Pelos y Rizos

I  have been attending the AATSP conference in Denver this weekend, and what I like most about conferences is how something small that is mentioned in a session gives me inspiration. Conferences also free my mind for more creative pursuits that the structure of school does not allow.

I attended a session about Radio Ambulante and how it can be used in upper level classes, and as I scanned the different podcasts on their site, I came across one called “Miss Rizos.” I had been thinking about my first lessons in pre-AP and AP, which are about identity, and how hair can be reflected in that. The podcast is 15 minutes long, which is longer than I usually like to use, but what she says is very interesting. She talks about how, in the Dominican Republic, it is widely accepted to straighten hair and how Miss Rizos decided to eschew that custom and leave her hair natural.

That podcast made me think of the brief chapter in La Casa en Mango Street called “Pelos” where Esperanza describes the hair of the people in her family.

It also made me think of a film from Venezuela that I had heard about called “Pelo malo.” A boy wants to straighten his hair for picture day at school.  From what I read on IMDb, the film is not really appropriate for class. The trailer is more appropriate, but I would say only the first part of it.

I think the Miss Rizos and Pelo malo resources would fit into a series of lessons about the afro-latino identity. I believe they would also fit with the AP theme “Belleza y estética.”

I just came across this video on BBC Mundo’s Facebook page:

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Guinea Ecuatorial

I have had a fascination with Equatorial Guinea and its Spanish colonial past ever since I chose to read Equatoguinean authors such as Donato Ndongo-Bidyogo and María Nsue Angüe as coursework for my master’s degree. Donato Ndongo-Bidyogo is a visiting scholar at the University of Missouri-Columbia, by the way. I chose to read those authors after I attended a conference session by Chad Montuori about the Equatoguinean literature.

I would love to create a lesson or lessons that somehow involve this former Spanish colony. The conference presenter had some very good poems and a short story that I think would work in conjunction with works such as “Balada de los dos abuelos” by Nicolás Guillén. One problem I am having is that I only have the photocopied conference packet because I cannot find the books available for purchase.  One poem by Anacleto Oló Mbuy that I would like to use is “Hispania” from a book called Antología de la literatura guineana.

For now, I want to share the resources I have compiled for Guinea Ecuatorial, and hopefully one day I will be able to blog about the lesson that I created. :)

The online magazine Veinte Mundos has just released an article related to Guinea Ecuatorial at

Here is another article from Veinte Mundos about the writer Donato Ndongo-Bidyogo

Zachary Jones has Equatoguinean music on his Zambobazo site at

RTVE has a documentary from the perspective of the Spanish who were forced to leave  in 1968 at

Global Voices en español has several articles at

This video looks promising

This is just a 1-minute video that gives a quick overview

This site is in English, but I like the nice overview of the country that it provides

Another informative, though disheartening, article from 2003 that was a “60 Minutes” episode, but I cannot locate the video:

If there are any existing lessons in Spanish about Equatorial Guinea, I would love to find out about them; please send them my way!

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El arte latinoamericano: Joaquín Torres García y Xul Solar

For day 2 of our focus on Latin American art, I chose Joaquín Torres García and Xul Solar. The purpose of this lesson was for students to discover how the artists attempted to draw South America out of the shadow of the northern powers, such as the United States and Europe.

I started with a Do Now activity about “América invertida.”

  1. El título del dibujo es “América invertida.” ¿Qué significa la palabra “invertida”?
  1. Observaciones: Describe lo que ves el dibujo.
  1. Inferencias: ¿Cuál es tu interpretación de este dibujo? ¿Qué mensaje nos quiere comunicar el artista?
  1. Conexiones: Relaciona la tira cómica de Mafalda con el dibujo de Torres García.
    mafalda sur norte

Students then read what Torres García said about his drawing “América invertida,” found at and answered the question, “¿Qué está diciendo Joaquín Torres García sobre el lugar de América del Sur en el mundo?”

torres garcia

There are more nice resources about the symbolism in Torres García’s work, but I admit that I do not feel knowledgeable enough to teach it.  Here is what I found:

Next, we worked with the painting “Drago” by Xul Solar of Argentina.
drago xul solar

First, the students watched a brief video about Xul Solar. It is for children, but it was the best I found:

After the video, I gave the students information about symbols that Xul Solar used in his art, found at in the document “Para comprender la obra de Xul” and they answered questions about the painting.

  1. Como Joaquín Torres García, Xul Solar incorporaba el simbolismo en su arte. Según la hoja de símbolos que tienes, ¿qué es el animal en el centro del cuadro? ¿Qué representa este animal?
  2. Observa las banderas:
  3. Nombra algunos países representados arriba a la izquierda.
  4. Nombra los países representados abajo a la derecha.
  5. Nombre algunos países que están alrededor del animal.
  6. ¿Por qué eligió el artista colocar las banderas de esos países en el animal?
  7. ¿Qué conexión puedes hacer entre “Drago” y “América invertida”?

Here is a nice page about Xul Solar:

After I initially wrote this post, I came across a song called “América” by Los Tigres del Norte that came out in 1987. The group later did a version of the song with René from Calle 13.  Next year I would like to ask the students what relationship the message of this song has with the artwork by Torres García and Xul Solar.

I think I will use the original version of the song:

Here is the version with Calle 13:

Xul Solar and Jorge Luis Borges were friends, and I had some time left in the lesson, so we started reading “Los dos reyes y los dos laberintos” and the students finished it for homework.

Here is the text with questions:

Here is the vocabulary activity that the students completed:

  1. _______ Perplejo                                            A. rogar, suplicar
  2. _______ Sutil                                                    B. decir
  3. _______ Afrentado                                        C. que da mucho cansancio
  4. _______ Implorar                                           D. confuso
  5. _______ Proferir                                             E. ingenioso, inteligente
  6. _______ Estragar                                           F. prohibir
  7. _______ Fatigoso                                           G. ofendido
  8. _______ Vedar                                                 H. dañar, destruir

Here are the questions that I asked:

  1. ¿Por qué le envió el rey de Babilonia al rey de Arabia por su laberinto?
  2. ¿Qué le pasó al rey de Arabia en el laberinto?
  3. ¿Cómo resolvió la situación?
  4. ¿Qué sentía el rey de Arabia por lo que le pasó?
    1. Admiración por el rey de Babilonia y su laberinto
    2. Alegría por haber resuelto la situación
    3. Vergüenza por lo que le pasó en el laberinto
    4. Envidia porque no tiene un laberinto tan impresionante como el del rey de Babilonia
  5. ¿Bajo qué circunstancias llegó el rey de Babilonia al reino de Arabia?
  6. ¿Qué le pasó al rey de Babilonia en Arabia?
  7. ¿Por qué se lo hizo el rey árabe?
  8. ¿Fueron justificadas las acciones del rey de Arabia? Explica.

Here is the text with multiple choice questions that I used for my exit ticket:

More questions and vocabulary:

If you do an image search for “los dos reyes y los dos laberintos” you will find nice visuals like these:

dos reyesHere is a video narration:

That is all for this lesson. Next on my list is a post on Rufino Tamayo and Dr. Atl.

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El arte latinoamericano: Wifredo Lam

In my Spanish classes, the art unit is my favorite one to teach.  I had decided to devote a week to Central and South American artists in my pre-AP Spanish classes, but I realized that, due to my limited knowledge and resources, I did not have enough content for an entire week. My solution was to pair art and literature. I love how the lessons turned out.  I started with Cuba: Wifredo Lam and Nicolás Guillén.

I think that Lam’s most-recognized work is “La jungla” and that is what we analyzed.

Do Now:  “La jungla“
Observa este cuadro. ¿En qué te hace pensar? ¿Qué te hace sentir?


Then students read what Lam said about this painting, found here, and answered the following question:

  1. ¿Cuál de las afirmaciones mejor expresa la idea principal del párrafo?
    A.Quiere inspirar orgullo en las raíces africanas de los cubanos.
    B.Desea capturar la gran belleza natural de Cuba.
    C.Intenta demostrar la liberación de Cuba de poderes extranjeros.
    D.Añora (extraña) el continente africano de sus ancestros.
    E.Retrata la esclavitud de los africanos en Cuba por parte de los colonizadores.

Next I asked them to compare the landscape and the people in the painting with a photo of a sugar plantation and sugar cane.Jungla y foto

Next, we watched part of a video promoting a documentary about Afro-Latinos at We watched the first 2 minutes and 44 seconds.

africa cuba

After that, we read a “cápsula cultural” from Triángulo Aprobado 5a edición about Cuba and sincretismo.  I asked them the following questions about the brief reading:

  1. ¿Qué es “sincretismo” según el contexto del párrafo?
  2. Explica lo que significa la última oración: “El sincretismo confirma que se puede dejar la casa, pero nunca el hogar.”

We could have done more with afro-latinos, but we talk about that again in AP when we read “La balada de los dos abuelos.”

Finally, we read along as we listened to Nicolás Guillén’s poem “Sensemayá.” It is a poem that really needs to be heard. In retrospect, I could have spent some time on the “son” so students could understand the poem further.

Here is the text: Sensemayá and here is the audio, recited by Guillén himself:

I asked the following questions about the poem:

  1. Escucha el poema “Sensemayá” por Nicolás Guillén. ¿Cómo te suena?
    A. Un canto o ritual
    B. Una canción
    C. Un cuento
    D. Un poema que rima
  2. ¿Qué quieren hacer con la culebra y por qué?
  3. Una anáfora es la repetición de la misma palabra o palabras al principio de varios versos. Subraya unos ejemplos de anáfora en “Sensemayá.”
  4. Guillén también usa mucha repetición en el poema, como “se esconde en la yerba.” ¿Cómo contribuyen las anáforas y la repetición al ritmo del poema?
  5. Considerando el contenido del poema y la historia de Cuba, ¿por qué escribiría Guillén este poema?

Finally, this is the question that I asked as their exit ticket:

  1. ¿Cómo se podría relacionar el poema “Sensemayá” con “La jungla”?

That is all for Wifredo Lam and Nicolás Guillén. When I have time, I will continue with the artists Joaquín Torres García and Xul Solar.

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El cuidado de la salud y la medicina

Uno de los sub-temas para la ciencia y la tecnología en AP Lengua Española es el cuidado de la salud y la medicina.  En mi clase de “pre-AP” exploramos este sub-tema.

Comenzamos con una exploración del curanderismo. Aquí les comparto los recursos que he localizado para hablar de este tema.

Veinte Mundos: “Los secretos de un curandero”

Tres cuadros de Carmen Lomas Garza; dos que se llaman “Curandera” y uno que se llama “Barriendo el susto”

La Universidad de Illinois en Urbana-Champaign tenía un recurso excelente que vendían que se llamaba “Nuevos Horizontes: Curso de comprensión oral” con audio y actividades sobre el chamán y su rol como curandero además de figura espiritual. Por desgracia, parece que ya no está disponible. Sin embargo, tengo un enlace para una grabación similar de Nuevos Horizontes:

Video en español y subtitulado en inglés llamado “La curandera de Teotitlán del Valle”

Hay una lectura breve y sencilla en el libro de texto Descubre nivel 3 que se llama  “De abuelos y curanderos.” Alguien la ha subido a Internet; les advierto que esta versión tiene errores ortográficos:

En el libro de texto Temas hay una actividad de comprensión auditiva que se llama «Escepticismo y medicinas alternativas»  en la página 95. La fuente auditiva se encuentra en:

Yo usé la canción “Yerbatero” de Juanes como parte de esta serie de lecciones. Kara Jacobs tiene la canción y más recursos sobre la salud en su blog:

Además del curanderismo, aprendimos sobre el sistema de sanidad pública en España. Hay una lectura y audio con ejercicios de comprensión en la revista TECLA:

Hay un debate en España sobre el sistema de sanidad pública y propuestas para privatizarlo. La revista de Scholastic “El sol” de marzo 2015 tiene una lectura breve sobre el debate sobre la privatización del sistema de sanidad en España. Yo hice una búsqueda de imágenes en Google sobre el sistema de sanidad pública en España, y encontré varios dibujos políticos sobre el debate que analizamos en clase para entender mejor los puntos de vista de los españoles.

En el sitio de la Universidad de Texas en Austin,  hay varios videos breves sobre cómo se sienten varias personas sobre la medicina en la sociedad:

El sitio tiene un buscador de ejercicios para localizar fuentes auditivas sobre la salud y el cuerpo humano:

Más adelante en esta unidad de estudio vamos a ver la película “Mar adentro” para hablar de la eutanasia.

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My experiences teaching Spanish as a heritage language

I went to a SWCOLT session recently about teaching Spanish as a heritage language, and there was quite a bit of lively discussion about what should be taught and how in order to meet the learners’ unique needs. I started teaching Spanish as a heritage language three years ago, and I’ll share what I’ve learned so far.

When I first started teaching at my school, the courses I taught were called Native Spanish. I prefer the term heritage speaker to native speaker, however, because I discovered that the majority of my students were born in the United States, and may have never visited a Spanish-speaking country.

At my school, there is a foreign language requirement, and since our school is so small, we only offer Spanish. Over 90% of our students are Latino, and most speak Spanish to some extent. Because the students have to double up on English classes in 9th and 10th grades, I only get two years at the most with them.  I decided to offer two courses for the heritage Spanish speakers: pre-AP and AP Spanish Language and Culture. Depending on their level of language skills, they take both courses, or they only take the AP course.  All students who speak Spanish as a heritage language will take the AP exam at my school.

Because the new AP Spanish Language and Culture exam that was first administered in May 2014 is easier to pass with a 3, 4 or 5 than the previous version of the exam, I decided that I needed to offer a more challenging course in addition to what we already have, so I plan to offer AP Spanish Literature and Culture starting in the 2016-17 school year.

I have not yet perfected the way that I determine whether each student needs to be placed in the non-native, pre-AP o AP classes, but for the moment I am using the listening and reading comprehension parts from the diagnostic exam from Glencoe McGraw Hill and a writing prompt that I obtained from a high school in Denver. So far it seems to be fairly accurate. The trouble is with the students at the lower end of the spectrum. Sometimes students fail the diagnostic exam, but are able to get along in the pre-AP classes, while others who fail are not able to pass the pre-AP class.  The only other alternatives at my school are Spanish I and II non-native, so I plan to experiment with putting students on the bubble in Spanish II the first year and pre-AP Spanish the second year. I think a level III non-native would be ideal rather than level II for those students, but we just do not have enough students to support that many classes.

During the SWCOLT session, there was debate about the role of direct grammar instruction in heritage/native language courses. I have not incorporated grammar into my lessons unless a specific grammar issue pops up in the students’ speaking or writing. I have been thinking that “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” However, I have been mulling over the thought of more systemic grammar instruction; perhaps in the form of a workbook that students do as homework and I incorporate the homework concepts some way in class. The first workbook that comes to mind is “Schaum’s Outlines of Spanish Grammar” but there are a number of grammar workbooks on the market.

The main struggle for my heritage speakers seems to be literacy, particularly reading.  I have observed, upon reviewing the data of my students who are labeled ELL, that as a general rule,  if the students have a low score on the ELL assessment, they struggle in my class also. In short, it is not an English or Spanish issue, but rather a literacy issue. I think that the most high-impact activity that I can do with my students is vocabulary building.  I am working to find ways to successfully teach vocabulary as well as reading strategies. My goal is to strengthen my students language skills through the teaching of content, particularly cultural content.

Another topic of discussion at the SWCOLT session was the lack of materials for teaching heritage language courses.  I have found that the AP curriculum works well for me with my students, particularly the themes. I also use authentic target language sources with my students, as well as didactic materials made for native speakers for topics like literature, spelling and accents. I also find European sources for ELE (español como lengua extranjera) to be useful. I look for levels B2, C1, C2. I think that materials for International Baccalaureate Spanish B, both Standard and High Level, would be suitable. Finally, I have purchased a copy of different advanced level Spanish textbooks from used book sites like Better World Books or Amazon.

Here are some other resources:

Spanish Native Language Arts Curriculum Guide from New York

Planning and Pacing Guides from Denver Public Schools

Heritage Languages in America

National Heritage Language Resource Center

Kim Potowski; includes a list of textbooks for teaching heritage language

Cherice Montgomery

Public Schools of North Carolina

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AATSP and SWCOLT AP Spanish Presentation

Here is the Power Point presentation for my AATSP and SWCOLT 2015 session, “Tips and Strategies for a Strong AP Spanish Language and Culture Course.”

Strong AP Spanish Program

sample lesson

Here are some helpful links from the presentation:

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Scoring Guides for AP Spanish Language and Culture

I find the AP scoring guides that are found in the AP course description to be less than student friendly, so I created these formats for student use.

Scoring guides in grid form:

Interpersonal Writing Rubric AP

Presentational Writing Rubric AP

Interpersonal Speaking Rubric AP

Presentational Speaking Rubric AP

Self and peer evaluation checklists:

AP peer self assessment checklist inter writing

AP peer self assessment checklist pres writing

AP peer self assessment checklist inter speaking

AP peer self assessment checklist pres speaking

Checklists for evaluating student samples from AP Central:

form for evaluating sample AP inter writing samples

form for evaluating sample AP pres writing

form for evaluating sample AP inter speaking recordings

form for evaluating sample AP pres speaking recordings

Presentational rubrics with spaces for teacher comments:

Presentational Writing Rubric AP comment boxes

Presentational Speaking Rubric AP comment boxes

All four rubrics on one page:

AP rubrics all 4 in one page

When I reached out to the head English teacher at my school for the presentational writing, he suggested a point/counter-point essay format.  This is not from AP, and may not be your preferred method, but I am going to share the graphic organizer and evaluation checklist that I created for use with my students.

graphic organizer AP essay version 2docx

Evaluación del ensayo persuasivo teacher checklist

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Teacher Blogs for AP Spanish Language and Culture

Here are some teacher-created sites that are great for AP Spanish materials.

Great pdf resources for each AP theme (not specifically for AP, but has great resources)

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To Change the World


This a re-post of something that I think would be great for all levels of language, especially AP Spanish Familias y Comunidades.

Originally posted on Steve McCurry's Blog:

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use
to change the world.

– Nelson Mandela


AFGHN-13707 (2)Afghanistan

The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.
– Plutarch

BURMA-10168 (1)Burma

There is divine beauty in learning …
– Elie Wiesel

Kegalla, Sri Lanka, 1995Sri Lanka

DSC_0749_kd (1)Omo Valley, Ethiopia

All I have learned, I learned from books.
– Abraham Lincoln


Learning is not attained by chance;
it must be sought for with
ardor and attended to with diligence.
– Abigail Adams


We think of the effective teachers we have had over the years
with a sense of recognition, but those who have touched our humanity
we remember with a deep sense of gratitude.


 The secret in education lies in respecting the student.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson 

MALI-10028NF Mali


TIBET-10573NF2Kandze, Tibet

Only the educated are free.
– Epictetus


Teaching might even…

View original 182 more words

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