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The Layover: Seventh Graders Plan 24-Hour Visits in Spanish-Speaking Countries

Laura Oeschger
 
It’s bound to happen – an airline cancels a flight and the next one to the end destination isn’t scheduled for another 24 hours, maybe more. What does a stranded traveler do to occupy their time? Annette Marrecau challenged her seventh grade Spanish class to venture out into the city to explore the culture.
 
Inspired by popular television shows like The Layover with Anthony Bourdain, Amazing Race, and the New York Times series 36 Hours, students researched their assigned cities and presented to their peers, in Spanish, how they would spend their 24 hours in Santiago, Chile, San Jose, Costa Rica, or Valencia, Spain.
 
Divided into groups of four, each student spoke about six hours of the day. This project is a culmination of their community unit, focusing on the verb meaning “to go.”
 
“The students do a lot of work with the verb to go,” said Marrecau. “It’s used with so many elements of language, such as time, transportation, and location.”
 
Travel plans seemed like the perfect fit to assess the students’ understanding of the concepts.
 
“The tenses of the verb ‘to go’ change slightly, so the students really had to pay close attention,” she explained. “We’re really focusing on accuracy. They had to explain how they planned to get around, to what locations and at what times, as well as incorporating meals and cultural experiences.”
 
Marrecau expressed the importance of building the confidence to practice public speaking skills in Spanish.
 
“Communication is negotiation, it’s getting your point across,” she said. “Many students are uncomfortable speaking in front of a group in a non-native language. They’re taking the risk of making mistakes or stumbling through their presentation.”
But that doesn’t matter to Marrecau. Taking that risk and practicing their Spanish out loud yields to the best learning, language fluency, and confidence in their speaking abilities.
 
“This project allows students to apply what we learn in a useful and engaging way,” Marrecau explained. “We could just take a test and write in the verbs, but this had purpose. It was systematic, but also open to the students’ creativity and interests.”
 
While hopeful an extended layover doesn’t happen to any of her students, Marrecau believes in the confidence her students have in both themselves and in their Spanish speaking abilities “to go” out into the city and immerse themselves in the culture.
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The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.