Teleport Your Spanish Students!

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Jumper cables, safety goggles, rubber gloves, a charmingly mad scientist, an endearingly animated and naïve student, a dangerous-looking contraption for “teleportation,” a boondoggle of frayed electrical wires—this unlikely mélange forms the set for our Spanish language videos—which follow the adventures of Miguel Del Mundo and his sidekick, Sabo.

“Our primary objective is to teach Spanish fundamentals in a standards-based and pedagogically sound manner,” says curriculum specialist Mimi Stapleton. “But we also wanted a format that would engage students and make them want to repeat the contextualized dialog of the characters—all of whom are native Spanish speakers.”

 

The development team’s effort showcases the work of Karl Prewo—a graphic designer willing to push the envelope of the conventional education video. When you spot wind turbines on the opening screen, that’s a hint that you’re about to enter a wonderful Cervantes-like world, complete with a windmill chasing Don Quixote in Miguel and a longsuffering Sancho Panza in Sabo.

To engage young learners, Prewo chose to liven up this already lively duo by combining conventional video with animation. So the team shot carefully choreographed scenes of Miguel—played by Broadway actor Tito Hernandez—in the SAS studio, leaving blank spaces Karl later filled with his animated Sabo, whose scripted conversations with Miguel were recorded later by the talented local actor, Esteban Vargas.

greenScreen

Actor Tito Hernandez in front of a green screen that will be digitally removed later so he can be inserted into the final animated scene. Note the black object standing on the wooden stool: it represents where the animated Sabo character will be in the final scene and gives Tito something to look at while he performs.

“We never knew for sure how successful we’d been until Karl and our marvelous SAS sound engineer, Glenn Arthur, assembled all the pieces,” says project manager Donna Faircloth. “The team was always extremely excited on the days we reviewed their work.”

flash

Backgrounds were created in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, and then the scenes were hand-animated using Adobe Flash. Each character consists of multiple pieces (hands, arms, torsos, heads, mouth shapes, etc) that are linked and then moved about on the screen to create the animations.

How successful were they? “My son Sean was absolutely mesmerized by your videos,” says Colleen Painton of Rochester, NY. “He watched them over and over on YouTube and quickly began to repeat complete sentences—with a much better accent than I could have taught him! The format was perfect. He loved the way Sabo was 'teleported' to various Spanish settings. He loved the adventures and the humor. But most importantly, he really wanted to learn.”

Thus far, the team has completed seven videos, with more to come. Check them out. We think you’ll join Miguel in calling them “¡Fantastico!”

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About Author

Tim McBride

Supervisor, Educational Multimedia Writing

Tim McBride has degrees from Rochester Institute of Technology and NC State University, where he taught English for several years. His first book of poetry, The Manageable Cold, was published recently by TriQuarterly Press at Northwestern University. He works as a writer and an editor on Curriculum Pathways. He lives in Cary, NC, with an American pit bull terrier named Charlie McCarthy and a Catahoula hog dog named Junk.

1 Comment

  1. Brandy Mann

    My 5 year old son just started Spanish immersion kindergarten and LOVES Sabo. He asks to watch them before school and is now able to understand some and is so excited. The team just did a magnificent job.

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