Although many are moving away from the whole class novel, I just can’t do it. Not yet anyways! In Quarter 2, I read one of Mira Canion’s novels just for fun on Fridays. I do lots of things to make it fun (sound effects, different voices, some acting, sitting in a circle on the floor, etc.), but I never quiz kids on the content. In Quarter 3, we do a whole class novel and study it to understand while pulling out culture, too. In Quarter 4, I allow students to choose their own path (individual, in a group, or a teacher-led group) for their third novel.
We’re currently at the beginning of Quarter 3 and this semester in Spanish 1 (with primarily freshman) I am teaching a new (to us) novel: El Silbón de Venezuela from Craig Klein(tweeter: @profeklein; blogger: spanishcuentos.com). I’m going to confess that before beginning this study I know very little about Venzuela. I know it’s in (the northern part) South America, the capital is Caracas, Maduro is the President and not doing a good job as his people have nothing to eat and no access to medicine.
As with any other new novel, I begin by building up some background cultural knowledge for both students and myself.
On the very first day, students complete a KWL (Know, Want to Know, Learned) chart about Venezuela. We filled out Know and Want to Know. I allowed students to write this in English as they don’t have sufficient vocabulary quite yet, but I encouraged them to write in Spanish when they were able. At the bottom of the page, I had students write a one sentence prediction in Spanish for the novel. We looked at the artwork and thought about the title in order to accomplish this. Here’s some samples I received:
- Veo al hombre. Corre de la policía.
- (El hombre) está muerto.
- La persona es un monstruo que vive en Venezuela y tiene muchos esqueletos.
- El hombre roba esqueletos y los vende en muchos países.
- El hombre vive solo.
On the second day, we then studied the basic geography of Venezuela in the target language (TL). I make sure students know that’s it’s a country in South America, the capital (Caracas), the bordering/touching countries (Colombia, Brasil, Guyana), the immediate body of water (the Caribbean Sea), the names of its two peninsulas (Paraguaná and Paria), and we briefly hit on some of the islands (Países Bajos, Trinidad y Tobago, Granada) nearby. We draw and label on our map while I ask a tons of questions. Students’ end goal is to not only be able to know this information in Spanish, but to be able to compare basic geography of Venezuela to that of the US in Spanish, too.
On the third, students read five true statements about Venezuela’s geography and complete the sentences with vocabulary from a word bank. They then played Quizlet with questions about Venezuela’s geography and finished by playing Quizlet Live.
The fourth day saw a brief geography review as Monday’s are shorter due to professional development and we also spent some time on this rock-paper-scissors activity to talk about our weekend. After our weekend review activity, students then had four true Spanish sentences about Venezuela’s geography that they translated into English. After we went over each sentence, I then had students change the Spanish sentence to correctly reflect facts about the US’ geography.
On the fifth day I followed up our geography with a documentary about Venezuela. I decided upon this one called Venezuela: A Paradise in Hell. There were plenty of other documentaries that discuss what’s really going on politically in Venezuela, but I chose this documentary for two reasons: (1) it is supposed to be about los llanos which is where the main character visits in the book; (2) I don’t want my students’ first impression of the country to be negative. Students answered these questions as they watched the video. I had to play the video at a 1.25 speed in order to finish the 52 minute film in my 42 minute class. As the original narration is somewhat slow, only one student even noticed that I sped it up.
Next up we will begin preparing some vocabulary that we have yet to learn so that we can get through the first few chapters… and I can’t wait! I’m excited to read this book with them!