Studying the calendar is a key part of any beginning language curriculum. Days, months, dates, birthdays, holidays–these should be introduced and systematically reviewed.
Too often, however, we turn the calendar page on these words and structures to move on to the next. Students end up being able to rock the subjunctive but forget the word for “Sunday.” Sad. I recently drew up a way to make the calendar more tangible while also including the cultures and calendars of Spanish-speaking countries.
Step 1: Assign students the countries to study and a month to focus on. I have used the same countries for students in all projects so they can have a longitudinal view of the country and its cultures. I’ve done this for the first time consciously and consistently this year and I like the outcomes. You could just as easily assign the countries randomly.
Step 2: Have them research the country and find photos on Pixabay. I also had them research holidays for each of the countries they studied. We kept track of all of these on a shared Google Sheet. They had to find four to six holidays. This process led to some interesting conversations about Carnival, Mardi Gras, Holy Week, Saint’s Days and post-colonial societies.
Step 3: Have them write sentences summarizing their findings. These sentences can be targeted to reinforce the grammar points at hand: the verb “gustar,” past tense verbs, reactions/recommendations with the subjunctive, command forms, etc. In our case the topic was direct object pronouns. I had them write four to six pairs of sentences–each with a picture–which is about all the space allows for without crowding.
Step 4: Have them combine their photos and writing in a Google Drawing. I prepared this model about Boston that I shared with them. (The one trick I learned for better integration with Shutterfly was to ask them to limit themselves to the standard size Drawing. Any increase in that canvas ends up getting cut out in the calendar.) I also shared this Google Drawing Cheat Sheet from Shake Up Learning, which is a great site.
Step 5: We edited and worked on design elements, for example composition, use of space, and use of color. All work was saved in their shared folders in Google Drive.
Step 6: When they were done, I downloaded the Drawings as .jpg images and uploaded them to Shutterfly. I used Shutterfly templates to create a calendar that had the collages and celebrations they found. One detail I’m still working out: I can’t find a way to display the days and months in a language other than English. I have an inquiry in but no response yet.
I am proud of the work my two classes did. The process included research, writing and design. In the end we have a 16 month reminder of the project and process. Incidentally, this is a project that can easy be applied to other subject areas: the planets, Greek Gods, famous inventors, the elements, famous authors and quotes. Those are just a few that come to me now. I bet there are many more.
There are also additional projects that would let us repurpose the collages that require little work :
- create a class set of screensavers
- print poster-sized projects for DIY classroom decorations
- create a design challenge to create a coffee mug out of the “best in show”
- create a travel brochure
- display the images on a class website or blog
- proudly put a copy of the calendar up in a school office
When will you give this a try? Find a date on the calendar.