Increasing Second Language Proficiency Through Music, Dance, and Culture

Nora Rosas

I incorporated this method in my curriculum because it meets several of our state standards and also so the kids just have a great memory of Spanish class! For a lot of my students, this was their last year taking Spanish so I wanted to leave on a fun, positive note.


What I did and how I did it

Since my AICE students already had three Spanish final exams from Cambridge, I decided to give them a fun project for my final. My Spanish 4 students broke off into partners and or groups of threes, with different gender combinations. They were able to choose their own partners, thereby creating comfort. They were given one class period the first day to research different dances listed on the rubric and decide which dance they were going to teach about and demonstrate. Some of the choices were cumbia, salsa, merengue, bachata, flamenco, tango, mambo, capoeira, and many, many more. 

No two groups could have the same dance. The following day they researched the history, the different styles, prominent dancers of that style, typical instruments, typical costumes, and anything else they felt was important. They then chose one of their favorite songs in that dance category and choreographed a dance to demonstrate to the class. They had to keep it PG! Haha.

The following day, they talked with their partner and decided on how they were going to teach the dance lesson to the rest of the class. They had to use ustedes commands, large numbers to express historical years, body parts, directions, transitional phrases, adverbs, etc. Additionally, they had to plan out their wardrobe based on their research and try to appear authentic according to the dance they chose.

On the last day, they organized all their thoughts and ideas into a PowerPoint® slide with bullets and a maximum of 10 words per slide. They were not allowed to read off of the slides. Their whole presentation had to be in Spanish only. It was definitely a process and by the last day they felt very comfortable with their partners. The best presentation won a $50 gift card to a Uruguayan restaurant here in Naples.


Results

The results were impressive. After the week was over, they had really engaged in learning about the history of a particular dance, how it affects the people of that country or region, and how it has evolved over time and space, and then taught what they know to their other classmates about the dance they picked. The kids said they learned a lot, and not just about their own topic but other groups’ topics as well. I believe that kinesthetic learning is very valuable as it engages other parts of the brain and increases retention. Upon hearing the project, they were serious, but by the last day, pure smiles!

It’s also a great way to connect with other teachers in the department and have them come in to help judge the presentations. It helps my students not just be better students, but also be better world citizens and hopefully, it helps them in social situations to be more confident in their dancing skills!


Standards

Some of the state standards that this project met are as follows:

WL.K12.AH.4.4:
Deliver planned and impromptu presentations to a variety of audiences using appropriate multimedia resources.

WL.K12.AH.4.6:
Incorporate with ease appropriate idiomatic and culturally authentic expression in presentations.

WL.K12.AH.6.1:
Discuss practices and perspectives of the culture(s) studied and describe how they are interrelated to topics of philosophy, social issues, regionalisms, and traditions of cultures other. 

WL.K12.SU.3.5:
Become a life-long learner by using the language for personal enjoyment and enrichment as well as for career purposes.

L.K12.SU.6.1:
Apply knowledge and understanding of the practices and perspectives of the target culture(s) (such as social and political factors) in order to communicate effectively within and beyond the classroom.

I hope you can use and or adapt my lesson plan to suit your needs and above all else, have fun with your students the last week of school! We had a blast! 


Learn About and Hear the Music of Latin Dance on Video

Author Bio—Nora Rosas

Photo of Nora Rosas.

Nora is a Spanish teacher at Gulf Coast High School in Naples, Fl.  She has taught levels 1,2,3, 4, and AP literature.  She also coaches the Spanish Academic Team at Gulf Coast High School that compete yearly in Orlando with the Florida Spanish State Conference.

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