Saturday, July 29, 2017

Engineering Castells - Culture & STEM in the FLES classroom

This is the third post in my series on how to connect STEM and Spanish. Check out the other posts in this series Experimenting in the Target Language and La migracion de las mariposas.


We've played with blocks before in kindergarten and it was fun but I hadn't realized that it was kind of a STEM project in disguise. So with a little more intention and an injection of some Spanish culture I made it into a mini unit for that crazy time at the end of the year where you may or may not have class and when you do the students are antsy for summer break. Plus it was a great review of vocabulary we had learned earlier in the year.

Target vocabulary:

I like/I don't like
tall/short
fast/slow
strong/weak
big/small
colors
Oh no!
numbers 1-10

We started by first looking at some photos and watching a video of castells in Barcelona and Tarragona. I first learned about these human tower teams and the exhibitions and competitions they have while traveling in Spain in 2015. I was instantly captivated and I ended up buying stacking toys that look like the castellers that my students love playing with as a fast finisher.

The top of the towers are usually young kids - just about the age of my students.


Why yes that kid IS dressed like Michael Jackson. I don't remember the reason why.


Check out the Tarragona Tourism site for more beautiful photos. 


We also watched videos of the castellers in action. The students cracked me up with their commentary - I heard a lot of ¡No me gusta! as they watched the castell get higher and higher. Afterwards, we looked at where Spain was on the map. We also discussed whether the castell was tall or short, big or small, and if the castellers moved slow or fast. We counted how many levels they had and I asked them if they would be scared to go to the top or not.



After discussing the castells we got out the blocks and made towers of our own. I challenged them to build their towers at least 10 cubes high. What strikes me is that while they usually start out just one cube on top of another they quickly transition to making it with a wider base at the bottom. I heard lots of ¡Ay carambas! and ¡No me gusta! as their towers fell. And they counted as they went higher and higher.




In the next two classes we reviewed what and where castells are and then we worked with a partner to build a tower together. One partner looked at a tower I had built behind a screen and relayed what they saw to their partner back at the table. Like before this task was a little confusing and some of them forgot to use their Spanish in their excitement but by the second class most of them had the hang of it.

The last two classes we took what we knew about how to build the best towers and how to communicate with our friends and applied it. First the students made a plan on paper. Then they took their 2D representation and with a partner they took turns building a 3D version of their designs. It was pretty hilarious when they realized they got to build what they had drawn before. Needless to say they were pretty excited.



All in all it was a great mini-unit to end the year on. Do you use STEM activities in your classroom? Have you seen the crazy castells in Catalonia? Share in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #earlylang!

1 comment:

  1. I'm excited to share these video clips with my students! I'm going to have them practice counting and writing numbers by building towers with Cheerios. I love your blog! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your ideas!

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