lunes, 19 de diciembre de 2016

Casa Dividida... perspectivas diferentes de Cuba

Image result for Casa dividida chris mercerI have always wanted to do a unit on Cuba in my Cultura y Civilización (Spanish 4/5) course, but never have because I have never been able to focus the unit. There is so much to explore: the history of Cuba, the indigenous population, the African influence on culture, the Spanish influence on culture, Batista, poverty, freedom of speech, education, health care, exile, music, poetry, Che, Fidel, Miami, US intervention, the embargo, sugar... and so many varied perspectives (see here for an extremely short video that shows some perspectives). But, I have finally found an excellent resource that can help me pull it all together, the book Casa Dividida by Chris Mercer.

This book tells the compelling story of two families, both of whom are impacted by Fidel Castro's government. Here is the description from the TPRS Books website: 


Appropriate for level 3 and 4 classes, José, the son of one of Cuba’s wealthiest tobacco tycoons, and Luisa, a peasant sugar cane cutter, see their country turned upside-down by the Cuban Revolution. They are then faced with a choice. Stay and defend the Revolution? Or flee and fight for its end?
Based on true events, this novel chips away at  political propaganda with a gripping tale of battlefield heroism, international espionage, economic collapse, and human compassion. You will be left wondering who the true rebels are and what it will take to reunite a house divided.
There isn't a Teacher's Guide available yet, so I came up with an alternative unit plan so that students can show their learning, explore other cultural and historical points, reflect, personalize, compare and contrast, and show their understanding of the novel. I am still thinking about the "Essential Questions" for the unit, but as of right now, this is what I have:

  • ¿Cómo afecta el gobierno la vida del individuo y la de una sociedad?
  • ¿Quiénes son algunos héroes nacionales polémicos de Cuba y de los Estados Unidos? ¿Por qué es importante tratar de entender todas las perspectivas de sus seguidores?

They (and I) can get a bit tired of the "preguntas de comprensión" after each chapter, so instead, students are going to do: an "Álbum de Recortes." I got the idea from Elizabeth Dentlinger's post about Smash Doddles (inspired by Martina Bex). I really like Elizabeth's student handout, particularly because it could be used for any book and I will probably use that in the future with another book.

Here is a link to the "Álbum de Recortes" handout for students and here is the rubric that I will use to guide them and assess them. The rubric contains some "School Wide" strands that I have to use throughout the semester. 

have tried to vary the things that students have to do for each chapter and give them some choice as well. Chris Mercer is obviously very knowledgeable about Cuba because this book is deep with cultural and historical connections (example: is Rolando based on Silvio Rodríguez?), so students will have the option of exploring a wide variety of culture and history, including the following: los taínos, la zafra (and three related songs), Babalú-Aye, José Martí, Silvio Rodríguez, Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, communism, nationalization, the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, the Contras, freedom of speech, CIA intervention, la Bahía de Cochinos, the song "Casas de Cartón," executions, political prisoners, Perestroika and Glasnost, las Damas de Blanco, the importance of education, and a nationalized health care system... among many other things!

Here are some of the things that students will do for different chapters:


Capítulo 1: Luisa y José - Cuba 1957

Capítulo 4: A la guerra
  • Describe este capítulo con una oración.
  • Haz lo que quieras para explicar, resumir, reflejar, opinar, personalizar, hacer conexiones con la historia de nuestro país, y/o analizar este capítulo.


Capítulo 9: La educación de Luisa
  • Describe este capítulo con una oración.
  • Escribe dos citas de Che Guevara y escribe tu opinión sobre cada una.
  • Haz una lista de las cosas importantes en la vida de Luisa.
  • El Ministerio de Cultura censuró la música de Rolando, ¿por qué? En tu opinión, ¿hay situaciones en que la música debe ser censurada? ¿Cuándo? ¿Dónde? ¿Por qué?

Capítulo 14: Una nueva vida para José

  • Describe este capítulo con cinco oraciones.
  • Al final del capítulo, Julie dice, "Yo entiendo que estés enojado, José, pero la familia es más importante que la política. Espero que un día puedas volver y hacer la paz con tu familia." ¿Piensas tú que él volverá? Haz una predicción.
  • ¿Cómo te sentirías si tuvieras que salir de tu país y de tu familiar y no pudieras volver? ¿Qué harías en esa situación?


Capítulo 17: Rebelión

  • Describe este capítulo con una oración.
  • ¿Nuestro gobierno permite que lo critiquemos? ¿Qué pasaría si no pudiéramos criticarlo?
  • Haz una de estas cosas:


Has anyone else used this book? I look forward to spending the three weeks after break delving into Cuba! I will share examples of the "Álbum de Recortes" as we progress. 

A big thanks to Chris Mercer for writing such an amazing book!




jueves, 1 de diciembre de 2016

Starting Spanish 2 with a compelling story & some high frequency vocab

2/3/17 - Update: I have had 4 days with Spanish 2 (83 minutes/class) and this unit is going very well! I love the "tres versiones"setup of the story. Students have been engaged with the story. Also, we some good actors for versión 2, so that always makes class better! Also, I just added this Quizlet for Quizlet Live after versión 2. (These are free resources, thanks to Amy Zimmer and Elena López for starting the unit - unit packet and presentation)

I am starting Spanish 2 in January and I am hoping to ditch the textbook and use stories and novels, but I am still obligated to teach certain things because of departmental curriculum, so I have been working on this unit to start. This video will be the "story" and the focus of the unit. The story, which Amy Zimmer and Elena López wrote, has tons of high frequency vocabulary (and here) and will be a good way to start with a CI focus and 90% TL.

Below you will see the essential questions for the unit, the goals of the unit (with a direct link to the unit packet), and a slideshow that will be used throughout this unit. Again, Amy Zimmer did most of the work developing this work, so a big thank you to her! This unit is a bit of a hybrid unit, a bit CI, a bit TPRS, a bit traditional... I think it will work for where I am, where my students are (most are coming from a non-TPRS/CI Spanish 1 classes), and where they are going.

I think the "story" will be compelling and I think students will be engaged. Check it out:


Preguntas Esenciales:


Metas para la unidad:
  • When directed, I can function in a "solo español" classroom.
  • I understand that in order to learn new words and structures, it is important that I repeat, act out, and listen/read for meaning.
  • I can show that I understand a story in a variety of ways, including: answering questions, cierto/falso statements, choosing the correct words to complete the story, choosing the correct pictures when hearing sentences, drawing, acting out the story, summarizing and others.
  • I can remember previously learned vocabulary, pronunciation rules, and grammatical structures (including: conjugations, adjective agreement and placement, and ser vs. estar). (departmentally tied to these things)

Click here if you want to make a copy and use it and/or make changes. And here is a link to the unit packet.