the competencies to prepare them for the 21st century.

This is a self-directed project where students are collaborating in pairs to apply  their skills as literate researchers to accomplish the task. They are allowed to display limited information on the images and have to use their skills as effective communicators in the target language to share what they know about  the different countries so the whole class will become more globally aware. After each presentation the students will receive feedback from their peers on use of language, content of work and presentation skills.

Using Google:
This is the 3rd year that  I am requiring the students to submit projects in Google Docs. This
Students design and customize their
presentations in Google Slides.
allows the students to work simultaneously on the same document, and me as a teacher, to preview presentations and give individual  feedback. I find that the program is convenient in some aspects, such as ease of sharing and organizing the finished presentations. 

In addition to being convenient during the project itself, using Google has other benefits as well. For example, the students will have these projects available to them and saved in their own Google Drive for future reference, so they can track their own progress by comparing their own level of proficiency and looking back at previous assignments.   

Student Growth and Progress:
I have been a  judge at the 8th grade exit assessment for 2 years and projects like these allow
Students use Google Advanced Search to find
information published in the countries they research. 
the students to hone their presentation skills while putting all the competencies in gear. At the end of the last 2 school-years, students came up to me to tell me how much the assignments in Spanish class had taught them how  to prepare for and present information in front of an audience. 

Since these projects are mostly self-directed, I give advice on how to present images for better impact; how to find more relevant information; how to present more important matters first; to determine the relevance of the information they provide and of course on the use of the target language.

Students use Google Maps to view street view images
of the countries they research.
Students expressed to me that they realized, through this project, how little they previously knew about the Hispanic world. Many of the ideas they possessed were misconceptions, and one student admitted, "I thought they were only vacation spots."  

Through their research, they learned facts and gained an appreciation for the contributions of the Hispanic countries that were researched. For example, students learned that fingerprinting, the bus, ballpoint pens, and the first artificial heart all came from Argentina. Students have also shared with me connections they are making to what they study in social studies. One student remarked that when John McCain was presented as a person born in Panama, they realized that he was able to run for president of the United States because he was born in an American zone in Panama. This represents some of the critical thinking and application of prior knowledge that this research project invoked.

Moving Forward:
Now we're going to continue to debunk stereotypes about the Hispanic world, by focusing on
We conference throughout the project, discussing
what is working well and what can be improved.
the people and their accomplishments. From group and pair projects, the students are now going to be working on individual presentations. Following lessons on art and accomplishments of people from different walks of life, and lessons focusing on vocabulary that describes admiration and appreciation, the students will undertake two projects.  

In the first project, the students will become a famous Hispanic, researching the life and accomplishments of this person and how they have contributed to society, and present in the first person. The second project will allow the students to transfer all of this knowledge to describe a person, of any background or nationality -- even a family member, who has made a difference or is making a difference now.

~Rhounda de Windt
Spanish Teacher
Grover Middle School

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