We began reading Esperanza, by Carol Gaab, in my Spanish 1b classes today. It. is. awesome. At just $5.00 a pop (for 25+ novels), it is an excellent investment for your Spanish program. Add in the comprehensive Teacher’s Guide for a few extra dollars, and you have ready-made, highly engaging lessons for several weeks. End advertisement.

Before we started the novel

Last week, we did a little background on Guatemala using some of the resources in the Teacher’s Guide and this reading/activity that I created. We spoke about immigration (again, using the resources provided in the Teacher’s Guide) and hypothesized about what we might expect to read about in the novel, given the title “Esperanza” and its meaning (“Hope”).

Teaching Esperanza: Day 1

Today, I explained that Esperanza is not only a theme of the novel, but the name of the main character. Now, the reader doesn’t actually find out that the main character’s name is Esperanza until the end of the book, but I told them from the start to make it easier to talk about her. The original intent of author Carol Gaab was to keep it a surprise until the end, but I spoiled it for the sake of comprehension.

As I talked about the main character and the theme, I put translations of story vocab on the board–personaje principal, tema, etc.. I also explained that the novel is written from the first person perspective–from Esperanza’s perspective–and we talked about what that means and what we could expect from it. This was all in Spanish, of course! The kids did great, and it was excellent reinforcement of their language arts curriculum.

Personalized Discussion before reading

Chapter 1 is called “El teléfono”, and in it, Esperanza receives four phone calls: two from her mother and two from a mysterious caller. To whet their appetites, we discussed these questions as a class before reading:

  • ¿Tú hablas mucho por teléfono?
  • ¿Quién te llama mucho?
  • ¿Tus padres hablan mucho por teléfono? ¿Con quién?
  • ¿Qué haces cuando recibes una llamada de un número desconocido? ¿Respondes?
  • Hoy en día, ¿es más común hablar por teléfono, por mensajes de texto, o por Facebook?

Read the chapter aloud

And then…into the chapter we went! My first class voted for me to read the chapter aloud to them, and I was very happy with their choice and ended up sticking with it for my second class. The absence of subject pronouns preceding each sentence and quote can be confusing to a Novice reader, and so the mere changing of my voice to represent the different characters was enough for them to be able to understand the chapter in its entirety.

Can I just say, WOW CAROL! I thought that the book was high interest before we began it, but then again I think that a lot of things are high interest before my students get into them. The class was SILENT, and they even laughed and let out gasps and other appropriate emotional reactions in response to the text as I read–talk about high interest!! I paused at times to ask personalized questions about the reading (Ex: ¿Tu mamá es una persona nerviosa? ¿Tu abuela llama a tu mamá mucho?). It was awesome. At the end of the chapter, I asked kids to close their eyes and hold up 0-5 fingers for the amount that they understood (0=nothing, 5=everything), and almost every student help up three or four fingers. Success!!

Post-reading Graphic Organizer

Afterward, I gave students this graphic organizer that I created to organize the information in the chapter. I explained that not all of the names of the characters were given in the first chapter, so they would need to use the process of elimination to figure out which characters have which names. They had about 15 minutes to read back through the chapter to complete the organizer, and their completed graphic organizers proved that they did indeed understand the chapter–very few students had any errors on the worksheet. (Here is the worksheet: Esperanza chapter 1 esquema)

Day One was a huge, resounding success!! What fun it is to have great material to work with: thank you, Carol!!

I received express, written consent from the publisher to share the materials that I created and to use the cover image and title of the novel in this blog post. I am not compensated in any way by the author or publisher for writing this post.

More on teaching Esperanza:

  1. Esperanza, Chapter 1 (Day 1 and Day 2)
  2. Esperanza, Chapter 2
  3. Esperanza, Chapter 3
  4. Esperanza, Chapters 4-6
  5. Esperanza, Chapter 7
  6. Esperanza, Chapter 8
  7. Esperanza, Chapter 9
  8. Esperanza, Chapter 10

Esperanza around the web

Using novels in class:

22 replies on “Teaching the novel Esperanza: Chapter 1

    1. I don’t usually give them the chance to vote, but I was feeling frisky (read: indecisive) today. Their choices were (1) individually, (2) out loud, with a partner, (3) follow along as I read. I was surprised that they chose #3, because they would usually pick a mix of 1 and 2 (and I let kids that want to read by themselves do so, if I’ve put it up to a vote–sometimes I mandate partners). I think that the second period that I teach this would have chosen 1/2, so I am glad that I didn’t give them the option.

  1. Thanks, Martina! Esperanza’s story is pretty amazing, so I really can’t take too much credit for the book. LOL Anne Dunn did a fabulous job on the Teacher’s Guide. Now, if only I could wrangle YOU to create some teacher’s guides for me! YOUR stuff is awesome! 🙂

    In regard to the main character’s name, I purposely left out Esperanza’s name until the last chapter. She is only known as Adalberto’s wife or the kids’ mom, until the last line of the book. You probably noticed that every chapter ends with some statement about (not) having or losing hope (esperanza). I was trying to create a final uh-ha moment at the very end when she says, My name is Esperanza and I now have hope… I’d like to know (from those who have read the book) if you think it would have been better to give her name at the beginning or if the final revelation is more fun/impactful.

  2. Getting ready to do Pirates français des Caraïbes with my students in second semester. Hoping for this type of success myself;) If only there were more French readers like this…

  3. Martina,
    I want to thank you so much for providing your detailed lessons as resources for each chapter! This will be the first time we have done this book and I love your resources! I am super exited about the possibilities of this book and how well it will tie into our Global Challenges theme.
    How long are your class periods in these lessons you provide? Also, when students were reacting to chapter one were they saying reactions in Spanish or was it just natural ooh, awws? Was thinking maybe providing them with some reactions in Spanish…

  4. One comment about Martina’s plans, which are always fabulous… 🙂 Martina shared the name of the character (Esperanza) in the book before students started reading the story. However, I purposely withheld the name of the character until the LAST page of the book, so that the reader would have one last ‘surprise’ upon completing the story. Another option is to simply say “Esperanza means hope, and it is also a girl’s name (Hope, with a capital H). That way, there are no spoilers. 🙂

  5. Martina,
    On average, how long does it take your classes to complete Esperanza?

    Thank you,

    1. I like doing a new chapter every 3 days or so, although occasionally it would take 4 or 5 depending on the cultural activities for that chapter. So…maybe 7-8 weeks?

  6. I just read 6 TPRS novels to preview for teaching next year, and Esperanza is one of the ones I’m going to teach. Do you have a list of what novels you teach at what levels? I’d love to know how you do that.

  7. Are any of your resources that were previously available still available? I have used them the last three years and the kids really like them!

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