Presented by:
Cindy Kendall, Ed.S., Ingham ISD
Cherice Montgomery, Ph.D., Brigham Young University
Friday, November 19, 2010 from 1:15 p.m. - 2:15 p.m. in Room 101 of the Hynes Convention Center
ACTFL 2010, Boston, MA

Description: Whether novice or advanced, students can be active learners in a classroom that encourages and supports complex cognitive engagement across the three modes of communication. Discover how to create motivating activities and assessments through technology-infused, standards-based, interdisciplinary, thematic units that go beyond both the textbook and walls of the classroom.

Content: Participants will engage in sample activities from an interdisciplinary, technology-infused, thematic unit designed for students with proficiency levels that range from novice to intermediate high. Participants will consider how the unit could be spiraled to develop advanced levels of proficiency and be a model for similar units in their own classroom. Participants will analyze how each activity develops learners' proficiency across the three modes of communication, as well as their creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and technology skills. Participants will be encouraged to share the units and materials they develop post-conference.

Guiding Questions: This session will address the following essential questions:

(1) How can teachers turn traditional textbook chapters into engaging, interdisciplinary, technology-infused thematic units?
(2) How can technology support the development of learners' critical thinking, creativity, and proficiency as they participate in Spanish-speaking communities?
(3) How can students at novice proficiency levels successfully explore culture in the target language?


Anton, Belovodchenko. (2010, May 11). Abstraction winter wood a collage. Stock Xchng. Retrieved November 15, 2010, from Used under a Standard Stock Xchng License.

"She teaches from herself, not the textbook." - 12-year-old boy

0 - Music

1 - Introductions

(Presenters, Resources, Preview of Session)

2 - Framing

(Nature & Purposes of Education)

  • What are your reactions to this video?
    • 20th Century: We added songs and games to make it more fun
    • 21st Century: We add layers to move beyond information and make the content meaningful

3 - WHAT? - Definitions

What is the difference between a topic and a theme?

  • What is the difference between a topic and a theme? (Table conversations)
  • Summary of Topic v. Theme


    • Grammar & vocabulary
    • Add: Cultural Resources --> Context - "inherently interesting" (Curtain & Pesola)
    • Add: Big Idea (Concept or Social Issue) --> "cognitively engaging" (Curtain & Pesola), also facilitates transfer/transformation of our community and world
    • Add: Personal Connections --> Meaning - transformation of individual

4 - HOW? - Process

Materials: Art as Social Commentary


A las brigadas internacionales (Alberti)- Poema por Rafael Alberti
Entrevista a Pablo Picasso - Picasso nos da sus interpretaciones de los símbolos en su obra


They Still Draw Pictures - Dibujos hechos por niños de las escuelas de España y Francia durante la Guerra Civil Española

The Visual Front - Carteles de la Guerra Civil Española - Podemos comparar los mensajes de los varios gobiernos con las experiencias de los niños. Podemos explorar preguntas acerca de cómo los gobiernos usan las imagenes para comunicarse con la gente

Encontrarte - Colección de carteles de la era republicana de España
A Spanish Civil War Photo Essay - Fotos de las personas y política de la Guerra Civil Española


Canciones de la guerra civil
Himnos y canciones de la guerra civil (audio)


Documentary of Spanish Civil War - Spanish

3D Exploration of Picasso's Guernica

Kids' Guernica - Proyecto para la paz- los niños de varios paises hacen obras sobre lienzos del mismo tamaño como la Guernica de Picasso

Movement & Conversation

  • Cooperative learning and interactive strategies (describe & draw, learning centers, paired activities, simulations)
  • Tech-infused - Highlight a variety of technological tools and applications that support the development of students' interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational skills throughout the standards-based units

A Single Lesson: La historia de Juan

A Whole Unit: Heroes

5 - WHY? - From Textbook to Theme

How can I teach thematically when I have to use a Level 1 textbook?

6 - Closure

What are the characteristics of thematic lessons/units?

  • Conceptually interesting
  • Cognitively engaging
  • Culturally grounded
  • Integrated
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Multimedia-rich
  • Personally meaningful
  • Socially active

What questions should teachers ask themselves when planning a thematic lesson or unit?

  • 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?
  • 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.

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.

7 - Q & A

8 - Handouts