Puerto Rico, María, Lin-Manuel Miranda, & Chef José Andrés

I adore Puerto Rico, and have had the honor of working on the island for short periods of time.  So when María hit the island, it was personal.  It was days before we knew anything about our friends’ health and safety.  Thankfully, our closest friends Myraira and her family are safe and sound, but there are some friends’ family members who are still out of touch–over two months later.  The vast majority of the island still doesn’t have consistent electricity–over two months later.

Students in our IB school need to design and execute a service project at some point this year, so I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to equip them with knowledge to tackle a project for Puerto Rico if they wanted to do so.  Using materials from Martina Bex and Kara Jacobs as a starting point, I added some additional pieces to support my AP classes.

First, an EdPuzzle on the science of hurricanes.

The song — Almost Like Praying— and an interview with Lin-Manuel Miranda about it; another interview here.

Have you followed Chef José Andrés’ efforts in Hurricane Relief?  I’m in awe at what he has done, and adapted an article from the Spanish edition of the New York Times here: Jose Andres’ response in Puerto Rico after Maria.  Follow their work on Twitter at @chefjoseandres and @WCkitchen .  Here’s a little of what they did for Thanksgiving. 60 Minutes appears to be doing a segment on José Andrés tonight. You can watch it here.

Mail service in Puerto Rico is happening, but it’s slow and sporadic.  As a result, my friends on the ground in PR are saying that the best way to help is to send digital WalMart gift cards so that people can buy essentials like water, batteries, fans, insect repellant, and mosquito nets.  I’m sending another round to them soon, and know that Myraira’s family has been using what we’ve sent to help people who need it even more than they do.

Want to help?  Please message me!

Classroom Library and SSSR, part 1

This year’s teaching assignment includes my first all heritage Spanish class.  While I’ve been teaching for a good long while, I feel like a novice teacher all over again with this class.  I’ve been experimenting with several tools and strategies, trying to get a grip on what is the right mix for this group.  All of my students use Spanish as their first language, but very few have been to school in Spanish, and several have had significant gaps in their schooling.  Many claimed that they hate to read and have never read anything interesting.  To which I say:  “Challenge accepted”.

Two things that have stuck:  Ministerio del Tiempo and self-selected sustained reading.  I’ve recently posted about Ministerio del Tiempo, a current tv show from Spain.  You can find more about it here, here, and here (spoilers!).

I’m still on a sharp learning curve with free voluntary reading (FVR) and SSSR.  If you are just getting started, or just want to soak up the wisdom of someone who has been making it work in his classroom, I recommend that you check out Mike Peto’s blog, especially these posts.  So far, here’s how it’s working for us:  we read every day.  Depending on what else we have going on that day, we read for 20-30 minutes.  Students choose their own books, with the only caveats being:

  1. it has to be interesting
  2. it needs to be comprehensible
  3. it needs to have more text than pictures

When we started in September, I quickly book chatted some of the books I thought might interest them.  Then they had about 15 minutes to look through what was available and to list 5 titles in priority order on a notecard.  Then I paired them up with books from their lists.  From that point, we were off and running.

As I mentioned, we read every day.  I get them started and then we all read–including me.  I’m reading El Libro de los Americanos Desconocidos by Cristina Henríquez.  I’m considering using it as a whole class read.  In the meantime, one of my students asked to see what I was reading, decided it looked good… and is now reading it herself. 🙂

My classroom library is a ragtag bunch of books that have been collected along the way, mostly from used book sales.  However our little library has more Spanish titles than our school library and even the branch of the public library next door to our school.  Using recommendations from Mike Peto, requests from students, and also recommendations from our exchange daughters in Spain, I have been on a quest to pair each student in my class with a book that will draw them in.  While Amazon is a great source, it can also get quite expensive.  I have had excellent luck at Better World Books and have been able to find some titles at Thrifty Books (15% teacher discount with code APPLE), both at much better prices.  The books are used, often library discards, but also affordable.  I took a little leap of faith and went shopping.  I was thrilled to find out that our PTSA offered grants and was willing to reimburse me for the first round of purchases.  I was able to get about 30 books for less than $100 at Better World books when I combined sales with promo codes!

I’ll go into more specifics about our library management and accountability in the next post in this series.  In the meantime, one of our Spanish daughters, Cristina, sent me photos of her bookshelves to give me more ideas of books to consider.  So far her recommendations have been spot on!


This year at ACTFL I had the pleasure of co-presenting with Karen Goering (@kbhawki) on the topic of the blockbuster film Ocho Apellidos Vascos. This film is ripe for the picking of cultural comparisons for AP, or use in another upper intermediate level class. As always, please preview and consider your community’s culture before deciding to show the film. You can see our presentation here.

El Ministerio del Tiempo: El Tiempo es La Gloria

By popular demand among my heritage language students, we are back with another episode of Ministerio del Tiempo.  Episode 2 deals with Lope de Vega’s near miss of his assigned ship when the Armada Invencible sailed against England.

To support this episode, here’s what we will do:

  • Open with the Alatriste trailer here
  • Quizlet with vocab and key concepts here
  • A brief video guide here.  I prepared a much more detailed guide for the first episode.  Initially it was helpful as students were getting the hang of the show.  Later on though, I was finding that it was distracting students from watching the show rather than supporting it.  However, we are on an A/B schedule, so we have gaps between when we see the show.  Thus the purpose of the viewing guide has become to help students remember what they’ve seen.
  • We will read/analyze Góngora’s Soneto CLXI (a work on the AP Spanish Lit reading list) and one of Lope de Vega’s works.
  • Plan to use the podcast on the Siglo de Oro at spanishpodcast.net
  • Close out with a FlipGrid mini video blog.

Important notes:

  1.  The actor who plays the youngest Alonso is actually the son of the actor who plays the oldest Alonso.
  2. As always, preview the episode before showing it and decide whether it meets your community’s standards.  But definitely skip the scene from 38:43-39:43 (on the DVD) because there is no way it’s appropriate for school.