No ordinary Spanish class

Rather than simply write a report, students in Dave Dixon's eighth-grade Spanish class are going high-energy marketing and high-tech.

The Thurston Middle Schoolers are creating a one- to two-minute travel advertisement for a Mexican city of their choice using Prezi, a cloud-based program that allows users to insert pictures, music, text and audio.

Dixon and his students talked about the challenge of swaying the public to visit the nation, which has been besieged by a violent drug war.

"Crime is everywhere. If that's your main concern, you won't leave the house," Dixon said. "Crime occurs between drug cartels, not usually on visitors. We hope to dispel anxiety [about traveling] to Mexico."

The assignment, part of the class' cultural element, builds on the initial student paper by promoting activities, restaurants and hotels for a three-day trip.

The hope is that students' ads will be so strong that they will leave their peers wanting to travel to the cities.

Linda Barker, who is training Laguna Beach Unified School District teachers on the new Common Core State Standards, which emphasize critical thinking over memorization, suggested Prezi to Dixon in November and then taught a selected group of his students how to use the program. The trainees relayed what they learned to their classmates.

On Monday, students watched presentations about Mérida, located on the Yucatan Peninsula, and Mexico City.

The Mérida group, which includes students Nick Besso, Bryce Campanelli, Dean Nunis and Miles Stripling, incorporated mariachi music, while the Mexico City group used a song written by one of its members and his twin brother.

Kyle and Benjamin Sharp, who formed the band Sharp Turn Ahead, wrote and recorded "Just For You," which Kyle and classroom partner Jake Pietig, 14, used for their Prezi about Mexico City.

Jake did the voice-over while images of the Four Seasons Hotel Mexico appeared on the screen. He and Kyle chose the hotel as their recommended accommodations.

Students watched each presentation twice, then wrote suggestions on notecards to give to each group. Each team will revise its Prezi and present a final project to the class in March.

Dixon asked students what they liked and disliked about each presentation.

One boy said the writing was too small to read, while a girl suggested that one group elaborate on the content.

The challenge is finding a balance between too much and too little information, Dixon said.

Each student will vote for his or her top six presentations from Dixon's three Spanish classes. A district committee will winnow those choices to a final three.

Dixon plans to ask officials from the Consulate of Mexico in Santa Ana to choose the winning presentation.

The first-place group, along with the student whose suggestion most helped to refine the project, would receive a special dinner at a Mexican restaurant, Dixon said.

The project aims to benefit students in three ways.

"They leave with a new tool, promote interest in Mexico and learn to collaborate," Dixon said.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World