Adventures and 5 Tips for Teaching a Comprehensible Novel

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May 2022 – 

So you’ve decided to take on the adventure of reading a novel with your language class… CONGRATULATIONS! This is going to be a fun experience, I promise. And your kiddos are going to feel so accomplished (even if they whine and complain the entire time). Here are my top 5 tip & tricks for teaching a class novel and the novels I’ve taught: 

Tip #1: Choose the right book. There are so many factors that go into choosing a book… but my biggest suggestion is to read the book yourself before you decide. Your students should comfortably know 80%+ of the words if you plan to read it as a whole class (i.e. you are planning to help make that other 20% comprehensible) and they should know 90-95%+ if they are reading in lit circles or small groups and you plan for them to demonstrate comprehension. I like to look for books that are more than a “story”. I like some cross-curricular content and things that will interest students that may not love Spanish. I’ve taught Capibara con Botas, Esmeralda, & Agentes Secretos in Spanish 1. Fiesta Fatal, Mata la Piñata, and Robo en la Noche in Spanish 2. Seis Nombres, Bananas, Robo en la Noche in Spanish 3. I purchase most of my books through 

Tip #2: Teacher’s Guide. Yes, they’re a little expensive sometimes, but they’re super helpful. I own a TG for all the books I teach that have one available. They typically have pre-reading, reading, and post-reading activities. Often quizzes, if that’s your jam. And sometimes fun activities like games or “games”. 

Tip #3: Decide your course. Will you JUST be reading? Will you do pre/post activities daily? Will there be a post-book test/quiz/free write? Will there be a project? This is important because it will give you a time frame and daily approach. I prefer to EITHER do a pre-reading activity, read a chapter (or 2), and a post-reading activity for the entire novel (which means I typically need as many days as there are chapters) OR to read and do a comprehension based project. I’ll talk more about some project ideas below. 

Tip #4: Reach out to the non-Spanish-loving-students. One thing I love about teaching novels is that it is a chance to reach new students. That student that hates your class but loves history will be ALL IN for Agentes Secretos. That student that loves animals is going to be cheering for Esmeralda the whole time. That kid that loves drawing is going to make a stellar project. That kid that just loves to read and write, they’re going to be obsessed with a Spanish version. Keep this in mind when you choose your book. 

Tip #5: Variety is the spice of life. Keeping it fresh when you’re doing a novel is key. Some novels are 14+ chapters, that’s 3 school weeks. Even the best books get boring after that time. One activity I love when I’m doing pre/post reading approach is Tabata Timeline by Srta Spanish. I mix this in after every 3 – 4 chapters for a nice game type day. Some of my favorite projects for a project based approach (we read 1 chapter and the rest of class is project time for that chapter) are: Instagram books, Smashdoodles and Netflix Summaries. These each allow students processing time after each chapter and a little creative break. 

You can purchase a full set of Smashdoodle Templates, Instagram Templates, and the NetFlix Summary here. 

Best of luck in your novel adventures – I’d love to hear all about it! Reach out via email at or on Instagram at @profezulita 

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