Incorporating Authentic Resources with Novels

June 26, 2018 admin

June 26, 2018
By Maris Hawkins

For this guest post, we are pleased to have Maris Hawkins, a middle and upper school Spanish teacher with an awesome blog hat we just love (definitely check out Maris’ blog after you read this post!). Maris is doing some really creative things with novels and innovative technologies in her classroom, all while teaching to proficiency. We hope you enjoy this special guest post about her suggestions for how to incorporate authentic resources with novels.

Authentic resources and novels can work together to help your students learn and acquire more Spanish.  I have used authentic resources for many years (and on my blog I share over 100 of my favorite authentic resources  that I have used over the past few years!).  Many novels are full of culture, and I have seen that authentic resources can highlight the culture even more.  These resources can enhance any novel at any point of instruction.

Authentic Resources as Introduction

I like to introduce students to the country in the book before reading it.  For El Ekeko, which takes place in Bolivia, I pulled some Bolivian news articles that I modified.  (If you are interested in modified news articles for your class next year, you can check out my collaboration with Martina Bex.)  Then I also pulled other fun authentic resources like this menu.  While the menu was more fast food, students could look at the prices on the menu and they also could see the desserts (which were more authentic.)  Plus, students found it surprising that in Bolivia people have to pay extra for ketchup and other sauces. For many students, this is a very different idea!  

You can use articles from previous years in any country for each novel.  Also, check out the box on the right side of a Wikipedia entry in Spanish for any country.  That gives background information and the graphics are great. You can also listen to the national anthem!  Also, a quick search of infographics for any country typically brings up a good selection. I found a selection here about infographics on Argentina.

Before reading Bianca Nieves, our class discussed tapas.  I love using Yelp in Spanish to check out reviews. I like to find one that has a lot of really positive reviews and one that has lower ones (although in this case, don’t show the third review!)  For me, this helped combine some of our other units as well as the book.  As students have looked at menus in level 1, this reviews some of the concepts that they have learned while expanding on them.

Sprinkling Authentic Resources Throughout the Novel

While reading each book, culture is present which is the perfect opportunity to incorporate more authentic resources.  When reading the Billy y las botas graphic novel by Sr. Wooly, my students complete a cloze activity for Mi burrito sabanero and watch the video by Juanes.  This doesn’t have to be limited to a specific song in the book.  Find songs from each country in the book to include throughout the novel.  Zachary Jones does an excellent job of finding songs and curating them by country.

I also used tips from Jen at Secondary Spanish Space about Google Tour-Builder to build my own Google Tours with Slides and Novels.  I loved that I was able to include videos from each “stop.”  I would also stop in a restaurant for a snack and include a menu.  It is amazing that students can be looking at a map of a location and also look at a menu from that exact restaurant!

Also, teachers can continue to think beyond traditional songs, articles and videos for authentic resources.  Instagram and Twitter are great and can also be accessible and engaging for novice students. For books that take place in Mexico, you can use the yo soy Mexicano Twitter account that Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell introduced.  Different people from Mexico take over this account each week to tell their story.  There are videos, pictures and short (fairly easy to understand) tweets in Spanish. In past weeks, a soccer player, photographer, actress and Olympian swimmer have been tweeting.  

On Instagram, I found an account called Everyday Bolivia which I used with El Ekeko.  It is a combination of photographs of people and landscapes in Bolivia.  We can discuss the pictures in the target language and also look at the caption and any response (although always check for appropriateness on social media!)  Also, searching around, I found similar accounts for a variety of countries: Costa Rica and Ecuador.  If there isn’t an active account, many times the hashtag is active like #everydayspain or #everydayargentina.  You may have to search more, but there are some great photos throughout each hashtag.

Authentic Resources as Assessments

Many times, I will use authentic resources as interpretive assessments.  When I was working with the novel Frida Kahlo, I found this article about her recent art exhibits.  This article shows students the relevance of Frida today since the exhibition took place in 2017.  Plus, parts of the novel are highlighted in the article. This background knowledge helps students further understand the article.  Students can reflect on what they have learned in the novel and how it compares with the article.

I also use videos for assessments at various points of the book.  For example, in La Calaca Alegre, I used this video that discusses Art in Pilsen.  If you are using a book that takes place in Spain, Guía Repsol has some great guides around various cities in Spain.  These videos can be used as interpretive listening assessments.

The novel El Ekeko explains a lot of information about life in Bolivia.  At the end of the novel, I wanted my students to compare their life in the United States with life in Bolivia.  I found a great article that explained a few people’s opinions on life in Bolivia.  It is full of cognates, and the list in the second response is perfect for level 1!  Students can then think about what they learned in the book to join the ideas together to compare and contrast in a presentational writing assessment.

If you want to learn more about how I use authentic resources and novels in my class, you can pop over to my blog!  Please feel free to share any of your own thoughts on the topic in the comments below. Thank you to Secondary Spanish Space for having me!

Maris Hawkins is a middle and upper school Spanish teacher and blogger. She teaches to proficiency and is currently exploring how to make language learning with novels engaging and effective for her students. Follow her on Twitter for the latest!


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