viernes, 22 de julio de 2016

Vida y Muerte en La Mara Salvatrucha: my thoughts and review

I know that many of us are trying to incorporate as many reading opportunities as possible into our lessons. My school was looking at using Vida y Muerte en La Mara Salvatrucha to replace La Gran Aventura de Alejandro in our Spanish II class. In the end, we took a year off from a longer reader, which was a difficult decision and one that I wasn't thrilled with either, but we didn't find Vida y Muerte to be the right book for our Spanish II classes. The teacher of the Spanish II Advanced class did use the book, however, and he reported that he would probably use it again.

Here are some of the pros and cons of the book (in my opinion)

1) Tons of past tense verbs (which is one of our main grammar goals in Spanish II)
2) A high interest topic for most/many high schoolers
3) A relatable character (he talks about his first true love experience, his need for acceptance, etc)
4) Many topics (probably several dozen that could be expanded into sub-units, projects, papers, quick writing prompts, etc.
5) Many other works with themes that are relatable (music, newspaper articles, etc.)
6) A good albeit short history lesson on La Mara Salvatrucha (again this could be expanded in a number of ways)

1) This work could be perceived as casting Spanish speakers in a negative light, and we decided that this was a problem for us since our population of students has limited contacted with Spanish speakers (this wouldn't be an issue in many parts of the country where the students are friends with Spanish speakers)
2) The book is a bit dark. My Spanish II classes consist mainly of students who are 16+, but there are a few younger students in the class (advanced 13 and 14 year olds) and I didn't feel right using it with them.
3) As with all readers made for non native speakers, some of the language seems a bit contrived.

While my pros outweigh my cons in terms of the overall book. I ultimately decided that for Spanish II this work wasn't the right one.

What do your students read in Spanish II? I am always searching for something that is not too babyish but not too dark.