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Project based learning is all the hype these days, and for a good reason! Giving students the opportunity to apply the skills they are learning in class to solve complex, real-world problems helps students develop a deep understanding of the content learned. Students develop problem-solving skills, communication skills, and creativity. For dual language teachers, this is also an excellent opportunity to get our students to use the target language in a real-life scenario. If you haven’t tried a project based learning activity in your dual language classroom yet, I have the perfect idea for you! Just keep reading.
If you want to give this activity a try but don’t want to spend time creating ALL THE THINGS… I got you covered! I have this entire activity available for purchase at my TPT store. Just click here to check it out!
What are PBL activities?
A project based learning activity is designed to have students apply multiple skills learned in class to come up with a solution to a real-world problem or accomplish a complex task. They often incorporate multiple subject areas, as well.
For example, students can be asked to design a new playground for their community. They are given a budget, a set of playground equipment they can purchase, and the dimensions of the playground area. The students have to figure out which equipment to buy while staying under budget, where to place each piece of equipment given the area of the playground, and how to advertise the new playground to their community.
A project based learning activity can take days or weeks to complete. Students can work independently, with a partner, or with a group. They can work on these during their math station time, enrichment period, or as a whole-class project. They are also great for those weeks in the year when you have a little more “wiggle room,” such as the week before Christmas or the last weeks of school.
Three reasons why project based learning works
The benefits of doing a project based learning activity with your students include:
💙 using critical thinking to solve a real-world problem;
💙 learning to collaborate with others;
💙 using communication skills to explain your ideas to a group of people;
💙 using creative thinking to come up with innovative ideas (thinking outside of the box);
💙 applying skills learned in class in a way that reflects how these skills are used outside of the classroom;
💙 fun and engaging;
💙 easily differentiated.
My favorite Spanish project based learning activity
As a dual language teacher, I knew I wanted a project based learning activity in Spanish to use with my students. I wanted my students to use Spanish to accomplish a complex task. So when I couldn’t find anything that fit the bill, I created my own Spanish project based learning activity.
I wanted an activity that:
💙 incorporated multiple skills
💙 allowed my students to work together
💙 was engaging and fun
💙 gave my students a chance to create a project they could share with the world
So I decided that my students would step in the shoes of a theater producer and create a puppet show. When I first told my students about this project based learning activity, I expected they would be a little nervous about it. To my surprise, they were super excited! I don’t think I ever saw them work so hard before.
How does this project based learning activity work
Step One – Brainstorming
In this Spanish project based learning activity, students assume the role of a theater producer. They begin by brainstorming ideas of what their puppet show would be about using a circle map. Some of the questions they answer using this map are:
💙 What will the story be about?
💙 Who will the characters be?
💙 What will the setting be?
💙 How will they earn enough money to cover the costs of the show?
💙 How will they advertise the show?
Then, they use a four-square graphic organizer to finish fleshing out their ideas for the story. Although they are not writing a script for the show, knowing the plot of the story is essential to this activity. They need to be able to design costumes, choose a background, and create ads for the show. They can’t do that effectively if they don’t know what the show is about.
I have an extension writing activity that we work on in conjunction with this PBL activity. In that activity, students write and perform their puppet shows. I have an entire blog post about that activity that you can find here.
Step 2: Design the puppets for the puppet show
In this step, my students use a “catalog” of costume options to design the puppets for their show. They use an expense report page to keep track of how much they are spending on each puppet. I limit the number of characters to four, but you don’t have to do that.
This step involves a lot of math. My students have to add up the cost to design each puppet, and then add them all together.
Step 3: Choose a setting
For this step, I give my students a “catalog” of settings they can select from. Depending on their stories, they may choose just one setting or multiple settings. I limit the number of settings they can choose to three, but you don’t have to do that.
They use the expense report to calculate how much money they will be spending on all the settings for the show.
Step 4: Advertisements
Because I don’t give my students a specific budget to start with, they have to determine how much money they need to make in ticket sales to cover the costs of their production. So, they need to make sure people come to their show. They do that through advertisement.
My students can choose different forms of advertisement. Each type has a different cost and reaches a different number of people. The theater has 100 seats, which means they should try to reach at least 100 people with their ads. Ad options are Facebook, billboards, newspapers, and TV commercials. My students choose which ads they want to use, calculate their costs, and create a design for them. This is the perfect opportunity for my students to practice their persuasion skills.
Step 5: Calculate total costs
Now that my students are done with the design portion of the activity, they start to work on their budget. They calculate all the costs of producing the show and figure out how much they need to charge for each ticket in order to cover all their expenses.
Step 6: Sell your tickets!
This step is totally optional, but my students love it! Plus, it is a great way to build community within your school building.
For this step, I take my students’ ads and display them outside of our classroom. Next to each ad, I place a purchase form. I also add a desk with some pens outside to make it easier for our “buyers.” Once everything is set up, I send an email to other teachers in my building asking for their support. Teachers bring their classes, and they choose, based on the ads they saw, which shows they would like to watch. They record their purchases on the purchase form. For example, if five students in Mrs. Smith’s class want to go to Johnny’s show, Mrs. Smith would write her class name (Mrs. Smith’s class) and the number of tickets they need on Johnny’s purchase form.
Step 7: Sales report and reflection
After about a week of “sales,” my students grab their purchase forms from the bulletin board outside our classroom and add up their sales.
Then, they complete a reflection sheet to determine how successful they were. Reflection questions include:
💙 How much money did they spend?
💙 Did they sell enough tickets to cover their costs?
💙 If not, how much more money would they need to make?
💙 What would they do differently if they had an opportunity to start over?
There you have it! My favorite Spanish project based learning activity. This activity checks all the right boxes for me and keeps my language learners working on the target language in an authentic way.