Adding (more) Music to La Llorona de Mazatlán

cover la lloronaThere are so many wise and wonderful blogs out there adding activities to the ever growing selection of TPRS/CI novels, and I benefit from each and every one of them.  I so appreciate the tremendous sharing that goes on in our PLC!  I hope that what I will post here will be beneficial to those who may be working with the same novel.

This is my second year teaching La Llorona de Mazatlán ,  and as opposed to going faster since I am more familiar with it, it is very definite that I am going much, much slower! Some of that pacing is coming from the plethora of activities that are possible with each and every chapter and some of it is coming from the music that I have added (on top of what I added the first time around!). As I have stated many times before, when I am planning a unit, I always consider the music (my hook) from the very beginning of the planning stages. Each one of us has a passion to add to this TPRS/CI landscape, and mine is music.  Music has been a constant addition to my teaching for all of my 38 years!

Last year I shared activities for La Llorona with the great song Me equivoqué by CD9. The song was a favorite for my students last year, and it was no different this year.  It just resonates with so many of them. Many of them know the lyrics by heart and have downloaded it into their various music sources. Having previously posted about it, I won’t repeat.  This year I added several more songs, and each of them has been a hit with most of the students. I’ve written about Vasquez Sounds before, but this year I purposely inserted two of their songs into different chapters of La Llorona.  In Chapter 3, Laney leaves for Mexico and in Chapter 4 she has arrived.  I used the song Me Voy for two specific reasons: the past tense verbs and the act of leaving with the accompanying reasons/emotions of Laney.  She thinks that Norman, Oklahoma is dull and boring.  Using the lyrics to the song, I hope to support and help to reflect similar emotions

“Se pinta el cielo gris aquí “;                                                                                               “Me voy como un cowboy “;                                                                                             “Me iré por lo que quiero
Aunque hagan agujeros
En mi sombrero soñador “;                                                                                                 “Me voy con mis botas marrón ” and                                                                                    “Y cruzare el desierto
Veré estrellas sobre mi
Y así más días de color”

I feel that these lyrics accurately reflect some of Laney’s thoughts and feelings, and we were able to make those comparisons.  Additionally, the song lyrics include the idea of a love duel/dispute/figth which is an indicator for what will happen, more of less, in the story. Also, the lead singer (Angie) in Vazquez Sounds is right around the age of Laney! Here is the cloze activity with some verb work that I used  Me voy por Vásquez Sounds but the discussion and comparison was done orally. Here is the video for the song; you will need to skip the first 30 seconds of commercial that they inserted into the song.

My students enjoyed that song (and others from Vazquez Sounds) so much, that I decided to use Buenos días, Señor Sol at the end of chapter 4 (Laney has seen Luis)/beginning of chapter 5 (the sun is shining, it’s a beautiful day for the auditions, she’s feeling on top of the world in beautiful Mazatlan).  Again, there were several reasons for choosing the song: we’ve been “noticing” future tense verbs (there are several in the song), we’ve been focusing on two verbs (seguir/tratar) which are in the lyrics, and the song accurately reflects Laney’s emotions at this stage of the book.                                     Hoy como otros días seguiré tratando ser mejor
Y sonriendo haré
Las cosas con amor
Buenos días alegría
Buenos días al amor
Buenos días a la vida
Buenos días señor sol
Yo seguiré tratando ser mejor
I used this Chap 5 Buenos dias Vazquez Sounds to work with the song and discuss similarities. There are several videos for the song, my students enjoyed these two:

At this stage of the book, Laney has auditioned and the focus of the music switches to soccer.  I used several of the songs and activities that I have posted about previously for the World Cup unit. The songs included, but aren’t limited to, Waka Waka, Lalala, La Copa de Todos, Waving Flag, De Zurda, and La Vida es Tombola. In addition to this music, I try to find music most days that reflects what is happening in the book at that point in time, or that matches the emotions of the characters.

I am in the middle of one of my largest additions, musically, to the book this year. I have always loved the music of Gaby Moreno, and I have used her beautiful Ave Que Emigra to begin Esperanza. I decided that I wanted to do more with the actual legend of La Llorona and I wanted to include other legends, too.  There is a beautiful song, El Sombrerón, that Gaby sings and it is based, I believe, on the Guatemalan legend of the same name.  I feel that it is complementary to the La Llorona legend.  The two share some common elements: night, moon, shrouded faces/eyes, spirits that capture souls, etc. Additionally, it gives a legend with a male character to balance the female La Llorona, and this is a male character who is responsible for creating some misery for the female (some information even states that El Sombrerón comes from Mexico).  This may tie into the male figure that deserts or abandons La Llorona, prompting her actions. I’ve been proceeding slowly with the song, working with just bits and pieces for a few days as we are building up to the books’ version of La Llorona in Chapter 13.  At the same time, we are reading versions of La Llorona that are different from the version that they will get in Chapter 13 (thank you Bryce Hedstrom and Martina Bex ). This is the document that I have used, slowly, over the course of three days: El Sombrerón.  We have spent some interesting, productive time describing our illustrations to partners and creating/sharing sentences based on those drawings.  I have a SMARTboard presentation that goes with this worksheet, and we have only worked through the first two slides, meaning that we will get to the actual legend this coming week (the remaining files). Here are some of them:

Sombreron 1 Sombreron 2 Sombreron 3

Of course, once we read Chapter 13, we will also work with the various versions of the song La Llorona.

As always, if you find errors in my Spanish (I’m definitely not a native speaker), please let me know!! I hope that some of you who are using this great TPRS novel may find some of this interesting and useful.

Esperanza, year two……

So many people have been acknowledging the tremendous benefits and relevance of teaching with novels and CI, that there is no need for me to say more….other than I am 100% convinced that, for me, this is the way to teach.  I can not emphasize enough the phenomenal value of the TPRS novels and the novels being selfpublished (Mike Peto) as well as the original stories by people like Martina Bex.

This is my second year teaching with the novel Esperanza (written by the fabulous Carol Gaab) in my Spanish III classes. Last year, both the majority of my students and I loved this book and I wrote two posts about some of the things that we did: Esperanza y Gaby Moreno and Esperanza….the final assessments. However, this year I am even more pleased with what we have done so far…..and I am a little more than 2 weeks slower than I was last year!! Yes, it has taken me twice as long to cover the same material this year that I had covered last year at this point in time.  When all of those wise TPRS teachers and leaders say that “slower is better” and “make it personal”, they are oh, so right!  I know now that I did not do justice to the novel last year, nor to the great ideas in the teachers guide.

I am fortunate to be teaching Spanish III with a terrific colleague, Megan Matthews. We make a pretty good team, if I do say so! Between the two of us, we have 137 students in 5 sections of Spanish III, and we really try to plan and create together.  This year, we took many days to explore Guatemala: music, geography, history, etc.  We decided to really focus on La Guerra Civil before we began the actual book.   So far, it has really paid off. We have read, viewed, talked and used manipulatives to really understand the background of the book. Here are some of the things that we have used:

A brief “lectura”

Matarom a más de 200.000 personas.
Empezó en 1960. Duró por 36 años.
83% de las personas matadas fueron personas indígenas (mayas)
Los EE.UU. tenían intereses en Guatemala…..tierras de frutas, café, etc.
Los EE.UU. querían controlar la tierra. No querían a una persona comunista como presidente.
En 1960, los sindicatos empezaron a luchar por una vida mejor y los derechos de los mayas y los trabajadores.
General Efrain Rios Montt empezó los años más violentos. Mató a muchas personas en las montañas de Guatemala.
La Guerra Civil terminó en 1996 pero la lucha y la violencia siguen (continue).

La Guerra Civil Guatemala images



A Kahoot game

More information on General Efraín Ríos Montt, including a SMART presentation and more work with the vocabulary from the lectura (wordpress does not allow uploading this type of file).  Some of the things in the file are:

smart 1 smart 2 smart 3 smart 4 smart 5 smart 6























Another game, called Game Gritalo facts about civil war, where the class is divided into 2 teams.  Each team receives an identical set of cards (answers to the questions I will ask).  Each person receives at least one card.  I read the question or fact, and they had to recognize the answer, stand up and shout it! Noisy but a lot of fun.

Additionally, we have spent significant time talking about public transport, bus drivers and strikes.  All of this because Alberto, in the book, is a bus driver and we wanted our students to understand the significance of this, why it would be dangerous to be a bus driver (and why it continues to be dangerous) and why Esperanza and her mother have the feelings that they do about him/the job. Martina Bex has a useful product for the chicken bus in Guatemala and we used one of the readings from it. We also prefaced the entire situation with many personal questions about our students’ experiences with busses, whether they could identify the bus in Guatemala as the same school bus that they ride to school, etc. It was a very rich discussion in Spanish. We referenced articles that are relatively current that deal with continuing bus issues in Guatemala, such as this one. We used several videos: Just a bit of this one:

And finally, we have talked extensively about the crying of the baby due to hunger, the whining of Ricardito due to hunger, and their vomiting. We have discussed hunger (and vomiting due to crying and hunger) quite a bit.  I realize that I am taking liberties with the text, but I don’t feel that it is out of line.  We have talked about tortillas, bread and the staples of life for different cultures.  We have wondered and guessed why Esperanza was going to a tortillería in Chapter 2.  Would they eat just plain tortillas? What does a plain tortilla taste like? Would they add salt to it, such as in the documentary “Living on One“? On Monday, we are going to eat plain tortillas, salted tortillas, etc…..and they won’t be the American version “white flour tortillas.”

I hope these ideas may be beneficial to those of you who are also teaching with Esperanza. I’d love to hear more about what you are doing.


My colleague Megan Matthews and I have had such great success with the TPRS Publishing  novels the past two school years, and we would love to be able to use more of them.  Unfortunately, in our school district we are plagued by financial issues and there simply isn’t enough money for us to purchase more at this time. We have, for the past 10 years, taught a unit on Argentina that is derived from chapter 10 in the textbook (that we do not use, but we are obligated to follow the curriculum).  While we have tried to incorporate some of the vocabulary from that chapter, some of the grammar (the ongoing past tense development, the introduction of the present subjunctive and the present perfect), and some of the cultural differences between Buenos Aires and Washington, D.C., we were missing the structure, the fun, and the wonderful support of a novel.  Over the years I had developed activities for that chapter that I liked, that the students enjoyed, and that served a definite cultural purpose, I was missing that reading and comprehensible input component. So, what happened?  I got pneumonia! And I missed a lot of school! And I was bored! So, what did I do? I started to write a novela about Argentina! I wrote the first two chapters and sent them to Megan, she wrote chapter three, I then wrote chapters four and five, she wrote chapter six, I wrote chapters seven and eight, we collaborated on nine, and I finished the book with chapters ten and eleven.  What excitement!! So what I’m going to do now is share the beginning of this with you! Please keep in mind that I am no expert in the culture of Argentina, nor am I a native speaker. I began to write this novela “Amigos, Abrazos, Aventura, ARGENTINA!” to fit a definite need and purpose for my Spanish III students.  The grammatical focus was specifically a continuation of the past tense, an introduction to the present subjunctive and an exposure to some present perfect.  The cultural emphasis was on similarities/differences between Buenos Aires and Washington, D.C.(which is just a little over 2 hours from us), the geography of Argentina, the food of Argentina ( we tasted a lot of it!), and specific areas (Iguazu, Ushuaia, las Pampas), el tango (we learned the basic steps to the dance and they LOVED it!) and a bit of soccer (although we ran out of time for this). The novela has a lot of dialogue (good for acting out the story), a bit of romance, a lot of mystery and an ending open to interpretation. I was able to include bits and pieces of my students’ favorite themes from throughout the school year, and the students came up with their own decisions as to what actually happened at the end….or maybe I left it open for a sequel!

These were the “I can” statements for this unit:

1. Puedo identificar los países de Las Américas.
2. Puedo identificar ciudades, lugares geográficos, y fronteras de Argentina
3. Puedo hacer comparaciones entre Buenos Aires y Washington, D.C.
4. Puedo hablar sobre varios lugares en Argentina:
· Buenos Aires
· Las Cataratas de Iguazú
· Ushuaia
· Las Pampas
5. Puedo hablar sobre unos aspectos culturales de Argentina
· El tango
· El fútbol
· La comida
6. Puedo escribir sobre viajes.
7. Puedo hablar y escribir en el pasado
8. Puedo reconocer y entender frases con “quiero que, es importante que, espero que, recomiendo que, aconsejo que, sugiero que” 

As always, we began the unit with some pre knowledge activities, some conversation, and some map and geography exploration. With a partner, we discussed:
1. ¿Qué te gusta hacer o ver en la ciudad o el lugar en que vives? ¿Por qué?
2. ¿Qué te gusta ver cuando visitas una ciudad nueva? ¿Por qué?
3. ¿Qué te gusta hacer cuando visitas una ciudad nueva? ¿Por qué?
4. ¿Qué es una ciudad que visitaste en el pasado? ¿Qué hiciste en la ciudad?
We followed that with Qué sabes de opening activity 2015 To complete this activity (with a partner), I also gave them the answers to the questions on a SMARTboard slide. que sabes answers
We worked with our maps. La Argentina primer trabajo del mapa 2015 Finally, we were ready to begin the first chapter of the novela. After reading the first chapter, we used a series of images to share information with our partner and to retell parts of the first chapter. chap 1 retellchap 1 retell 2   chap 1 retell 3We also answered some questions and worked with the verbs. Ch 1 preguntas and repaso verbos, intro verbos
Below, I am including the first chapter of this novel, which doesn’t include a lot of dialogue, but the dialogue really develops after the first chapter.  I would really appreciate your feedback on it.  Specifically, I welcome your criticism! I am thinking of perhaps pursuing having it published, even if I do it through something like TpT.  I know that I would have to replace all of the pictures, but that is not too much of a problem because I did have my students draw pictures for specific chapters.  If you find this interesting or worth pursuing, I would love to know.  Thank you in advance for your feedback and time.
chap 1-1 chap 1-2 chap 1-3

Thank you

Two weeks off from school, five weeks out from the discovery of my work being claimed by other people, and I have recovered my perspective.  I want to thank all of you readers who responded to my previous post with comments on that post, or direct emails to my school address and tweets on Twitter.  Your support and encouragement were wonderful, and definitely meant the world to me. I will continue to put my work out there in the hopes that some of it will continue to be useful to other teachers. I benefit from the work and labor of so many other incredible teaching professionals, I hope that I might be able to reciprocate a little, too.

What to do on this roller coaster……..?

Hello blog world! School is finally over for the year here in Maryland.  I believe it is the latest we have been in session in as long as I can remember.  The end of the year was a roller coaster ride, too.  There was an incredible low that I still am trying to wrap my head around.  I have shared my materials freely for years and years and years.  I enjoy sharing and thinking that someone else may benefit from what I’ve created.  I also borrow freely from some wonderfully generous, gifted people.  Kara Jacobs, Martina Bex, Elizabeth Dentlinger, Bethanie Drew, Carrie Toth, Cynthia Hitz, Mike Peto, Dustin Williamson, Crystal Barragan, Allison Weinhold, Laura Sexton  all come quickly to mind.  There are many more! While there have been incidences in the past few years where I have found my work on other people’s sites without crediting me, there was never enough to make me consider stopping.  Until three weeks ago.  That is when I discovered whole units of my work had been taken by more than one person and transformed into “their work”.  Not just one unit, not just two, not just three, but at least ten entire units.  I could not believe the audacity. My immediate reaction was to make my current Spanish III and Spanish IV units private on my wiki. But, after making the pages private, I got multiple requests for access to materials from people who were going to use them properly.  I still don’t know what to do. Some people, via Twitter, have told me that imitation is flattery, but I don’t consider this imitation.I would appreciate any thoughts that you might have.

The high point of the last weeks of school came from the fact that I finally did something that I’ve been wanting to do for a while.  Throughout the year, I wrote stories for Spanish III, IV and my college students.  They were, overall, whopping successes.  The kids loved them and they accomplished my goals while maintaining comprehensible input.  I followed all kinds of models from many of the people I listed in the first paragraph, especially Martina Bex. In both Spanish III and IV, we had read two novels this past school year (Esperanza and Robo en la Noche; La Llorona de Mazatlan and Vida y Muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha).  I wanted more, my students wanted more, but there was no funding for them. Finally, I got sidelined for days when I developed pneumonia, and, out of boredom, I made an impulse decision to start writing my own novel.  My fellow colleague Megan Matthews and I still had to cover Argentina, travel vocabulary and the present subjunctive (according to our county curriculum).  So, I started writing and before I knew it, three chapters were done! Megan wrote chapter 4 after reading what I had done, I wrote chapter 5, she wrote chapter 6, I followed them with 7 and 8, she wrote 9, and I finished it up with chapters 10 and 11!  It was so easy, and it was done in a matter of a few days.  I added in a multitude of images and mapped out all of the cultural elements that I wanted to include (all of the videos, websites, etc.). The beauty of writing this for our students was that we got to include references to things that we had read and done throughout the year.  I decided to bring back, in a cameo appearance, (at the very end of the ‘novel’), Cecilio Mendez from Robo en la Noche.  From my music and social awareness unit in Colombia, there were references to Escobar and things about Colombia that were left to individual interpretation.  The kids thoroughly enjoyed the book, and I am thinking about replacing the images that I used, with the drawings that they created, and seeing if it might be able to be published somehow. I called it “Amigos, Abrazos, Aventura:  Argentina”.  It is the story of a local university student who won a trip to Argentina, along with several other students in the U.S., and toured Buenos Aires, Iguazu, the Pampas, and Ushuaia.  Along the way, he took tango lessons, found a romantic interest, mystery and unsolved disappearances.  I would appreciate your thoughts about this, too! un viaje a Argentina cover

Mini Assessments for Robo en la Noche

Time is simply flying by this school year!  We have dealt with some pretty unusual circumstances….9 snow days during the reading of the novel, 16 days of PARCC testing (do not even ask me how I feel about this!), and I have missed some time due to surgeries that I had hoped could wait til summer (wasn’t possible).  Therefore, finishing the novel Robo en la Noche  by Kristy Placido. was a bit chaotic. I opted for 2 mini assessments at the end of the book, both of which were completed by students when I was not in school.  That makes the results, for me, even more amazing.

The first mini assessment was called Análisis de Carácter.  Students had to choose a character from the book and an adjective/noun/emotion that depicted how that character acted or felt: enojado, asustado, tonto, bruto, triste or feliz,. Their task was to find ten supporting sentences or phrases (dialogue or action)  that supported that character and adjective choice.  They had one 45 minute class period to do this.  Here are some examples:

13j 3 adj 1 adj 2 adj 4 adj 5

The second mini assessment that started in class on a Friday, and it was due when I returned on Tuesday.  There were four options for them, and they can be found in this document mini pbt choices revised. Here are some examples of the work that I received, from obviously artistic students as well as others for whom stick figures rock! photo 1 photo 3 photo 4 photo 5 photo 6 photo 7 photo 8 photo 10 photo 11 photo 12 photo 13 photo 149

I can not emphasize enough how fulfilling it is to use these novels.  The students enjoy them, they feel good about what they are able to do, they feel successful, and their growth is obvious.  Comprehensible input is definitely, for me, an excellent methodology.  I am going to order the sequel to Robo en la Noche, Noche de Oro, because so many of them want to know what happens to the characters….who DID say Pura Vida at the end of the novel, what happens to Dr. Parker and Ines, what does Makenna do….?.  Because I will have many of them in Spanish IV next year, their opportunity to read the novel as part of our curriculum is not available (we read La Llorona de Mazatlan, Vida y Muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha, and hopefully La Hija del Sastre in level 4)….but free reading choice is!!! Our thoughts for Level 3 next year include repeating Esperanza and Robo en la Noche as well as adding Blanca nieves y los siete toritos.

Music without the cloze……..

Yesterday, one of my Twitter colleagues remarked how much she enjoys using music in her Spanish classroom.  She continued by asking what else could she do with a song other than have students complete a cloze activity.  It’s very hard to give an answer to that question within the 140 character limit. Therefore I am going to share some of the ways that I have used a song recently. My Spanish III classes have just begun a Colombia/Juanes/Social Awareness unit and my Spanish IV classes have just finished the novel Vida y Muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha.

An oldie, but a goodie…..La Historia de Juan (Juanes).  Everyone has heard this song and knows that it is filled with preterite verbs.  There are several activities that I do with this song, but one of the newest is this document La Historia de Juan que representan las fotos (see the pictures below).  After we have worked with the songLa Historia de Juan retell, I will have the students first identify what the pictures mean in relationship to the song; next I will have them attempt to recreate a line from the song; finally, they will have to attempt to put the pictures in some order, with lyrics, that will make sense.  It may not necessarily be the same order as the song.

For another old song, A Dios le Pido, BEFORE my students had any exposure to it, I gave them 12 strips for the first part of the song.  Working with a partner, they read through the lyrics, in whatever order they got them, and tried to understand as much as possible.  We shared this in class and then made guesses as to what the song might be about. A Dios 1 A Dios 2

Their guesses ran basically along these lines:  someone is in love, someone is sick, someone has Alzheimers, etc.  Without watching the video while we listenend, they next tried to put the 12 strips in order.  I recommend having the students derive some meaning before ordering, otherwise trying to order an unfamiliar song can be a bit daunting.  It took two times listening, and they had the order.  Then we watched that part of the video.  It didn’t take much discussion to determine that the song was about more than they had originally thought.  The second day with the song I did a type of go/stop activity (similar to MovieTalk) with the video as we identified what it was that we were seeing.  We then listened again, identifying, by circling, which word was in the song (despertar, despiertan, despierten; recuerde, recuerda, recordar) A Dios part 2. A Dios le pido day 2 Next, I had them,without looking, attempt to write down 5 things that Juanes had asked for in the song.  They shared with a partner, and together, as a class, we listed as many as we could.  We looked at the lyrics again and I asked them if they noticed anything different about the verbs that we had circled (brief foray into the world of present subjunctive, and I do mean brief: they have “opposite endings” and there is a “que” before them). Finally, the students determined what three things they might ask for.

Enrique Iglesias and Nicky Jam released the official video for “El Perdon” last Wednesday.  It was a song that had been on my radar for about a month, as I waited to see what the video would be like to determine if I was going to use it.  The video is mostly decent, there are a few things that might be inappropriate depending on your school situation and level. I played it for my students as the opening music last Thursday, and predictably, they really liked it.  Sara Elizabeth Cottrell posted some wonderful ideas for this song on her blog Musicuentos and I strongly encourage you to explore her blog!  I did something else with the song. First, we identified every word that they knew after only listening once.  We listened again, and added to the list. It was great because we have certainly been working with “estaba buscando, gritando, matando, tomando etc.”  They really felt good about what they understood after just those two times. Then, I had them listen to the way Enrique and Nicky pronounced words, asking if they were the same.  Of course, they are not.  This led to a good discussion about the difference in Spanish from Spain and Spanish from the United States (Nicky Jam was born in Boston) when your parents are from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Their listening was intense as the picked up on the “decir” of Enrique Iglesias; the e’taba bu’cando of Nicky Jam, etc.

Finally, one of the songs that I used with the book Vida y Muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha (from TPRSPublishing, was Tu Carcel. I had read about the song in another blog, and I’m really sorry that I can’t remember where (if you know, please tell me and I will credit that source).  In the book, the anonymous author will eventually go to jail, but even before that happens, he is imprisoned in a jail that is of his own making/or of the gang.  While the song is technically a love song, it was really easy to reinterpret the lyrics so that they applied to the narrator, the disappearance of his father, the death of his mother, etc.  And that is exactly what we did with those lyrics.

So, there you have it, 4 different activities that are not cloze activities, that I have used in the past 2-3 weeks.


Spanish IV started the Immigration unit three days ago.  I introduced it with the very popular song, Wake Me Up, from last year.  It was done originally by Aloe Blacc and Avicci.  Aloe Blacc (whose parents are from Panama), made an acoustic version of the song with Immigration as the video context.  It was an immediate hook for my students because it was a song in ENGLISH that they already knew quite well…..but, they had never seen it from the perspective of immigration.  The lyrics are the same as the original version, but they take on a completely different meaning in the context of the song.

We also work very early in the unit with the Statue of Liberty. I adapted an English article to Spanish Inmigracion Estatua de Libertad 2015, added the poem by Emma Lazarus, and finished our brief survey with this music: