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

Spanish: Politics of Art Class Context

I think using authentic materials is essential. My students were very excited at the idea that this was a real letter sent by real people and viewed by people around the world. If you talk to any Colombian on the street and ask about the letter, every single Colombian knows. Actually, every Latino has heard of it and has a very strong opinion on it.

– Lori Langer de Ramirez




Politics of Latin America

  • South American governments: Argentina, Colombia
  • Central American governments: El Salvador
  • Immigration to the U.S.

Film and Art of the Spanish-Speaking World

  • Art and politics in Latin America
  • Film: La Ciudad; Immigration to New York
  • Artist: Fernando Botero
  • Spanish films

School Profile

Lori Langer de Ramirez teaches 12th-grade Spanish at Herricks High School in New Hyde Park, New York. Located on Long Island about 20 miles from Manhattan, New Hyde Park’s 25,000 residents are mostly professionals. The town is culturally diverse and includes a large Asian immigrant population. Approximately 53 percent of the school’s 1,270 students speak languages other than English at home, and over 40 languages are spoken in the district. The curriculum emphasizes college preparation.

Lesson Design

The Herricks Spanish department takes a thematic approach to Spanish IV and V. The department selects two semester-long thematic units for each course. The teachers then choose the topics within these units based on their interests, their students’ interests, and the availability of materials.

When designing her lessons, Ms. Langer de Ramirez refers to the Standards. During the first semester, Ms. Langer de Ramirez’s class studied a unit on the politics of Latin America. To prepare, Ms. Langer de Ramirez watched Spanish-language news broadcasts and read Spanish-language newspapers to keep up-to-date on current events and to be able to provide a historical context for her students’ lessons. For the second-semester unit on film and art of the Spanish-speaking world, Ms. Langer de Ramirez drew on works that have inspired her.

The Lesson

This videotaped lesson was a bridge between the Politics of Latin America unit and the Film and Art of the Spanish-Speaking World unit. Ms. Langer de Ramirez wanted students to work on their oral and written communication skills while focusing on culture. “Students at this age are fascinated by issues of identity,” she says. “This topic speaks to that question: Who are Latinos in the world in terms of being cultural beings, and what is this idea of the split identity?” The goals of this lesson were to have students understand the visa issue under debate and to produce appropriate language for a formal written response. Ms. Langer de Ramirez used a rubric to assess students on their performance during the debate and their contributions to the final class letter.

Key Teaching Strategies

  • Acquiring Knowledge of Current Events: The teacher helps students research print and Web sources to gain a knowledge base for classroom discussion on recent events.
  • Content-Based Instruction: The teacher promotes language acquisition and/or cultural knowledge through subject matter from a range of disciplines.
  • 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.
  • Providing Interactions With Native Speakers: The teacher designs opportunities for students to use the target language with native speakers, either in person, over the phone, or via email.

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