Film and Novel studies by level

I was asked to share my cultural studies with you and I would like to do that but must preface the post by saying that I am…

A. In a very small district where I am the only full time language teacher

B. In a dual credit program with the college that only gives credit for levels 101 and 102 so I am freer in Spanish 3 and 4 than I used to be

C. I use Carol Gaab’s Cuéntame más/mucho curriculum in levels 1 and 2 and no specific curriculum in 3/4.. we go where the mood takes us!

In level 1 we begin the year with two films in English that I think are priceless to setting up an atmosphere of understanding immigration.  All discussion is VERY simple and in Spanish as we watch the movies.  I lead off with the short and free film “Viva la Causa” from Teaching Tolerance.  It comes with some great ideas in a booklet.. Worth ordering!  The second film is Sweet 15 which is OLD and the clothes are hilarious but the message is great and we have a lot of opportunity to talk about the mom/dad/kids dynamic and about illegal immigration/amnesty.  I usually show Selena at some point when one of my kids is sick and then tie it into the curriculum by looking at the Tejano music scene.  In the fourth quarter we watch La Misma Luna and discuss.  I have the film study from FilmArobics but you could easily make your own.  The novels we read are Piratas del Caribe, El Nuevo Houdini, and Esperanza.  Esperanza is a great read just before watching La Misma Luna and it is a wonderful tie in to the theme of immigration throughout Spanish I.

In level 2 I am up in the air.  Last year I tried the film Camila to lay a foundation for the study we do in Spanish 4 of the Dirty War in Argentina but as a film study, it is too draggy… This year I may try to show it in a little faster form.  We watch Casi Casi and Valentín and discuss how comedies are similar/different and also discuss how kids’ lives are similar/different.  We read Problemas en Paraíso, Robo en la Noche (and do a study of ecology, environment, save the animals, etc), and Los Baker van a Peru (although next year I’m replacing that one).

In level 3 we can really get hardcore into a cultural curriculum.  We spend 1st semester in El Salvador.  I actually start with the novel Rebeldes de Tejas because they come away with some great vocabulary for jumping into war studies after they read that novel… and they get a lot of reading confidence, which helps because the next novel is more challenging!  We watch Romero (its in English but crucial to understanding the civil war in my opinion), Voces Inocentes, the National Geographic special on MS13, and we read Vida y Muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha.  2nd semester we go to Spain for their civil war.  We watch the film Butterfly and at the end watch Pan’s Labyrinth.  This year we are going to read the novel La hija del sastre when it becomes available from TPRS publishing.  (Good book!  LOL  I wrote it so that is just a shameless plug…)

In level 4 we start in Argentina and study the dirty war… Read Guerra Sucia, watch De amor y de sombra (in English and in Chile but it does a good job showing the southern cone dictatorships and I don’t think our other films give enough of the background), La historia oficial (which I have decided is too dull for a film study) and Cautiva.  Second semester (and this is new this year) we are trying our hand at some human rights films.  I had them give Esperanza a quick read (I may re-read with the freshmen when they get to Spanish 4 just because it is a great bridge) so that we could tie the information to the film El Norte.  Then later I think we’re going to watch The Motorcycle Diaries.  (That will be new this year too).  They haven’t read my novel so I think that will be the last thing of the second semester and it should refresh them on Spain’s Civil War… Then for their final I may show them The Devil’s Backbone and Carol’s Journey and have them identify the war theme as it appears in the movies…
I have permission slips on file for all students and I do not show any questionable sexy scenes… It is too hard to edit out all of the bad language so I have to just be careful what films I show at what levels… and I mention on the permission forms that there is some bad language in some of the films we watch.  I tried a Cuba unit in Spanish 2 this year and the movie Viva Cuba went over very well but the only follow up was Azucar Amarga and I felt like that was too much for them.  I am throwing that unit out for now…

Whew….  So that’s what we do in my room… Lots of CI every step of the way.  We get into some deep topics but I love to see what they can come up with!  🙂

Questions? Comments?



  1. Thanks for posting this, it is very helpful. I am amazed that you get through so much content in a year! Do you get your students every day?

    • I do have them every day. We have a regular 8 period day with 43 minute classes. In Spanish 1 and 2 I only cover about 4 chapters of our tprs text per year but we get lots of reps recycling the material in the film and novel studies. In 3 and 4 I choose structures directly from the films and novels so there’s not really a formal “text” most of the time.

  2. Thank you so much for your quick response to my question. This is all incredibly helpful. I like to use authentic texts and videos to get students talking, but I often feel like they don’t tie together well enough. I love the overarching themes you have in each level!

    • You´re welcome! It is always a work in progress but I am starting to feel like I have a more complete flow. LOL Lots of great videos on youtube too! Human rights, Picasso’s Guernica in 3D… I could bore you for hours with all of them! jaja

  3. Thanks for the overview of your curriculum. It is very helpful. And congratulations on the book you co-authored. I just saw it a few days ago on the TPRS website and downloaded the preview. I’m looking forward to when it is available. Do you have a specific date for that?

    Did I understand you correctly that you read Esperanza in Spanish 1 and again in Spanish 4? Have your classes ever read Esperanza Renace?

    • I just got Esperanza this year so my freshmen have read it but not my older kids. We did read it in Spanish 4 but fast! We did it in about 8 days and then I used it as a bridge to el Norte. They just did a writing assessment describing similarities and differences between the two.

      I’ve read and love Esperanza renace but I’ve never used it in class.

  4. Ah, that explains it! Another question for you – do you have a copy of the consent form you use with your students? And do you just skip the inappropriate scenes?

    • I’d be happy to share my permission form. I DO edit out sex scenes etc but it would be impossible in some films to edit out all of the bad language. I mention that in my permission form! 🙂

      • My email is kristindunc at gmail dot com. It would be great if you could send it to me! Thanks.

      • Thank you for sharing your ideas! May I also have your permission form sent to my school email? Thank you in advance!

  5. Wow very cool! I’m currently planning on basing my year around the novels and backwards planning what structures we should work on. I really appreciate your post as it affirms some ideas I had for this coming school year! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  6. This is a great overview for me as I jump into TCI/TPRS and I am also using the Cuentame mas text! I can use this as a guide as I figure this out for my department. I’m so glad I’ve started searching through your blog– amazing resource!! Thank you!

  7. I’m teaching La Hija del Sastre this year and I’m also doing the La lengua de la mariposa film study with my students. I’ve been searching for the movie all over and I want to get it with Spanish subtitles. I’m willing to purchase it. Any recommendations?

  8. This is awesome, exactly what i needed to get my school in the right direction. My dept head and i are coming to iflt this summer! yay!
    Also, could I have a copy of your film permission slip as well! it would be most helpful! 🙂 Gracias!

    • I am happy to send it but don’t know how helpful it will be! It is mainly a permission slip to use the students images in my presentations and social media! With some movies tacked on! 🙂

  9. Saludos! I would also love a copy of the permission slip that you use before showing videos. I’m excited to start incorporating more videos in the future. Gracias!

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