FVR Expansion for FREE!

Who doesn’t just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE a Freebie?! I’ve compiled a list of stories from our favorite mentors, sellers and colleagues in the Spanish speaking world of teaching. You can use these to jump start or expand your classroom library.

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Mostly freebies, a few flash freebies and some bought stories. Follow your favorite sellers for promotions! I scored the Isabela books from Karen Rowan for FREE.

On a side note, while we might really, really love FREE, let’s not forget to support our awesome and generous colleagues by purchasing some of their products! Each seller is linked back to their TPT store so be sure to follow their stores and see what resources you need to finish out the year.

My classroom library is mostly made up of novels and now boasts 88 titles but I’m always on the hunt for new material. There is a combination of free stories, bought stories, and the news articles from my subscription to El Mundo en Tus Manos.

I went the economical route and printed these stories in black and white. To print a PowerPoint slideshow in booklet form first delete any slides you don’t want in your story. Then go to your printer properties and select the Finishing tab. Click the 2 sided printing Booklet form. When the booklet is finished printing just fold in half and staple through the middle. It helps if you have access to one of these long staplers.

PDF files are a little trickier if there are pages you want to exclude from your booklet. The key here is to put the RANGE(S) of the pages you want. For example, in Pintalabios I didn’t need the practice sentences and questions or the game for the booklet so I just printed the ranges 13-31, selected Booklet and print. Note: PDF files printed in Booklet form print vertically (like mini novels) and the PowerPoint booklets print horizontally so you flip the pages up instead of turning them. To work around this you could take any slideshow and save it as a PDF then print using the booklet form.

How to Print_Booklet_PPHow to Print_Booklet_PP_2How to Print_Booklet_PDF

This works for the 1-3 page readings as well. Just skip the lesson parts when selecting your ranges but be sure to keep the first page so your book has a cover.

Now you can make as many copies as you need to replace lost or yucky copies and give away to your students. My heritage speakers love to take these home to read to their younger siblings.

From Martina Bex: The Comprehensible Classroom

Maybe you’ve heard Martina described as a goddess, or the Fairy Godmother of CI? These fantastic freebies will help you understand why (you know, in case you’ve been living under a rock and don’t know the magical wonders of Martina).

I also like to print stories from the SOMOS curriculum after my students study a unit.

La Criatura

¡Ratones en Casa!

Pepinillos, el muchacho simpático

Christ y Jennifer

El Niño Sastre

El Popocalipsis

La Correcaca

Basic Reading: quiere, tiene, le dice

Los Fidget Spinners

Pintalabios Para el Portero

Justin Beiber visitó Tulum

El Secreto de Ramón

La Leyenda by Robert Harrell via Martina Bex

El Travieso Hermano Menor by Jalen Waltman via Martina Bex

From Kristy Placido: Placido Language Resources

Kristy is a fantastic author and has kindly offered these freebies for Novice and Intermediate learners.

Cashnip Kitty

Pokemon Go

La Noche Boca Arriba

Chac Mool

From Carrie Toth: Somewhere to Share

Another fantastic author! Check out these free readers!

Eclipse Solar

Si tú la ves

From Mundo de Pepita

This seller has the most adorable resources for Littles. You can purchase and print unlimited  MiniBooks for your library or your students.

Olivia y los Pájaros

Biblioburro Coloring Book

From Storyteller’s Corner

This little gem of a shop has some beautiful stories for your Littles. I like to print out the stories for my Middles who are just dipping their toes into FVR. My reluctant readers find these little stories less intimidating than the regular novels in our library. Don’t forget to check out the $1 Bin for some other fantastic titles and be on the lookout for their Flash Freebies!

Rosa Parks

Tengo Frio

Isabel va a la escuela

Jesús va a Jerusalém

Los Tiburones

Bryce Hedstrom

Looking for non-fiction reading material? Bryce has you covered! You can buy his beautiful book Conexiones here.  I print and keep these stories (minus the teacher instructions) in folders in my library.

Quieres Comer el Cuy?

Los Países Megadiversos

El Jaguar

Español o Castellano

Como Mirar un Eclipse del Sol

Legends and Stories

La Corza Blanca

La Chica Quiere Café

La Chica Fantástica

El Chico Pequeño

The Girl and the Cat

El Trabajo en el Zoológico

El Secreto de Hablar Con Las Chicas

El Amigo Especial

Comprendes Mendez SpanishShop

Ballenas Mitos y Leyendas

Maris Hawkinshas generously offered her Noticias to the collection!

 

I hope you enjoy expanding your classroom library with these freebies! See you at the next Puente.

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Giant Character Maps

My Middles really respond to GIANT anything. Giant sunshades, my giant Day of the Dead masks, the giant sombrero just out of their reach. Giant character maps are no exception. I love to use this activity during a novel study to help students examine the characters AND to hit those higher order thinking skills. Martina Bex shared this free resource on her blog (you can read the post here).  These half sheet maps come in really handy so I keep them in stock for choice board options, time gap activities, or plain old Plan B. To make GIANT versions I modeled after Martina/Laurie’s design by blowing each component up to the size of a full sheet of paper. I like to copy the thought bubble, heart and speech bubble on pretty paper and the person on white paper so that it can be modified according to the novel’s description.

These photos are from last year’s novel study of Pobre Ana that I did with my Spanish I students. This activity took up about half the period (we read the rest of class) and started as my students walked in the door. I handed my students lettered cards (of various colors) to really mix up the groups. The letters on each card corresponded to one of the characters in the novel and tied into the warm up activity where I had my students describe their assigned character in Spanish. Then I had them find their groups and gave them a packet of the pages for their map. I used my document camera to project Martina’s character map with the sentence starters and made sure that each group included a problem the character faced and a possible solution. As each element was finished it was glued to a BIG sheet of paper. The final touch was to modify the person by adding hair, clothes, etc.  We hung the maps in the hallway and did a gallery walk the next day followed by a timed writing.

Inside the Piñata

Welcome to my classroom!

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I realize that I’m incredibly lucky to have a classroom to call my own, and to be in a new building (we moved to this campus in 2012) complete with an overhead projector, document camera, and sound system with teacher microphone. I’ve also been blessed with supportive administrators who have given me professional wiggle-room to try new things like abandoning traditional language teaching methods, growing an FVR library and going deskless.

My first year teaching didn’t have these perks. When I was hired as a one year temp no one mentioned that I would be teaching from a cart, imposing myself in some poor teacher’s room during his/her planning time. Boy was that the pits, trying to navigate a campus with outside walkways alongside several hundred students transitioning to their classes.

The following year I was super anxious to nest in my own room. Even before transitioning to CI, my classes were often described as “animated and energetic” marching through the walls with various games and activities. Three rooms later I’m comfortably settled between the speech therapy office and the electrical engineering closet with an outside wall to the courtyard. We still march through walls.   

Over the last few years as I’ve learned new skills and adopted new practices, the walls of my classroom have evolved in their function. The old grammar posters have been replaced with high frequency verbs, rejoinders and question words. I like the walls of my classroom to support the learners in their use of Spanish while supplying visual interest. Some have described my room as a bit overwhelming but the kids love it.

Let me walk you through my room.

Enter Here: On my door I have greetings posted for students to see and use as they enter the classroom and farewells are also posted (as well as the Fire Exit Route-safety first!) for students to see before exiting. I never teach greetings and farewells as a unit. I just introduce different greetings and farewells throughout the year. My students do have a page for a foldable in their interactive notebooks which they can refer to when writing a dialogue or when they just have to know.

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 To the right of the door is an area for announcements and posting the weekly passwordI like to use fun phrases from the novels we’ll read throughout the year as well as other useful expressions. Below the password sign is a self-assessment tool from Martina Bex. Students can answer 1-3 questions (on a sticky note) linked to the Learning Target and then place the sticky note under the poster they feel corresponds to their performance. It’s really important that students feel safe and comfortable enough to be honest with this type of exit ticket. I wouldn’t suggest using it until the class has really “gelled.”  We’ve been working hard on cultivating a positive classroom community by celebrating triumphs, pairing up with new partners each week, reading our #MuyAmables each week and getting to know one another through Special Person Interviews.

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Continuing clockwise are the ACTFL Proficiency Descriptors I bought from Carrie Toth’s TPT store. I keep them posted so that students know what they should be able to do at each level of proficiency. They also have these Proficiency Babies from Laura Sexton’s TPT store for a better understanding of their performance as we crawl through the vast expanse that is Novice.  Next is Bryce Hedstrom’s Bloom’s. I like posting this resource as a reminder for myself to differentiate activities not just by content and process but also by product.  And my story characters poster from Spanish Cuentos. The rejoinders posters are from Teacher’s Discovery and Grant Boulanger also sells them on his website here

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I’ve been working on this circumlocution board, adding words as they’ve come up. I’m not sure if this is the best way to scaffold the process for students but it gives them something to reference when they don’t know how to say something.  I’ll have to spend some time monitoring their progress and reflecting on the effectiveness of this tool.                      IMG_3711

These pink signs are all classroom terms I found myself using ALL THE TIME. I needed something to point to when I used these words. They also help me slow down my rate of speech and give students time to process the language.

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To the right of the board I have Martina Bex’s interrogative words postersThese are super handy. They support students in their language production and comprehension.

There are lights around the board that I turn on when we watch something or dance. Recently I’ve been using them to signal “en español” to keep students in the target language. We’ve set some small goals where students can earn points towards their weekly tally. I got the idea from Emily Erwin who uses a disco ball to signal TL time. Read more about it here.

This hanging file is where I put handouts for absent students. I have the absent student’s partner collect any handouts for that day, write his/her partner’s name on them and place them in the folders.

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La Persona Especial Board: Here is where the Todo Sobre Mi pages go. Sorry for the blank wall BUT I don’t want to break any laws by violating my student’s privacy.

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The back wall is where the Super 7 and the other verbs that make up the Sweet 16 are posted. For a professional look you might like this product: Sweet 16 PostersWe reference these multiple times DAILY. It never fails. Even words I haven’t targeted get used as my students grow bolder in their language use and their need to express themselves increases.

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FVR Library Board: I have the cover of each book in the FVR library posted on a bulletin board. The books are categorized by level of difficulty. I used Bryce’s novel rankings  document but had to guess at several. The library is growing faster than I can read each new title and I’m currently waiting to print the covers of all of the new additions (the color printer is broken!).  My goal this month is to add a sticker with the number of copies available so students who want to read with a partner or small group can easily identify titles that are possible.

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The Library: This is the crowning glory of the whole room. Almost every title is proudly displayed against a backdrop of chile pepper print fabric my mom gifted me from her old table cloths. I made cardboard shelves out of copy paper box lids. It was my intention to make a tutorial for them but then someone on the iFLT page shared how s/he used window caps like these paired with some fishing line (to hold the books in place) and in all honesty that option is far easier and very cost effective. To keep the books neat and organized I have two classroom librarians in each class who are in charge of making sure students return the books to their places. To facilitate this I printed in miniature the same book covers I have displayed on the FVR board then taped them to the shelves. Now students can easily find where their selection belongs. My goal is to buy a rug and some comfy chairs with a lamp for a reading nook in the corner.

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To the right of the library and the left of the door there’s a lot going on. I keep the classroom competition board here (read more about La Maestra Loca’s point system). Right now my two Spanish 1 classes are competing against each other and my two Spanish II classes are battling each other for points weekly. There’s a spot for each class to earn points against me and if they have more points by the end of the week they get to log those points against one another. The kids were really disappointed when I didn’t put their skeletons back up after the first quarter. I think I’ll bring them back for the 3rd quarter. I also have these awesomely adorable classroom signs from El Mundo de Pepita. Very reasonably priced. Most importantly I have my RULES and Consequences, another idea from La Loca.

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Four corners: Well almost. One corner is by my computer stations and built-in storage  cabinet so I use a corner made by one of the support pillars in my room instead. Each corner has the following signs:  

Frequency: rarely, never, sometimes, always.                                                                         Preference: I like, I don’t like, I don’t care, I hate                                                                             A   B   C    D                                                                                                                                          1    2    3    4

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This is super functional for me because my corners serve many purposes. We can play Four Corners with a slide show of national eateries, various foods, places to visit, leisure activities, class subjects, characters from a story. Endless possibilities. I’ve also used them as designated areas for grouping students by letter or number. We use the corners for Brain Breaks such as the Dice Game or Would You Rather?

The fun stuff! I also have three BIG Day of the Dead masks I made which are hanging around the room, and the Papel Picado banner you see in the library and verbs wall pictures. I made the banner using these templates

maks

I hope you enjoyed touring my room! See you at the next Puente.

 

 

Compliments Campaign

This year I decided to be more purposeful in creating a sense of community within my classroom.

I previously had this misconception that if I modeled respect and caring and explained that respectful behavior to all members of our learning community was the classroom expectation, all would be well. And I honestly want my classroom to be a safe space where courtyard drama, hurt feelings and disagreements do not enter. I KNOW. But don’t worry, I’m really not that naïve.  Ok that’s a lie. I do have fanciful ideas that would make you laugh and shake your head wondering: “Is she for real?”

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In years past I’ve even had very cooperative groups of students who are cordial to one another and make it August to May without any discord. But in those instances I’ve noticed a lack of camaraderie. Perhaps this is in large part due to the size of our school. Each grade has more than 300 students and each year, without fail, I’ll have a student passing back papers whisper to me, “Who is ______?”

My plan is three fold and already well underway.

  1. Use Special Person Interviews and create a WALL of biographies.

This will be my third year doing SPIs but I’ve never had a designated space for student biographies. I’m thinking this will easily lead into playing “Guess Who?” later in the year when the wall is finished. I’ll also be adding the classmate quiz to my weekly activities following SPI. Surely this will guarantee that each student knows every classmates’ name, right? I made this “Todo Sobre Mi” page and my dear friend, Blair Richards  translated it to French! Enjoy “Tout sur moi!”

  1. Amigos Maps for partner and group activities.

My students keep these in their Interactive Notebooks ready to go. I’m thinking the best way to incorporate a weekly opportunity to work with a different partner is to create an activity on their choice boards that requires working with an Amigo.

  1. Start a Compliments Campaign.

Last year my friend, Jackie had a wall of compliments in her classroom written by her students. I loved the idea and decided we needed this in Spanish class. Since I teach novice level students I created some resources for this activity and learned how to trouble shoot some issues that arose.

First I made a slide show explaining what we were doing. Many of the words are already familiar to my students and the rest are mostly cognates BUT I included the English words just in case. Next semester I’ll include more options or let students work out their own ideas.

Settling on a name for the compliments was harder than I expected. At first I thought Piropos but those are usually flirty and Cumplidos (compliments) weren’t doing it for me either. Then the great Laura Sexton suggested Muyamables, and I loooooooved it! So Muyamables were born (and I have a new password to use).

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I also made a document and copied it on colorful paper then cut it in half. Each student was assigned the names of three classmates, received one strip of the colorful paper and was directed to write his/her compliments inside the squares.

Problem #1: Assigning the names on the fly was confusing to me because I wanted to ensure that all students received at least three compliments this round. I also wanted to be sure the assignments were random. Not having this prepared ahead of time resulted in students waiting for their assignments (not a good use of class time-I know). BUT having to pre-assign, as in write each student’s name three times for ALL of my classes was NOT going to happen.

Problem #2: Students needed the opportunity to write “drafts” of their compliments. We ended up using loose leaf which worked out nicely as I was able to point out some grammatical parts of speech they haven’t heard in context yet.

Problem #3: I forgot to tell students to sign their names on the backs of the papers.

Solution to all 3 problems:

I made practice sheets that have three spaces for writing a draft of a compliment, the writer’s class number at the top (my students are assigned the number that corresponds to their number on my class roster), and the numbers of three different classmates. I passed out the papers (referring to my roster), showed the example and directions on the slide show, then put the class roster under the document camera for everyone to see. Each person wrote down the names of their classmates.

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This activity went really well. As in BETTER than I had anticipated. My students were actually really into writing something genuine and meaningful, worked together when they got stuck (and I didn’t even direct them to do so) and students were asking right away, “When are we going to read these?!”

I even heard one student tell her friends, “I love how we do stuff like this in here.” WHAT?! My little teacher heard skipped two beats!

We’ll read 3-4 little letters each Friday and anytime we need a pick-me-up. I plan to have students write new letters during the second semester when they’ve learned even more Spanish.

If you’d like to launch your own Compliments Campaign but don’t have a ton of time to make your own documents I’m sharing what I made here. Please give credit if you adapt or share. Blair also translated the slide show to French.

 See you at the next Puente.

Journey with me

This post is probably going to come across as annoyingly cheesy and as my husband sometimes describes me: “mushy-gushy.”

I spend a lot of time combing through the materials CI teachers post on their blogs, reveling in discoveries of gold. Sometimes I find a vein other times it’s just a nugget but gold nonetheless.

When I think of these teachers who share their materials, insights, and give advice openly, some with years of experience and expertise, I always feel a sort of reverence for them. Not to be mistaken for hero-worship. Just this sense of awe at their calm and steady presence, their reassuring advice and words of encouragement.

Of course there are teachers with varying degrees of experience, some like me just a few years in(to CI) feeling confident and working steadily to improve their craft. There are others who might feel unsure of themselves, maybe even a little lost in the vast expanse of what is to come.

Teaching truly is a journey; it is an experience colored by our environment and who we meet along the way.

Have you ever played or watched the videogame Journey? It is absolutely beautiful. The story itself makes an excellent metaphor for life and I can’t help but apply it to the CI Community.

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Your character, clad in a red robe with a small scarf starts off in a desert with a mountain looming in the horizon. The goal is to reach that mountain’s summit. Along the way you will encounter obstacles which require thoughtful problem solving and even calls for help. That’s right. Other players, making the same journey can help you along the way. It’s easy to identify “experienced” players by their scarf length or robe color. The more experience you get the longer your scarf. It can also help you fly; the longer your scarf the longer your flight time. Did you know that your scarf will charge when you get close to another player? Just like we feel charged when collaborating with other CI teachers. As you get closer to the mountain the terrain and weather change. Snow and wind slow your progress and may even push you off course. Eventually, when you finish Journey your character’s robe changes to white. White robe players have already made it to the mountain’s summit but can re-enter the game and act as a guide to newer players. There are also creepy stone creatures that will tear away at your scarf-we know some of those.

As a CI teacher and as departments of one (or departments of many riding the CI wave solo) the expanse feels so vast and maybe a little empty. You might feel small. And just like the scarf with each new skill and trick we pick up, whether by our own design or from another teacher, we can increase our “flight time.” Doesn’t that just perfectly describe how it feels to deliver compelling CI? The longer we sustain the magic, the longer we captivate our audience, the more it feel like flying. More importantly, we’re not alone in this journey. There are so many White Robes among us, openly sharing, advocating and mentoring new teachers. I know this because they’ve helped me. And so have Red Robes with tiny scarves and those with very long scarves. So what can we learn from Journey?

  • trust those with experience, they mean you well
  • work to increase your skill level
  • use your skills to fly high
  • beware of the stone creatures
  • call for help and rally to those who call
  • re-charge by collaborating
  • share your knowledge
  • pace yourself-it’s not a race
  • always keep the mountain in your line of vision.

 

Here’s a link to watch the whole game played through (if you have loads of time on your hands).

See you at the next Puente. 

 

 

Preposterous Props and a Puzzle Maker

I’ll start with the puzzle maker because the rest of this post is all about props. Have you seen these super cool puzzles? I think Martina Bex calls them impossible puzzles. My amigo in the math department shared this neato-burrito resource with me. Software from Hermitech Laboratory you can download and install.

Tarsia: http://www.mmlsoft.com/index.php/products/tarsia

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What makes a great prop? Functionality, durability, randomness and free! I’ve gotten the most use out of some random, strange, and ordinary things. Just having an out-of-place item in the classroom piques students’ interests.

PIZZA BOXES

I went to our local Pizza Hut® and asked the manager if I could have a few brand new pizza boxes for my classroom. This is what we can do with 3 ordinary boxes:

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Key Structures/Target Structureskey structures.png This year I’m going to ask some different stores for an empty box or two for more comparisons and mini-debates. The family run pizza joint close to where I teach is reported to be far superior to other pizza places.

GIANT, IRIDESCENT, GLITTER-ENCRUSTED CHRISTMAS ORNAMENT. 

This one is a little trickier for me but here’s what I’ve come up with:

fortune teller             adivino                       tell a fortune              contar la fortuna

guess                           adivinar                      predict                         predicir

possible                      posible                         probable                      probable

in the future              en el future

This is also a great way to use the subjunctive but I’ll let you come up with your own phrases lest I make grammatical errors.

STUFFIES

Discarded stuffed animals (from my home not from the side of the road).  I run them through the dryer for 15 minutes to kill the dust mites and spray them down with Lysol®. Once they join my classroom I do this periodically and also wash using gentle cycle. Plastic eyes will get scratched up in the dryer so I throw those animals in a pillow case. My Middles (yes, I’m not even pulling your leg) love to sit with stuffies.

We use them:

as characters in a story

to introduce cognates

to compare numbers, colors, sizes and levels of cuteness

to play games

Check out this excellent post by Justin Slocum Bailey about White Elephant. 

UGLY, OLD CLOTHES

A couple of years ago I put a mini flyer in the mailboxes of my colleagues asking for donations of old clothes, and weird random items that would make excellent props for Reader’s Theater. My colleagues did NOT disappoint. Among the treasures I received are: oversized sunshades, a Mardi Gras wig, a tutu, some very ugly dresses, an oversized leather jacket, beaded necklaces, and various hats.

Here’s how I use one very ugly dress: To the class, “Mira clase! Mira que bonito!  (I present it to the class with a flourish). ¿Te gusta el vestido? (BIG smile) No?! ¿No te gusta? (incredulous expression). Then I offer it to a student:  ¿Este vestido es tuyo? S/he emphatically says “No.” Then I ask:  ¿Cómo que no?  Then I insist: Sí es tuyo. Mira que bonito es con tus ojos. (Student leans away in horror). We all laugh and I move to another student. “¿Es de _____?  (again, denial) Me: “¿Apoco? ¿De quién es? ¿Es mio? Sí! Es mi vestido! Mira que guapa soy con este vesitdo. (Students are either laughing or giving me looks of pity tinged with disgust—the dress is truly ugly!).

This goes on for quite some time allowing for plenty of reps of possessives, interrogatives, adjectives and FUN.

TO-GO COFFEE CUPS

If you ask nicely and explain you’re a teacher most places will donate an empty cup. I have cups from various coffee shops, gas stations, and fast food restaurants.

I like to use the cups to pre-teach key structures from Bryce Hedstrom’s La Chica Quiere Café and then we use them for Reader’s Theater when we read the story together.

You can do better than a taco.

I absolutely love tacos. I frequently eat Americanized tacos with sour cream and shredded cheese and my mom’s breakfast tacos made from leftover BBQ meats, chopped and sautéed with onions and garnished with her table salsa, chopped raw onions and cilantro. At my house we gleefully participate in Taco Tuesdays.

So what do I mean by “You can do better than a taco”?  I mean culture doesn’t have to be contrived. For the last two years after reading Pobre Ana with my Spanish I class we spend several days doing review stations.  But stations aren’t really the point of this post. What I really wanted to share with you is how easy it can be to bring the products and practices (we covered perspectives while reading the novel) of the target culture into your classroom with food. Food can be so very stereotypical but you can make it super authentic.

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One of the themes of Pobre Ana deals with worldly wealth. Ana spends a lot of time comparing her life and material possessions to those of her friends. She even laments not being able to go eat “good food at nice restaurants” like her friends and their families. After living in Mexico with a host family she realizes that her life isn’t so bad and she’s rather fortunate. The book doesn’t give any specific information about Ana’s diet or that of her host family so we had to make some inferences about what they might eat. We know (thank you Social Studies teachers) that corn plays a large agricultural role in Mexico and other Latin American countries. Also, I have some insider info about a typical Mexican diet (at least in the state of Coahuila).

I’ve actually lived in Mexico in a tiny village way, way, way up in the mountains of Saltillo, Coahuila. When I was six my parents decided it was time for us to experience our mother’s culture and meet our extended family. We moved to Guajardo during the summer and I remember chasing hundreds of Monarch butterflies (very symbolic for Day of the Dead) through the corn fields. I remember the corn harvest, the prized huitlacoche, the small fire pits that were built in the fields and filled with freshly picked corn for a tasty treat. Have you ever had fire-pit corn?! It’s amazing. In the fall and winter I remember sitting in a large circle with several relatives, desgranando maiz just like in this video, literally removing the dried corn kernels from the cobs-a difficult task for tender hands. The kernels were soaked in cal, what we know as lime, and softened for making hominy.  I remember walking to the village mill, el molino, with my grandmother to grind the softened corn. The mill was like nothing I had ever seen.

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This is not the mill from my mother’s village, although it’s very similar.  I really wanted to share a visual of what I mean by burro powered.

A true relic from an hacienda, powered by burro or very energetic children! The corn was added to the large stone and my grandmother carefully supervised the process, monitoring the texture of the masa, adding water and more corn. With this hard-earned masa my family enjoyed many delicious dishes such as: tortillas, tamales, gorditas. Some corn was ground dry for later use. All winter we had delicious atole made from that dry corn, carefully spiced with ground orange rinds, anise, cinnamon and Chocolate Abuelita.

I show my students this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcan7L4azWc before starting the stations and we talk about the tortillerias found in the city, where city folk buy their tortillas. I also make a BIG pot of Ranch style beans using my mom’s recipe.

The tortilla station is by far the most popular. Once the tortillas are made I show my kiddos how to eat the beans using only the tortilla. That’s right, tortillas are the perfect utensil! It’s actually common practice to use a tortilla in place of utensils. I was a master at this skill by the age of seven.

See how easy it is share authentic culture via food? And to tie in cross-curricular information? We touch on the chemical process of the lime changing the corn kernel, the agriculture, history, even nutrition. Whatever your target culture, I’m sure there’s a stereotype concerning food and a way for you to debunk that stereotype with more authentic examples.

Now that you’re convinced you want to make tortillas with your students here’s what you’ll need.

#1: PERMISSION! If you plan to cook in your classroom I strongly urge you to get permission from your administrator. Or at the very least give them a heads up. If an accident happens in your classroom this would not be one of those instances where asking forgiveness is easier than asking permission.

#2. Volunteer(s): If you teach the Littles or are super concerned about your Middles doing the cooking get an adult to help you. Watching Master Chef Jr® might be awe-inspiring but be careful not to overestimate your kiddos.

#3. A griddle like this one I found at Wal-Mart: and spatulas for flipping the tortillas. I use the plastic ones to avoid scratching the non-stick coating on the griddle.

#4. Tortilla Presses: I bought the aluminum because they don’t weigh too much (think smashed fingers or toes if dropped) and they’re not as expensive as the cast iron ones. You’ll also need gallon size plastic bags for cutting out liners for the press.

#5. Maseca: One bag goes a long way plus some salt and water. Just follow the directions on the bag. Once mixed you’ll want to keep the dough covered or it will dry out. You can adjust the consistency of the masa by adding water.

#6. Time to practice making tortillas if you’re rusty or brand new to the process. First mix your masa flour with salt and water following the instructions on the package. Once you have your masa mixed you’ll want to experiment by making golf ball or billiard ball sized spheres to gauge how far the masa will spread (the size of your tortilla press will determine how big). You’ll need to cut 2 circles from a plastic storage bag (use gallon size and trim to the desired dimensions) to line your press. Place one plastic liner on the bottom, then the masa sphere and then the other liner. Close the press and push down gently. If you spread the masa too thinly just scrape it off and start over. When you make a successful tortilla round carefully remove the top liner, place the raw masa round onto palm of your empty hand and carefully remove the other liner. Gently lower the round onto the griddle. Be very careful doing this. You can’t just plop the round down because it will either fall apart or smoosh together. Also, don’t try to place the round on the griddle with the plastic still attached. The steam escaping from your cooking tortilla will melt the plastic. Cook for a few minutes on each side until the tortilla “puffs” and you see little brown speckles. If you burn any don’t worry, that’s just ranch style! Check out this video to see the process.

Here’s a super interesting and very long article about tacos from the online journal Feast: http://feastjournal.co.uk/article/eating-the-cutlery-eating-tacos/