Gracias, Shutterfly! Using Memory Games & Puzzles to spark curiosity

I recently had an idea that Shutterfly made easy to try out: what if I used jigsaw puzzles to introduce art works? I used a picture of Guernica, had a free code, and gave it a spin. It came out great (even though Shutterfly sent me a warning that the image quality low)! Encouraged by this, I started to explore other options. Meninas puzzle? Yes, please!

I also discovered their memory games. Again, armed with a free code, I tried out one of these with pictures of family members as a gift for my primary school aged niece. They came out beautifully! So then back to art for class… I chose 12 iconic art pieces and made a memory game with them, and then made another one with characters from El Internado.

So while it’s fun to make these things, it’s even better using them in class. We started El Internado in class last week, and so we used the Internado memory game to remind students who was who. We can extend this as the series goes on by adding that students must say something about the characters that they draw in TL. Students also suggested playing Go Fish–so now I think we have a plan for next week!

I introduced Guernica before with a paper puzzle I made from cutting a print of the artwork apart. I asked students to put it back together in a team, but without telling them what it should look like. While this worked, and most importantly, got students really looking at the image and the elements of the work, I’m excited about the prospect of using an actual jigsaw puzzle with them to do this.

One of my goals this year is to intentionally inject more fun into what we do, all while continuing to push students’ growth and proficiency. Nothing spurs their growth more than being curious about what we are studying, and these two tools have helped to do just that.

Here’s a really cool thing: Shutterfly is running a promo right now where the memory games and puzzles are on deep discount. Use deals4u as your promo code to get the sale price (under $10 each). **I have no connection with Shutterfly other than being a superfan.**

Another really cool thing: I’ll be at Central States in March, and the conference hotel is just steps away from a world class art museum, The Art Institute of Chicago. It’s at this museum that I had the chance to study, explore, and develop art-based curriculum tailored to language classes many years ago. It’s an amazing place! I had planned to deliver an art integration workshop at the conference this year that would include a trip, but it didn’t work out. Nonetheless, I’m planning to go while I’m in Chicago. If you will be at the conference and want to join in, let me know ūüôā

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Staying in the groove!

Back in the day, before I was a Spanish teacher, I was a musician. ¬†I sang in madrigals and show choir, I played several instruments (though not particularly well), but I loved piano. ¬†For the first year or so of playing piano, I had to walk across town to our church to have one to play because we didn’t have one at home. ¬†I enjoyed it so much that I considered it as a major, but then I realized that I wasn’t deeply passionate enough about it to make the sacrifices that that life would require. ¬†Oh, and killer stage fright. ¬†THAT will do you in in that field too.

Though I’ve left music behind as a daily pursuit, I still surround myself with it nearly constantly. ¬†I play it in my classes while students are working, and try to vary what types they will hear over the course of the year. ¬†I also incorporate songs into nearly every unit that we study in some form or another. ¬†Zachary Jones and Sra. Birch have made this endeavor SO much easier with their activities and databases of artists’ work to use.

Which brings us to this week: ¬†the week before finals. ¬†Here in the southeastern part of the US, we are in a sweet zone where the sun is out, the pools are open, the bugs are really out, and the humidity hasn’t arrived yet. ¬†Not exactly a prime environment for focus, motivation, and ambition in our last days of school–for the students or for the teachers!

In my novice class, we need to review/practice some key concepts more, like telling what happened in the past and stating/supporting opinions.  I also want them to read some more in the target language and interpret the main ideas and key details from what they have read.  I also want them engaged in class without having to be a babysitter in these last days!

From all of this is born a mini project about well-known musical artists who sing in Spanish. After introducing them to my favorite, Juanes, and modeling a presentation for them, students chose an artist to study from a list compiled with help from my twitter peeps, or they could¬†suggest one that they already knew. ¬†Next, they will construct a poster with a basic timeline of key events of the artist’s career and life, a picture, and other pertinent details by using Wikipedia in Spanish. ¬†They are also being asked to listen to several songs by the artist and to comment on their opinion of the music. ¬†On presentation day, students will play their favorite musical clip as they present their posters in small groups. ¬†They will also be prepared to answer questions from their group members about their artists.

Their reaction was priceless! ¬†I had to hold them back when it was time to sign up for their artists, and they were instantly engaged in the research. ¬†Some students asked for recommendations based on their personal tastes, and for the most part I think we were able to match them with someone that they liked. ¬†They are actually engaged in trying to get preterit conjugations and preterit v. imperfect right because they have a reason to want to get it right. ¬†Add in the cultural aspects and inquiry, and I think we have a winner! ¬†They will work on their posters more tomorrow and present on Friday. ¬†I’m actually looking forward to what they put together!


If you would like a copy of the student assignment sheet, click here. ¬†Our artist list is below–feel free to suggest more in the comments!

  1. Juanes
  2. Shakira
  3. Calle 13
  4. Celia Cruz
  5. Juan Luis Guerra
  6. Aleks Syntek
  7. Marc Anthony
  8. Carlos Vives
  9. Café Tacuba
  10. La Santa Cecilia
  11. Draco Rosa
  12. Bruno Mars
  13. Laura Pausini
  14. Olga Ta√Ī√≥n
  15. Alejandro Sanz
  16. Jarabe de Palo
  17. Peewee
  18. Pitbull
  19. Jesse y Joy
  20. Leslie Grace
  21. Carlos Baute
  22. David Bisbal
  23. Man√°
  24. Aventura
  25. RBD
  26. Julieta Venegas
  27. Enrique Iglesias
  28. Ricky Martin
  29. Chino y Nacho
  30. Kany García
  31. Tego Calderón (similar to Daddy Yankee)
  32. Daddy Yankee
  33. Juan Cirerol
  34. Orishas
  35. Camila/Samo
  36. Rubén Blades
  37. Reik
  38. Sie7e
  39. Wisin y Yandel
  40. Diego Torres