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Teaching Foreign Languages K-12: A Library of Classroom Practices

Spanish: Creating Travel Advice

Spanish III, grade 11: In this lesson, Fran Pettigrew gives her students a letter from a teacher in Chile who plans to bring students to visit the United States. Working with authentic tourist brochures in Spanish and their previous research, student groups plan itineraries for their Chilean counterparts. They prepare to send a follow-up letter to the Chilean teacher sharing their suggestions.



Fran Pettigrew


Spanish III




McLean High School, McLean, Virginia

Lesson Date

March 20

Class Size



Block schedule, 90+ minutes every other day

Video Summary

In this lesson, students learn to communicate about vacations. They work individually and in pairs to express their personal travel interests, and read a letter from a Chilean teacher requesting travel advice for her students. Working in groups, they identify places for the Chilean students to visit in the United States.

Standards Addressed

Communication: Interpersonal, Interpretive, Presentational

Connections: Making Connections


authentic materials
Authentic materials are resources that have been developed specifically for native speakers. These include print, audio, and visual materials.

native speaker
A native speaker considers the target language to be his or her first language. Teachers seek opportunities for students to communicate in person or through technology with native speakers. Students in foreign language classes who are first- or second-generation immigrants and who use the language extensively outside the classroom are also considered native speakers. These students typically maintain the cultural norms of their heritage in certain situations. See also heritage speaker.

negotiation of meaning
In this process, teachers and students try to convey information to one another and reach mutual comprehension through restating, clarifying, and confirming information. The teacher may help students get started or work through a stumbling block using linguistic and other approaches.

proficiency level
Proficiency describes how well a person functions in a language. The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages further defines proficiency with a set of guidelines for assessing communicative abilities. The guidelines cover how an individual performs across three criteria: function, content/context, and accuracy. When combined, these criteria determine the student’s communicative ability to be Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, or Superior. See also performance level.

thematic units
Thematic units are designed using content as the organizing principle. Vocabulary, structures, and cultural information are included as they relate to the themes in each unit. For an excellent example of theme-based units, see the Nebraska Foreign Language Education Web site in General Resources.

Connecting to Your Teaching

Reflect on Your Practice
As you reflect on these questions, write down your responses or discuss them as a group.

  • How do you obtain appropriate authentic materials for your lessons? How do you use them with your students?
  • In activities like Ms. Pettigrew’s, how are you a negotiator of meaning with students? What kinds of errors do you correct, and when do you refrain from making corrections?
  • How do you sequence learning? Do you start with the material you want students to learn or skills you want them to demonstrate, then create a culminating project that uses the new skills? Or do you first plan the culminating project and then work backward? What are the advantages of each approach?

Watch Other Videos
Watch other videos in the Teaching Foreign Languages K-12 library for more examples of teaching methodologies like those you’ve just seen. Note: All videos in this series are subtitled in English.

Comparing Communities (French) illustrates the integration of the three modes of communication, and Promoting Attractions of Japan (Japanese) shows students preparing to advise travelers about tourist sites in Japan.

Put It Into Practice
Try these ideas in your classroom. Where it’s not already evident, reflect on how to adapt an idea that targets one performance range for application to other performance ranges.

  • Integrate the three modes of communication. Begin a lesson with an interpretive task in which students read or listen to an authentic piece (for example, a poem, newspaper article, or diary entry). The text should present ideas and language that stimulate student thinking beyond opinions or knowledge they already have. Next, ask students to respond according to their proficiency level, making sure they are reasonably challenged. For example, Ms. Pettigrew wanted her Spanish III students to acquire new knowledge and use it in oral and written discourse. They worked with lengthy descriptive materials from vacation sites posted on the Internet. If your students are at a lower level of proficiency, you might vary the task and choose smaller pieces of text, such as visuals with accompanying sentences. Students can report out, summarize, or react briefly to the content. Once students have an understanding of the information, they can shift to talking about the pieces. In doing so, they will begin to incorporate language meaningfully from the authentic material. Finally, have students give oral or written presentations in which they use their new knowledge and language skills.
  • When deciding whether to correct a student, try not to interrupt his or her thoughts or the flow of language. When a student miscommunicates, seek clarification or better understanding of the message. When a student asks for help or shows by gesture or expression that help is needed, give assistance. To encourage communication, do not correct errors that don’t interfere with meaning. Patterns of errors that you feel students should be controlling better should be noted for follow-up work. For example, in the video, when Jesús clarified that it was the students and not he who needed more time, Ms. Pettigrew accepted his meaning. Jesús did, however, make another verb-form mistake (“you” singular instead of “they”). In ignoring this second error, Ms. Pettigrew was able to maintain a flow in the student report without turning the exchange into a rule-based lesson.
  • Group students to generate multiple opportunities to communicate. Start a lesson with a quick whole-class or pairs warm-up to get students speaking in the language. This is ideal for short tasks. For more complex projects, let student interests or choices determine the grouping. You can also organize groups according to ability or personality.


World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages
The World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages create a roadmap to guide learners to develop competence to communicate effectively and interact with cultural understanding. This lesson correlates to the following Standards:

Communicate effectively in more than one language in order to function in a variety of situations and for multiple purposes

Interpersonal Communication

Learners interact and negotiate meaning in spoken, signed, or written conversations to share information, reactions, feelings, and opinions.

Interpretive Communication

Learners understand, interpret, and analyze what is heard, read, or viewed on a variety of topics.

Presentational Communication

Learners present information, concepts, and ideas to inform, explain, persuade, and narrate on a variety of topics using appropriate media and adapting to various audiences of listeners, readers, or viewers.

Connect with other disciplines and acquire information and diverse perspectives in order to use the language to function in academic and career-related situations

Making Connections

Learners build, reinforce, and expand their knowledge of other disciplines while using the language to develop critical thinking and to solve problems creatively.


Lesson Materials
Florida Worksheet: Student Work (PDF, 78 K)
A sample worksheet completed by a student during the group activity (Includes English translation)

Letter Writing Task (PDF, 14 K)
Performance prompts that students used to write their final letters

Curriculum References
Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) and Testing for Foreign Language

Fairfax County Program of Study

ACTFL Performance Descriptors for Language Learners

Fran Pettigrew’s Additional Resources

Web Resources:
Travel news and tourist information for U.S. destinations (available in English, French, German, and Spanish). Note: Ms. Pettigrew and her students used this site to research information about travel destinations for this lesson.

Yahoo in Spanish
The Spanish-language version of the popular search engine

Series Directory

Teaching Foreign Languages K-12: A Library of Classroom Practices


Produced by WGBH Educational Foundation with the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. 2003. 2016.
  • Closed Captioning
  • ISBN: 1-57680-731-2