Creative Writing and Peer Analysis in Advanced Spanish (Mellon Project Report)

The digital project in my Spanish 236 course bridges two main components of the class: literary analysis and advanced Spanish grammar. Classroom Salon (CS) provides a digital space where these two elements are combined in a cohesive and engaging way. It also allows students the opportunity to engage in course material beyond the usual mechanical grammar practice and the traditional literary analysis assignments.

For the project, students spent the first part of the semester working on their own creative works (a story or a poem), employing similar styles, techniques, and literary tropes of the authors we studied in class. Then students uploaded their works to our Span 236 account in Classroom Salon. Students were assigned the task of analyzing their classmates’ works by 1) giving examples and explaining the uses of specific grammar points in each work—por/para, preterite/imperfect, subjunctive, and ser/estar; and 2) writing a fifty word analysis of their peers’ works, including discussion of literary tropes, language, tone, imagery, etc., as we had done in analyzing the works of Hispanic authors in class.

With this digital project I learned that students are more receptive to course assignments and more focused on the work at hand in the CS platform than in analog formats. The use of a collaborative digital space, where students review each other’s work, seems to creates an environment of accountability and an eagerness to do a better job with the assignment. The greater audience in the digital space is a good motivator, and students seem to put more effort into the digital project than in the more traditional assignments collected in class. The space for commentary and annotation also allows students the freedom to express and share their ideas in an interactive environment. This approach has proven to be especially effective for the quieter students in the class who may feel embarrassed to speak during oral discussions (especially since the class is conducted entirely in Spanish).

In addition, I’ve also found that students were very comfortable with the digital environment and that interacting in CS was natural and enjoyable for them. They are a product of the digital era and their ease in navigating through some of the more cumbersome aspects of CS was impressive. CS is also a good tool for managing assignments and tracking student activity. Assignments are easy to upload, store, and find. The user analytics component of CS provides charts and graphs of class activity, student commentaries, and my responses. I’m able to keep track of when and how long students are active, the length of their responses, and if any questions were asked or answered in each task.

Using CS as a digital platform makes course content, assignments, documents, and videos more engaging and exciting. It provides a space for real-time, interactive assignments that result in more deliberate student involvement, an enriched class environment, and successful student learning outcomes.

There is a new version of Classroom Salon that was launched recently. While the old version is still in use, there will no longer be technical support for it. I hope to explore this updated platform in the future.