Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Paris and Seville - By Way of Parker Middle School

I have had the opportunity this year to work on a team of teachers of different expertise.  Half of the students on our team take French and the other half take Spanish.  I was looking for a way for our students to do an interdisciplinary project between their world language class and my social studies class, but I needed to coordinate it with several other teachers (French, Spanish, Special Education, Language Learning Disabled, and 2 paraeducators) and almost 120 students. 

We decided on ARCHITECTURE.

Some of the most important landmarks in France and Spain are incredible works of architecture from the medieval era, which is the time period I teach in social studies.

For the French students we decided on Notre Dame Cathedral

For the Spanish students we decided on the Real Alcazar.

We started by asking students to research the history of the structure itself.  Why was it built?  Who built it?  When and why were changes made the the architecture?  What does it mean to the people of the country today?  Students were given a list of resources and used school laptops or their own devices (smartphones, tablets, etc.) and time to research.  They also received a structured note-taking sheet to help them prepare for the writing phase.

In their world language class, they learned the vocabulary necessary to describe the architecture assigned to them.  Then they analyzed photographs together and came up with the descriptions in a grammatically correct way in the language of their class.

In special education and LLD classrooms, students were more focused on the historical aspects of their writing.  Many of the students in special education in our school do not take a foreign language, so their essay was adjusted a bit to take that into account.  They still felt as though they were a part of the group because they were given the same research, writing, and citation expectations.

Finally, students had to combine all of their work in both social studies and world language into one blog post.  Here are some of the results:

  • Katie wrote about how Notre Dame Cathedral is meaningful to the people of France like her favorite seaside town is meaningful to her and her family.  She also described the cathedral in French in the middle of the essay.
  • Alex wrote about how the Real Alcazar has been changed and used in different ways by different people over the centuries.  She also described the palace in Spanish in the middle of the essay.
  • Matt does not take a world language and sometimes struggles with adding detail to his writing.  In this example, though, he added relevant images and quotes from the sources based on his research.
The students learned research, writing preparation, new vocabulary in their world language, and how to cite sources and analyze evidence through the combined efforts of many teachers working together.  It really was a project that shows the power of teamwork among professionals.

Sources:

“Image Gallery.” Notre Dame Cathedral Paris. Web. http://www.notredamecathedralparis.com/notre-dame-cathedral-paris-photos
“Category:Alcazar of Seville.” Wikimedia Commons. Web. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Alc%C3%A1zar_of_Seville