The Art of War: Problem-based learning unit
The Art of War is my unit title for teaching about Guernica. I started this unit a few years ago as a middle school teacher, and now that I am at a high school, it blossomed considerably. Our finale to the Spanish Civil War unit, for which you can access information here, was this mini-unit on Guernica, which includes a PBL action component. After learning about the reasons undergirding this powerful piece of protest art, students had to dig deep and find a cause that was Guernica worthy and start the creative process of bringing awareness to their issue. Guernica was our inspiration or muse for the resultant personal projects (collages are below, but this is only the first part). You can see the planning documents and first part of the projects below.
Starting with Guernica
To pique students' interest in Guernica, I used a few videos on the subject from Youtube, one being this awesome trailer of Guernica to the left. Although students had some familiarity with the topic, due to our unit on the Spanish Civil War unit, they were very interested in this trailer, and of course, they wanted to watch the movie (maybe just to pass the time in class).
Click here for Trailer
Guernica 3D video
Prior to the video that is highlighted below, I projected the painting of Guernica and had students jot down what they observed. Students could readily identify the following:
- El toro
- Las personas
- La luz
We discussed how the painting portrayed the atrocity of Guernica, and students responded accordingly. I asked them to list and to add an interpretation of each of the items they pointed out.
Side note, the last time I implemented this unit, I had the Guernica Image painting enlarged. I had 15 printed and students gathered around in groups to view, more microscopically, the elements of the painting. This year, I had a different approach. I found this really nifty video on Youtube video that showed the painting three-dimensionally. The room was silent as students were so tuned-in to the slow moving pieces parading across the screen.
Short Expository Video about Guernica
Click here for the video
We watched this quick video about Guernica in Spanish. It supported the first video, because it give an interpretation of the events. The video does not have subtitles, but I stopped periodically and asked questions such as:
1. ¿Quién estuvo en París?
2. ¿Qué hacía el hombre en París?
3. ¿Cuáles fueron las ciudades bombadeadas?
4. ¿Qué significa la bombilla?
After learning about Guernica and the causes that compelled Picasso to denounce the Fascist campaign. Students had to develop their own artistic "campaigns" that were "Guernica worthy." Below is the first page of the packet that recapped "el siniestro" and led-in to their project.
Here is what followed (this was done over two 90- minute classes, I think):
2. After thinking and discussing the issues, I gave them this article that I compiled and modified from sources online. It is from the #Niunamenos Campaign, decrying the violence against women in Spain. I listen to Radio National every morning, and this was central to much of the reporting.
3. Students read the article, responded to the questions (the usual).
4. They were given the prompt below, which was a collage I put together on the issue of #Niunamenos, to give them an example of a powerful issue (this was to weed out topics such as "Call of Duty is the best game ever!). For this collage, students had to choose 6-7 powerful images that would visually depict their topic. The goal was to:
-Conduct preliminary research on their issue
-Present the collage to the teacher first, for an oral interview.
The collage is one of several assessments and products we are producing. Students will eventually create a presentation of their issue to create awareness of other learners of the language (some class time was devoted to research, which was carefully scaffolded through the packet information). Stay tuned so your students can check them out!
Side note: prior to speaking about their collage, they had a quick write (best idea ever!). For this quick write, they could discuss any part of their project that chooses. It was not graded but will give them feedback right in time for the next writing assignment.
Below are some examples of student collages. Today they had their interview, where they explained their problem, causes and effects and solutions that have been attempted in solving the issue.
Since they have been working on this for a few classes, I was really impressed with how knowledgeable students were when presenting their problems. Students who struggled with fluency in the beginning of the year had grown leaps and bounds from the structure and constantly revisiting their research.
You'll notice that most collages have words around them. I had the research 15 words related to their topic and post around the boards of the collage. When they had their interviews, most incorporated these words naturally into their discourse. Some of the topics were:
La pobreza entre los veteranos
El blanqueamiento de la comunidad Latinx
(the packet they received walked them through every aspect of the research!)
TED Talk Quality Presentations in Spanish (update)
Click below on the project
Project on the Refugee Crisis
This PBLL project is the most fun, yet challenging undertaking I have done all year. What seemed like a similar task, has unfolded into a complex set of steps that required more scaffolding, more thinking out of the box and more experimentation. I let me kids know today " hey, I am planning as we go, so be patient." However, the ad hoc planning at times has paid off. Although it seems like it is being dragged out (we dedicate a class period to the specific part of the project), but I have to say, that the time spent each class on crafting a specific part of the project, is paying off in "quality dividends."
After creating a collage of their problem, students engaged in research to properly define their problem in Spanish. This part of the project lent itself to "grammar lessons on demand" I gave them the planning sheets below to help them get started. For the initial steps they had to:
1. Define the problem (present/ past)
2. Describe why the problem was complex (present)
3. Describe the cause/effect relationship with respect to people populations and the environment (past tenses)
4. Discuss solutions that have been attempted to solve the problem (past, present/ present perfect)
5. What would happen if... (conditional/subjunctive)?
This project highlights an organization founded in Chicago to help child victims of human trafficking. These students wanted to shed light on the plight of children in Africa and in other countries and the challenges that they faced. Their presentation was amazing! Furthermore, they held meetings in school to bridge together support.
Click here to see this presentation.
Crafting a Creative Title
Yesterday, we spent the better half of class generating titles for our projects. The goal was to come up with a topic that was an attention-grabber. Below are the examples of some of the intriguing ones:
Tema: El matrimonio forzado
Título: La cadena perpetúa: las niñas esposas
Tema: El abuso de los trabajadores en Qatar
Título: Tarjeta roja para Qatar: los nuevos esclavos.
Crafting a Powerful Introduction (en español)
Well, if you are going to have a creative title, you better back it up with a dynamic and engaging introduction. This is what we worked on today! Part of my push for having an attention-grabbing, thought-provoking introduction, is to ensure that students do their topic justice. Some have chosen really complex issues, and they to step up to the plate and give convincing testimonies. Also, I am sooo tired of students starting their introduction with the same "ole" Mi proyecto es sobre.... I decided to spice it up a bit and introduce some powerful ways to present. I am reading a book called Talk Like Ted , so these techniques crept into this unit.
I gave students four options for engaging their audience. I read an article regarding techniques for capturing the audience's attention within the first 60 seconds of the presentation, and we went while. They choose from the following:
1. Use of an anecdote (historieta). One group is presenting on Child Labor in Ghana, and they are telling a short story of one of the children affected by the lack of protections in the fishing industry.
2. Share a shocking statistic
3. Thought-provoking questions
4. Invite the audience to experience something through the lens of another (Imagina que.., Qué tal si tú)
I am encouraging students to use two techniques, to add to the richness.
I administered the sheet below and provided options in addition to the structures that students would most likely choose for each of the sections (Introduction/Body/Conclusion).
Feedback from students
Many students who struggled with output are finding that writing, talking, creating, etc, with regards to their projects are really helping. One student, I spoke with today, for the first time was very fluent in his speech. As I reflected, I realized that had multiple "touches" with the topic. The repetition and constantly explaining is helping. It is also a project that they are passionate about.
Gracias for checking out my blog post!
Once these projects are completed, my students will post them for other Spanish learners to see. I hope your students could check them out!
Project regarding LBQT rights
This project highlighted the plight of individuals who identify themsleves as LBQT+.