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

Spanish: Interpreting Picasso’s Guernica Class Context

I encourage communication between students as much as possible. If you’re asking a friend, Can you lend me a pencil? ask it in Spanish. We do activities where students write dialogues and they communicate together. We do debates where students develop their arguments together. So not only are they doing interpersonal and interpretive tasks, but now they’re challenging each other.

– Meghan Zingle




Geography of Spain (physical and political)

  • Regions of Spain

Events that have influenced people today in Spain (history)

  • Guernica discussion
  • Research on Spanish artists and their corresponding histories

Integrated into above units:

  • How would my life be different if I lived in Spain? (day-to-day life)

School Profile

Meghan Zingle teaches grades 10-12 Spanish at Glastonbury High School in Glastonbury, Connecticut, a suburb of Hartford. Many of the town’s 32,000 residents are professionals. The high school, with 1,800 students, offers a comprehensive curriculum for college and career preparation as well as a regional vocational Agriscience and Technology Program. The Glastonbury Foreign Language Program teaches Spanish in grades 1-12, French and Japanese in grades 6-12, and Russian in grades 7-12. Latin is offered in the high school.

Lesson Design

The teachers in the Glastonbury Foreign Language Department base their curriculum (see Resources) on the Standards. They also identify a theme to be the focus for each year of language learning. The theme for the Spanish II curriculum is Spain, focusing on the question, Who is a Spaniard? Students become familiar with the geographical, political, and cultural diversity within Spain, and look at one community in depth from the perspective of one of its citizens. When designing her lessons, Ms. Zingle first considers topics that interest students, and then looks at ways that students can use the information they learn. She also considers the grammar and vocabulary that students need for each unit.

The Lesson

In the videotaped lesson, students wrote original radio announcements based on their initial interpretations of the painting Guernica. Although students were somewhat familiar with Spanish history from previous Spanish and world history classes, not everyone knew about the historical context of the painting prior to this lesson. All students were, however, comfortable with the vocabulary and communication skills needed for the partner discussions, creative writing, and contextual reading in this lesson, as they had been studying Spanish since early elementary school. After this lesson, each student chose and researched a topic in Spanish history, and presented his or her findings in oral and written form to the class.

Key Teaching Strategies

  • Role-Playing: Role-playing is an activity in which students dramatize characters or pretend that they are in new locations or situations. It may or may not have a cultural element. This activity challenges students by having them use language in new contexts.
  • 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.
  • Using Graphic Organizers: The teacher uses graphic organizers to record student responses and arrange the information from student report-outs.

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