All learning requires change. Change requires doing things differently. Doing things differently requires thinking out of the box. Thinking out of the box requires creativity. Teaching is an art!

1 - Introductions

2 - Framing

(Research-based Foundations: The Art & Science of Teaching)

Learning means change
Change requires creativity
Creativity comes from deep connections between seemingly unrelated things

Lessons from Student Teachers: Where does language learning break down?

  • Contextualization: The Cultures, Connections, & Communities Standards
  • Communication: Learning is Social!
  • Scaffolding: Techniques, Templates, & Technology

What does the research tell us?

  • Attention
  • Emotion (Affective filter, involve both hemispheres of the brain)
  • Engagement & Motivation (Autonomy/Choice, Conversations with Peers, Novelty, Personal Relevance, Voice)
  • Prior Knowledge & Experience
  • Transfer (Contextualization, Experiential Learning, Modeling, Multiple Representations, Problem-solving)
  • Visual Cognition (Examples, Graphic Design, Patterns, Multiple Representations, Reflection)

3 - WHAT? Sample Lessons

Our lessons should add up to transformation of individual, community, and world

Guiding Question: How can teachers use the National Standards and principles of thematic planning to transform traditional grammar and vocabulary lessons into engaging learning experiences that build students’ communicative proficiency?

How can teachers use the Cultures, Connections, & Communities standards to contextualize grammar and vocabulary practice?

  • Use the textbook as a starting point
  • Connect the text to social and cultural issues

CultureConnection.jpg - Culturally Authentic Materials

How can teachers engage students in meaningful communication across all three modes using interactive activities and technology-infused tasks?

How can teachers scaffold students’ success?


Sample Lesson 1: The Daily Routine of an Extraterrestrial


- 1:22 video in which José Moreno Hernández, Mexican-American astronaut who was the son of migrant workers, gives a brief biographical sketch in Spanish

- 8-year-old and a 9-year-old boy from Mexico ask the Mexican-American NASA astronaut, José Moreno Hernández, a question about the sun. This video clip could be used to provide context for an assignment in which students generate their own questions.

Documentary video about Apollo 11's trip to the moon, narrated in Spanish by a native speaker with real footage, including a segment around 2:00 about the daily routines of the astronauts

- 2:34 video showing daily activities of astronauts, including exercising, shaving, sleeping, and eating

- Images from the Hubble Telescope
- 20-second news clip announcing that the new observatory in Atacama, Chile (ALMA) is now functioning and will be used to explore new galaxies and black holes (in Spanish)

- Beautiful photos of the desert in Atacama, Chile, set to music of the Andes
- Photos show local cities, people, and culture of Atacama, Chile

ALMA - Una ventana hacia las estrellas en el desierto de Atacama - 1:57 news clip narrated by a female reporter about ALMA and the ways researchers will be working with locals

- View of the Milky Way from Atacama, Chile

- Documentary (9:59) about the possibility of extraterrestrial life on other planets narrated in Spanish by a male native speaker

- "News" report describing former astronaut Edgar Mitchell's (6th man to walk on the moon) claims that extraterrestrials have visited our planet

- 8:58 video in Spanish that suggests that one of the carvings found in Palenque may depict a Mayan "astronaut"

- Song designed to help students learn the names of the planets in Spanish
- Photos from the Laika project, set to Mecano's song Laika, with text in Spanish (text has an animal rights slant to it)

Additional Resources

- Cute song about the gifts from outer space the singer would like to give to their date

- Video makes the song comprehensible by illustrating each segment of the lyrics

Astronomía para niños y niñas - An astronomy site from Spain for kids - pretty text-heavy, but some good activities (see below)
  • Colorear Planetas - Very nice coloring pages appropriate for all grade levels from an astronomy site from Spain for kids
  • Haz un móvil - Part of an astronomy site from Spain for kids; this page contains color photos of the various planets that can be printed

spaceplace-logo-small.png - Coloring book in Spanish from NASA (along with lots of other activities)

animatedrocket.sp.gif - Instructions in Spanish for making a bubble rocket with antacid tablets

HazComoElSol.jpeg - Short poem with an optimistic message

Outer Space & ETs (Images from Stock Xchng)

Sample Lesson 2: Natural Disasters

DesastresNaturales.jpg - News of recent disasters in Spanish

- Emergency drill on la Isla Margarita, steps in the drill are captioned in simple Spanish - lots of impersonal se used

- Firefighter explains in clear, simple Spanish with lots of demonstration how to stay safe during an earthquake

StockXchngLogo.gif - Copyright-safe photos for use with a unit on natural disasters

4 - HOW? - Process


5 - WHY? - From Textbook to Theme

Learning can (and should) be transformative

6 - Closure

What questions should teachers ask themselves when planning a thematic lesson or unit?
  • What are the characteristics of thematic lessons/units?
    • Conceptually interesting
    • Cognitively engaging
    • Culturally grounded
    • Hands-on AND minds-on
    • Integrated
    • Interdisciplinary
    • Multimedia-rich
    • Personally meaningful
    • Socially active

  • What context can I wrap around this content to make it meaningful for students so that they are motivated to engage with it?

  • In what ways can thematic lessons/units strengthen teaching and learning?

Thematic planning affords teachers the opportunity to take the textbook content and add context to it that allows for personalization, differentiation, and customization in ways that make it meaningful for each individual student's unique situation.
    • Customize textbook content
    • Differentiate instruction
    • Personalization of education
    • Transformation of society

Communication is inherently a creative act when it reflects authentic, meaningful, negotiated interactions and meaning.

7 - Q & A