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Using PBL in Spanish

Using PBL in Spanish

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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-

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Don Doehla, MA, NBCT's picture
Don Doehla, MA, NBCT
2015 California Language Teacher of the Year, Co-Director Berkeley WL Project at UC Berkeley Language Center

Yes, indeed. is the primary source for how to do PBL in most subjects, but there is not much for Languages yet. The model for authentic PBL stems from the 8 elements codified by BIE. Those 8 elements include:

- Significant content: for WL that means the languages we teach and the cultural contexts for them.

- 21st Century skills: specifically, Critical Thinking, Creativity, Collaboration and Communication (i.e., presentation skills)

These two lie at the core of authentic PBL.

The other 6 elements support the acquisition of the content and skills:

- a driving question = this guides the students in the development of their projects, and ensures that they stay focused. In WL, I have found questions such as these work well:
"How can we, as ____ (think of a role here - historians, journalists, tour guides, humanitarian workers...), ______ (language function goes here - describe, communicate, explain, ask and answer questions...) about _____ (topic: the culinary heritage of X country) by creating a/an ______ (product = a restaurant, an informational campaign....). Just a starting point, to be sure.

- in-depth inquiry = not just rote information, but deeper knowledge in response to the driving question

- A need to know = motivates the students to dig!

- Student voice and choice = when students get to make some choices, wherever we can offer them, they are more likely to take more ownership of the learning!

- Revision and Reflection - so students can get peer feedback about their work at different entry points along the way, and coaching from their teacher(s) as well, so they can revise and address any missing elements they may have overlooked

- A Publicly presented product = this adds a layer of affirmation to the students' work!

I recommend this page of content I have collected...

This article:

And this video as well:

Happy digging!!

Mr. José Alberto's picture
Mr. José Alberto
Tenth grade English Teacher

Thank you very much for your accurate and useful information about how to explain and start a PBL with my students. I knew some strategies but yours is very specific for TFL.

Jose Alberto Lopez

Ana Siqueira's picture
Ana Siqueira
Pre-K to 8th grade Spanish teacher

I have done a Top Chef project where my students studied food from Peru, then made a survey before choosing their menus, made a menu, prepared a recipe mixing ingredients from Peru plus United States typical food and then prepared and brought their plates to be judged by parents and teachers. They've loved and they have learned a lot. Now I'm trying to think about a project where my 8th students will create/produce a mini olympics for my 6th graders to participate. The 6th graders will need to create their characters and get power points according to certain criteria. If anybody can give me ideas about this project, I would appreciate. It's just in my head right now.

joe's picture

Hello, I am new to this entire concept. I received my graduate degrees in literature with an expanses on medieval Spain. However, I am teaching at a public school and I am searching for anything . I have read about PBL, and it sounds what I need. Remember I am a newbie at this, so please, any help, ideas, or even criticism would he most welcome.

Don Doehla, MA, NBCT's picture
Don Doehla, MA, NBCT
2015 California Language Teacher of the Year, Co-Director Berkeley WL Project at UC Berkeley Language Center

Welcome to the conversation, Joe. Glad to help!

I would start with pointing you to some resources I cited earlier in this conversation, because as a newbie to PBLL (project-based language learning), you will benefit from some "comprehensible input" (as we WL types call it!) to start.

I recommend my own website for PBLL to start - not to be self promoting! - simply because I have put together in one place a lot of material to help make sense of it all. My website is at:

I have pages devoted to what is PBL, PBL essentials, as well as articles and videos. Further down, I have posted some example projects, with others to follow, hopefully soon!

I also highly recommend looking at the great resources here on Edutopia. This link will take you to the main page for PBL on Edutopia's site:

If you search on our site for World Languages, you will find specific ideas for our content area.

One more great resource is The Buck Institute for Education, with Edutopia, is the main source for all things PBL. You will find great documentation about the rationale for PBL, and in addition, there are rubrics, planning forms, and on-line courses to take at BIE.

I am not sure where you are on the planet, Joe, but if you are in California, I will be doing an all day workshop at the upcoming California Language Teachers Association conference in Sacramento in February. There is information about the conference at

I think this will get you started! Please feel free to post again if you have more questions!

Best wishes on your journey into PBLL,


CWurm's picture

Though initially I thought I was venturing into PBL this year for the first time, I realize as I have read more that the Oral Final Exam I have been giving for years to Spanish I and II students is, indeed PBL. I am excited to read more and streamline the process, as well as look for meaningful projects as I take on Spanish III this year for the first time in a while.

Ana Siqueira's picture
Ana Siqueira
Pre-K to 8th grade Spanish teacher

I did the following projects:
1. What will be the best recipe mixing Peruvian ingredients and recipes with American ingredients and recipes? A top chef with judges were done as the project culmination. Students brought their cooked plates for a judge taste.
2. If a children from Mexico would come here, what you be the best places for him/her to visit? Students created guides of activities based on their research about Mexicans favorite hobbies.
3. If Central-American migrants and Syrian refugees children would come to our school, what changes (physical and cultural) should we make to receive them better?
4. Plan a virtual trip to a Hispanic country.
5. After researching Guatemala and watching the documentary "Living with one dollar in Guatemala," students create a chart of how they would survive there with one dollar per day during 7 days. Compare how you would survive here with $1.00 a day.
6. Camino- create your own route from the school to another place.
7. Pretend you are in one Hispanic capital, go to the site "Rome to Rio" and choose activities to do. You do not have a car, how you will get from one place to another.
8. I-earn - alternate reality- (this is paid)
9. Build your own altar and plan your party for "Dia de los Muertos."

Don Doehla, MA, NBCT's picture
Don Doehla, MA, NBCT
2015 California Language Teacher of the Year, Co-Director Berkeley WL Project at UC Berkeley Language Center

Hello friends, thanks for the great discussion about projects and PBLL. There are some great ideas to think about here!

I would simply like to add into the discussion a thread about the difference between doing projects and doing project-based language-learning, or PBLL. Many of the great ideas you are sharing sound fun for students and much more meaningful than a lot of the things in our textbook! However, a project and PBLL are not the same thing. What is more, we can do a project which involves collaboration and inquiry, but it still will not be PBLL unless it has all the essential design elements to align the project to PBLL. I would like to suggest that we all examine the model as outlined by in this article:

Even my article on PBLL here on Edutopia is sue for an update, but here is the link in case you want to think about the differences between projects and PBLL:

If I can help with the discussion about how to create a World Languages unit aligned the 8 essential elements of PBL then I will be happy to jump into the discussion again! Please feel free to post your questions and musings in this same thread!

Wishing us all a wonderful end of summer and a fabulous new school year. It is coming sooner than we think!


mmorrow's picture

Don~ I have been following you for a couple of years now and have played with PBL off and on in my Spanish class. I'm currently taking a PBL grad course to help me out a bit more. I am using an example (The Menu Project) you provided a few years ago as a tool when referencing projects.
My biggest concern when using PBL in my classroom is the evaluation piece. I'm sure you've answered this before, but how to I create a rubric that fits so many production options?

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