Friday, November 9, 2012

TPRS year 3 - Agentes Secretos - week 1

So this week we finally started reading Agentes Secretos y el mural de Picasso by Mira Canion in my Spanish 1 and Spanish 2 classes.  I thought it would be great for both levels and we could just do more in Spanish 2 with culture and embedded readings about history and culture to enhance the story.

This week for our TPRS structures and embedded reading, Josef Sallen (the teacher I'm planning this year with) had a great idea.  He decided to write an embedded reading about Francisco Franco (a dictator from Spain's history that also is mentioned in Agentes Secretos y el mural de Picasso).  It talked about how Francisco Franco is a boy and his dad is a soldier and Francisco later wants to be a soldier.  Then it gives some background about the Spanish Civil War and the two opposing sides in the war.

So it occurred to me that since we're going to be reading the novel and Joe had written the embedded reading about Franco, maybe we could find some other things from the era to help us go back in time and to understand the perspectives (that's national standards talk!).  So I found some propaganda posters that I showed for warm ups and had the students figure out which side they probably went with (the day after the embedded reading).  And on Thursday (on song day), we listened to Ay Carmela.  I saved a lesson plan about it.  It's a hymn for the Republican side of the Spanish Civil War.  It talks about the Battle of the Ebro (arguably a somewhat important battle in the Spanish Civil War).

I did a history lesson about parts of the Spanish Civil War with a PowerPoint in Spanish halfway through class.  My kids actually seemed to enjoy it!  Who knew that they could enjoy history in Spanish class.  The best part is that it only helps us to further understand the backdrop for the novel Agentes Secretos y el mural de Picasso.

Then today (Friday) we read the first chapter of the novel.  I haven't done a novel reading before.  I asked my kids to be patient with me since I was trying something new this year in teaching them.  Then we read.  One of the neat things was we have many Spanish speakers in class and I asked if they wouldn't mind helping me read the Spanish since they're so much better at the language than me!  It went over wonderfully. The kids were able to follow along and read while someone spoke in Spanish with a native accent.

Some problems of course did occur:

  1. some students no matter how easy you might try to make it just don't like reading
  2. the readings are way too easy for Native / Heritage speakers
  3. only a few kids really bought into helping translate the novel as we went through
    • I would really love for all the students to get excited about understanding and helping out
    • How can I create a classroom atmosphere that will be more comfortable for all students?
Some things that went well:
  1. For most students, the structures in the book were way easy to translate and it helped with confidence (still confusion between quiere and tiene among some Spanish 1 students)
  2. Native / Heritage speakers read out loud as we followed.  I asked them if they wouldn't mind helping me read since they spoke Spanish way better than me while we followed.  Most jumped to the task since I asked them to hold back on helping us translate today. 
Ideas for future:
A teacher had an idea to get my kids to participate more when reading, I could have assign the students into groups with a color or animal and then periodically only allow that group to answer the questions.  This could be a much better idea for those big classes where some kids monopolize the answering.


  1. Hello Jeremy!!

    It sounds like you prepared this so well!!! Some thoughts:

    a) You're right...some kids don't like reading and won't ever admit that it helps. Lucky for them you are doing all kinds of things to make it easier and more successful.

    b) You're right..getting all kids involved is important. Some are afraid that it is too hard, even if you know that it isn't. Building in success for them is so important. One idea is to go over the same chapter the next day for about 3-4 minutes. Let them sit with a friend and take turns translating the sentences in whispers so other pairs can't hear. You can circulate and see how it's going, congratulate kids who need encouragement and answer questions. When they have demonstrated that they can do it (less than 5 minutes is usually enough, then switch to the new material)

    PS...Can you send me the embedded reading? I'll post it on with credit to all who worked on it so that others can benefit!!!
    with love,

    1. Thanks Laurie! This is an awesome idea. Makes me wish I didn't do the reading on a Friday, but instead did it earlier in the week. Maybe I should change around my schedule a bit as we finish the novel!

      Here's a copy of the embedded reading if you wanted to see it. I'll talk to Joe about it and see if he's ok with sharing it like that (since he was the one who worked on it!):
      Franco quiere ser miliatar

  2. I am actually doing agentes as well and have created so much materials. I wished I stumbled on your blog before!

  3. Hola Jeremy,
    I will be doing Agentes Secretos with my 7th graders this year. I love all your ideas and wanted to know if I could see your history Power Point. I think it's wonderful to give the background information before we start reading the book.

    Mil gracias :)
    Elena López

    1. If you'll e-mail me, I made a history power point for this, along with other materials. I am always open to share!

  4. Hi Jeremy,

    I love all your thoughts and videos. We are just starting Agentes Secretos and I was wondering if you ever put up the embedded reading you mentioned in this post? I am looking for something simple in Spanish for a pre-reading activity and was hoping to borrow it. Thank you!

  5. I just finished using this novel with my kids and we enjoyed it a lot. It was a great mixture of history, culture, and mystery. Here are some things I did with my kids:

    1. Thanks for sharing! Glad it went well! :-)
      Do you think you'll end up trying out more novels in the future?