What do Aztec bug paste, the nuances of Flamenco dance, and the Galician delicacy gooseneck barnacles (percebes) have in common? Student-driven project-based learning in Spanish class, of course! This spring, fourth and fifth graders embarked on a unit on Spanish culture which they themselves designed and executed. First, students created a larger than life KWL chart, including everything they know and want to know about Spanish culture and devising their own definition of culture in the process. They then utilized graphic organizers created for this unit to brainstorm points of inquiry surrounding the topics and countries they chose. Topics sprang from their work on the KWL chart and ranged from food to dance to Mesoamerica to art and beyond. After choosing topics and countries to research, fourth and fifth graders grappled with the question of what shape the product of their research would take.
With the expert help of Ms. Paine, students accessed a wealth of resources, both from a Google site she built based on student topics, and from an array of print materials she amassed. Students also received rubrics for each step of the project which provided the requisite rigor for project-based learning, and assessed themselves as the unit progressed. They collaborated within a given structure and made real-world connections. So, is the proof in the pudding? Yes! Students presented their projects to each other and were both amazed and engaged. An iMovie on the Ancient Mayan? A hand-sewn flamenco dress to accompany a specially choreographed dance? A skit on Carnival in Bolivia and Honduras complete with refreshments from those countries and a hand-made carnival mask? All these products and many more sprang from the project-based learning unit in which students took ownership and responsibility for their own learning, persevered, and truly earned the adjective
~ Kathleen McLean
LS & MS Spanish Teacher