Edutopia on Facebook
Edutopia on Twitter
Edutopia on Google+
Edutopia on Pinterest Follow Me on Pinterest
WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Using PBL in Spanish

Using PBL in Spanish

Related Tags: Project-Based Learning
More Related Discussions
25 Replies 2675 Views

This is my first year teaching in NC and I really like to implement PBL in my Spanish class. Is there anyone who has already tried this? Could we share some ideas. Or maybe any other teacher could give a hand- Highly appreciated-

Comments (25 Replies)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Gloria Garzon's picture
Gloria Garzon
North Carolina Spanish Teacher in High School

Thanks Rita for your input. I was wondering if we could share some lesson planning regarding this issue. Maybe if we share some ideas and implement them we could improve our teaching. Let me know what you think and what we can share.

Rita Callahan's picture
Rita Callahan
High school Spanish teacher from Mississippi

Hi Gloria,

How are things going? I have not implemented PBL yet, but the other hand-on projects we did went well. I plan to reach out to one of the elementary schools to discuss PBL in teaching the younger children Spanish sometime in the spring semester.

Gloria Garzon's picture
Gloria Garzon
North Carolina Spanish Teacher in High School

Hi Rita,
sounds like fun! I have done a couple projects with my classes. Some digital stroy telling and Rewriting some lyrics. Now. I'm starting this idea of having students try recipes and food menus/ Let's see how things turn around. Keep in touch.

Don Doehla, MA, NBCT's picture
Don Doehla, MA, NBCT
Co-Director Berkeley WL Project at UC Berkeley Language Center

I want to encourage a discussion here about the differences between projects and PBL. Not to say that people are not doing good things, but I have found that many think they are doing PBL when in fact they are not exactly following the eight elements of PBL as outlined by BIE.org, and promoted here on Edutopia. That being said, many of the 'projects' we have done in WL, can be adapted and developed into fully aligned PBL units, addressing all 8 elements. If you are interested in exploring this more deeply, I welcome your comments, questions, reflections... We are ere to support and encourage good teaching and learning!

Best wishes on your further inquiry!


Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

Don, you are absolutely right. The key to good PBL is to have a driving question that's interesting and motivating and encourages creativity. A simple, approachable model I think is some of the challenges on shows like project runway or top chef- there's a goal or real world problem, limitations, and the outcome depends on how the team or individual crafts a solution.

mmorrow's picture

I have been teaching Spanish for about 10 years and I'm looking for something new. I feel my students are learning but have no idea how to apply that knowledge. I randomly decided I am going to start doing PBL, without really knowing what it is, and came across these posts in Edutopia and bie.org and read through the the page labeled "What is Project Based Learning?". I mainly teach Spanish 1 and 2 and the thing that concerns me about the list is the "In-depth Inquiry" and "Driving questions". I worry that there isn't a lot of higher level thinking at those levels. Any suggestions?

Don Doehla, MA, NBCT's picture
Don Doehla, MA, NBCT
Co-Director Berkeley WL Project at UC Berkeley Language Center

Hello MMorrow,

Glad to have you join us on Edutopia! I think PBL is an exciting way to engage students in deeper inquiry into real life uses of the target language! You are looking in the right direction to add more dimension to your curriculum.

I have started a website on PBL for World Languages. My website is here. I have created a SlideShare presentation to give an overview of PBL-WL here. You will find some specific details on this page which I used at a recent conference.

Check out the World Languages forum here on Edutopia for some more WL specific discussions we have already been pursuing as well.

Now for some more direct input... Our significant content is the language we teach and the cultural contexts of the peoples who speak the languages we teach. Embedding 21st Century Skills is a fun challenge. Lots of creative tools to use to foster the four C's of communication, creativity, collaboration and critical thinking - these four items alone warrant a full article, however (more on my website about that).

The biggest challenge, however, I have found to be how to make the inquiry accessible IN THE TARGET language at the early stages of acquisition - i.e., levels 1 and 2, but especially level 1. I want to aim at the prime directive - communication skills in the L2. As a result, I think it is most important to ease level 1 students into PBL one step at a time, i.e., by introducing one of the 4 C;s, while maintaining the significant content of our subject area without compromise - I am not keen to have my French 1 students do their research in English (or Spanish, as the case may be in my classes). So when they read for inquiry, I need to scaffold the task to be doable using authentic resources. For example, in a recent unit about foods, we looked at many recipes from the various Francophone cultures around the world.

I also seek to introduce driving questions as part of the overarching theme of a unit. In my food unit, once again, we are looking to answer this question: "How is shopping for food different in other cultures?" This question is accessible in French to level 1 students, without being overly complicated for them to be able to do their research in the target language. I also like to use a web tool like BlendSpace.com to create a play list of resources on the web with I preselect to guide them, posting prompts within the playlist to help the students dig in and figure out the answers.

The point? Until student have reached novice-high fluency, it is a real challenge to do a full PBL-aligned unit in level 1. However, we can lead them to be able to do so by introducing the 8 elements of the BIE model, a step at a time. Start with a solid base of significant content, without compromising to engage in inquiry in English. Prepare them step by step for an eventual fully aligned project when they have some level of proficiency to be able to produce work on the target language. Gradually build capacity for each element, and you will find success, and so will the students!

Most of all, have FUN! PBL is truly a fun way to learn a language and the culture(s) connected to it!

Feel free to post follow up comments and/or questions. And let's look to see what other teachers think as well.

Until next time,


Suzie Boss's picture
Suzie Boss
Journalist and PBL advocate

These are great suggestions, Don!
Another good strategy is to follow PBL-world language allies on Twitter. They often share project ideas and resources. A couple suggestions (along with Don!) include @senoralopez and @sraspanglish

Sign in and Join the Discussion! Not a member? Register to join the discussion.