Guernica- The Art of War- Resources for teaching Guernica

The Art of War:Problem-based learning unit

The Art of War is my unit title for teaching about Guernica. I started this unit a few years ago as a middle school teacher, and now that I am at a high school, it blossomed considerably. Our finale to the Spanish Civil War unit, for which you can access information here, was this mini-unit on Guernica, which includes a PBL action component. After learning about the reasons undergirding this powerful piece of protest art, students had to dig deep and find a cause that was Guernica worthy and start the creative process of bringing awareness to their issue. Guernica was our inspiration or muse for the resultant personal projects (collages are below, but this is only the first part). You can see the planning documents and first part of the projects below. 

Starting with Guernica

To pique students' interest in Guernica, I used a few videos on the subject from Youtube, one being this awesome trailer of Guernica to the left. Although students had some familiarity with the topic, due to our unit on the Spanish Civil War unit, they were very interested in this trailer, and of course, they wanted to watch the movie (maybe just to pass the time in class).

Click here for Trailer 

Guernica 3D video 

Prior to the video that is highlighted below, I projected the painting of Guernica and had students jot down what they observed. Students could readily identify the following: 

  • El toro 
  • Las personas 
  • La luz

We discussed how the painting portrayed the atrocity of Guernica, and students responded accordingly.  I asked them to list and to add an interpretation of each of the items they pointed out.

Side note, the last time I implemented this unit, I had the Guernica Image painting enlarged. I had 15 printed and students gathered around in groups to view, more microscopically, the elements of the painting. This year, I had a different approach. I found this really nifty video on Youtube video that showed the painting three-dimensionally. The room was silent as students were so tuned-in to the slow moving pieces parading across the screen. 

 Short Expository Video about Guernica 

Click here for the video 

We watched this quick video about Guernica in Spanish. It supported the first video, because it give an interpretation of the events.  The video does not have subtitles, but I stopped periodically and asked questions such as: 

1. ¿Quién estuvo en París?  
2. ¿Qué hacía el hombre en París?
3. ¿Cuáles fueron las ciudades bombadeadas? 
4. ¿Qué significa la bombilla? 

After learning about Guernica and the causes that compelled Picasso to denounce the Fascist campaign. Students had to develop their own artistic "campaigns" that were "Guernica worthy."  Below is the first page of the packet that recapped "el siniestro" and led-in to their project.  

Here is what followed (this was done over two 90- minute classes, I think): 

1. Students read the prompt, which discussed Guernica in Spanish (more comprehensible input).  They then paired up with a partner and thought 5 global issues that Picasso would take on, this is part of the packet. 

2. After thinking and discussing the issues, I gave them this article that I compiled and modified from sources online. It is from the #Niunamenos Campaign, decrying the violence against women in Spain. I listen to Radio National every morning, and this was central to much of the reporting.

3. Students read the article, responded to the questions (the usual). 

4. They were given the prompt below, which was a collage I put together on the issue of #Niunamenos, to give them an example of a powerful issue (this was to weed out topics such as "Call of Duty is the best game ever!). For this collage, students had to choose 6-7 powerful images that would visually depict their topic. The goal was to: 

-Create a visual portrayal of their issue, much like Picasso did
-Conduct preliminary research on their issue
-Present the collage to the teacher first, for an oral interview. 

PBLL Connection 
The collage is one of several assessments and products we are producing.  Students will eventually create a presentation of their issue to create awareness of other learners of the language (some class time was devoted to research, which was carefully scaffolded through the packet information). Stay tuned so your students can check them out!

Discussing collages 

Side note: prior to speaking about their collage, they had a quick write (best idea ever!). For this quick write, they could discuss any part of their project that chooses. It was not graded but will give them feedback right in time for the next writing assignment. 

Below are some examples of student collages. Today they had their interview, where they explained their problem, causes and effects and solutions that have been attempted in solving the issue. 

Since they have been working on this for a few classes, I was really impressed with how knowledgeable students were when presenting their problems. Students who struggled with fluency in the beginning of the year had grown leaps and bounds from the structure and constantly revisiting their research. 

You'll notice that most collages have words around them. I had the research 15 words related to their topic and post around the boards of the collage. When they had their interviews, most incorporated these words naturally into their discourse. Some of the topics were: 

Racismo ambiental 
Matrimonios forzadas 
La pobreza entre los veteranos 
El blanqueamiento de la comunidad Latinx
(the packet they received walked them through every aspect of the research!)

TED Talk Quality Presentations in Spanish  (update)

Click below on the project
Project on the Refugee Crisis

This PBLL project is the most fun, yet challenging undertaking I have done all year. What seemed like a similar task, has unfolded into a complex set of steps that required more scaffolding, more thinking out of the box and more experimentation. I let me kids know today " hey, I am planning as we go, so be patient." However, the ad hoc planning at times has paid off. Although it seems like it is being dragged out (we dedicate a class period to the specific part of the project), but I have to say, that the time spent each class on crafting a specific part of the project, is paying off in "quality dividends."

After creating a collage of their problem, students engaged in research to properly define their problem in Spanish. This part of the project lent itself to "grammar lessons on demand" I gave them the planning sheets below to help them get started. For the initial steps they had to: 

1. Define the problem (present/ past)
2. Describe why the problem was complex (present)
3. Describe the cause/effect relationship with respect to people populations and the environment (past tenses)
4. Discuss solutions that have been attempted to solve the problem (past, present/ present perfect)
5. What would happen if... (conditional/subjunctive)?

This project highlights an organization founded in Chicago to help child victims of human trafficking. These students wanted to shed light on the plight of children in Africa and in other countries and the challenges that they faced. Their presentation was amazing! Furthermore, they held meetings in school to bridge together support. 

 Click here to see this presentation.

Crafting a Creative Title 

Yesterday, we spent the better half of class generating titles for our projects. The goal was to come up with a topic that was an attention-grabber. Below are the examples of some of the intriguing ones: 

Tema: El matrimonio forzado
Título: La cadena perpetúa: las niñas esposas 

Tema: El abuso de los trabajadores en Qatar 
Título: Tarjeta roja para Qatar: los nuevos esclavos. 

Crafting a Powerful Introduction (en español)

Well, if you are going to have a creative title, you better back it up with a dynamic and engaging introduction. This is what we worked on today!  Part of my push for having an attention-grabbing, thought-provoking introduction, is to ensure that students do their topic justice. Some have chosen really complex issues, and they to step up to the plate and give convincing testimonies. Also, I am sooo tired of students starting their introduction with the same "ole" Mi proyecto es sobre.... I decided to spice it up a bit and introduce some powerful ways to present. I am reading a book called  Talk Like Ted , so these techniques crept into this unit. 

I gave students four options for engaging their audience. I read an article regarding techniques for capturing the audience's attention within the first 60 seconds of the presentation, and we went while. They choose from the following: 

1. Use of an anecdote (historieta). One group is presenting on Child Labor in Ghana, and they are telling a short story of one of the children affected by the lack of protections in the fishing industry. 

2. Share a shocking statistic 

3. Thought-provoking questions 

4. Invite the audience to experience something through the lens of another (Imagina que.., Qué tal si tú)

I am encouraging students to use two techniques, to add to the richness. 

I administered the sheet below and provided options in addition to the structures that students would most likely choose for each of the sections (Introduction/Body/Conclusion). 

Feedback from students 
Many students who struggled with output are finding that writing, talking, creating, etc, with regards to their projects are really helping. One student, I spoke with today, for the first time was very fluent in his speech. As I reflected, I realized that had multiple "touches" with the topic. The repetition and constantly explaining is helping. It is also a project that they are passionate about. 

Gracias for checking out my blog post!
Once these projects are completed, my students will post them for other Spanish learners to see. I hope your students could check them out!

Project regarding LBQT rights

This project highlighted the plight of individuals who identify themsleves as LBQT+.

PBLL Style: Comprensible Input Meets Inquiry-based Learning

La Guerra Civil Española- PBLL Style: Comprensible Input Meets Inquiry-based Learning!

For those of you Spanish teacher history buffs, I want to say that I am totally a novice when it comes to teaching the Spanish Civil war.  Many years ago, I did a Guernica unit for my 7th-grade students (materials coming soon!), and we did not take a deep dive into the Spanish Civil war. This year, I am teaching Spanish 4, and our school is embarking on a PBLL curriculum; I choose the revive that old unit. This will be a two-part blog post; the first part lays the groundwork for the unit, building content knowledge, and engagement in project-based learning, and second post dives into the Guernica and the PBL inquiry-action component, all in Español! Here is my story. 

Shifting Approach to Teaching Language
I'd like to echo Spanish Mama's sentiment when she stated in a previous blog post that her philosophy of teaching was "evolving" )check out her post here.)  This has definitely become my story this year. With 90-minute block classes and the consistent flow of research pumping through the veins of language teaching community, it wasn't long before I got a transfusion myself. Teaching this unit has given me more insight into language acquisition, conceptual and inquiry-based learning. Although all of those components are not covered in this post (next one for sure), I'd like to share some activities that really helped my students connect with the content through the medium of language.  

Mi granito de arena 
Now, there are many great teachers who do bang-up jobs on presenting the Spanish Civil War and Guernica. You may want to check out Kristy Plácido's blog, as she has some really nice stuff.  I am just adding to the corpus of work that has been done already.  That said, with this unit, I really changed the way I engaged students. 
Learning about history inquiry-based style in a CI classroom 
Instead of providing students with a reading on aspects of the Spanish Civil War, I decided to let them research these aspects on their own. It was simple: 

  • Listed 8 different topics related to the conflict 
  • Curated a few websites in English  
  • Assigned student groups 
  • Did a mini-lesson on how to research in English and convey information in basic Spanish 

Throw Reciprocal teaching into the mix!

The pictures above posters students creating posters for gaining a preliminary knowledge about the Spanish Civil War. This was my introductory activity (opposed to doing a scavenger hunt, short reading even a video- all of which are good).  The goal was to create an information highway class from which students could be informed of various causes and players of the Spanish Civil War (The PBL final component will in the next post, this is just the beginning)

 This was just an 
introductory activity and they put so much 
heart and soul into it!

Comprehensible Input Meets Inquiry-based Learning

Hack: Instead of giving students something to read and take notes on, they each became experts on an aspect of the war. 

  • Students presented to the class (repetition, recycling)
For the presentations, we made a list of expressions (most teachers have great lists they give to students). I noticed that each group looked at the board and chose an expression or lead-in that vibed well with their presentation. 
  • Students circulated, looked at the board and collected the information. 
Click here for the note taking document

We viewed this video in English after the introduction activity. Although this was not in the target language, I filled in gaps for students who were learning this for the first time.

Spanish Civil War in 3 minutes

Check out this video in Spanish 

Spanish Civil War Gallery and Reciprocal Teaching 

After working on the "Teaching Boards" I had students present to class. This was not for a grade, but more of a formative assessment check-in. After presenting, students displayed their boards around the class, they were given the note-taking document below, and they went around taking notes on each of the aspects of the Spanish Civil War. Again, this was their incursion into the unit. We'd begin officially after this. 

Matamoscas in pairs

Click here for resource

I have been working at my new school for about 2.5 years now. I used to teach MYP IB Spanish grades 6-8 for 10 years. Teaching at a high school was very challenging in the beginning. The 90 minute block periods- were another challenge. I share this because we don't really have textbooks and I have had to create the curriculum from scratch. One of the challenges I have had in the past was making sure everything aligned, the vocabulary was part of the reading (I started writing my own novels and other modified informational texts to satisfy the inner writer in me). This unit, I can saw, without a shadow of a doubt, had a high degree of aligned. Having a bit of time prior to the unit, I was able to:

  • Identify resources need for the unit. For this unit, I actually wrote some material a few years ago, but since we subscribe to Mary Glasgow, I used their reading and video on the Spanish Civil War. If you go to their website, you can get up to 4 free downloads. It is an extremely well- resourced site. We based most of our curriculum off the plethora of resources.

  • Design summative assessments
  • Identify words and concepts necessary for understanding the Spanish Civil War 
  • Create vocabulary lists
  • Create games with the vocabulary (see my
  • Matamoscas PPT and paired activity)

Resource Central (Freebies)

Click here for the activities below!
This free packet includes:

  • Vocabulary sheet
  • Paired students interview using the vocabulary words
  • Sentence writing activity
  • Student inquiry-activity
  • Note-taking activity for "Inquiry-gallery"
Multiple Exposures to Vocabulary Promotes Acquisition 
I am reading the book Language Teacher Toolkit by Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti. It is a great book with lots of insight on strategies for teaching a world language. One of the premises of learning a language is multiple exposures, repeated exposure to vocabulary and structures. This is no secret as the Comprehensible Input theory, community, and practitioners all laud this concept. In their book, they make the case for multiple exposures and what happens on a neurological level. Repeated exposure allows the brain, as they stated (page 59) to make viable connections. Words are associated with memorable moments. The activities implemented in this activity did just that. I saw a marked improvement in vocabulary production during speaking tasks and writing task related to the unit.  

For this unit, the video provided two assessments: Listening and Writing.
This is still an ongoing unit, but I have managed to administer two assessments, both on which students performed really well. I accredit their performance to the "multiple exposure" model and the inquiry-based style of learning that hooked them from the beginning. After the initial research, they were speaking like experts and was able to build shared background knowledge (all working together). 

Additional resources for teaching Spanish Civil War:

Propoganda Lesson on the Spanish Civil War (I saw this later, looks really good).

La hija del sastre- check out fluency (we have this book, and I like it. This year, we did not get to engage due to our school's PBL mandates).

Time in Between on Nexflix (I have materials for the first episode, will be included in the next post)

The student action-inquiry PBLL product will be addressed in the next few posts. The next post to this unit will be, Guernica.