When I first started teaching, the materials that I inherited from the previous Spanish teachers…decades of previous Spanish teachers…were garbage. I mean, total junk. VHS tapes from the 80s. Random Lotería cards (not enough to play a game). Flashcards. Junk.

Junk…and a set of 40 bright yellow novels. Pobre Ana was the one ounce of hope that I unpacked. I had never heard of it, seen it, read it–so I sat down to read it before the year began. Wow! An entire novel in Spanish that my students could read in Spanish 1? I was so excited and couldn’t wait to use it.

Of course, this was before I had any kind of TCI training. I didn’t know how to make input comprehensible. I didn’t know how to use novels in class. All I had going for me was enthusiasm.

Well, enthusiasm didn’t cut it and my first experience reading a novel in class ended up being a total fail. My students thought it was so boring. I didn’t yet have a toolbelt of activities to engage them in the content and connect the novel to their lives. In fact, I ended up stopping after Chapter 3 and proceeded to turn Pobre Ana translations into a class consequence: I had a Dora the Explorer lunchbox that migrated from desk to desk of disruptive students, and whoever ended up with it at the end of class had to translate a chapter of Pobre Ana for homework. Ouch.

You see, when Blaine wrote Pobre Ana, it was revolutionary. The idea that an entire novel could be written with a limited, high frequency word count so that students could read and easily understand it within the first year of their language learning journey–that was incredible. Of course–as always happens when you do something revolutionary–that thing that you did goes out into the world and grows. Now, there are dozens of high interest, culturally rich novels for beginning language students available from publishing companies and individuals. With each passing year, we’re getting better at what we do. As we read what others have written, we take ideas and build on them. We have learned how to better use the language available to us to write well even in simple language. This year, Carol Gaab published Brandon Brown dice la verdad and Mira Canion published El capibara con botas. Both of these novels are written with fewer than 100 unique words and are awesome, engaging novels.

You know those makeover shows where an incredible human being gets a total physical makeover or a family gets a home makeover? Well, Pobre Ana has totally earned herself a makeover, and I had the honor of working with Blaine, Congee, and Mike Coxon to pull it off!

An updated version of Pobre Ana is more interesting and culturally rich!
Click on image to order Pobre Ana Moderna!

Isn’t it wonderful?! But don’t worry–the cover is just the beginning. In addition to new illustrations throughout, we completely overhauled the text itself. We kept the story (which is based on the experiences of one of Blaine’s daughters) and much of the original text, but like plastic surgeons, we nipped and tucked and moved chunks around to make it more appealing. We injected some new problems and experiences to make the novel more cultural, more modern, and more personable. The word count is virtually the same, so you can use it at the same place in your classes as you did before. With the new cover, Pobre Ana Moderna will be much more appealing in your class library for FVR time than the original yellow version.

I can tell you honestly that I am proud of how this turned out and think that your students will really enjoy the new version! Click here to order Pobre Ana Moderna! (Disclaimer: I do not benefit at all in any way from your purchase of the novel–well, just the joy of knowing that your students will benefit from it!)


13 replies on “Pobre Ana is not so pobre anymore!

  1. Very interesting article! I tried to do the original too—excited to see a book in Spanish–kids were bored!! Can’t wait to see the modern version.

  2. I posted this on Ci Reading and I did not even notice that you had a hand in the rewrite!! We still use the old version, but I am going to buy a copy of the new one just to compare… and maybe do a little comparison with my students as well.

  3. This is so exciting a new book! I went to one of his sessions in Chicago years ago and this was prior to me hearing about CI as well. I got his book and it was a stable in my 8th grade courses. Students could not wait to get to 8th grade to read the book, create their alternate ending and create the Pobre Ana play. I was an IB teacher so drilling down no the global experience was key. I remember I did a mini unit about who to interact with strangers especially when we saw the video of her getting into a car in the middle of what as suppose to be Mexico City, which had totally happened to me when I studied abroad there. His book and books like it encouraged me as well to write compelling stories (working on a novel now) for my students with the purpose of giving them input inspired by authentic experiences, real people and language that does not get in the way! I will definitely check out this book for my Spanish 1s, it seems likes a good complement to what we do already.

    Martina, I am looking forward to seeing you at my school in Chicago in the next few weeks!

  4. I am very pleased to see that the newer readers have much more cultural content as well. Keep up the good work! And I look forward to seeing the stories in French include more of the diversity of the Francophone world as well. Best regards!

  5. Hola. I am curious as to how one could use Pobre Ana in class so that it does not bore the students and appear as a punishment. Thanks

    1. Hi Travis! Many teachers use even the older version of Pobre Ana with great success! The key is connecting the content to students’ lives. Have you visited the http://www.CIpeek.com blog? They have a great post about what to do when the novel that you are teaching is ‘failing’. You could also ask in the Pobre Ana Facebook group! Many teachers use the novel and I am sure would be able to help you with suggestions!

  6. Love it. I want to replace my class set of the original Pobre Ana with these next year. My only concern is, I have purchased teachers guides for the original version and rely heavily on their handouts/worksheets/activities/assessments. Will I still be able to use those things, or will it just not line up?

    1. Not everything will line up but some of it would, I think you would need to purchase the moderna guide too in order to have a full set of usable activities :-/

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