Even more music for Vida/Muerte

I have blogged about the superb novel, Vida y muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha 13 from @fluencymatters four other times with the most recent post just from last month.  So how, you might ask, would I still have even more music to add to the novel?  Blame it on Sebastián Yatra…..

With his new song “No hay nadie más“, released on January 25, 2018 and already with 1 billion views, we have the perfect song for the relationship between our narrador and Analía.  When I heard it for the first time, three weeks ago, I literally said, out loud, “Oh my gosh! This song is incredible!” and I knew that I absolutely had to use it despite the fact that we already have SO much focus music with this unit (Casas de Cartón, Gangsta, Los Rakas, Así Crecí, Adentro, Nada Valgo sin tu amor and Princesa).

My only other decision came down to timing, and I admit I was a bit torn. Should I introduce the song after we have read about what happens to Analía or do I introduce it before, incorporating some foreshadowing?  I chose the latter.  Consider the opening verses of the song:

Recuerdo aquel día   ( I remember that day)  (the day he went to collect the payment from the viejita at the fruit stand)
Como si fuera hoy     (As if it were today)
No hay nada como ella  (There’s nothing like her)
Ni siquiera me encontró   ([she] didn’t even try to find me) (Analía arrived, strongly defending her grandmother and, unknowingly, opening the closed heart of the narrator)

Recuerdo todavía   (I still remember)
La vez que la besé    (the time I kissed her)  (their hidden dates, the trip to the beach, the intense, revealing conversation they had)
Fue mi primer amor   (It/she was my first love)
Y ahora escribo su canción   (And now I write her song)

Once we had read Chapter 6 “Mi Trabajo”, without telling my students that we were working with a new song, we started some prework.  I went through the lyrics and selected what I thought were, a) key phrases and, b) words that might interfere with comprehension.  We started with the key phrases first, making sure everyone had 100% comprehension of them.  I gave them about 10 minutes to incorporate as many as they could into a poem, in the shape of a heart: the document Chap 6 and Chap 7 No hay nadie masno hay 2

El narrador tiene 16 años y asiste a un colegio. También tiene trabajo. Pero, más importante, hay una muchacha. ??

Escribe frases, en forma de poema, usando las palabras en el banco de palabras.  Puede cambiar la forma de las palabras si quieres.


Recuerdo               Primer amor                La besé                 Inexplicable                 Cuidarte

Mil razones         Te voy a extrañar              Soledad                 Terminar                 Nadie más

Surprisingly, all of the students in all three classes plunged right into the writing.  After 10 minutes, they shared with their pod groups (the groups of 4 in the room), and then volunteered with the whole class.  We listened, did some “pop up” grammar, and basically, really enjoyed what they had written.  There were serious poems, funny poems, love poems, and more.  They really wanted to keep going, but that was day one.
The second day, after reading chapter 7 “Mi novia”,  we worked with the words that I felt could prevent some comprehension. Those words were:

Ni siquiera: not even, didn’t even
Todavía: still
Inigualable: incomparable
Cela: watches over
Disimular: hide
Extrañar: miss
Tempestad: storm
Aunque: although, even though
Renunciar: give up
Melancolía: melancholy
Lágrimas: tears
Risas: laughter

We went through the list and I then asked them to categorize those words as verbs, nouns or adjectives/adverbs/other.  WHAT AN ACTIVITY! I was not prepared for the discussion that followed as they discovered that there were words that could potentially go in more than one category and even more, that it depended on how the word was being used in English.  Example: still….. was it “She stilled the class with a glance” or “still water” or “I still don’t get this”. We had heated discussions in each class about “melancholy”…several didn’t understand the word in English and many wanted to argue that it was only an adjective. We had great discussion over the many ways to say watch/look/see and hide, in Spanish, and we even had some more “pop up” grammar as we worked , such as with the word tempestad….why is it feminine (other than they felt it sounded better that way!).  I then had them create sentences that used more than one of the words at a time, and what sentences they created!!! They did not want to stop sharing! This was a wonderful activity for my students and I believe that working with the two sets of “lyric” words greatly enhanced their subsequent comprehension and reaction to the song.

Finally, on day three, I told them that the words were part of a new song.  I did NOT use the music video; I merely gave them a traditional cloze activity.  We no more got through the first two verses when I had students in each class commenting on the sweetness of the lyrics and groaning (remember, they do not know that Analía is going to die) that the overall sad tone of the music better not mean something bad! We worked our way through the song in stages, the first two verses, the chorus, the next two verses and then for the last round of the chorus (there were no cloze blanks), I asked them to find the 4 ways the song was lyrically different from the other choruses, and asked why that might be. Each class reacted identically:  they loved it, they couldn’t get enough of it, they had to sing it.  Also, they began to question what WAS going to happen to Analía (was it going to be Analía who would be “watching over” the narrator….from where?) and tying the lyrics about how the person in the song changes the life of the singer to what Analía is doing for the narrator. Finally, I let them watch the entire music video, which is quite simple, but much may be read into it.  To reinforce how strong their reaction to this song was: I introduced the song last Tuesday, the students proposed their “favorite” songs for March madness on Thursday, voted on them on Friday…….No hay nadie más was in the top tier of vote getters!

On the fourth page of the document for the song, is an activity that I will use to open class on Monday: matching pictures/drawings to specific text from Chapter 7 and lines from the song. no hay 1

This one song is a classic illustration of how music contains the power to connect…..text with music, text with culture, text with emotions, text with our own identities.  It literally is the perfect song for the pivotal events in Chapters 6 – 9.


Adding to the wealth of resources for Felipe Alou

Although the fluencymatters novel, Felipe Alou by Carol Gaab, has been available for years, this is my first time using it. Fortunately, there are many, many generous bloggers who have shared their resources, supplementing the useful teacher’s guide that is available from fluencymatters.   I am particularly indebted to Dustin Williamson, Cindy Hitz , Martina Bex , Wesley Hilliard, Nelly Hughes and Allison Weinhold. To share the wealth, and to pay it back or forward, I’m going to quickly list a few things that I’ve adapted or created to go with the novel to date.

  1.  As suggested by several teachers, after working with the Mirabal Sisters and In the Time of the Butterflies, we moved into baseball, and made our own gloves.  First we did this reading Guantes de Cartón rev. 2018 rev, which I adapted from Wesley Hilliard, and then we made our gloves and played.  FUN!
  2. Chapter 1:  A “guante” wordle with qualities that may or not be reflected in a leader.  Students have 2 different colored markers and highlight positive/negative qualities. guante leader wordle guante
  3.  Chapter 3:  Story cups tower (an idea that I got somewhere….I’m sorry, I don’t remember from whom!!! Now I know…..Nelly Hughes via Arianne Dowd!!!) Story cups tower    Morir soñando, idea from Cindy Hitz. Most liked it, but as you can see, not all! 

    Reread chap 3 and find the false statements, based on a Martina Bex original idea. Reread chap 3 find the false statements     

  4. Repaso of 1 -3 Dictation, prior to moving to chapter 4.  I read each of the sentences several times as they wrote.  I then projected the sentences for them to correct.  Homework could be illustrating a few of them.  Believe it or not, most of the students really enjoyed this activity.  Dictation repaso of chapters 1 – 3 before beginning chap 4
  5. Chapter 4:  Had students illustrate ONLY 3 important scenes for them from the chapter.  The next day that shared their drawings with a partner and described the scene.  Partner did the same.  They next found a new partner and described what they saw on THE PARTNER’S paper.  Partner did the same.  They found another partner, and this time, they wrote what the partner had drawn. Capítulo 4 Felipe llama la atención internacional
  6. Pre chapter 5   I decided before we even began the book that in addition to adding much material for Trujillo and the Mirabal sisters, we would focus on Civil Rights during the time that Felipe arrived in the U.S. and the subsequent decade.  I knew that my students were going to need that background.  I used this slide (cropped from my SMART presentation) to get them to guess the decade and what the pictures represented. civil rights intro slide I followed it with this slide: civil rights intro what do we knowWe then did some brainstorming as a class, using this slide: civil rights brainstorming The next day I put them in groups of three and gave each group a large baggie that contained the three time periods (antes de, en el medio de and después de) and many events for each category.  Their task was to sort the events into the time period they thought they belonged.  I will not lie, this was difficult for them, and after about 7 minutes we regrouped and talked about what we had for before or after.  Several days later, we tried it again with more success.  I strongly feel that it was beneficial, but that, of course, is just my opinion.  Post reading timeline and prep for Chap 5 (small version for teacher) and Post reading timeline strips BIG large version for students.  It was a LOT of work to run them on cardstock, then cut all the strips and then bag them for each group.  But, now I have them!
  7. Chapter 5   To reinforce the main points of chapter 5, I decided on 7 principal sentences and created a rebus for each one.  With one class, they had all of them at one time on their individual papers; with another class I projected them one at a time.  I think I preferred that way. Chap 5 post reading rebus rebus 1 and 2
  8. Chapter 6   Dictogloss for review that I created based on the description on classroomtapas.com 
  9. Chapter 7  Based on a GREAT idea from Cindy Hitz, I made what she called “Game Smashing”.  Here is my description, with cloze sentences and word clouds to choose from.  Chap 7 game smashing I’ve always used wordles, or word clouds for partner work, and this one uses two steps:  identifying of words with their partner, and then finding the appropriate word to finish a sentence that is projected.  I can’t upload the powerpoint, but here is what the first slide looks like after projecting the answer: word smashing example

I hope there is something here that might be useful for you and your students.  And, as always, feel free to correct or comment…..and to suggest!!

Some of you who have followed my blog for a while might be wondering where is all of the music?????  I have used SO MUCH music with this novel, and created so many activities with it that it will have a separate post…..sometime………

Introducing Vida y Muerte with Voces Inocentes y Casas de Cartón…..again

coverThis makes my 4th year with the superb novel Vida y Muerte en la MS 13 from Fluency Matters.  The novel is the anchor in my largest unit of Spanish IV that encompasses goals and dreams, El Salvador, Voces Inocentes, the novel and Immigration. For the past 3 years, it has been the “favorite” unit of my Spanish IV classes in the end of the year evaluation.  Each year, as is the case with any unit, I have added new materials, deleted others and revised many.  After an introduction to El Salvador and it’s troubled history of the past 80 years or so (thanks to a spectacular presentation from Kara Jacobs), I have used the movie Voces Inocentes.  Focusing on a featured song from that movie, Casas de Cartón, the comprehension of the lyrics of the song significantly increase the emotional connection of the students as well as their awareness of what the Civil War in El Salvador really meant.  Two years ago, I discovered Mike Peto’s brilliant post and activities for the song.  This year due to snow and mandated state testing, the introduction to the novel has been extended.  Therefore, I have had the opportunity to create a very simple introduction to the song and an equally simple, but powerful addition to the study of the song. Below I have detailed how I began the El Salvador/Voces Inocentes part of the unit this year.

Day 1

  1.  Brief talk/discovery of what students know about El Salvador
  2. Kara Jacob’s presentation for El Salvador (I stopped on the slide for Casas de Cartón) with some additional information that I created
  3. I created this presentation to introduce the song Casas de Cartón
  4. Watched/listened to the first 1:42 seconds 
  5. Completed a simple cloze Casas de cartón 2018 (Spanish and English)

Day 2

  1.  Class started with FVR. Students read novels of their choice for 10 – 14 minutes twice a week in Spanish IV.
  2. Grouped students (2-3) with questions on cardstock related to the El Salvador presentation from day 1 (Essential Question #1).  Students answered the questions in the small groups, and then the whole class quickly reviewed/clarified together.
  3. In groups of two with a laptop, used Mike Peto’s matching activity for about 5 minutes.
  4. I created an extended visual presentation of El Mozote, based on Kristy Placido’s La Mascare de El Mozote. (Please do not ask me to share, Kristy’s work is worth the money! I can share what I added, but not the original work.)  Students worked in groups of two to read through the presentation and explore the visual presentation.  They spent about 10 minutes doing this. At the end, we reviewed as a class what they considered to be the most important facts that they learned.
  5. Based on an idea from Martina Bex, the groups of two students created a 25 word summary in Spanish of what they considered to be the most important details.

Day 3

  1.  I used 2 parts of a study guide from Rachel Hawkes to introduce the movie, Voces Inocentes.  However, when I looked for that guide again online, it did not contain the 2 parts that I used! I suppose it has been updated? The parts that I had are a cloze for the trailer of the movie and an additional cloze that focused on preterit verbs from the trailer. We did both of these prior to watching the actual trailer, and then confirmed our answers when we watched.
  2. Working in groups of two, I gave each group lyric strips (on cardstock) to Casas de Cartón in English and Spanish.  With the music playing softly in the background, they matched the Spanish to the English…..they were not putting them in order. The strips were all randomly ordered. Casas de carton matching
  3. Students then removed the English lyric strips and then put the Spanish lyrics in order as best as they could remember them.
  4. I played the song for them (first 1:42 seconds) and they revised the order as necessary.
  5. With the strips now in the correct order, they looked at the Spanish strips and read through them in English.  Hopefully, this additional background work will make the song even more powerful when we hear it for the first time in the movie.
  6. We briefly went through an introduction (on SMART) to the movie, using these slides (the vocabulary slide is from a larger group of words on quizlet) : Voces 1

Voces 2.PNGVoces 3

7.  We watched the first 20 minutes of Voces Inocentes (in Spanish)

Day 4 (this coming week)

  1.  We will use Mike Peto’s concentration game for Voces Inocentes
  2. We will complete a post viewing review of day 1, using some of the slides from the day 3 presentation and additional comprehension questions.  This will be done in small groups.
  3. We will watch an additional 20 – 25 minutes of the movie.

More to come…….

Adding MIENTES to La Llorona de Mazatlán

This is now my fourth time using La Llorona de Mazatlán by Katie Baker with my Spanish IV classes.  While there are standard activities and creations that I use with all of our novels each year, I never do anything the same way twice. This year has been made a bit more complicated since I decided that we would start the year with both FVR and El Internado once a week (as opposed to just second semester), effectively eliminating one day of the week.  However, I still want to cover the same amount of material and novels as last year, so I have to really consider how much more I add to each novel! It actually has worked out well, as I have had the students read about half of the novel on their own, and half with the whole class and therefore still been able to add in all the little “extras”.  This past week we finished chapters 9 and 10 (the fracturing of the friendship of Laney and Desi and the gift of la pulsera from Luis to Laney). We also have begun our readings of other legends (El Sombrerón, El Cucuy, El Chupacabras) as well as the first versions of La Llorona (thanks to Bryce Hedstrom!).  The first part of Chapter 11 is the huge argument between Laney and Desi, when Laney lies about the giver of the gift. My students certainly know the nouns “mentiroso/a” and “mentira” but I did not feel that they were as familiar with the verb “mentir.” With oral assesments coming up, I really want them to be comfortable when talking about the people who lied: Laney and Luis. In addition to that, the lyrics tie in beautifully with the book and the legend of La Llorona: You came into my life to teach me; with eyes closed I followed you; you’re not the person that I thought you were; you hurt me; I’m better off without you. Last year, AFTER the chapter, I used the terrific song Mientes by Camila, and they really enjoyed it. However, I made a note to use it BEFORE the chapter this year, and it worked really well.  Note: I did not use the video at any point in time; it is not appropriate and absolutely not needed. Here is the order of what I did.

  1.  Quickly went over present and past tense of mentir, with some PQA 1
  2. Shared some memes and images 2.PNG
  3. Had some discussion about famous liars (I gave them a few, they added more). 3.PNG
  4. Had some discussion about our own lies, and why we lie 5.PNG
  5. Talked about consequences of lying; this was deliberate to incorporate some unfamiliar words in the song Mientes:  hace daño, conseguiste, quedan ganas6.PNG
  6. First listen to the song and work with a traditional cloze chap 11 MIENTES Camila
  7. After listening to it twice, checking the words that they filled in, and making sure that meaning had been established, most of them were begging to sing it. One of my classes had to sing it three times and we have decided that this week they will come up with gestures for the song.
  8. Read the first two pages of Chapter 11 (the fight) and was delighted when so many of them started yelling:  Mientes, Laney, mientes!

This upcoming week

  1.  Review the song again, singing with all classes, adding gestures with at least one of those classes
  2. Pull out specific lines to emphasize 7.PNG
  3. Use Pictograms Chap 11 Mientes picto  8
  4. And/or use Pictograms as a game (projected on SMART)
  5. Act out the fight scene between Laney and Desi, using the actual script in the book first, then creating their own script

If you are interested in seeing the rest of what I have done with La Llorona de Mazatlán this year, use this link.  The page is in chronological order so that the most current plans are at the top.

La Casa de la Dentista: New Graphic Novel

Typically, I am a patient person. But I have a confession to make: I watched as one, two, three, four, five, six, seven and EIGHT reviews were published, reviews for Señor Wooly and his new graphic novel, La Casa de la Dentista and I became more impatient with each one! Why? Señor Wooly had contacted me, as he had several other people, to ask if I would like to review his soon to be released graphic novel. What a question?!?!? Who wouldn’t jump at that opportunity? I have been a follower of his website for years and have seen the evolution of his work and phenomenal creativity.  So why did I become impatient? Because I live in a rural area and my mail is always slow…but this time, it also landed in a neighbor’s mailbox who didn’t bring it to me until the next day! So, I watched as Allison Weinhold, Cynthia Hitz, Maris Hawkins, Arianne Dowd, Martina Bex, Kelly Ferguson,  Kara Jacobs, and Dustin Williamson ALL posted their reviews. And I tried not to read them, just skimmed the opening paragraphs!!! I wanted to read the graphic novel without too much prior knowledge or opinion. And the suspense was KILLING me!

When I was teaching Spanish II many years ago (at least back in 2010 or 2011 ) my students enjoyed many of his early creations (I am almost ashamed to say that we must have chanted, in that sly voice, fui, fuiste, an infinite number of times) but most of all, they loved Billy la Bufanda. I have continued using the site, finally getting a pro subscription last year, and my students have continued to reap the benefits of his sense of humor, compelling lyrics and oh, so sneaky repetitions! Last year the favorites were PAN! and ¡Qué Asco! So, while Jim was emphatic in requesting an honest review of La Casa de la Dentista, favorable or not, I was pretty certain that his memorable brand of humor,  his finely tuned sense of what appeals to students and his novel approaches to offering comprehensible input would be immediately evident in his latest creation. I am not surprised at all to say that I was correct!

Now that I have read La Casa de la Dentista, I have also read the reviews, in totality, from the people previously listed. It appears that we are unanimous in our overwhelming approval and recommendation of this new graphic novel.  All of the previous reviewers have shared a multitude of ideas about how to use the novel as well as the links to the helpful tutoring session by Jim and Carrie (Toth) on how to teach with a graphic novel. Therefore, what might I add to what has already been said??

I will say that the very first opinion that I formed when I opened my copy for the first time was, “WOW! This book is beautiful!” Visually, it is stunning! The manner in which the story has been illustrated, the shaping of the characters, the vivid use of colors to portray emotions and moods and the layout of the frames on the page are immediately impressive. Even the size and weight of the book and, I know this is weird, the smell of the pages when you open it, take me back to my own childhood and teen years when I could not wait to dive into a particularly inviting book.  And this book IS inviting….it is literally begging to be opened. I believe that even a reluctant reader is going to open this book without prompting.  Just the cover of the book is eye-catching, with the beam of light from the flashlight, the aura of light from the match and the play of light on the faces practically insisting that the book must be opened. dentista-graphic-novel-hardcover-reducedOnce inside, the illustrations aid in stimulating the imagination, heightening the readers’ emotional response and perceptions, and definitely holding the attention of the reader while helping the reader move through the narrative. These illustrations are actively involved in assisting the reader comprehend the input that is repeatedly, creatively and uniquely expressed in the written words.  Jim’s inspired, gifted narrative is marvelously enhanced by the illustrations of Juan Carlos Pinilla (Colombia), colorization by Davi Comodo (Brazil) and lettering by Lucas Gattoni (Argentina).


As many have noted in their reviews, this book is not written with the elementary student in mind. I would use it with middle and high school students. Many “horror or terror” movies or shows are rated PG13 because teens are usually the targeted demographic of that type of media. I think that statement may hold true for La Casa de la Dentista, too. I typically am not a fan of scary movies….I do not like to be scared! However, while the twists are many and the “fear factor” rich, it is a fascinating, coercive read. I fell into the rhythm of the dialogue and could not pull myself out. (Images from the preview of the first 18 pages)

Capture2       Capture

Last year I purchased a classroom set (30 copies) of Billy y las Botas for use as a whole classroom novel. For me, I think that I will prefer to use La Casa de la Dentista in our FVR parts of each week. I did not want to be interrupted as I read this graphic novel….I wanted to be free to pause, to savor, to re-read, to ponder, to imagine, as I wanted to. I think that I will want students to run their eyes over all of the great reading material that I have accumulated for them, scanning the covers and coming to a halt as their eyes encompass the cover of this one. This is just my personal opinion and wish; I am positive that others will be highly successful using this as a whole class novel.

I know with certainty that when I add my beautiful hardcover copy of La Casa de la Dentista to the shelves of our classroom library, there will be some jockeying to be the first one in each class to read it. That will be my problem! My MOI (materials of instruction) funds are gone for the year, and I feel that several students in each class will want the book at the same time!

Goosechase: a scavenger hunt for today’s world

goosechase freeze frame2This image is a “freeze frame” mission from Bianca Nieves y los Siete Toritos by Carrie Toth, using the app Goosechase. The team pictured was recreating the scene in which El Julí  gets gored by the vicious bull, Sábado, complete with reaction from the crowd.  Does it appear that these boys were “into it?”  I think so!!!

I first read about the app Goosechase in Maris Hawkins’ blog and Arianne Dowd’s blog last May. Last week, at the iFLT 2017 conference in Denver (which I vicariously attended through Twitter), Arianne mentioned Goosechase again in conjunction with a session by Darcy Pippins and referenced my use of the app. tweet

Since I had posted quite a few of my students’ completed missions from the last few weeks of the school year on Twitter and Facebook, they suggested I might blog about the experience.  Additionally, I participated in a small part of a 10 day cultural exchange program with 49 middle school students from China last week.  I used Goosechase with them successfully….after overcoming some language and tech hurdles!

When Maris blogged about Goosechase she was studying directions and city vocabulary; Arianne used it with the novel La Hija del Sastre.  The first time that I used it was with the novel that I wrote called Amigos, Abrazos, Aventura: Argentina. It was the end of May, our weather had been uncharacteristically cool and rainy for weeks, the kids were “blah”, just waiting for school to be over….I needed something new and instantly engaging. Goosechase was an immediate hit with my juniors and they requested to do it again. But, as Carol Gaab frequently says, “The brain craves novelty.” so, while Goosechase is a great activity, it is ONE strategy to go into the basket with all of the other strategies! I would recommend using Goosechase perhaps once a semester, certainly no more frequently than once a marking term.  The second time I used it as one of the final activities with the novel Bianca Nieves y los Siete Toritos. Again, it proved to be an instantaneous success with my sophomores who also requested to do it again. The third time that I used it (last week) was to review all of the activities that the Chinese students had participated in over the week:  visiting Assateague, the Ward Wild Fowl Museum, the Salisbury Zoo, a K9 presentation, etc. For most of those students it was a positive, enjoyable experience, but for several, the language was not comprehensible for them.

The free app is easy to use.  Students divide into teams (or you can designate teams). One team member has the app on his/her device (phone, tablet), logs in and searches for the name of your game. Once he/she finds it, a password is entered (optional, but I used one to make sure that only my students were progressing through the Goosechase), the students determine a team name (and can upload an image if desired….some do), and the missions become visible to them.  The students can work through the missions in order or, as I did, they could randomly choose which to do first.  The teacher assigns the point values for the missions, therefore if random is an option, some students might opt to work on the higher valued missions first. Goosechase bills itself as “a scavenger hunt for the masses.” I can see how it would be an excellent tool on a field trip to a museum, neighborhood, restaurant, etc.  For me, I used it as review and reinforcement of material that we have covered….providing yet another repetition of comprehensible Spanish. I love that using the device, the students click “submit” and a video or photo is submitted in real time and I can view it as they are submitted. I can determine whether it meets the requirements and let the points remain (instantly added by the app) as stated, or delete the submission because it doesn’t meet the requirements OR add extra points if the submission is above or beyond what I expected. I love that there is a leaderboard that is being projected on my device (and that students checked frequently). There is also an activity feed, which shows the submissions in chronological order as well as a submissions page, where all submissions are gathered to be viewed in their entirety by points or by team.



The free edition of this app allows for just 5 teams, which worked fine for me. I had students make teams of 4-6 students and that covered the class.  Since I have multiple sections of each class, I just created the game two – three times, depending on how many classes.  It sounds like a lot of work, but it really took less than 3 minutes to recreate the game once it was made.  All of the mission that you create are stored in a “mission bank”, so it is merely a matter of going to the bank and clicking the missions you wish to include. There also is a master list of missions from the site itself and other users, but they aren’t really useful for me right now. Below are the missions that I used for my Argentina novel and then for Bianca Nieves.


As I’ve already stated, my students really enjoyed the activity.  They loved the novelty of it, the “escape” from the classroom, working with partners of their choosing, recreating what they had learned, and the competing to finish as much as possible in the time limit imposed upon them.  The time limit is something that you set (and can adjust as needed during the game). Once time is ended, students are no longer able to submit missions and return to class.  A colleague of mine used the Bianca Nieves Goosechase with her students and had similar success with one exception.  She had a team of boys who decided to merely goof off during the Goosechase.  This team accomplished one mission! She therefore had to “grade” the Goosechase, reflecting the fact that all other teams completed many missions to the one mission of these boys.

I would suggest that you notify staff and administration well in advance of the Goosechase activity.  Since students may be all over the school grounds during a regular class period, it helps that others understand what is happening.  It might also be advisable to have each group carry a hall pass from you, the teacher.

When I use this strategy again, I will probably try incorporating more of a “breakout” type environment, where students will need to finish missions in order and solve puzzles or riddles (upload the evidence) in order to advance in the “game.”

Below are some images from the two games.  Unfortunately, I can not upload videos to this “free” version of wordpress anymore. I wish that I could upload the speaking missions, because I was really impressed with what my students could express “off the cuff.” And I REALLY wish I could upload the videos where they sang, danced or acted out (freeze frame or actions) scenes from the novels.

I hope this helps give you a visual for this app.  I would love to know what you might do or create with it!

Bodymapping Argentina (first two), Spain

goosechas body mapping A goosechase body Arg

goosechase body mapping

Drawing Missions: food from Argentina, clothing from Bianca Nieves, ranch in Bianca Nieves, the letter A in the Argentina novel. Below those, imitating and honoring from Bianca Nieves

Take 3….Vida y Muerte en la MS 13

One of my favorite things about the Fluency Matters novels is the variety available. Spanish IV has read La Llorona de Mazatlán by Katie Baker and Frida by Kristy Placido this year, bringing the total of novels that they have read in Spanish to six. They have been exposed to the culture of Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Spain, and they have read, among many topics, about immigration, Civil Wars, environmental issues, cultural traditions, bullfighting, polemic issues, legends, soccer, and art. They have read lighthearted topics and serious topics, but with everything that they have read, they have been exposed to compelling comprehensible input that I can mold according to the needs and interests of each class.  Additionally, with our FVR on Fridays, they are being exposed to more of these novels that THEY choose to read.

A few weeks ago, we started Vida y Muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha 13 for my third time. As with every time that I begin a novel, the one constant is that nothing stays the same and I always am revising, adding and crafting new materials, trying to get that “just right” level. I always feel that I am under some pressure to get through material in a timely manner in my 50 minute classes, and it is always in the back of my mind, as Carol Gaab has said so many times, “slow down, slow down, slow down.” Such a battle!!! However, slower has definitely been better this time around.

For four weeks prior to beginning this unit, we were in a unit about their dreams and goals. Their final visual assessments are all over the wall fo the room, as I wanted that visual representation of their hopes to be a constant reminder as we began to explore the hopes and dreams of the youth of El Salvador during the Civil War. We started with a terrific reading from Martina Bex about La Masacre de El Mozote. This was the first year using this reading, and it definitely helped to prep the students for what we were plunging into. I also took Martina’s reading and created a powerpoint with many additional pictures (25 slides ) and followup explanations and materials for El Mozote. After two days using some of the materials that Kara Jacobs created for the “pre work” about El Salvador and the Civil War, we moved into the movie Voces Inocentes, the true story of a young boy growing up in the midst of the Civil War. I was very careful this year to make sure that we continued to contrast their hopes/dreams with youth in entirely different circumstances. In previous years, I pushed to get through the movie in three days, always wanting to spend more time discussing what we watched (but not doing so), but also feeling pressure to get to the novel.  I can not tell you how much better it was to spend SIX days (double the time) on this movie this year. We watched about 20 – 25 minutes each day and spent the first part of class talking about, discussing and refining what we had watched the day before. One day we did this with a partner, another day in a group of four, another day as a whole class, etc. I used some of the questions from Kara’s guide to the movie, some from a guide put together by Carmen Herrero and Ana Valbuena, and combined these with some of my own material: voces-inocentes-post-viewing-day-1-2017, voces-inocentes-post-viewing-from-day-2-2017, voces-inocentes-post-viewing-day-3-2017, voces-inocentens-post-viewing-day-4. The day after day 5, when we finished the movie, each class spent a considerable amount of time working through their reactions and questions concerning some of these (varied by class):

Marcos, simbolismo de la galleta
La reacción de Kella y Abuelita al ver que Chava no está
¿Por qué Ancha?
Cuando Chava recogió el rifle, empezó a disparar y paró….por qué
Simbolismo del arma que dejó caer Chava
El grito de “NO” al ver el fuego en la casa
El regreso de Kella, buscando a Chava (el amor que no cesa)
Cuando Chava tomó la cara de Kella en sus manos…(ahora, sí, es el hombre de la casa)…agarra su mano y dijo “Vámonos de aquí)
Vendió la máquina de coser para el viaje de Chava a los EE.UU
La reacción de Kella cuando Ricardito dijo “Ahora soy el hombre de la casa.”
Chava, no quiere ir a los EE.UU…dijo: “Pero si me quedo me van a acabar matando.”
La escena al final cuando Chava está manejando por los techos
Why was the story left up to Chava to tell? “Pero me tocó a mí”      

Finally, on day 6, we played a “game” that I have always called Levántate y Cambia, but I saw recently somewhere (I can’t remember, where!!  I’m sorry! Help!) with the name Quiz, Quiz, Change. voces-inocentes-levantate-y-cambia I took questions and vocabulary from the movie,  ran them off on cardstock and gave a card to each student.  They got up, asked a partner their question, the partner answered it, then asked his/her question, was answered, they switched cards and moved to someone else.  We then immediately went into an untimed free write, where they were free to write about their choices of symbolism in the movie, character growth/development in the movie, the effects of the Civil War, the most powerful scene, etc.  Many of their free writes were in depth and quite moving.

Another thing that I did differently with the movie this year was to preteach two of the powerful songs from Voces Inocentes:  Casas de  Cartón and Razones. Mike Peto had blogged about the impact that Casas could have if the students know it prior to the first of three times that it is used within the movie, and, boy, was he correct! My students in the past always grew to like the song AFTER the fact; it was entirely different when they understood the lyrics from the first time it occurs in the movie.  By the third time it plays in the movie, several of my students were in tears. It was equally successful to preteach Razones by Bebe (just using 1:32 of the song); the rawness of her voice, the lyrics and the moment that it plays in the movie all converged to make a very powerful moment.

Yet something else that I added this year, still prior to beginning the novel, was a study of Oscar Romero.  Since we had been exposed to the activity of priests in the movie, and we had read a bit about Oscar Romero in our prework for the Civil War, I added a reading that I wrote (oscar-romero, with a reminder that I am not a native speaker and there most likely are errors) and a study of his last address/sermon. We also watched a few clips from the movie, Romero, and one for the last sermon.

This time around, as we begin to get engrossed in the compelling biography of the narrator in Vida y Muerte, I didn’t want them to forget the Civil War in El Salvador, why so many came to the U.S. and how these teenagers (parents of the narrator) had hopes and dreams just like they have. Since The novel begins with the initiation of the narrator into the gang life, one of the first pieces of music that I have used in the past is “Gangsta” by Kat Dahlia.  It’s always a song that the students really respond to, but I wanted to push it further this year. So, before we began, we had some small group discussion, followed by a class discussion about “Gangstas.”  Side note: my students find it really, really humorous to hear me (the older teacher) say “gangsta”!  I created this document to guide their discussion: gangsta

The final step, prior to beginning the novel was the work with the song. First exposure was with lyric strips (the first 12 lines) that two students had to order as they listened. Printing the lyrics out on colorful cardstock, cutting them out and putting them in a baggie, makes it possible for this activity to be done multiple times, multiple years. dices-ser-un-gangsta-first-part-strips-for-ordering  Once they had determined the correct order, they attempted to apply meaning to the lyrics with their partner. We read the lyrics in English and Spanish, we sang them multiple times, and they were hooked. We followed that activity with a traditional cloze. This week I will use the song yet again with a second part of lyric strips from later in the song. gangsta-second-part-sentence-strips

We are now, four weeks into the start, on chapter 5 of the novel.  We’ve watched clips of movies, played Kahoot and Quizlet, worked with SMART presentations that I’ve created for Los Angeles and specific chapters, done multiple partner activities, class discussions, and Smash Doodles.It’s going to be a long time to the finish.  Last year, I went through the novel and immediately went into an Immigration unit.  HEAVY MATERIAL! This year I am breaking up the intensity/seriousness of the material by doing 4 days with the novel (Monday through Thursday) and having Friday devoted to FVR and El Internado.  So far, it is going well.  This week will bring activities with another song that has been successful with students and this novel, Así Crecí by Farruko (entire post about that song from last year here) and the creation of our own tatuajes (to go with the narrator getting his first one).

The going is slow, but it is definitely rewarding.

My YouTube playlist for Vida y Muerte.

My Pinterest page for Vida y Muerte.

My wikispace page for daily plans for Vida y Muerte, a work in progress.