July 25, 2019
Jamie Lincow

Besides teaching my students how to effectively communicate in Spanish, I also motivate them to travel throughout the Spanish-speaking world and become global citizens. Taking high school students on field trips out of the country is a daunting feat nowadays, but with the use of the internet in our classrooms, we can easily travel virtually to many distant countries.

One of my favorite projects that entices students to travel and incorporates authentic language use is the creation of a backpacking trip through Latin America. With the help of the internet, my students devise week-long trips throughout Central and South America that identify authentic activities they would like to do. They are required to find a hotel or hostel, restaurants, transportation, and tours during their stay. Additionally, I like to include a historical component so that students uncover information and evidence of the precolonial era. Therefore, one of the days of the trip must be spent at a local, indigenous ruin. The only constraint is the $1,000 budget for each backpacker, which encourages the students to look at authentic prices of meals, lodging, and activities for the week. 

In order to describe the montage of photos, virtual tours, and videos that the students find while planning their trip, they are required to write a script in the form of a podcast. Working in pairs, the students identify their routes and offer elaborations on the pictures that they choose to include. The script serves as the grammar component of the project. I incorporate the use of the subjunctive, and I require my students to use the subjunctive tense in four different contexts: manipulation, emotion, impersonal expressions, and doubt.

The use of the subjunctive mood can be as complex or simple as the student desires, and it encourages them to utilize the tense in a most authentic manner. For example, some groups use manipulation in their podcast by telling their listeners what they need to bring on the trip: Queremos que traigas tu pasaporte. For others, the emotion is used when they talk about how excited they are to take the trip:  Estamos muy emocionados que viajemos juntos en este viaje. The impersonal expression can be used to tell the listeners about what is important or necessary: Es importante que sigas a la guía durante la excursión. Finally, students can incorporate doubt by using the verbs negar o dudar: Dudamos que este plato cueste mucho dinero. By allowing the students to invent the scenarios in their script, they can practice how to use the subjunctive mood in context and in a real world scenario. 

To make this project feel like a real podcast, I encourage my students to use the Screencastify tool, which allows them to record their voices over a montage of pictures and to incorporate videos seamlessly into the collage. After a simple tutorial in the classroom, the students can record their voices over any program in which they house their slideshow of pictures. In our classroom, we use Google Slides to house the photos and videos, and most students embed a YouTube link directly into the slide to show a video that they have found. This project is appropriate for world language students of all levels. While I choose to incorporate the use of subjunctive as a requirement, you can easily include the grammar topic you are working on in your curriculum. For example, you can highlight the imperfect and preterite by requiring the students describe a trip that they took in the past, or you can use the future and conditional tenses to have them describe what type of trip they will or would take. The objectives are very adaptable to allow for multiple types of grammar in the scripts, and the ability to navigate authentic websites in foreign countries sparks students’ interest level. Furthermore, the connection to the indigenous world provides a cross-curricular connection with your school’s history or world studies department.

If this type of project sparks your interest, check out my publication Cultural Connections in the Spanish Classroom, which is full of similar assessments and projects, and even includes rubrics that are aligned to AP® standards.    

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