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

Mad Hot Ballroom: Spanish Dance!

Rarely do I ever show a complete movie in my language classes.  While I won’t go into my thinking on that subject right now, suffice it to say that I think our time in class is too valuable to take entire class periods and devote them to a video.  My one exception for the past four years has been the wonderful movie Mad Hot Ballroom, which is rated PG13.   I show this movie after we have completed our Social Awareness/Music unit, and after we have taken lessons, in class, for bachata, merengue, and salsa.  Despite the fact that I have students every year who claim, emphatically, that they will not dance, I have never had that happen.  Everyone dances, and they clamor so much for another day of dance that I have said every year that I need to arrange a school dance that is JUST Latin dance!  (maybe this year?)  I get the same groans when I counter their initial astonishment that we are going to watch an entire movie with the subject matter of the movie.  How could a movie about 11 and 12 year old students in New York City possibly be interesting?  It takes less than 10 minutes for every class to become invested in this movie, and to care, intensely, about its outcome.  The movie takes three days to watch (based on my 45 minute class periods), but it is, in my opinion, worth taking that time.

Mad Hot Ballroom

This story about the various ethnic makeup of New York City, with a concentration on the Dominican population, and the value of the arts in building character in students, is a WINNER!  As soon as I saw it 5 years ago, I ordered it from Amazon.  I developed a guide (based on some suggested questions by film reviewer Carolyn Arends) to go with the movie, and used it the first three years, but I did not use it this year.  Here is the guide:  Mad Hot Ballroom  However, the essay type questions I did use for post viewing discussion this year.  Be forewarned, everything is in English, although the movie has a considerable amount of Spanish in it. Here is a brief clip from youtube.

And here is another longer (6 minute) clip.