Interpersonal speaking through art

I don’t give a participation grade in my class. My grades are designed around the 4 skills and the 3 modes so that I have a clear picture of each student’s proficiency level. The old participation grade I gave was much more a classroom behavior type grade: i.e. raised hand 4 times during class period…

Classroom participation for me is more assessment based. For example, in Spanish 3 we are getting ready to study the Spanish Civil War and read the novel La Hija del sastre. I’m front-loading some culture so on Thursday we discussed different types of government. They defined and gave characteristics of a democracy, a monarchy, and a dictatorship. I allowed them to volunteer an idea if they wanted to but I have a lot of kids in level 3 who are lurkers, quiet observers, who prefer to absorb other people’s ideas. I did not require that everyone contribute, this was not an assessment, they were all engaged but the more extroverted students carried the creation of our definitions and characteristics.

So Thursday was a day that the lurkers could lurk, tomorrow is not. Tomorrow we are going to take a peek at Picasso’s Guernica. I am going to use Guernica as an interpersonal speaking assessment. Everyone will have a partner and everyone will participate. I will play this slide show and the pairs will discuss the painting together. It is a simple 10 minute activity that gives me plenty of time to walk between the groups and assess their conversations. Feel free to adapt to something you’re studying in your class. I definitely got the idea from my fabulous PLN and adapted it for my class!
Picasso’s Guernica TPS

I do a couple of these types of things each week so I am able to see progress in my kids’ use of the language but I also honor their personalities and allow them to contribute as they feel comfortable on the other days. (Everyone is entitled to assess participation in the way that fits their own classroom, don’t think I am telling you that you have to do it my way.) I’m not saying these kids are not comfortable speaking the language, they don’t need to “practice more” so they will feel better about speaking, they are truly quiet learners. They want to be talked at!

I posted a little about my class during #langchat this week but the 140 characters are never enough to really give a clear picture of what the classroom looks like. I asked the question “Does every student HAVE to participate?” I think it sounded like my kids were refusing to participate in assessments, refusing to speak at all but that was not what I meant. I am thinking about the many days we compare, contrast, brainstorm, debate… Those are no pressure, no grade days for me. We just enjoy being able to speak with each other in our “secret code” language and if a student wants to contribute, they’re praised and if they don’t, I’m ok with that. We differentiate so many things in our room, we can’t forget that “lurker” is an acceptable state of being! 🙂


  1. Thanks for posting this activity. Perfect Guernica activity for the novel, Agentes secretos y el mural de Picasso. Also mentioned in its teacher’s guide.

  2. Thank you Carrie- going to be doing this with the course soon and this will help me take activity a little further

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