Teach with creativity

Challenges. Students study a cultural product such as common buildings in the target culture (e.g. fire station, government building). They specifically study the physical features of the building and learn some practices as well. For example, pharmacies have green crosses on them in Spain and do not require prescriptions. Next, students are given a set of random materials such as spaghetti, tin foil, crayons, paper, 12 inches of tape, paper plates, and cups. In groups of 3-4, students are given 15 minutes to create a target city from Spain with at least two typical buildings. Students work to create a target culture city, working to construct a simple replica of the buildings. Next, they present their city discussing layout and describing the buildings and some key practices in their city.

Sample Activity

Visual Art. Students use imitation to recreate a piece of artwork from a target language culture. Make a large color copy or use a poster and cut it up into pieces approximately the size of half a sheet of paper.  Students will each get a piece and will go home and try and recreate their piece on paper using pencil.  They then bring their copy of the piece; you put all the pieces together and see if you can recreate the original painting. The class then discusses the work of the artist, the technique, the significance of the piece culturally and historically. A deeper examination can consider whether the artist is from that culture or an outsider inspired by it (such as Eugène Delacroix who painted Les Femmes d’Alger dans leur appartement). If he or she is an outsider, how does that change their treatment of the subject and what qualifies someone to be an insider? If time allows the class can focus on details within a painting such as the presence of certain objects, clothing choices, and inclusion of certain individuals or groups. For example, murals by Diego Rivera, a Mexican artist, include figures of black slaves.

 Ambassador Project (the whole project). Each student signs up for a different country where the TL is spoken. Over the course of the semester or a given period of time each is responsible for independently finding information about his or her country. Each unit, chapter or concept can be tied to the project so they find information about employment in a unit on professions, for example, weaving together the course content and culture. This requires the students to find sources, verify their credibility, organize it thoughtfully, reflect on it, and engage in discussion with peers to share and learn from each other. As time goes on students will discover more and more about their own countries and those their peers chose. The attached worksheet asks students to consult two sources, one in their native language, the other in the TL. This can be modified for more advanced students. Similarly, discussions in class can take place completely in the TL for advanced students and with adequate scaffolding, for beginning and intermediate students as well.

Sample Activity

Street Art. Street art has garnered more attention in recent years as have those who create it. It is common around the world and is viewed as anything from a subversive, criminal act to a highly artistic means of expression. In this series of activities, the teacher leads students in a discussion about street art, particularly in the target culture.   Students visit an online collection of street art, such as one found on Google’s Art Project []. The students’ art viewing experience is scaffolded by a series of tasks, including using a graphic organizer, and ultimately use the presentational mode to share their favorite piece of art with the class.

Extension: Working in pairs, students select the piece of street art they would most like to reproduce. The students will then make their own “street art” on large sheets of paper to be hung around the school. Students will also write an artist’s statement in the target language to be posted next to the art, explaining the piece and how they chose to interpret it.

Sample Activity