March 26-April 8, 2004
Vol. 34, Issue 6
Back Issues
Someone else’s shoes
Fraser answers call
Research week showcases students’ work
Headlines @ U.Va.
Conference to examine where the arts belong
Ayers wins Bancroft Prize
Davis Parker’s Magnum Opus
Move over, Sigmund
Emily Couric’s political papers now part of U.Va. library collection
‘Telling Moments’ project aids high school Spanish teachers
Expert to discuss new findings on equity in higher education
Students, employees give back to community
‘Telling Moments’ project aids high school Spanish teachers

By Matt Kelly

It 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.

“We 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.

“People 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.

“It would be ideal to see the whole film first, then focus on the clips,” she 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 like it.”

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.

“I 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.

“We 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.”


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