Adventures in Easy & Fun Book Projects

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Picture this: it’s the end of the year. You’re tired, your students are tired. No one really wants to be here anymore. You have a week or two left in the school year and need to find something to do that’s low key and doesn’t require a lot of hands on teaching from you. Introducing character trading cards! Character trading cards are something that I learned from our Reading Intervention teacher at the middle school I teach at. One day we were talking about ways to hold students accountable for the books they are supposed to be reading without having to give a million daily grades for bookmarks or surveys or whatever. She told me book character trading cards had been a solution for her and showed me how she had used them in her class. After this conversation, I got to thinking, how could I make this work for Spanish class in an authentic way that won’t create extra work for me? Here is what I came up with:

2 to 3 times a week my students do SSR / FVR time for 8 to 10 minutes as long as we aren’t reading a class novel. This means that the average student will read between 4 and 6 books each year – some read a lot more, and some, of course, read less. Students are encouraged to read books that are on their level, but many choose to read easier books – and therefore read a lot more books – and some choose to challenge themselves and read harder books – and therefore read less. Either way, most students read between 4 and 6 books each year. I have never been the teacher to do any form of FVR / SSR assignment. I don’t grade that time. I don’t want a list of page numbers. I don’t want a reflection. I just want them to be able to read without the added pressure of grades.

But accountability is huge for me. I strongly believe that part of being an educator is to teach students life lessons and to set them up for success in the real world. I’m thankful to this day for every teacher that did that for me and it’s something that I will always do for my students. Teaching Spanish – yes, excellent. But setting my students up to be fully functioning adults in the real world that know how to navigate tough situations and circumstances? Even better. Accountability is a huge part of that. A lot of times in life we make choices that never seem to affect us. There aren’t consequences. Example: Not reading during FVR time and just holding up a book and flipping pages (yes, major pet peeve… why not just read the book if you’re going to fake it this well?). Well, in my class, there isn’t a consequence for that. But, at the end of the year, my students have to do a project on one of the books they claim that they have read this year – and I randomly choose the book from the list they claim that they have read. Oops. Now we have accountability for our choices.

This year I decided to take on character trading cards as that end of year project. Think of Pokémon type cards – name, picture, important info, etc. – and translate that image to be book related. I had my students design 8 cards (minimum) for their project. Students needed 3 character cards, 2 event cards, and 2 location cards. The 8th card was a student choice. It could be an additional card from above or a secret talent, a magic power, anything relevant to their book. Each card had to have: a title, a fully colored picture, and 3 pieces of important information in Spanish about that person / place / event. The goal? That students would be able to “play” their cards to tell the story of their book during a presentation.

We took 4 – 5 class days (45 mins) to make the cards. Then we took 1 class day to practice using the cards with a partner to tell the story of our book. Then we took 2 class days to present our cards / stories to the class. I did not grade the presentations, but I did have students give each other feedback via a Google Form after each presentation. I graded the cards themselves very loosely – each card was graded based on meeting the requirements (a colored picture, a title, 3 pieces of important information, and high quality work). I did not grade their written Spanish on the cards… unless it was obviously created using a translator or was written in English.

Here are some examples:

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  1. Hello! I’m trying to include reading in my classes. I teach Spanish 1 and 2. What books do you recommend for those levels?
    Thanks… I’m new to all this, I’m an Architect from Venezuela who has found a new career, teaching teenagers 😊

    1. Hi! There are SO many amazing books out there that your students would love! I would recommend seeing what you and they find interesting to narrow it down! Personally I love teaching Capibara con Botas, Esmeralda, and Agentes Secretos in level 1. Fiesta Fatal, Robo en la Noche, and Mata la piñata in level 2. Feel free to email me for other suggestions!