Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Talking to Middle School Spanish Students about How to Use Spanish in Their Daily Lives

by Ann Abbott

It is always a pleasure for me to stay in touch with my former students. I love seeing how they develop in their personal and professional lives. And when they continue to have Spanish in their lives long after graduation, I'm especially thrilled.

I accepted this invitation from my former student Samantha Sutton, and I am looking forward to seeing her (albeit via Skype), her students and their project.

Dear ​Ann​,
​I hope you are doing well and are staying warm during this fantastic winter. ​
We are excited to  begin our very first PBL​ (Problem-Based Learning) experience​ in Spanish class! To read more on our PBL work in D41, please go to

Beginning March 7, our 7th grade students will begin their PBL where the students will be placed in collaborative groups to solve the following problem: By the end of 8th grade, you will have invested two years in learning the Spanish language and culture. How do you plan on using what you’ve learned? Are there ample opportunities for you do so? Unfortunately, most students do not use their new language skills and knowledge; therefore, they lose what they have learned. How can students use their Spanish outside of school? Create an action plan that current and future foreign language students could use in order to retain their language skills and cultural knowledge. You will present your plan to educators, community members, and foreign language experts.
In order to help the students solve this problem, we are hoping to invite experts in to speak with our students as an element of their research. This would take place during our classes the week of March 2nd.
Would you be interested in  speaking about this issue  to our class as an expert in foreign language? 
We would love to have you in person​​, but I know that may be difficult due to the distance.  We could even do the interview via Skype.

I appreciate your time and consideration of my request! I look forward to hearing from you soon!  I am also copying Hillary Shumate on this email as she is our PBL Coach and would be working with us to coordinate any guest speakers.
Samantha Sutton 7th & 8th Grade Spanish Teacher; Foreign Language Department Chair Hadley Junior High
And here is a message a received with more details. These students are doing fascinating work!

Their essential questions are:
  • How does one best learn a foreign language?
  • Why should someone want to keep their Spanish skills?
  • How does one best use a foreign language?
  • Why is it important to immerse yourself in a foreign culture?
  • Why is studying a foreign language important?

Their driving/guiding questions are (and students will think of more):
  • How does one best learn and retain a foreign language?
  • What are the benefits of studying a foreign language? (brain research, marketability, careers, college acceptance, global awareness)
  • Where can people go to experience authentic culture and language immersion?
  • What’s offered within our community to experience language and culture?
  • What types of experiences are lacking within our school/community to practice speaking Spanish?
  • What percentage of our community (District 41)  is Spanish speaking? 

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