29 December 2015

Self-Improvement PBL Unit: Setup

My Spanish students will start the year with a meaningful personal change.

Here's how.

Goal Selection

Day 1 we will take a look at organization issues: time, materials, and money. I've broken the questions down on Nearpod with a poll to introduce the issue and some possible sub categories for each type of issue followed by open-ended questions to tie to students' personal experiences. Notice I also emphasize AAPPL proficiency levels N1-I1 for students to start practicing responding with more depth.

Day 2 we will focus on health: food, exercise, and attitude. I included the same health poll at the end of the previous day's Nearpod presentation to kind of set the mood. The format is the same as the previous day's, but with fewer explicit reminders as to what it takes to achieve each performance level. This way they're getting plenty of reinforcement with vocabulary like demasiado  and te afecta.

Afterwards, we'll do a four-corners (or four-corners-a-wall-and-a-door) activity to begin splitting up into support groups, or simply equipos. If there's time, we'll discuss how they plan to measure their improvement.

Then Day 3, I'm thinking a TPRS story that ties in structures students will need to discuss their progress like debes, puedes, and vas.

And then we can establish procedures that will help students monitor progress and get to their goals!

Routine Procedures

Daily journal

Each student will keep a journal for the project, but they can keep track of their daily progress online on a blog or in a little dollar store notebook like I was going to use for the healthy habits unit idea. (We'll do a little soul searching in class to determine which is the best fit for each kiddo.)

I'll also recommend setting a phone alarm--or we can do a Remind text--each day to remind Even if it's a sentence or two each day, it's writing practice!

Weekly resources

Each student will pin one video and one infograph or article each week to their group's Pinterest board--something that will help them or their compatriots keep on track toward their goals: recipes, exercise routines, money or time saving strategies, organizational ideas. A steady flow of new materials to interpret AND help with their goals! I'm thinking these will be due on Wednesdays.

Weekly reflection

Of course collecting pins isn't going to do anybody any good if no one pauses to make sense of it. I've started a Pinterest board for each group so everyone working toward the same (or similar) goals can share. This also works so that everyone has a better chance of finding something they can use, even if it turns out what they found that week happens to be a little bit beyond their level when they start digging deeper.

They'll report--in the target language--in their journals (or blogs)

  1. New vocabulary they can use (2-5 words)
  2. Summary of information that can help them
  3. How they can apply the information in the coming week

Also, I think this is something worth building in a little extra time for in class on Thursdays after their team meetings.

Weekly in-class meeting

Here's where the interpersonal comes in--along with the human element that keeps the kiddos accountable for their progress. They'll report each Thursday to their equipos about their successes, their setbacks, what they need now, and what they want to do next. They'll also ask their partners questions about their progress and offer suggestions and/or support where they can.

I think it would be really cool if they came up with a way to reward each other when they meet a target, too. An appropriate target though--maybe not cupcakes for the group trying to eat better.

Bi-weekly out-of-class meeting

I'm hoping to connect with some other classes on this project to expand the support network and reinforce the idea that this is not just A Thing For School. (If you're interested, please let me know!)

If we can't hook up with other classes, I really hope to push the "extra school supply" Sra. Cottrell recommended this semester. Or perhaps my young ones could find a buddy on WeSpeke, or any native speaker who can just check in and make sure they are sticking with the plan (one student I was running ideas by said she'd just chat with her friend's mom about her money management plans, and that seems cool).

The person could be kind of a coach or just a sounding board, though it would be ideal if they are actually working toward a similar goal. Maybe they could even celebrate together!

My plan would be to check in every other Monday to review recordings or screenshots of conversations.


I will share any materials I create or find with Spanish classes who want to join us on this journey to make a change. Please Tweet me or comment if you would like to join forces!


  1. Hi,
    What level/year are you doing these activities with? I am trying to work my head around TPRS/PBL with novice learners. Thanks!

    1. It's the first unit in Spanish 2, and I couldn't be happier with it (well, maybe with fewer snow days.)

    2. It's the first unit in Spanish 2, and I couldn't be happier with it (well, maybe with fewer snow days.)

  2. Hi Laura! I am thinking of doing this PBL throughout the year, starting in the beginning and using it also as something to close the year with. Do you think this could be stretched out as a year-long PBL? Also, I would love to have my class collaborate with yours if you are running this PBL again. I will be doing this with my SPN 3 group, but it wouldn't be a problem to collaborate with your SPN 2 group. Let me know if you are still interested. I have wanted pen pals or some other class to collaborate with for my upper level students for a long time. This would be excellent!

    1. Cool! I confess that 5 weeks in, the project was starting to lose steam. Otherwise I had considered bringing it back at the end too. There's probably a way to keep reinvigorating it--maybe some contests or if I could have gotten actual out-of-class partners. I will not have Spanish 2 until January, but if you still have your 3s then and want to collaborate, that would be AWESOME!