Make the connection!

Posted by Megan Smith on April 23, 2015 in 4 Assessments, Homes, PBL, World

When students ask the question “Why are we learning this?” I think it’s a valid one. What we teach in class should have some connection to the students’ futures and it’s super important kids see those connections.

Our district teamed up with Ford for a project called Next Generation Learning. Teachers in all content areas have been challenged and guided in the task of using project-based learning. Long story short, PBL is a strategy where students learn by actively exploring real-world problems and challenges. I’ve been working with business teachers to help our students to see that Spanish skills will come in handy in future jobs and careers. PBL worked well in Spanish 3, but why not try a mini-project in level 1?

So after learning about families around the world and houses, I asked my students… Why would it benefit you to know how to describe a house in Spanish? They listed a few good ideas and then someone mentioned real estate. Most students knew what a realtor was, but none knew how they earned a living. Uh oh… here comes a math lesson!

I didn’t plan to teach this, and it wasn’t a long drawn out class, but we took this time in English to talk about future work opportunities. We talked about commissions and ran numbers on pretend potential sales. Some talked about traveling and renting an apartment in another country.

Then I posed this question: Where can you get the best house for the best price?

Then they were on their own to figure it out. Their job was to create a flyer showing comparing different houses, including prices, pictures, maps, and a description.

We used for our searches and the learning began…

Screenshot 2015-04-23 at 7.52.45 PM

I heard students teaching each other how to convert currencies and checking the map to find out where certain countries were located. I heard one student ask another how much houses in Louisville (where we live) cost. So they Googled it! They were beyond curious to see houses and prices and students were able to give opinions and basic information about these houses by the end of the lesson!


*Warning: Real student work contains errors. These were created by real kids (not grammar gold medalists).

Now true PBL would say students need to present findings to an authentic audience and that never happened. Next time!  (There is no reason not to try a project just because it’s not perfect. We all have to start somewhere!)

Student successes: They learned about a real career and how commission works, researched in the TL, learned about currency conversions, picked up new vocab on their own, used tech to compile their research, and picked out cultural differences in American vs. Hispanic homes…

My favorite moment: At the end of one class I heard one kid say “I think I want to be a Realtor now” and the friend said “I just want to move to another country!”

What’s happening in your classroom? How do you make connections between lessons and life?




15 comments for “Make the connection!”

  1. Kara says:

    My last group of students were very interested in jobs/careers! I changed up one of the district’s units about traveling abroad and hotels to be about working at an airport or hotel in Louisville. It was more relevant to their lives.

  2. Tanya says:

    Great ideas! I will share with my district teschers!

    Any ideas out there regarding a Spanish II shopping chapter? We are planning a mini fashion show, where a partner walks and the other partner describes what they’re wearing, a Who wore it best or best/worst dressed magazine page of actual celebrities, a school shopping list based on clothing websites in the target country and a student-created video of a shopping trip. Any other ideas? The unit is roughly based on Expresate’s Spanish 2 chapter 8. Thanks!

    1. Megan Smith says:

      I’m going through the shopping unit now too. I had an awesome few days creating modern interpretations of traditional Hispanic styles… I’ll be posting pics soon!

  3. Tanya says:

    We incorporated the following into our Spanish 2 food chapter:
    Students got authentic Puerto Rican current menus downloaded from the internet and had to create short 6 line conversations between clients and waitstaff based on task cards and the menus. Examples: what would you order at this restaurant and how would you order it?; you ordered your food at this restaurant, but a hot dish arrived cold and another is too salty, how would you express this to the waiter?; you are at this restaurant you love, but it’s the first time your friend has been there. Suggest a few things as they ask about certain dishes and for suggestions.

    Each student kept a food log for a week (in English) and then translated their daily intake as a warmup the next day. At the end of the week, they had to recreate a food pyramid with a partner in a poster by looking up “piramide alimenticia” online. They added what they ate each day & then each added a paragraph answering questions like: How do you eat, well or badly? Of what do you eat enough? What food are you lacking in your diet? What should you do to improve your daily intake? Etc.
    Finally, students had to submit a Puerto Rican recipe to make for a 2-min video food demo with a partner at the end of the chapter. As we studied foods and kitchen utensils in Soanish, they translated their ingredients; we reviewed informal & formal commands and they located all the verbs in their recipe and converted them to commands; we studied direct object pronouns, past participles as adjective and adverbs with “mente” and students had to find places in their demo scripts or recipes to use examples of these appropriately (sirve el postre horneado a tus amigos. ¡Sírveselo 5 minutos después desacarlo! No se lo sirvas inmediatamente porque estará demasiado caliente.) finally, Students record and edit their videos while making the dish and present the video and dish to the class. A recipe book by class can also be created.

  4. Kareh says:

    This is a GREAT idea!! My favorite part of the post is your disclaimer about it being student work! Grammar gold medalists…ja ja ja

    1. Karen says:

      I am no typing gold medalist…my name is Karen

      1. Megan Smith says:

        Ha! We don’t judge here 🙂

  5. Loooooove this idea!

    1. Megan Smith says:

      Gracias, Karly!

  6. Ivonne Rovira says:

    How fantastic, Megan! Forget about Grammar Gold Medalist! I think your Spanish 1s are amazing! Of course, they have an amazing teacher!!!!

    1. Megan Smith says:

      Gracias, Ivonne! So sweet! Hope you’ve had a good year! I never see you anymore!

  7. Christina Turpin says:

    This is amazing creativity! I want to work with you guys!

    1. Megan Smith says:

      haha! Move to Louisville! My school would love it!

  8. Brittany says:

    I did something similar to this, but I love your idea more! (definitely implementing it more next year!)
    In our book, the unit was household objects and rooms. The country of study was Ecuador; therefore had my students explore houses and apartments within the area using this site ( The students loved it! They compared / contrasted houses they saw, read through the descriptions of the houses, etc. I was amazed that they were looking up words and understanding the descriptions without my help. Afterwards, I introduced a project and they needed to describe their ideal house or apartment to present to the class as if the audience was a realtor. They used apps (amikasa, room planner, 3d home design) or posters to then present their ideal house to the class. I was amazed with how much more information they included!

  9. Melisa says:

    I see that some of your students used pic collage. Did you have them upload their presentations to a blog? If so, can you offer any advice on how to do this easily?

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