Why I hate Pobre Ana

Ok, this post may be a bit controversial. But I’m hoping we can have an honest and open discussion here about a very popular teaching resource. I know many schools use the Pobre Ana series (Patricia va a California, Ana bailó Tango). So today I ask the question: WHY?!

Who is really the poor one here? Ana? Or our students? Here is some student feedback courtesy of instagram regarding what the students really think:
Pobre Ana sleeping  Spanish novels student opinion pobre ana pobre estudianteOk, that last one was mine. But the point is: this novel is so boring and it offends our students’ intelligence. As one instagramer put it, “that novel is for 3rd graders”. Just because our students have limited language capabilities does not mean they should be treated like beginning readers. We need to ENGAGE our students. We need to give them readings that peak their INTERESTS.

I’m all for reading in the classroom. And I understand the concept of building reading proficiency. But there are so many other alternatives. I recently ordered some novels from TPRstorytelling.com and was way more engaged reading Esperanza or Las Noches Misteriosas en Granada than Pauvre Ana could ever provide.

Here are some other places to find reading for your classroom that would engage your students:

  • Create your own reading! When you can write your own story and use the students name and their interests, they have automatic buy-in!
  • Subscribe to those scholastic readers such as Que Tal, which are made for language students and have access to real culture and introduce vocabulary.
  • Use authentic texts. Do the students like sports? Have them read an article from ESPNdeportes. Do they like gossip? Have them read an entertainment article from univision’s list of topics.
  • Want to teach culture through reading? Have them read novels in English from your school’s library.
  • Read this post about engaging our students. If the text is too complicated, write a summary yourself. Or teach students how to navigate an advanced text.

Otherwise…. this will happen:

Ok, so what’s your opinion? Am I completely off base here? Are you in love with Pobre Ana? Certainly, there will always be students that complain about anything, but are we doing all we can to engage all learners? Share your thoughts below!

About spanishplans

Spanish Teacher in Chicago. Have studied or traveled to Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Spain, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Argentina, and Uruguay. Have taught level 1 at middle and high school levels. Degree in Spanish and Master's in Teaching and Leadership. Blogger www.SpanishPlans.org
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17 Responses to Why I hate Pobre Ana

  1. Nina says:

    Don’t dis Pobre Ana. In its day, this novel was IT. And it still has some value, especially in schools that don’t have any newer stuff and no funds to buy stuff. It’s totally up to the teacher to make it fun and interesting. A little reader’s theater, a funny hat or a wig…Ana becomes more engaging. (One of my classes a few years back gave Ana a mustache and a really big plastic carrot zit on her nose at the dance). No need to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Get creative with it and be silly to make it memorable.

    • Jon says:

      Agreed. I teach kids from low income communities and they HATE Pobre Ana. Nothing interesting happens, at all. There are way better books out now that my kids enjoy more. Hell, even Brandon wants a dog is more interesting to them, and they’re high schoolers.

    • Liz says:

      I agree. My students have trouble reading and understanding anything. I had my students asking each other questions about Ana, and responding in Spanish without pulling their teeth to do it. I try to make it fun, and point out the parts that are too simple, and it works for us. I like the suggestions for other reading material, too!

  2. senoradaniel says:

    I’m with you! I cannot STAND that book. I inherited it with my current job and, thankfully, never had to read it before so when I checked it out…¡uf! One of my goals this year and next is to incorporate more books into my class. I’ve started writing super short stories (usually based on adventures that my husband, Daniel Craig *cough cough*, and I have together), but my kids have also LOVED the “If you give a mouse a cookie…” series. And these are super picky 8th graders. I’m in the market for some good, not super challenging, fun short books and have found a few, but still looking as writing my own is kind of time consuming.

  3. ktlorenzo says:

    Lol … I posted a reply to you on my pic of the books on IG…thought I was editing it but deleted it! I agree that the book is boring but I use it because it is what I have and easy enough. My students usually complain about the activities I do and not the book so working on revamping the lesson plans to make it more engaging. It isn’t the only thing we read so it is a good introduction to the complex stuff that comes later!

  4. I agree with Nina. Be enthusiastic when reading it. It is simple Spanish for beginners and the repetition makes it easier for them to feel like they are getting the concepts. I make up my own stories too and add craziness; even still, not all students buy into them. Some groups love them, and some do not. If I taught Disney class and we went on roller coasters every week, some students would complain, but the main idea is language acquisition for those that want it.

  5. Chuck says:

    It is what you make of it. Personally, I came to this site while looking for ideas to go along with “Pobre Ana bailo tango”. So, instead of dissing it, make it funner and funner.

  6. Glessie Reese says:

    I’m reading it with my students right now and for the most part they are all on board. They love to be able to read out loud and feel proud of themselves when they do so. Many of them are struggling readers in English, so they feel very successful being able to read and understand in Spanish. I do it in parts, so we don’t spend the entire class period working on it. I also am very enthusiastic about it and their progress. I agree that it’s not the only thing they should read and it should not be the only thing that they do, but I think it’s a great resource.

  7. Shennon Helms says:

    I will be starting Pobre Ana in a week, and was looking for ideas to go with it. I’ll post again later as to how my class reacted.

  8. Kayleigh Alexander says:

    Class reading is all in what you make of it! I HATED “A Tale of Two Cities” because my teacher literally handed us the book and said “go read and fill out comprehension questions, then write a report” but I loved “Angela’s Ashes” because my teacher had accompanying activities that sparked our interest. Students aren’t going to like a book if their teacher doesn’t show enthusiasm or create engaging activities to go with it. The book “Write Like This” by Kelly Gallagher has so many great ideas for engaging activities to do that accompany a class book and I find myself referring back to it constantly. Translating the entire text, as suggested in that Instagram post, is not something that students will be on board with, but giving them a Facebook profile to fill out for a character, having them write a Tweet in Spanish about what they are reading, or, if you’re doing a read aloud, giving them some kind of echo to keep them listening for key words (for example – I say “pero” and they say “but” or “hay un problema” and they chant “dun, dun, dunnnn!!!”) is much more engaging. TPRS publishing also has some other great stories for Spanish I if you don’t prefer “Pobre Ana,” but want to teach them literacy at their level.
    I do really like your suggestions of other ways to teach literacy, but, as a teacher who has written many of their own stories, it is incredibly time consuming! I would suggest doing a class write with each class that they put together throughout the year and you can have other classes read what they wrote. It’s way easier on the teacher and you know that students will be on board.

    • spanishplans says:

      I completely agree with you. I’m sure teachers can have success with Pobre Ana because of how they approach the novel. I personally find the novel boring and I have no motivation to make it engaging. I have found other novels that I think are better, (such as Esperanza) that motivate me more. As such, my own enthusiasm can be passed on to the students and there are activities that I can use with that novel are engaging.
      Thanks for your comment!

  9. Sra Karina says:

    I divided the book in very small sections (about 1-2 paragraphs) and use them as a warming activity. Three days per week, my students will have 10 minutes to read a section in different ways (whole group, small groups, with a partner, independent); locate and write in a reading log cognate words, non-cognate words; and write a sentences that summarized their understanding (a sentence in English is OK for the beginning of the year).
    I have to say that it has been a great resource for my class: they keep them in a routine, they get familiar with cognate words, they practice speaking, reading, listening and writing; they get confident with the language, and we celebrate the culmination of the book with a tamales party!

  10. fluencyfast says:

    This blog post is so old, but I did want to come to say that there are A LOT more readers now. CPLI was the original publisher of Pobre Ana (it is not the publisher anymore). Command Performance started distributing for independent authors in 2019 and now has more than 35 authors, including books on LGBTQ topics, books by native speakers who publish together under a collection called Acento Latino, Afro-latino topics, environmental topics, non-fiction — options — in case anyone comes across this and wants to update their libraries with more current titles. http://www.commandperformancebooks.com

  11. Echo says:

    I agree so much I hate the pobre ana series. It is so boring and no one likes it.

  12. Michael says:

    Pobre Ana is still a good resource. It’s all about how it is presented and the students buy in. I present it briefly to my level 1 students at the beginning of the year as a tease to show then what they will be able to read and understand by the end of the year. Then there is more anticipation for when they see it again. You also have to make them a part of it. Here are some ideas of what I do to make it more fun.
    1. Put them in groups and have them act out different scenes or chapters. It is simple enough that they will be able to do it and have fun with it. (This is not quite as easy with books like Esperanza)
    2. Have your students write different additions or story lines to go along with the various chapters to spice it up.
    3. Have the students illustrate each chapter and turn it into an extra long comic strip to display in your room.
    You will always have students who don’t like anything. If you don’t like it, neither will your students.

    • SpanishPlans says:

      I agree with you that the teacher can make a difference in how students view a text. Which is why I personally don’t use books that bore me, because I am not great at feigning that enthusiasm. Your activities are great ones to use when reading a novel with a class.

      In regards to the Pobre Ana book, there are some other serious issues with it, which have been addressed through @MsAbeja’s #WLBookAudit. I recommend taking a look through this thread and would love to hear your thoughts on her take.

  13. Josh Rosenberger says:

    Lots of superlatives here! My experience teaching the book has shown that some students like it; others hate it. As an accessible/comprehensible resource for beginning Spanish, it has a place in my Spanish 1 classes. The grammar and vocabulary correlate almost perfectly with our curriculum. Incorporating fun activities (role-plays/comic panels/pre-post mini-chapters/CUMBIA class/illustrations) can make it a lot more interesting.

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