If you aren’t familiar with Mira Canion, you should be! She has written many novels that are available either through TPRS Publishing or on Mira’s website. I had the pleasure of spending an evening with Mira at ACTFL last year in Orlando after attending her session, and she is as brilliant as her novels are excellent! (She’ll be at NTPRS and will present at ACTFL this fall with Michele Whaley if you’d like the chance to meet her in person!) I never had the opportunity to teach her novels in my classes, but I purchased and was planning to teach Agentes secretos y el mural de Picasso had I returned to the classroom this past fall. Piratas del Caribe y el mapa secreto (which Mira co-wrote with Carol Gaab) is one of the first novels that many language students read.
Fiesta fatal was published this year, and here are the specs:
- Tense: past tense with present tense dialogue
- Word count: 140 unique words, 4700 total words
- Level: a good fit for Spanish 2 and beyond
- Overview: If anyone deserves a disastrous quinceañera birthday party, it is mean-spirited Vanesa Romero. Vanesa wants to impress everyone at her party, thus restoring her image with her classmates. If she only could fix her rocky relationship with her mom, things would be nearly perfect. Much to her surprise, when she puts on her extravagant dress for the party she becomes a target rather than a princess for a day. Her dad’s ill-fated undercover mission with the local drug cartel, in the Mexican city of Morelia, is about to make an appearance.
- Disclaimer: I’ve not read the entire novel (just the first two chapters), but there are multiple testimonials from folks that have on the MoreTPRS listserv. Cynthia Hitz has also blogged about how she used it in her class.
In addition to the infinite list of benefits to incorporating novels into your language class curriculums in order to increase fluency, I love to use them because they give so many natural opportunities to teach culture to students. While I am not currently in a classroom, here is how I would start off this novel if I were using it in class:
Read the novel yourself. This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised. As you read, make a list of the key vocabulary structures that your students will need to know and have not yet learned. You don’t need to teach each form of every verb; only the forms that are very different than familiar forms (ex: if your students know ‘dice’, you might need to teach them ‘dijo’, but not ‘dices’). You don’t need to teach them vocabulary terms that are footnoted or unimportant to understand the plot. After you have your list, take some time to teach those structures to your students before you even begin the novel. Once you begin, you will lose momentum if you have to stop between each chapter to teach loads of new vocabulary.
- Examine the cover of the book with students and discuss these questions: ¿Qué significa ‘fatal’? (talk about all of the possible meanings of the word–not just ‘lethal’), ¿Qué fiesta va a ser ‘fatal’? ¿Cómo?, ¿Quién es la chica? (cuántos años, dónde vive, etc.), ¿Por qué está contenta la chica
- Spoiler alert! Tell students that the book is about a girl’s quinceañera. Teach students about the tradition of the quinceañera. If you don’t already have quinceañera plans that you use and love, check out my Quinceañera Pinterest board or purchase my Quinceañera embedded reading plans.
- Explain that the book takes place in Morelia, and use this Morelia slideshow to familiarze the students with the area. Discuss the personalized questions that are embedded in order to connect students with the content.
- Phew! Finally ready to read. Give each student a copy of the novel (Remember that it is ILLEGAL to make copies of a novel in order to use it in class…even if you’re just “trying it out” to see if you want to purchase it!) Assign the role of Vanesa to one student and the role of Julieta to another. Make sure that they are animated actors! Consider making a single photocopy of the chapter for each role and highlighting their lines to make sure that they don’t miss them. (You can only do this legally if you have purchased copies for their use.)
- Read the chapter as a class. You can do this however you’d like, but I would suggest the teacher reading as the students follow along in their own copies of the novels. Whenever you arrive at a Vanesa or Julieta quote, allow the student actor to read it aloud from their seats. As you read, do minimal circling and checking for comprehension–enough to verify that the input is comprehensible, but not so much that students lose interest in the chapter.
- Give this Chapter 1 worksheet to your students and have them work individually or in pairs to re-read the chapter and cut and paste the descriptions in the appropriate places.
- Review the correct answers for the worksheet, then ask additional comprehension questions about the chapter. Pair each one with a personalized question. For example
- Complete the Time Capsule Predictions activity, and store away the students’ papers to revisit at the end of novel.
I’ll share plans for Chapter 2 another day 🙂
Notice: These plans are posted with express written consent from Mira Canion, author and publisher of Fiesta Fatal. Before sharing activities that you create for any novel, it is wise to contact the publisher to ask for permission to do in order to ensure that what you share does not constitute a derivative works copyright violation.
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