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.

Music……my top ???

musica_jkmlnI have so enjoyed reading through a large number of blogs where the authors have posted their top posts of the year.  It is illuminating to go back through the various blogs, read something again or read something I missed for the first time. Reading the reflections of the various authors of these blogs is helpful and certainly adds motivation for the coming new year.  I am very grateful to many, many teachers out there in the blog world who so freely share their thoughts, plans, lessons, motivation and inspiration.  Whether they blog frequently or infrequently, I learn so much from them.

I am an infrequent blogger, but I was inspired by all of those “top posts” and decided that I would blog about one of my biggest passions in language teaching: music.  I thought to myself, well, that is easy….I’ll post my top 20 songs of 2016!  And then I started creating the list, and it rapidly morphed into something very large, way more than what I originally planned.  My top 20 became 30, 40, 50 and more so fast that it caused me to reflect even more.  Sharing music in my classroom has been part of my teaching since I started many, many years ago….38 to be precise. However, in the act of trying to create a list of the top 20 songs from 2016 (in my Spanish III and IV classes), I realized that it is more than that. It is a part of my identity as a teacher.  I have known for years that the music is something that my students carry with them when they leave my classes.  They download it, create playlists, tell me about singing it in their cars, tell me about hearing songs we’ve studied when they are outside of class, tell me about driving their families crazy with their replaying of Spanish songs at home, and tell me when they see me years later, after graduation, that they still remember “X”.  But when I went to create the list of my top 20 songs from last year, I realized that my students, most of them, are internalizing a very large number of artists, genres and topics into their lives outside of class.  I tend to live in the moment, and I realized, in individual moments and individual units, that this song or that song was a “hit”.  When I reflected on the totality of last year, specifically, I discovered that it was so much more than just a song or two.

Disclaimer: Not all of these songs will be appropriate for all of your classes.  There are lyrics and/or videos that may not work for your situation.  I frequently have to make decisions on whether to show the music video or the lyric video…or to cut out certain parts. I am not endorsing this music.  I am simply sharing what has interested my students a LOT.

So how do I categorize all this music?  I could categorize by artist, or genre, or region or unit but I could not categorize by TOP songs for very long.  This is because so many of the songs were so well received. I’ve decided to categorize in a number of manners.  Here goes……

A.  I did a music mania/bracketology contest (inspired by Dustin Williamson, I believe) twice last year: once in May and once in December.  The top songs from those contests were:

  1. La Gozadera (Marc Anthony and Gente de Zona: Puerto Rico/Cuba)
  2. Sofía  (Álvaro Soler: Spain)
  3. Duele el corazón (Enrique Iglesias: Spain)
  4. Andas en mi cabeza (Chino y Nacho: Venezuela)
  5. Hasta el amanecer (Nicky Jam: United States)
  6. Caótica Belleza (Esteman and Natalia Lafourcade: Colombia/México)
  7. Reggaetón Lento  (CNCO: Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, United States, Cuba)

B.  Favorite Artists

  1. Gente de Zona: La Gozadera, Traidora, Bailando)
  2. Juanes (Fuego, Nada valgo sin tu amor, Segovia, Bandera de manos, Minas Piedras,  No creo en el jamás, A Dios le pido, La Patria Madrina with Lila Downs, Tu Enemigo with Pablo Lopez)
  3. Camila (Todo cambió, Mientes, Lágrimas)
  4. Il Volo (Grande Amore, Más que amor, La falta de tu Mirada)
  5. La Santa Cecilia (ICE, La Calaverita, Strawberry Fields Forever)
  6. Gaby Moreno (Ave que emigra, Guatemorfosis, El Sombrerón,Quizás, quizás, quizás )
  7. Nicky Jam (El Perdón with Enrique Iglesias, Hasta el amanecer)

C.  Themes

  1. Narcoviolencia:  Lágrimas (Camila),  México Instituto Mexicano del Sonido, Have you heard (Ceci Bastida)
  2. Inmigración: Ice (La Santa Cecilia), Welcome to America (Lecrae), Wake me up (Aloe Blacc), Ave que emigra (Gaby Moreno), Tu Enemigo (Pablo López and Juanes), Strawberry Fields Forever (La Santa Cecilia)
  3. Social Issues/Awareness: Casas de cartón (Los Guaraguao and also the version by Marco Antonio Solís), Segovia (Juanes), La Patria Madrina (Juanes and Lila Downs), Bandera de manos (Juanes), A Dios le pido (Juanes), Tu Enemigo (Pablo López and Juanes), Minas Piedras (Juanes), Gangsta (Kat Dahlia), Así Crecí (Farruko), Los Caminos de la vida (Los Diablitos), Duele Demasiado (David Bisbal), Yo soy yo (Ozuna)
  4. Food: No tengo dinero (Maffio), Learn Spanish Food Vocabulary (Basho and Friends), all of the Inca Kola commercials by Ñam Ñam Boys, Love you more than tacos (Carne Cruda)
  5. Inspiration/goals: Creo en mí (Natalia Jiménez), No me doy por vencido (Luis Fonsi), No creo en el jamás (Juanes), Vivir mi vida (Marc Anthony),Caótica Belleza (Esteman and Natalia Lafourcade), Puede Ser (Fonseca), Celebra tu vida (Axel), Caótica Belleza (Esteman and Natalia Lafourcade)
  6. Love: Tengo tu love (Sie7e), No tengo dinero (Maffio), Nada valgo sin tu amor (Juanes), Quizás (Enrique Iglesias), Más que Amor (Il Volo), Grande Amore (Il Volo), Llorando se fue (Cuarteto Continental), Mi princesa (Victor Muñóz), Me equivoqué (CD9), Mientes (Camila),  Bulería (David Bisbal), Todo cambió (Camila), El Perdón (Nicky Jam and Enrique Iglesias), Como te atreves (Morat), Nada (DVCCIO and Leslie Grace),  Caminar de tu mano Río Roma, Andas en mi cabeza (Chino y Nacho), Duele el corazón (Enrique Iglesias), Sofía (Álvaro Soler)
  7. Popular “Pop” songs:  Hasta el amanecer (Nicky Jam), La Gozadera (Marc Anthony and Gente de Zona), Duele el corazón (Enrique Iglesias), El Mismo Sol (Álvaro Soler), Sofía (Álvaro Soler), Nada (DVCIO and Leslie Grace), Paraíso (DVCIO), Reggaetón Lento (CNCO), Andas en mi cabeza (Chino y Nacho),  Bailar (Deorro with Elvis Crespo), Soy yo (Bomba Estéreo), Vivir mi vida (Marc Anthony), Fuego (Juanes), Bailando (Enrique Iglesias, Gente de Zona y Descemer Bueno)

D.  Songs I haven’t mentioned….don’t fit neatly into a category….

  1.  Feliz Navidad (Tito el Bambino)
  2. Mamacita Dónde está Santa Claus
  3. A la nanita, nana (Cheetah Girls)
  4. Tumbas, Tumbas (children’s song)
  5. Me voy, me voy Vazquez Sounds
  6. El Sombrerón (Gaby Moreno)
  7. La Llorona various versions but especially Dakota Romero
  8. Pura Vida (Percance)
  9. Vuelves (Sweet California with DC9)
  10. Stand by me (Prince Royce)
  11. Aire (Leslie Grace and Maluma)

E.  Endlessly requested….songs that my students request over and over and over again…..

  1. La Gozadera
  2. Sofía
  3. Andas en mi cabeza
  4. El Mismo Sol
  5. Nada (DVCIO/Leslie Grace)
  6. Hasta el amanecer (Nicky Jam)
  7. Vivir mi vida (Marc Anthony)
  8. Gangsta (Kat Dahlia)
  9. Bailar (for Baila Viernes) (Deorro/Elvis Crespo)
  10. Limbo (for Baila Viernes)  (Daddy Yankee)
  11. Stand by me (Prince Royce)
  12. Lágrimas (Camila)
  13. Mientes (Camila)
  14. Segovia (Juanes)
  15. Bulería (David Bisbal)
  16. Pura Vida (Percance)
  17. Me equivoqué (CD9)

I could continue to categorize music that we used last year that resonated with many of my students, but I think that this is already overwhelming.  Please forgive me for not linking all of the music with the videos…it would have taken so much time and I know that google is your friend 🙂 I hope that it is pretty obvious that the musical tastes of my students run across many genres, artists, and regions.  This has been an awesome reflection for me.  I hope that it may help someone else.  Also, I would love to hear your favorites….who knows what “top” song for 2017 you might be sharing?

One last thing……..Artists that I would like for my students to grow to appreciate

  1. Carlos Vives: probably one of my all time favorite artists.  I love just about everything that he sings but I haven’t managed to interest many of my students in his music!?
  2. Ha-Ash: this duo from Louisiana fascinates me
  3. Río Roma
  4. Los Ángeles Azules