Teaching the novel Vida y Muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha 13: Pre-teaching and Chapter 1

If you have taught many novels, these activities will be easy to implement. If you’re looking for a great read for your level 3/4 classes, this is so engaging!

All activities I will be sharing as my class reads the novel are activities that supplement the published . The teacher’s guide is a MUST have but these activities compliment what is already there! These activities have been created and shared with the consent of . Please keep in mind that any time you create and share materials that may be derivatives of another author’s work, it is important to get consent in writing! So many people work so hard to create these materials, it is important to respect their copyright!

In my classroom, preteaching the novel starts with El Salvador’s Civil War. We look at how Oscar Romero, the assassinated Salvadoran Archbishop, created a movement among the poor that led to an uprising against the government. From the war we are able to look at the many who fled El Salvador for what they hoped would be safety in the United States… and here we connect with the gang.

As a prequel to the novel, we listen to the song Gangsta in Spanish by Kat Dahlia and talk about what it means to be a gangster? What does it mean to have a “gang family” versus a traditional family? We watch the documentary “The World’s Most Dangerous Gang” and read the prologue to the book to build background knowledge, and then its time to dive in!

Underpinning the entire novel study is our classroom Vida y muerte twitter feed. Students add to the feed daily as we read. It helps them engage with characters as they create their twitter handles! FullSizeRender(6)

Or as they compose tweets that flow with the novel! FullSizeRender(4)

On Monday, we read Chapter 1 of the novel. In this chapter the anonymous author describes his initiation. I used this as an opportunity to access prior knowledge by having student groups brainstorm all they had learned about the initiation and missions of MS-13 gang members from the documentary. After reading the chapter, they competed to make the most complete list of facts. (My level 3 are competing a’la Amazing Race this year so it was an Amazing Race task that could earn them first place for the week!)

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9 thoughts on “Teaching the novel Vida y Muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha 13: Pre-teaching and Chapter 1

  1. Catherine Charles says:

    What a great assignment. I would like your permission to reproduce the Twitter assignment rubric and make changes so that I could use it for another novel. May I have your permission and if so could you tell me how I could download it so it would be editable? Merci beaucoup

  2. Thank you SO much for sharing these! I’m just starting Vida y Muerte with my 3s this week, and was a bit overwhelmed by the plethora of resources (but what a great problem to have!). I can’t wait to see what else you do.

  3. These activities and resources are wonderful, but I am in a tough spot about this. We have a big Salvadorean community in out town, and last week two underclassmen were suspended because they had MS13 colors and drawings in their hands. This behaviour could get them in harms way, in serious trouble even. Our VP was livid, the police was called, it was very sad to see the mothers crying because they have been working three jobs for years to bring their children here, away from the Maras.
    I don’t think this book is the one I want to read with my students. We did see Voces Inocentes and read La Guerra Sucia and watch Sin Nombre, but I am non tenured and don’t want to rock the boat! Thanks you for sharing your enthusiasm and devotion…and your activities and ideas!

  4. Thank you for this. I am going to try it with my class who have just started reading “Viva el Toro”. I have quoted your website at the bottom of the handout. Hope this is ok!

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