While reading the Fluency Fast novel Esperanza by Carol Gaab, one of the main themes is la injusticia. While I know that some teachers use this book in high levels (2/3), I use it with my level 1 students in eighth grade. The vocabulary includes many words that my students have acquired through storytelling throughout the year already, so there is not much pre-teaching I have to do in terms of vocabulary.
The themes such as unions, justice, and immigration are all worthy topics to explore.
We had just finished chapter 3, where the workers decided to strike. We previously had read the lectura from the Teacher’s Guide about Sindicatos, but I still had to give examples of what the point of a union was. While giving a short reading comprehension quiz (also from the Teacher’s Guide) I decided to make a simulation. As I was passing out the quiz, I said “Anyone who is still talking at the end of this sentence will get a zero on the quiz”. As I expected, I had barely taken a breath before a student starting talking– albeit to ask a question. I took their quiz and told them, in front of the class, that they would be receiving a zero. (Caution: Depending on the students in your class, you may want to let a particular student in on your plan before class and set them up for this.)
The quiz was a very easy comprehension check. I basically give it to boost students confidence and in order to have something to put in the gradebook. But the most telling part was the following question I added to the quiz as a extra credit: Describe la situación con el estudiante y su prueba. ¿Es justo o injusto? Explica por qué si o por qué no.
Students were able to interpret the question and formulate a response. It was interesting to see the reactions of the students in the class. I did this two periods in a row and in the first class a majority thought it was fair and in the second class a majority felt it was unfair. (Note: I obviously did let the student take the quiz and give them credit). It will be interesting to have a discussion with them tomorrow on what happened and if they really felt it was unfair, what could they have done about it.
In other classes, I didn’t simulate the scenario, I simply wrote on the board, using the name of a student in class: “Jessica habla e interrumpe al profe. Profe está enojado y la manda a la oficina. Ahora ella no puede ir a la celebración del fin del año. ¿Es justo o injusto? Explica.”
Again, I got great answers with students defending their position using their level appropriate vocabulary. I was able to give them credit based on their message (was it comprehensible?) Many had very good reasons and their answers showed me how much language they have acquired.
Next, I will use this powerpoint to give students more scenarios to describe if the situations are fair or unfair. I think I will have students move to opposites sides of the room.
We can then practice the structure “¿Estás de acuerdo con _____? which we also practice as we categorized events in the chapters as Importante o Detalle.
For more posts on activities or resources related to the novel, check out our Esperanza tag.