06 August 2012

Driving Questions for High School Spanish

The first day, I'll give students a survey to let them rate the which Driving Questions capture their interest the most on a scale of "Now that I know this is an option, I cannot enjoy class without exploring this" to "I could get into this" to "Please, I think I will hate Spanish forever if we have to study this." (I would make it a Google Doc form, but my understanding is internet access is pretty much out of the question for a few weeks due to construction issues.)

There are topics related to units I've already tried out:
  1. Is it harder being black in a Spanish-speaking country or in the U.S.? (II)
  2. Should drug ballads be banned in Mexico? (II)
  3. Could a dictatorship ever happen in the United States? (II or III)
  4. (from La llaman America) Is it harder to immigrate to the United States legally or illegally? (II)
  5. (from La llaman America) Is poetry a waste of time? (II)
  6. (from La llaman America) Are people born into poverty destined to stay poor all their lives? (II)
  7. How can we, as teenagers, recognize and address bullying in our schools? (III)
There are topics I dreamed up during my training with the Buck Institute:
  1. How can we, as successful high school students, teach middle schoolers how to use Web 2.0 tools to improve their learning experience? (I)
  2. What would a Spanish movie about the story of my life look like? (I or II)
  3. What is the biggest change in human society since I was born? (III)
  4. How can we, as Early College students, convince 8th graders to come to our school? (I or II)
There are topics inspired by #PBLchat:
  1. What is the best way to use Spanish to promote brain health for the elderly? (I-III)
  2. How can we, as residents of Gaston County, help people who just moved to the area adjust to living here? (I or II)
  3. Is the DREAM Act the best way to help teenagers brought to the U.S. by their parents illegally? (II or III) 
There are topics tailored to fulfill Common Core Essential Standards:
  1. What can we, as teenagers, plan to benefit children of our community in honor of Children's Day? (I) 
  2. Could we, as students, plan a week-long trip for our class to a Spanish-speaking country that would be as appealing to the parents and administrators sending us, for its educational value, as it would to our peers, for its entertainment value? (I) 
  3. NM.CMT.4.4 Identify how knowledge of the target language is useful in a global economy: Could we help our county plan a bilingual career fair for our community to show the benefits of speaking two languages and connect citizens with potential employers? (I-III)
I have narrowed the choices down to 10 each for Spanish I and II (since I won't have III until the spring--going back to semester blocks is a bit of a shake-up).

I've done my best to try to create engaging topics that will, at the same time, get students hooked, align with Common Core Essential Standards, and meet students where they are in terms of ability. As I have not met any of these students yet (also a little jarring after 3 years of having a hand in the selection process), any feedback I can get before presenting these options to my new kiddos would be much appreciated!


  1. These are really great questions, relevant to teenagers, their communities and thought-provoking.

  2. I really love the social issues topics, like, are people born into poverty destined to stay that way. I think that is something my students could really get into. I'm gonna be stealing some of these :-)

  3. I've been meaning to get over here and look at these for days. :) I like! I think topics like brain health for the elderly will be way low on their motivation scale but it's a good attempt to pull teenagers out of their own little world.
    A couple of suggestions that you'll be able to tell are totally "me"-
    1) Reconsider how many questions are yes/no. If it were me I'd reformulate almost all of them into how/why questions.
    2) I think the best way to integrate culture is not to teach it, but rather to make every topic of investigation relevant to it. I don't want my students saying 'okay, this is a good topic, but why are we doing this in Spanish class?' Several of these have really good cultural connections - check whether all of them do. I'd explicitly present them that way to the students. I know your inclusion/exclusion topic is relevant to Costa Rica and Panamá, but do they?
    Looking forward to seeing which ones they choose and how they go. As world's biggest advocate of student choice I will have to think about doing this - it scares the "I have to have my year planned out ahead of time" side of me!

  4. What language do your students use when brainstorming and planning these projects? I have found that even if mine are writing everything in Spanish, they are speaking in English. I would love them to discuss in Spanish, but not sure how to get them there.


    1. I confess, I am of the mind that some things just have to be done in English. In Spanish I and II, how can I expect them to be able to phrase what they want to know about a brand new topic? I'm sure there is a way to frontload the circumlocution necessary, with some theme-appropriate vocabulary, and it is a goal of mine to do more with this in the future. I think maybe even an Edmodo or Schoology discussion on the matter before the unit starts might be the way to go. I'll let you know if I figure anything out as long as you promise to do the same!