Trying to choose a book: ¿Por qué no los dos? Why not both?

Hello blog, it’s been a while!

One of the common themes in my classes is that we have so much good stuff to explore, but never enough time. This spring I was trying to decide which comprehensible readers we were going to read in my Spanish 4 class. Faced with the decision of Selena or Santana, I chose… both. While at various points I questioned the wisdom of my decision, it turned out well. Here’s how we did it:

  1. About 2 weeks before I wanted to start reading, I book talked both books, telling students a bit about both–that both had glossaries to support them, they were approximately the same length, and I thought both would interest them.
  2. Students picked up copies of both books, then chose 1 to start. I set a timer for 5 minutes and asked students to read the back cover + start in chapter 1. After 5 minutes, switch books & repeat.
  3. Students filled out an online form showing which book was their preference.
  4. I started preparing to teach two books!
  5. One helpful discovery: it’s possible to run simultaneous games in platforms like Gimkit, Blooket, and Quizlet Live. It took a little getting used to, but we would generate two games/game codes–1 per book– to play our favorites at the same time.
  6. Another helpful lesson from an English teaching colleague: we read the book in chunks of chapters rather than each chapter by chapter. This helped us to keep up the momentum of our stories but without us bogging down. Also, because our schedule has our classes on alternating days, a chapter a day drags!
    1. Selena was broken down into these chapter chunks: 1-3, 4-5, 6-8, and 9-10
    2. Santana: 1-4, 5-9, 10-12, & 13-15.
  7. The teachers’ guides would have been very helpful, but I didn’t have access to them. I made study guides and materials for each chunk of chapters that included vocabulary, guiding questions, cultural investigations, and personal connections. Students worked on these + reading in small groups in class.
  8. I loved being freed up to be a facilitator of groups rather than being the one leading class as students worked in a blend of semi-independent and small group work. Certain groups needed more support and I was able to work with them as needed while also allowing groups who didn’t need it to move on.
  9. We did a few whole class activities spread out through the unit.
    1. Two song activity packs–one by each artist. You can download a copy of what we did at these links: Corazón Espinado by Maná & Carlos Santana & Como la Flor by Selena.
    2. SmashDoodles at the midway point to review what we’d learned so far
    3. A small group speaking assessment based on this activity by Carrie Toth.
    4. A re-enacted graphic novel version of their books. More to come on this fun activity soon!


  1. The gap in prep time was really helpful. It allowed me to get fully ready to tackle both books, including a thorough reading, breaking down the book into chunks, and thoughtfully creating supporting content.
  2. Students reported a boost in their confidence in being able to read a book like this. After our experience with pandemic learning, this benefit cannot be overstated. Though both books are rated for lower level classes, they were right on target for what these students needed. Plus these students had skills to be able to extend the content further.
  3. Students who had an opinion were in favor of this method. Some of their unedited feedback from exit surveys:

Based on their feedback, we are doing this again with Minerva & Felipe Alou. I’m being even more intentional about building in conversation moments as we progress through the books and encouraging more intentional collaboration. Since these books take place in approximately the same time frame, we will also have more activities that all students will do and encourage them to make comparisons and connections regardless of the book that they are reading.

You can see other activities that I’ve done with Felipe Alou and the film In the Time of Butterflies in these previous posts. I hope this is helpful!