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Besos y Lagrimas

Henry Coleman, playing the role of Michael Jackson, gets pushed over a "cliff" by his deranged stalker, Tess Boucher.

Who really killed Michael Jackson? Was it his money-hungry wife, Billie Jean? Was it a deranged stalker obsessed with the King of Pop and his white glove?

Some students in Rey Fuglestad's Spanish III class at Jefferson High School (JHS) in Alexandria have a theory. And they have it on tape.

It's all part of an assignment that Fuglestad hopes will increase the students' knowledge of conversational and written Spanish, and help students develop an accent as close to native Spanish speakers as possible.

What better way to do that than immerse the students in an interesting pastime in Central and South America - the soap opera.

"We read about the popularity of soap operas and how important they are," Fuglestad explained of why he chose this project.

Fuglestad had his students in Spanish III break off into groups of four or five, and then he gave them a challenging assignment. They had to create their own soap opera, completely in Spanish.

The teacher supplied the title of the soap opera - Besos y Lagrimas (Kisses and Tears). From there, each group had to write their own script and stage directions - in Spanish.

With no limit as to how many characters in the cast, each group then had to memorize the script and videotape their show, at various locales throughout the school and the community.

"I think that it's really fun that you get to pick someone you want to be. It's cool to see that on the screen," said Henry Coleman, a JHS senior. "As tacky as it may be, it's still so much fun to see how creative each and every one of us can be and how we contribute to the overall project."

Coleman and his teammates, Katie Lovrien, Tess Boucher and Annie Luke, not only learned from the school assignment, they had a great time from start to finish.

"You find yourself wanting to go and make it even better," Luke said.

"It's nice to be driven for once and want that really great product," Coleman agreed.

Because each group was required to incorporate music into their productions, this group chose to base their story on the "true murder" of Michael Jackson, played by Coleman.

"Annie is Billie Jean, who is Michael's wife, and she gets convicted of murder," Lovrien said, her team members excitedly telling the plot of their soap opera.

"But really she didn't do it, I did, because I'm the little creeper who has an obsession with him," Boucher added as they all laughed. "I kill him and keep his white glove."

"I'm Billie Jean's best friend and I figure out that Tess actually killed Michael because she taped it and put it on her iPod," Lovrien added.

All four agree that filming their soap forced them to learn certain words, tenses and conversational Spanish that they may not have otherwise grasped.

After filming was done, the students' knowledge of computers and graphics was also tested, as they were required to edit, add sound effects and special effects, and include English subtitles. They had one month to complete their shows, which were required to be eight to 12 minutes in length.

In class this week, each group played their soap opera for the entire class to assess and evaluate, and if the Kisses and Tears Michael Jackson-style is any indication, to enjoy and be entertained.

"I think that our whole class appreciated the project," Luke concluded. "We got to explore our creative side while learning more and more about the language."