Inside: Creating a non-fiction mini biography unit in Spanish class using the novel Vidas Impactantes.
Last year in my curriculum plans, I included a mini literature circle unit using the comprehension based reader, Vidas Impactantes by Kristy Placido. I bought a class set using out yearly classroom supply budget (which means each year instead of supplies I buy books). I had a vision of using the six included biographies in a similar fashion to my literature circle unit, splitting them up in groups in both Spanish 3 & 4 in the spring. Well last school year second semester we had 14 snow/cold days, I had an eight week student teacher, my Spanish 4 was a hybrid independent study, and my Spanish 3 did an AAPPL style based unit to prepare to take the test for the first time. All of this means, this imaginary unit did not happen during the 18-19 school year as I hoped.
This year the star aligned and I needed a two week mini unit in Spanish III before Wooly Week. I also wanted them to have more practice working with non-fiction texts, as one of the AAPPL interpretive reading topics this year is biographies. I decided it was time for the Vidas Impactantes mini unit.
- I created a Google Form for students to chose which of the six biographies they were most and least interested in. It included general descriptions of each person.
- Based on requests, as well as creating six even groups that could function with each other, I split the whole class up so each group focused on one biography.
- I posted a slideshow with activities for the entire novel on Google Classroom so students would have access to it.
Students spent a couple class periods: reading their biography, taking notes, completing comprehension activities and discussing. See below for more details for all of these during reading activities.
- Each group of students decided how to read. Some groups split up to read alone and then came back together and discussed. Other groups took turns reading out loud, another had a designated reader who likes reading to the group like I do, pausing to discuss. (It is important to note that this is Spanish 3 and with me over the past three years these students have read 10 class novels, free read twice a week, and did a group literature circle unit. They are self advocates to help their own comprehension).
- Students were supposed to take some kind of notes for their own reference. Once again this varied by group and was completely to help their own comprehension. Some each took individual paper notes while they read, others had a collaborative Google doc that they all worked on together. As juniors, I do not need to teach this skill, and they are doing what works for them as they prepare for post-secondary school.
- Each group member was responsible for completing their own practice comprehension activities from the slideshow on classroom. (Get the teachers guide for all ready to go activities). In the slideshow, I include the answer keys as well, as this was formative practice, for them to self check their comprehension. (Our school is full standards based grading, so students know that this practice is not graded besides the 21st century skill of accountability, and is to help them perform on the assessments).
- To help get students chatting in Spanish about their people, one day I set a timer for 15 minutes and had them use all of their notes and their book and they just chatted in Spanish about them. I have found that having set times when they know they MUST stay in Spanish on topic is helpful with group work, or it just becomes a chat in English fest.
I wanted to students to learn more about other biographies as well, so I decided to do a gallery walk style assessment, with students as the expert of their own person. Students created an infographic style poster about their person in Spanish, prepared to talk about them, plus prepared general questions to as others.
- During this mini unit on one of our Tuesday/Thursday that we start with free reading, I asked students to pick ANOTHER biography from the book to read. This made sure that everyone got a chance to read their first choice person, plus at this point they were intrigued, hearing classmates talk about their books. It also gave them a little background to ask questions at another group during our gallery walk.
- Students created an infographic style poster about their person in Spanish and prepared to talk about them. As a starting point I gave students the blank template in this resource from Srta. Spanish to fill out as a group. I did not want students spending forever on a pretty poster, when the main goal was the communicative gallery walk, so having a set template worked great. It provided enough basic information to spark conversation, plus I collected the more information page from each student as an individual as a writing sample.
- To prepare for the gallery walk day, students created general questions to ask any group. Students also prepared talking about their own person. They got to use these questions as a crutch if needed during the speaking.
Gallery Walk Assessment
The posters were put up around the room. Everyone came with prepared general questions that could be used talking about any person. Half of the class stood at their poster to be the expert and the other half of the class walked around asking questions about the others. Then we rotated, and then rotated again mixing it up. Since this was a speaking assessment, I had small rubrics and walked around scoring everyone on a general performance based rubric.
Students enjoyed learning about the other people and overall did an excellent job staying in Spanish for pretty much the entire class period during the Gallery Walk.
If you are planning to do something similar, we did all of this in seven 55 minute class periods. Since I was in need of reading assessment grade, the next day students did a reading assessment using a one page biography that was not included. If you wanted, you could extend the unit, reading more of the book and then having a writing assessment comparing two or more of the people.
I will for sure do a version of this unit again next year in Spanish III. Next year I will have more built in speaking to other groups to practice, instead of waiting to do this at the end. even just sprinkling in 5 minutes per day chatting with someone in another group would be helpful to build their questioning skills, as well as to be prepared for the types of questions they will get in the assessment. This could also be done as a continuous Flipgrid during the unit.
please note these are samples of real life students
Have you done anything like this? How did you set it up?
Wany to learn more about teaching with novels?
Before you start…
- Research & Find Funding for novels in Spanish class
- Organize your novels
- 5 Tips for Teaching with Novels
- How to teach your 1st novel
- Teaching a Novel 101 – SSS
Teaching Whole-Class Novels
- how to teach a novel – a typical day.
- 20 activities for teaching with novels.
- post-reading ideas
- Mix it Up! Reading TPRS novels as a class
- Spice up your novel
- How to Assess a Novel
Other Ways to Teach with Novels
Ideas for specific Whole-Class Novels
(Sorted from easiest to hardest)
- El capibara con botas.
- Brandon Brown quiere un perro.
- Peter va a Colombia.
- El Silbón de Venezuela.
- El Ekeko.
- Fiesta Fatal.
- Bianca Nieves
- Robo en la Noche
- Noche de Oro.
- Felipe Alou
- Frida Kahlo.
- Problemas en Paraíso.
- La Llorona de Mazatlán
- Vidas Impactantes.
- Vida y Muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha.
- La Calaca Alegre.
- Cajas de Cartón