TL Culture in a CI Class

2 free “maravillas” to brighten your school day!

The last quarter of the school year is the perfect time to bring the maravillas into your Spanish class. After a year of crazy class created stories, I like to get serious with some authentic target culture scaffolded so that students of all levels can embrace it. I originally developed the maravillas to introduce inspiring Latin Americans to my students, who had only known the cardboard stereotypes of Latin America portrayed in US media. I have since expanded the project to include places and cultural customs that beguile, intrigue and lead my students to marvel.

The first maravilla is about a woman who was sad about the many stray dogs in Costa Rica so she decided to create a home for them in the mountains… and that quickly spiraled out of control! Each maravilla has four parts: (1) a picture talk, (2) a captioned video, (3) an embedded reading, (4) a Write & Discuss activity. I present these to every level I teach, from level one beginners to my level 4 AP students… just modify your language and remain comprehensible to your class. Write on the board when necessary to clarify, and watch their eyes for signs of confusion. If you choose to add an assessment, I recommend that you have your students copy the Write & Discuss created in class and base the assessment on that text so that the assessment closely mirrors their actual comprehension. If you have never done a Write & Discuss before, please see my description of how to do this powerful activity with your students.

The second maravilla is about a group of young people in rural Mexico who create machines out of bicycle parts to make rural living easier and healthier. This is captioned in Spanish, but do not worry if your students do not catch every word. The purpose of the picture talk and captioned video is simply to prepare students for the embedded reading that follows. We know that struggling readers often do not visualize the reading, so the first two activities serve to create images in the minds of students… any language they pick up in these first two activities is bonus! During the last two activities, the embedded reading and the Write & Discuss activity, students process the language while relying on the “pictures in their minds”.

If you like these, consider doing the entire library of 25 maravillas with your students, which includes an hour long video for teachers demonstrating how I teach with these.


  1. Mike – Thanks for sharing these!! At first I thought the slides with the videos were just additional pictures for picture Talk, but I found that by clicking on them, a progress bar shows up and I am able to play them as videos – But I want to make sure that of 2 things:
    1) You intentionally left the slides labeled Write & Discuss blank (for us to write our own write and discuss as appropriate for each of our classes, right?)
    2) The ’embedded reading is actually just a single version of the text, right? I’m used to embedded readings being short, medium long, with increased levels of complexity – So I just want to make sure I’m opening everything correctly…?

    1. Yeah, kind of.
      (1) you should download the ppt to your computer, don’t simply open the ppt and stream the video or you are just asking for trouble with the video not streaming when you need it in class. In fact, I always download anything I am going to use so as not to be at the mercy of technology.

      (2) It is not clear by your comment so I will emphasize that a “Write & Discuss” is NOT an pre-written embedded reading, it is created on the spot WITH the class. The collaboration is key. Watch this video of me doing W&D:

      (3) The reading is only one slide long and the text is about what appears on the picture talk and the video. It does not extend the content but rather is meant to be repetitive.

    1. You might be using an old version of power point, which often drops embedded videos.
      What version PPT do you have?
      Are you using a mac or pc?

      1. You might need to download it again from your computer at home, but in order to use it in class you’ll need a more current version of ppt on your school computer.

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