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

Spanish: Interpreting Literature Class Context

One of the things I just love about teaching languages is that we can deal with math, science, geography, social studies, and that also captures the student who might say, “Why am I in this class after all?” If they can relate it to what they’re thinking about majoring in in college or some of their own individual interests, it gives them ownership and the incentive to go on and learn.

– Barbara Pope Bennett




First Advisory

  • Country focus: Argentina
  • Oral: Select, analyze, and present an article from the Web site CNN en Español

Second Advisory

  • Country focus: Spain
  • Oral: Analyze and present information about the life and work of one of the selected authors

Third Advisory

  • Country focus: Central America
  • Oral: Create and present an original work related to culture

 Fourth Advisory

  • Country focus: Caribbean, Equatorial Guinea
  • Oral: In groups, prepare a video that dramatizes a story read during the year

Each advisory period includes readings from textbooks, articles from the Web site CNN en Español and the magazine Hoy Día, and excerpts from works by the following authors:

  • Sabine Ulibarri
  • Federico García Lorca
  • Miguel de Unamuno
  • Gabriel García-Márquez
  • Jorge Luis Borges
  • Ana María Matute
  • Rigoberta Menchú
  • Nicolás Guillén
  • Isabel Allende
  • Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
  • Carmen Martín Gaite
  • Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

School Profile

Barbara Pope Bennett teaches Spanish I-IV at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School, a magnet school in Washington, D.C., that offers a highly structured four-year program leading to college entrance. The majority of Banneker’s 400 students are from the Washington, D.C., area. All students must apply to the school, and admission is limited primarily to ninth-graders.

In addition to its four-year curriculum, the high school offers the International

Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB) to qualified students in grades 11 and 12. IB is a comprehensive two-year international curriculum across six academic subjects, presented by the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) in Switzerland. Student performance is assessed by classroom teachers and through examinations set by the IBO. Students in the Banneker IB program study French or Spanish as their second language (see Resources).

Lesson Design

Ms. Pope Bennett designs lessons for her IB Spanish classes within the course structure prescribed by the IB program. The school year is divided into four marking periods, called advisories, during which students explore multiple readings from textbooks, magazines, literary texts, and Web sites. Each student must also participate in a debate on a topic of his or her choice and give five oral presentations (one for each advisory and one as part of the final examination). For each oral presentation, students develop written or visual materials and answer questions posed by Ms. Pope Bennett and other students.

Ms. Pope Bennett designs each lesson to focus on one text. She refers to the Standards and stages the lesson in a seven-step process in which culture, language, and literature are taught simultaneously. This process is outlined below.

  1. teacher introduces the topic; students discuss how it relates to their own lives
  2. teacher summarizes the story
  3. teacher introduces new vocabulary
  4. teacher introduces the author and shares why he/she wrote this story
  5. students read the story
  6. students summarize the story in their own words
  7. students write their own endings to the story

The Lesson

In this lesson, students analyzed Dos caras and then wrote new endings for the story. Revising the ending allowed students to personalize the story and show Ms. Pope Bennett that they understood it. In the next lesson, students further analyzed the characters and related Dos caras to other stories they had read. This served to prepare them for the IB evaluation, in which they are asked to compare how different authors treat similar topics. Ms. Pope Bennett assessed students on this unit through a written evaluation and a one-on-one oral evaluation in which they summarized and defended their interpretations of the story.

Key Teaching Strategies

  • Integrating the Communicative Modes: The teacher plans a series of tasks that involve all three Communication standards. Students often begin with an interpretive task that provides new content and new language for interpersonal discussion. The new content and language are then combined in an oral or written presentation.
  • Interpreting Literature: The teacher facilitates the interpretation of literary pieces by having students preview, read, and discuss a literary work in the target language. This includes having students acquire cultural background knowledge, analyze the text, and respond personally to themes and issues raised by the author.
  • Scaffolding: Scaffolding is a method of structuring an instructional task in a way that helps learners gradually advance through the process. Initial portions of the task are designed to be within learners’ competency so that they can complete them on their own. As students’ confidence, skill, and knowledge increase, the teacher provides less and less scaffolding for that task in a gradual release of responsibility.
  • Student Grouping: The teacher designs activities that allow students to engage in multiple types of interactions, including working with partners, in small groups, and as a whole class.

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