‘Telling Moments’ project aids high
school Spanish teachers
By Matt Kelly
means more if you see it on film. U.Va. Spanish professor
David T. Gies wants to help Virginia high school teachers use
Spanish-language films to teach
language and culture, and he received a $250,000
National Endowment for the Humanities grant to do it.
want to teach Spanish as it is spoken in Spain,” Gies said.
The program, “Telling Moments: A Spanish Film Archive for High School Teachers,” will
make the University’s resources available to state high school teachers
via a password-protected Web site. Gies will put one- to two-minute film clips
online, accompanied by scripts in Spanish (some with English translations), pop-up
screens supplying historic and cultural context to objects on the screen, related
bibliographies and suggestions for student activities. The contents will be aligned
with the National Standards for Foreign Language Learning.
learn by hearing and seeing others use the language,” said Ruth
M. Ferree, assistant professor of foreign language education at the Curry School
of Education, who is working on the project. “This is authentic Spanish
in real settings.”
The films selected are “inherently interesting,” Ferree said, and
even those who do not speak Spanish fluently should be able to follow the action
on the screen.
would be ideal to see the whole film first, then focus on the
said. “But each clip can stand on its own.”
Gies has selected the first film for the “Telling Moments” program: “The
Barbarous Years,” a 1998 film by Fernando Colomo, a friend of Gies’.
“It’s a wonderful film,” Gies said. “It is very accessible.
It’s about the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. The teachers really
To assist him, Gies has set up an advisory group of five
high school teachers. He is working with U.Va.’s Digital Media Center to put together a model
to show to more teachers this month for comment and input.
This project is not Gies’ first experience with film and language. His
Spanish conversation course is based on movies. Gies assigns his students about
28 films a semester from Clemons Library’s Spanish film archive, one of
the largest in the country. Besides offering them exposure to Spanish cinema,
the assignment also provides a common experience for in-class discussions.
Ferree said the film-based teaching concept should be transferable
to any language in which films are made; she has seen film
used as an
aid in teaching French, Chinese and Japanese.
But she said this project’s online elements make it unique.
have not seen it done as we do it,” Ferree said. “Educational literature
supports the use of clips and movies to support the sound of the language. But
there has not been a Web site like this.”
Gies said the project is partly an effort to get away
from lecture-based teaching.
are becoming more aware of the audience and of serving them,” Gies said
of the high school teachers. “I’m not teaching teachers anything.
I am collaborating with them to create something that is useful to them.”