Some years ago I had the idea of developing a unit on advertising for my Spanish III class. At that moment I was just looking for a way of combining the vocabulary of communication and media and the grammar content of the conditional tense, which had ended up together -I do not even remember how- in the same section of my course´s syllabus. In my initial search for inspiration all that I found about advertising in Spanish books related to commands and the intention of convincing: “Toma más leche”. Ummm…Why not, then, to go beyond the basics and hypothesize about what would we do if we wanted to advertise a product? How would we build an advertising campaign for it? How would the public react to it? There I had them: a whole bunch of conditional structures perfectly contextualized in a pretty attractive topic.
From then on this has been one of my most enjoyable units, every year with a different twist. It had gone from creating an advertising campaign for a Spanish company or product (Paellero Carmencita is my favorite one), to the “Advertising Oscar Ceremony Awards”. However, incorporating the use of the conditional tense had always felt a little bit artificial. The kind of “do not forgive to include such number of conditional sentences in your ads, guys!” artificial. Believe it or not, that is when my colleagues of the Design Technology Department came to the rescue! And this is how:
After the fortunate finding of a website showing “the best 40 advertising boards in the world”, I decided that this time I would ask my students to create an advertising board for a product of their choice. The students would have to physically construct the board and create the advertisement design using different materials and graphic design computer programs. When I shared the idea with the Design Technology teachers they got really excited and we ended up creating an interdisciplinary unit based on the Design Cycle. The final goal was an outdoor exhibition and presentation of the boards (aren´t those designed to be outside?).
The students worked with new purposeful vocabulary about the elements of design and followed the steps of investigating, planning, creating and reflecting through a project that included reading comprehension, creative writing and oral expression. All of a sudden the conditional tense was flowing as natural as the colors, slogans, textures and shapes of the boards: how would you make your design more eye catching? Which text format would you use to reflect your ad’s intention? Where would you place your board to captivate more audience? How would your audience react to your board?
But, how much grammar instruction did the students receive before doing this? How many worksheets about the conditional tense? How many verb drills? How many quizzes? … Well…NONE!. The students watched at home a Prezi video lesson about the new tense that we commented it in class, reflecting how to apply this new grammar knowledge to our advertising endeavor… and yeap!, that was all…real use began to happen right away.
At the end of the unit when I asked the students to reflect on their learning experiences, it was extremely rewarding to read comments like these (written in Spanish of course, I translate here from my students):
- “I have learnt how to use the conditional tense in a conversation”
- “I learnt that advertising is an art and the tricks behind the ideas have a purpose to influence the public”
- “I wonder how much it costs to create a real advertising board”
- “I learnt a lot of vocabulary and how to create an effective advertisement campaign in Spanish”
- “I will always remember this project because it is a way of associating the design cycle with the languages”
- “I learnt that I have to investigate before creating a project”
- “I now understand why Señora says this is one of her favorite Spanish III units!”
Here are the links to my Prezi presentations for the advertising unit. One is a video lesson about how to analyze an ad and the other is the presentation about conditional tense:
Finally, some pictures of the students’ work during the planning stages of the project and of the wonderful boards!: