Each week we would read a chapter (or two). As needed we would do a spoken story that might practice some of the structures that we would later find in the chapter. The driving force behind reading the books this year in class was to make sure that the students could find success. While I could have chosen books that would have been much more challenging to them, I think it was crucial to make sure that the books were mostly comprehensible by the time we read them with maybe a few words or things that weren't. I find this important because when I first started reading in Spanish, it was way too difficult in classes because my teachers had an inflated sense of "the students should know this by this point." I was one of the better students and found reading way too difficult in Spanish 4. As teachers we should be helping our kids to find success so they might find more fulfillment in the future.
In addition to pre-teaching the necessary structures and vocabulary, I also would create animated PowerPoints of certain scenes in the book while we were reading it. I also created backgrounds and we would act out the chapters a day or so after reading them. This was also to create an additional pass of the material, and to make sure students would be able to visualize some of the action in the book.
By the time we finished the book, I wanted to assess my kids. The test that Joe and I came up with was a bit of a beast. I think we jokingly referred to it as the "Kraken" at some point while writing it. When my kids took it, although they told me it was reasonable and not necessarily difficult, it was simply longer than many could do within one class.
What I liked about it was we tried to incorporate many different types of questions on the test to make sure our students understood it.
In my favorite section, I made animated slides of scenes from the book and the students had to write a sentence or more explaining the scene in Spanish. It was neat. It also helped me see deficiencies in their acquisition of certain structures.
Another section was multiple choice of the basic plot points of the book (all in Spanish). There was a section of quotes from the book from the main characters, true / false, and some short answer questions.
The neatest part about the whole test (and the previous test about the book Agentes Secretos y el mural de Picasso) was that the questions were in Spanish. My students had to understand enough Spanish to be able to perform on the test and answer the questions. Most kids did quite well! Maybe two of all of my students did very poorly (60%). There were many interruptions during this book though due to track, baseball, field trips, etc.
The Good (went well)
- I thought the book was a success for the first year trying it
- I was able to do things in this book that I didn't do with the first one; my students responded more favorably to this one
- I was very proud of the test
- the fact that many of my students came to class and were ok with reading once/twice a week IN SPANISH was great
- the Hollywood days were some of the kids favorite days (they told me later)
- my kids were learning Spanish this year to be successful enough to be able to read most of the book
- I felt like I was more creative with this unit than I have been in awhile in my teaching; I was able to use many of my talents to make the book/characters more accessible to my students
- I had the Native Speakers and Heritage Speakers read the chapters while the class translated. This was great since sometimes I have to ask my Native Speakers and Heritage speakers to not answer questions or count to 5 before answering in Spanish. I think it helped them feel more useful and special!
The Bad (needs improvement)
- the 10 week unit seemed a bit daunting at times. I am not sure how some TPRS teachers can squeeze in 3-4 books a year.
- some kids didn't like how long the book took as a result of the 10 week unit
- I would like to do some pirate-based stuff in addition like I saw from a FLAM presentation this last fall (examples were in German though)
- didn't create a lot of opportunities for higher thinking questions
- I do a lot of comprehension checks/questions. I don't do a lot of "what would you do"
- some kids hated the first pass (translation);
- could we break up in reading groups sometimes too
If you would like to see any of the activities I used for this unit, please let me know!