Mix up Reading in Spanish

Teaching with TPRS novels was the most common request I received on what you want to hear more about on the blog. Here are all of the posts I have so far using novels. These are the novels that I have class sets of (so far!), have taught in class, and have posts on. After each novel are the levels I have taught them in. Please remember that I am by no means an expert, I have now taught novels for two years, each time with a new group who has never read books in Spanish. I start with very easy books to build confidence while allowing for higher level discussion in Spanish. The first 6 are from TPRS Publishing and I have all of the teacher’s guides. 

The teacher’s guides have tons of great pre-reading discussions, during reading questions, post reading follow up activities and cultural expansion. They have been essential to saving my planning sanity and give more than enough ideas to make a novel a complete cultural unit. Also, make sure before you start to plan to check out teacher blogs and Pinterest for even more ideas and activities to complement the novel. 

What I struggled with at first was not what to complement the novel with, but how to actually read each chapter without it getting stale. Here are a few ways of how to mix up actually reading each chapter. 

Teacher reads the chapter to the class


  • This is how I would suggest doing the first chapter or two, or even more for first time students or low levels. This is the preferred method for most students as they enjoy when I read with inflection, as well as pause to ask questions, expand and personalize. The issue is reading five classes in a row takes a toll on my voice and requires a lot of teacher energy. You have to vary your approach not just for student interest, but teacher sanity. 
  • MIX IT UP! 
    • Students get to sit anywhere in the room while listening.
    • Everyone gets to bring in comfy blankets and pillows and lounge around the room.
    • Students sit on the floor around the teacher’s chair, similar to kindergarten style. 
    • Have projected discussion questions on the board, that remind you to pause and talk about these topics, relating them to the students.
    • Read to students in a new location that fits the chapter, such as outside or in a dim auditorium.

Students read alone

  • I usually start having low levels students read alone after I have already read it to the class. As a review, students can start the day re-reading yesterday’s chapter.
  • Some upper level students prefer to read alone, as they do not like to be dragged down by reading at slower students’ pace. Last year my higher level section of Spanish III preferred to read on their own every day if given the option. 
  • MIX IT UP! 
    • While reading students jot down how they feel after each page or paragraph. 
    • Students have a graphic organizer to keep their focus on important events or character organization.
    • While reading students decide one change they would make to the story.


Students read in pairs

  • Some teachers have had great success with students “volleyball reading,” where they take turns reading a paragraph and then translating it out loud. This can be a good confidence builder to show students they understand more than they think. It works best when students have a task while with their partner as well to keep focus. I generally give students the option to read in partners or alone, for those who would rather read on their own.
  • MIX IT UP! 
    • While reading out loud to their partner they must use accents like the character. There can even be a competition for the best character portrayal. 
    • Change the seating to side by side partners in a circle. 
    • Students get to sit anywhere they are comfortable, also allowing other parts of the school or outside if possible.




Class listens to audio recording 

  • The audio books are an amazing resource that I mistakenly rarely used my first year using novels. They allow for students to hear a native speaker and someone other than their teacher read the novel. It is a great refresher of a chapter after a weekend too. They are also a lifesaver when you lose your voice or are just plain exhausted and need a break. 
  • MIX IT UP! 
    • Pause the audio like you would do while reading to discuss and personalize. 
    • While listening, students draw a mural or story board of the chapter. 
    • Silent student actors portray what is happening during the book with props and costumes. (A class favorite!)
    • While listening, students have paper characters that they move, imitating movement in book.
    • Students follow along in their book with their finger while listening, jotting down questions, words they do not understand, or reflections. 
    • While listening a second time, students move paper strips of events around in order. 
    • Here are more of Kristy Placido‘s great ideas of using audio books.


Students read outside of class 

  • This is only something I would recommend with very high level classes. Last year in my amazing Spanish IV class, I wanted the second semester to be run more like a college class. While reading Cajas de Cartón, students were given a syllabus in advance of the unit, of dates that each chapter would be discussed. Students had the awesome guide questions from Musicuentos, and were to come to class prepared to talk. Throughout they had time to work and read in class, either alone or with classmates, especially during days when I knew many were very busy with out of school events at night. These high level students had read books previously in Spanish class and had the skills necessary to read completely on their own. I know that this does not follow the storytelling CI model, but it was a way to differentiate for high achieving students. 

Also, for more pre and post reading ideas, here are 5 Activities to Spice up any Novel.

What are other ways you mix up reading novels in class?

Thank you to everyone who entered the book giveaway. Congratulations to the winners Wendy F, Stephanie E, Heather S & Erin M. Your books should be shipped this weekend. No one entered for Portuguese, so if you know anyone who could use them, let me know!

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