Vidas Impactantes

In my classes we make a point to read every day.  Sometimes it’s less, sometimes it’s more… sometimes it’s a dive into authentic resources, and other times it’s working with extended reading in the form of comprehension-based readers or even novels (depending on the level of the class and the student).  One of the resources that has become invaluable in my classes is comprehension-based readers like Vidas Impactantes from Fluency Matters.

I have a class set of Vidas and have used them two different ways so far–once as a quick and easy read with my AP students and as a self-selected reading for intermediate students’ book club.  Later this year we will read it in level 2 as a key piece of our final unit that centers on biographies of world changers.  Fluency Matters provided the first set of books for me to try out and we liked it so much that we bought another set.  The opinions here are my own.

There are so many things that I like about this book!  It is a collection of brief biographies  of six influential hispanohablantes from across the globe:

  • Roberto Clemente (baseball & humanitarian, Puerto Rico)
  • Azucena Villaflor (activist, founder of Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, Argentina)
  • Celia Cruz (cultural icon, singer, Cuba)
  • Julio Iglesias (singer, Real Madrid player, Enrique’s dad, Spain)
  • Luis Urzúa (miner trapped in Chile–credited with being the leader of the group & contributing to their survival)
  • María Reiche (German born Peruvian mathematician, researcher of Nazca lines)

From sports to music to science, there is something here to connect with a wide variety of students.

I learned a lot from reading the book myself. I had no idea about Julio’s soccer past, and knew nothing about María Reiche.  I love the idea that there is a balance of women and men, and that we get to touch on six different places while exploring the stories.  I appreciate that there are contemporary connections present here–students may not know much about Julio but they are aware of Enrique. The story of the trapped miners is compelling and recent, and learning more about Luis Urzúa makes it even more so. In my level 2 classes we are wrapping up a unit around travel and exploring World Heritage Sites, and Nazca Lines were one of the sites we “visited” virtually and intrigued many students.  I am looking forward to sharing María Reiche’s story with them a little later in the year to reconnect with their enthusiasm on the topic.

One of the other things I appreciate about this book is its flexibility.  You can read it all… or you can read it in segments because the biographies are separate chapters. It follows a fairly predictable format that improves its readability and provides an easy segue into comparisons between the subjects. It has enough content to be interesting and engaging, but the vocabulary is controlled enough so as not to overwhelm upper novice-lower intermediate learners. It’s an easy read for upper intermediate learners and an excellent tool for fostering discussion among them.  I plan on leveraging that flexibility later this year when I’ll have students in groups to working on sections of the book & presenting to each other.  More on that to come!

In short, Vidas Impactantes by Kristy Placido is a must have for your collection.  Its flexibility, engagement level, and positive approach to diversity make it an excellent use of limited funds for novice and intermediate classrooms alike.  A special note to teachers new to comprehension-based readers:  this is a good one to start with.  Don’t miss the teachers’ guide either–Fluency Matters’ guides are top notch!   You can find all the materials for this excellent book here.


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