A SCHOOL DISTRICT in Canastota, N.Y., uses PowerPoint as part of a yearlong storytelling project to help students learn Spanish.
Lesson description: In place of a traditional writing portfolio, which usually consists of loose-leaf paper and a file folder, I have my students create a story in Spanish using PowerPoint.
The story is ongoing throughout the year, so they add to it in sections and are constantly revising and improving it, like a traditional portfolio. Not only do they practice writing, they also learn valuable and transferable computer skills. Because computer animation is involved, vocabulary acquisition is manifested, since the student’s computer animation should match the text of the story.
Subject area: I am a foreign-language teacher and have used this method in all levels of French and Spanish instruction. The introductory level students describe themselves, while the upper level students create a character and tell a story.
Standards: The Languages Other Than English standards consist of communication and culture. Students need to be able to communicate through listening, reading, writing and speaking skills in the target language on various topics such as personal identification, education and family life.
This project certainly encompasses writing on each topic, but there is also a presentation component. At the end of the year, the students present their complete portfolio to the class (speaking standard). This also allows for a comprehensive review by the class (through listening and reading). Culture is easily implemented by having students research other countries and add culturally relevant elements, such as a Spanish-style house, to their design.
Resources: No books are necessary. Teachers need a basic knowledge of PowerPoint, a bank of computers with the program and a projector for the end-of-year presentations.
My rubric assesses the following criteria: form (spelling, grammar), appearance (design, animation), organization, content (use of language), citizenship (such as being “helpful to others”) and presentation (one-time grade at the end of the year).
It is important to not think of PowerPoint as predesigned slides with bullet points. Show the students the basics of graphic design: inserting objects, resizing, ungrouping, ordering, changing colors and so on. Introduce them to the basics of animation. Then let them play. I like to assign practice tasks such as “man gives woman flowers; she blushes” or “boy plays soccer and scores a goal.” Have them create these actions onscreen to practice design and animation. They really enjoy these, and it develops great problem-solving skills as they piece it together.
The best tip I can give is to encourage students to help each other. Once they’ve been given the basics and shown how to make it fun, they take off on their own and create amazing things. I encourage the sharing of ideas and even make it a part of my rubric.
Katie Hanifin is a foreign language teacher who teaches 8th and 9th grade at the Canastota Central School District in Canastota, N. Y.