How I get enough tissues to last all year

Lisa Howie, OFLA Executive Treasurer
Spanish Teacher, Smithville High School

Right now I have a little city in my classroom made of tissue boxes. Let me start from the beginning.

Years ago a teacher friend of mine and I were lamenting never having enough tissues for our students. Our school didn’t provide them, and the kids were always asking to go to the bathroom to blow their noses during cold and flu season. We did not give the high school students long lists asking for tissues, wipes, and baggies like the elementary teachers did. They were getting too expensive for us to keep buying them. What could we do?

Luckily for us we went to the OFLA conference that year and saw a presentation about using  tissue boxes decorated as buildings to teach the vocabulary of store names. “La necesidad agudiza el ingenio,” or “Necessity is the mother of invention.” We loved it! 

Since then, I have Spanish 2 students decorate FULL tissue boxes, and then we use them in class. It started out pretty generic, but as I worked to add more and more culture to my curriculum, the project evolved. This year the students chose Lima, Peru as their city. Then each pair chose a type of store or building, researched a REAL one in Lima, and set to work. They decorated their boxes based on their research and the rubric I gave them. On the day they were due, they gave a very short presentation on their building, basically just showing it off. This gave us the opportunity to discuss different kinds of cultural products found in the stores. Then they built the city.

Of course, what they build is not accurate, just representative. They do look up real street names and use those. Then the real fun begins! Their current vocabulary has a lot of phrases for asking for and following directions. Perfect! They practice for a week, and then we have the assessment. It is so fun watching the students walk through the tiny streets like King Kong or Godzilla. All this gets them up and moving a short time each class when they have been sitting for state tests for so long. And they are speaking interpersonally!

Here are some of the standards these projects touch on from the Novice High strand: INP-C.NH.1. Identify products and practices related to everyday life to help understand perspectives of native and other cultures, INP-C.NH.3. Request and share information on familiar and everyday topics and INP-C.NH.4. Interact with others to meet basic needs in familiar and everyday situations.

After the assessments are done, we destroy the city and store the tissues to use throughout the next year. Many years I have had teachers come and beg for a tissue box “tienda” to use in their room. In that way we are spreading a little Latin American culture around the building.

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