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New books for FRENCH & SPANISH teachers!

Scroll down to the bottom for a bargain

For French teachers: I am thrilled that a summer of collaboration with a trio of smart French teachers has finally given birth to the newest CI-friendly novel in French for our lower-level students. Superhamburgers is a novel that appeals to adolescents because it was written with one of my level 1 classes in 2013. The plot revolves around two students who are lab partners in an AP Chemistry class. Rodney had no idea that the consequences of his actions would reach so far. It started as a bad joke — never washing his hands at the restaurant where he worked after school so that he would have a quiet place to study for his AP classes. By the end of the next day, however, as he was being hunted by a ruthless drug lord, Rodney realized that it had all spiraled horribly out of control. If only he had washed his hands!

The Spanish edition has received rave reviews from teachers and students alike:

Embedded within the novel is a set of 23 illustrations. Followers of my blog have seen my growing obsession with comprehensible cartoons in the classroom. In the novel I have inserted 5 full page comics to help students visualize the developing plot of the novel. At the end of each chapter there is a 2 page word cloud designed as a crutch to help you and your students discuss the chapter in a structured, comprehensible manner. We also have a new Facebook group dedicated to sharing resources for teaching this novel. If you would like to read the first two chapters before committing, you can download them by clicking on this link.

For Spanish teachers: I have published a 2nd edition of Superburguesas with all of the new illustrations (in Spanish, of course) and even the word clouds. This is a gorgeous update and I think it really does help guide students comprehend the novel. Or rather, the illustrations often confirm that they are comprehending the novel.

For both Spanish and French teachers: The prequel to Superburgers, titled Normal hamburgers, is an entire graphic novel designed to be read in level 1, and enjoyed in levels 2, 3, and 4! The graphic novel is already well on its way and will be available this coming December.

The two new editions of Superhamburgers on Amazon, French and Spanish, are currently available for $6.49. I am no longer publishing the first edition, so any book offered at another price is a first edition used copy without the new illustrations and word clouds. However if you avoid Amazon altogether and order groups of five directly through this website you can get a 15% discount. Just click on the “Shop” link at the top of the page. This is a great option for anyone considering buying a full class set!

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How I melded SSR with whole class reading to encourage independent reading with accountability

Independent reading? Whole class novels? The best of both!

I have trouble maintaining enthusiasm for a whole class novel. Even if we start well, I am quickly reminded of Donalyn Miller´s critique of the practice: a circus of lovingly-prepared scaffolding activities limits time for actual reading. Actual reading is what accounts for the incredible gains in language acquisition, not the skill-building activities surrounding the reading. Perhaps TPRS teachers who choose to teach whole class novel units (often structured by teachers guides) fear that the novel will not be comprehensible to students without their guidance. But look at it this way: in order to read a novel that is above their students reading ability, teachers are dramatically decreasing the time available to read in class. The irony is that students who are fed a diet of incredibly easy reading in level 1 can eventually take on the level 3 novels easily, on their own.

I wanted an approach to reading whole class novels that would allow my students to read at their own pace, but also provide the kind of scaffolding that is the hallmark of the whole class novel. I wanted my students who finish their class novel to be able to go on to an FVR selection so that everyone is maximizing the reading time we have available. I wanted a minimum of class time spent explaining the novel. In the past, when I taught whole class novels that students struggled with, I did not sense that my lessons teaching them how to read advanced texts does not make them into readers. Instead it prepares students to confront complex texts, each year more and more difficult. On the other hand easy pleasure reading, losing yourself in the action of a story and not having to stop to complete a written analysis… that is what hooks a student on reading.

If you want to spend less time explaining novels and more time actually reading them then it is crucial that you choose easy to read novels. Struggling through one novel is far less effective for students than breezing through ten easy ones. Choose easy easy easy novels. I just finished reading my own TPRS novel, Superburguesas, with my Spanish 1 students (second semester). Several expert TPRS teachers with whom I have consulted place my novel within the reading abilities of 2nd semester Spanish 1 to 1st semester of Spanish 2. That means that Spanish 3 students can read it too, easily. We used many of the free activities that I have posted on this blog, but not in a traditional sequence. Although this teaching sequence took 5 weeks and 3 days to complete, we dedicated only seven days of class time to explaining the novel. Here is a description of how I did it.

p24On a Wednesday I introduced chapter zero, reading and using the activities to thoroughly understand this very short chapter. We also dedicated Thursday and Friday to whole class reading of chapter 1. After those first three days reading chapters 0 and 1 together I then let students enjoy the rest of the novel on their own during SSR/FVR time. Students finished at their own pace; the fast readers were able to choose new novels once they were finished but there was no effort to hurry anyone along. I wanted the first pass through the novel to be as low-stress and self-directed as possible. In the meantime I offered a voluntary reading group once a week after school for kids that felt like they needed more structure. I had five regular participants, all kids who had transferred into our class midyear from non-TPRS schools. Together we explicitly translated and I would ask circling questions based on what was on a particular page that we were reading.

On most days we started our class session with 10 minutes of FVR. After three weeks of FVR most students had chosen a new book, so I spent the fourth week using the Superburguesas comprehension quizzes and crossword puzzles as brief warm-ups after FVR. During this fourth week some students picked up Superburguesas again during FVR because those warm-ups must have made them realize that they needed to read the book a little closer. The warm-ups were just for a few minutes a day before our normally scheduled class (we frequently PQA about students lives, we also did several story-asking sessions, quite a few random movie talks and we have been watching episode 3 of El Internado). At the end of the fourth week I gave students this chronology quiz, click here for a PDF or click here for .docx in which students have to label each sentence in the order that it happened in the book. I entered this grade into my online grade book so that all stakeholders (myself, parents and each student) would be well-aware of who needed special attention during the next week. I also attached a note to the assignment indicating that there would be a retake the following Friday and the highest of the two grades would become the permanent grade.

The next four days were dedicated largely to discussing and acting out scenes from a book that students had already read. Suspending FVR for the week, we started each class session looking at the word cloud for the chapter we were going to review. When a student pointed to a word I (1) established meaning, (2) explained how it showed up in the chapter and (3) immediately connected the word to the students world.

For example, when a student pointed at devolver I wrote on the board devolver = to return a thing, like a book. En capítulo 9, I said, señor Marzo quiere que Rodney devuelva la pintura. No quiere matarlo, solo quiere que devuelva la pintura. ¿Quién necesita devolver la pintura? Rodney, claro. ¿Y quién quiere que la devuelva? Señor Marzo. And then I asked what other things are often returned: kids called out libros, ropa, comida mala. ¿Adónde voy para devolver un libro?, I asked.

After looking at the word cloud I asked students to help create an oral summary of the chapter. I chose my favorite parts of the chapter for students to act out without having to hammer down every sentence. This was a whole class activity that led to a summary of the chapter written on the board. Students copied each chapter summary into their notebooks. We did 2-3 chapters per day and were finished by Thursday. On Friday students took this fill in the blank assessment, here in .PDF or click here to download it as a .docx. I provide the .docx so you can change it… all it takes is one google search for students to find this page!

The last four days of instruction were intensive days of review, but most of this unit was characterized by easy pleasure reading at the pace of the student. I saw kids smiling while reading, but even more so once they were allowed to choose their reading and could immerse themselves into their own interests. Yet I still had specific feedback on specific structures from the class novel, and I had time to make sure that they have been acquired. I much prefer story-asking and FVR, but if I have to do a whole class novel I think that this is a good approach. If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Superburguesas here is a link to the page with all of the free activities and purchasing information.

final quiz

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Crosswords: lame or fabulous?

Both, of course.

cap 2 puzzleThe ideal CI crossword puzzle is a reading activity, not a decoding activity. Even better, it is wrapped inside an exciting group activity. Here are the crossword games that I created as post-reading activities to chapters 1-10 of my TPRS novel, Superburguesas. Students work in groups of three. Each group has one copy of the puzzle (without clues). The clues are taped outside against the wall, in the hallway.

Each group member is assigned one job (s/he can switch jobs with a teammate mid-game, but only one student at a time can be doing each job). One student, the corredor, goes outside to read the clues. The escritor stays inside guarding their clue sheet (one per team) and writes the answers. The last student is the lector, which gives him or her the right to consult the novel. I always keep the novels in a separate part of the class to make the game a little more exciting. These crossword games are meant to be short… just a quick burst of movement to keep the blood flowing.

Check out my Superburguesas homepage to see the other free activities that I have posted to teach my TPRS novel.

(Click on the images to get a larger image, then right click to download the image)

Chapter 1 clues and puzzle:
cap 1 clues
cap 1 puzzle

Chapter 2 clues and puzzle:
cap 2 clues
cap 2 puzzle

Chapter 3 clues and puzzle:
cap 3 clues
cap 3 puzzle

Chapter 4 clues and puzzle:
cap 4 clues
cap 4 puzzle

Chapter 5 clues and puzzle:
cap 5 clues
cap 5 puzzle

Chapter 6 clues and puzzle:
cap 6 clues
cap 6 puzzle

Chapter 7 clues and puzzle:
cap 7 clues
cap 7 puzzle

Chapter 8 clues and puzzle:
cap 8 clues
cap 8 puzzle

Chapter 9 clues and puzzle:
cap 9 clues
cap 9 puzzle

Chapter 10 clues and puzzle:
cap 10 clues
cap 10 puzzle

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Word clouds to preview Superburguesas

Click here to see all of the free resources I offer to teach my novel

For those of you who are teaching with my TPRS novel, Superburguesas, I have created a set of word clouds to preview each chapter of the book.

Before students read the chapter I like to preview the words, ask them to imagine what may happen in the chapter and use the opportunity to get extra repetitions of words that may not be very high-frequency, but are certainly crucial for reading each chapter.

Click on each picture below to get a large version, which you can either right click to download to your own computer or click again to get the largest resolution available.

Chapter 1
superburguesas cap 1 word cloud

Chapter 2
superburguesas cap 2 word cloud

Chapter 3
superburguesas cap 3 word cloud

Chapter 4
superburguesas cap 4 word cloud

Chapter 5
superburguesas cap 5 word cloud

Chapter 6
superburguesas cap 6 word cloud

Chapter 7
superburguesas cap 7 word cloud

Chapter 8
superburguesas cap 8 word cloud

Chapter 9
superburguesas cap 9 word cloud

Chapter 10
superburguesas cap 10 word cloud

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The concrete poem that opens Superburguesas

This is a power point for teachers who are teaching from my TPRS novel, Superburguesas. Click here to see all resources available for teaching my novel.

4 interpretationsChapter 0 starts with a concrete poem, “written” by one of the characters. During an earlier draft I had actually drawn a flower around the poem to make the shape of the poem more clear, but then it occurred to me that I could play with the ambiguous shape of the poem to provoke a more lively student reaction.

Click here to download the power point that I use to discuss this concrete poem in class.

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Free Activities to Accompany Superburguesas

comp qSomebody just bought a class set of my recently published TPRS novel, Superburguesas. I was so excited that I thought to myself: I should do something special to support that teacher! Whoever you are, I hope you are following my blog because I just created a free set of comprehension quizzes for each chapter which you can download by clicking on the links below.

They are short Cierto / Falso quizzes (easy to grade) with one small writing prompt. If you print them double-sided then you will get 6 quizzes per page. I, however, am not going to use them as a graded assessment. Instead I plan on projecting the quizzes against the board after having read the chapter and using them as a launching point to discuss the chapter, circling as necessary to make sure students understood. However you choose to use them, I am very grateful for your support. 🙂

Click here to take a look at the Superburguesas homepage to see all of the free activities that I have posted to help teach my novel. I will be adding more this Autumn.

whiChapter 0
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10

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My new TPRS novel has been published


Earlier this week I published my first TPRS novel, a story that emerged in my classes some years ago and that has been re-written several times over the years. The story starts with Rodney, a kid who reluctantly works in a local hamburger joint in order to pay for the AP exams that his parents refuse to cover. As an adolescent joke, he decides to never wash his hands so that no one comes to the restaurant and he can use the time to study. That night the daughter of a major drug trafficker comes in with her boyfriend; when she gets sick, a chain of events is set in motion that changes everyone´s lives. Oh, if only he had washed his hands!

Although it is for the most part a tongue in cheek homage to the best adolescent goofball humor that appears whenever storyasking in class, there is also some serious culture built into the novel. Some cultural elements that come up include Mexican masks used in Carnaval celebrations, a painting by Goya, and the way Spanish speakers pronounce English names that begin with J such as “Jessica” (often pronounced as a Y). There is a full glossary at the end of the book and difficult phrases are also translated in footnotes so that students do not have to interrupt the flow of their reading by flipping to the back glossary. This version is written in the first person, but a different character narrates each chapter so that I was able to provide a view into multiple characters perspectives without using complicated language.

There are three ways you can purchase the novel:

(1) I actually get the best deal from the publisher if you purchase it directly through my createspace page
(2) but it is also available through Amazon. For those of you in Europe it is also available through country-specific Amazon distributors such as
(3) If you plan on buying a class set and can pay via Paypal then please contact me directly: mikepeto AT gmail DOT com. Sets of 25 or more copies will sell at a discounted rate of $5.50 per copy, rather than the normal price of $6.49

Click here to see all resources connected to Superburguesas.

I brought the proof copy to NTPRS to show people just how easy it is for independent authors to publish a professional-looking novel. I think a future blog post will focus on the process, step by step, so that more of you will be encouraged to revise and publish your best stories. While I am enormously proud of this novel, I hope it is obvious that the main thrust of my work is to encourage more TPRS teachers to dream, write, edit, practice with their classes, edit further simplifying the text as much as possible and eventually publish their own class novels. Yes, have a native speaker who truly understands the concept of limiting vocabulary comment on your draft, but do not let anyone intimidate you into thinking that a mere classroom teacher cannot publish a TPRS novel. Over the last year as I have read a half dozen submissions to the FVR Cooperative Library I have been impressed by the quality of the stories. We need more TPRS novels by more TPRS teacher-authors.