Review of “Me llamo Víctor” by Señor Wooly

me-llamo-victor-graphic-novelNothing makes me more professionally excited than getting new reading material for my classroom.  I sorta have an addiction of getting every CI-friendly source of reading I can get my hands on. (Hi. My name is John.  I can’t stop buying novels for my classroom….)

 

I love CI novels, level-appropriate authentic books, magazines, and newspapers, student-created stories, and graphic novels.  Excellent graphic novels have the distinct appeal of: 1) great L2 input combined with 2) attractive visuals that hook the reader and add a new comprehensible layer to the reading process.  Jim Wooldridge’s new graphic novel, Me llamo Víctor is the perfect example of this blend of media.

 

“Me llamo Víctor” tells the prequel story of the protagonist from the amazing Víctor trilogy of songs/videos/stories (Guapo, La confesión de Víctor, and Feo) by Señor Wooly.  We meet the young Víctor long before he gained his distinct swagger and over-the-top personalidad. (Ja!)

 

I won’t spoiler the wonderful plot of this book, but I will make some observations that I think will convince you that it is a worthwhile addition to your classroom library or as a whole class novel.

 

First, the amazing illustrations!  Juan Carlos Pinilla’s distinctive style is at the forefront of this book’s attraction.  He has a fun, quirky style that will appeal to both younger readers as well as high school and up.  Combine this with the coloring of Davi Comodo and the lettering skills of Lucas Gattoni and you have an excellent example of a modern graphic novel.  But that is just the beginning.  Many Spanish-language graphic novels are artistically appealing, but lack the understanding of basic comprehensible input tenents. Mainly, that the language should shelter vocabulary but not grammar, and the story should be compelling.  Jim Wooldridge accomplishes both of these with his trademark humor and amazing storytelling.

 

Jim manages to create a story that is hilarious, mysterious, and tinged with a bit of sadness at the same time.  We see all of the challenges Víctor is facing and we are rooting for him.  But like many prequels, we know where his success is going to lead.  Jim does a wonderful job of adding new storylines to a tale we thought we already knew.  He creates a sense of drama that makes us anxious to find out how Víctor becomes the Víctor we have all come to love/hate.  And this leads me to the book’s main flaw: IT IS ONLY PART 1 OF 2!   We have to wait until early 2020 for the conclusion of the prequel!

 

Well, I SUPPOSE I can be patient (but I don’t want to).  The only reprieve I have is that I can continue to scour the novel for all of the wonderful callbacks to other Señor Wooly materials!  There are sooooo many “easter eggs” to be found in the illustrations and dialogue.  Teachers that use Jim’s many songs and graphic novels will love all the repetition of words and phrases that connect this novel to his previous works.  Fans of Señor Wooly will recognize phrases like: “maestro del año,” “¿me reconoces?,” “octavo,” “es la verdad,” “es buena para,” “la clase empieza en __ minutos,”  “desordenada,” “no tiene sentido,” “no te rindas,” and of course, “muy, muy, muy, muy, muy, muy guapo.” The appearance of clowns in lockers, heart backpacks, and meeting more of Víctor’s family all add to the connections in the Woolyverse (don’t get me started on the Wooly conspiracies).

 

This book is perfect for die-hard Wooly fans and those new to the wonderful world of Wooly.  I would HIGHLY recommend this for novice-high students and above for FVR/SSR time.  It could easily be comprehensible for novice-mid students as a whole class novel.  No matter how you use it, this is a win-win addition to your classroom.  The book is currently in pre-order with shipments expected to go out later this October.  I will for sure be ordering more copies soon!!!

 

So to sum it all up: ¡Esta novela es muy, muy, muy, muy, muy, muy buena!  Es excelente. ¡Completamente excelente!  ¡Rechazo la idea de perder este libro!

World Gratitude Day: The thanks you deserve…

World Gratitude Day is Saturday, September 21st.  According to the United Nations Meditation Group (the people who founded the event), “World Gratitude Day presents an award to someone who we feel has done something outstanding in the spirit of Globalism.”

So with that in mind, thank you fellow world language teachers!  No, I really MEAN it! I can’t tell you how appreciative I am of you all.  It has unfortunately become cliché how difficult teachers have it.  And even when we love what we do, it is still often a thankless and tiring job.

Imagine you are a rock/country/chanson/vallenato/fill-in-the-genre, SUPERSTAR!  Millions of adoring fans listen to your music.  Thousands upon thousands buy tickets to your sold-out concerts.  You are adored and idolized by the masses!  Even still, getting up on stage is still frightening.  (thus the term, “stage-fright”)  But with the adoration, cheers, fan-mail, (and millions of dollars) you find a way to fight through the anxiety and perform night after night for the screaming fans.

Now, let’s take away the money.  Fans can get your music for free, and tickets are given away to whomever wants them.  People still love you, but they don’t have to give up any monetary means to hear your music or see you in concert.  If they miss your performance- no loss for them.  They can catch the next one for free, or download the album for nothing at any time they wish. Still, you find a way to perform because your fans love your songs.  They love your message.  They love the feeling you give them when you are in front of them.

NOW, take away the adulation.  People couldn’t care less if they hear your music or not.  They do not have to pay for it, nor would they if they were asked to.  Your performance is a distraction from the rest of their lives.  You are greeted with scowls and under-the-breath comments when you take the stage.

This, unfortunately can be how teaching feels for some of us.  Getting up in front of a class of students can be nerve-wracking.  Experienced teachers still get stage-fright (just ask most experienced teachers the night before or morning of the first day of school every year!)  We can be at the top of our game, give the “show” of our lives, but still feel unappreciated.  Students fight for reasons to be somewhere else.  Even if they enjoy our classes, we often go days, weeks, or months without a word of thanks from students.  At least we have the money.  (oh, wait….)

Okay, have I depressed you enough? Sorry about that.  But guess what?  You ARE appreciated!  Seriously!  By whom you ask?

By your fellow world language teachers who KNOW you are fighting the good fight!  By your family who understands your sacrifices in providing safety, security, and sustenance.  And most importantly… by your students.  Teenage brains are often still in egocentric “me-me-me” mode.  They don’t often realize the effect their actions (or inactions) cause.  But trust me, they tell their friends about the “cool” German teacher who sings songs with them.  The hilarious French teacher that tells sly jokes with a completely dead-pan expression.  The insane Spanish teacher who dresses up in crazy costumes and makes every class not seem like learning at all.  The caring Latin teacher that is the only adult that stops and really listens to their answer when they are asked, “how are you today?”

And on those amazing occasions where students do tell you how awesome you are, give you a thank-you card, or leave a seemingly insignificant treat or gift on your desk… WOW!  Your heart could almost burst!!  Your cheeks fill with color and heat.  Your eyes seem to instantly acquire some crazy eye-watering allergy.  When a parent emails you to tell you that they can’t get their kids to stop singing songs in Spanish.  When the principal stops by for a walkthrough, stays the whole period, and leaves saying, “Boy, I wish you could have been MY French teacher!”  Those are the thank-you’s that you deserve.  Not once in a while, but everyday.  Maybe even every period.

But, if those gratitudes came so often, would they really be that special?  Wouldn’t every student telling you ‘thanks’ as they walked out become forgettable? Would the 41st thank-you cupcake in a week really taste as great? (Yeah… okay, it would!  Sorry, bad example…)

So enjoy the seemingly random shows of appreciation you get throughout your day, year, or teaching career.  It seems life/God/Allah/Yahweh/Mother Earth/fate gives us what we can handle and pats us on the back as much as we need.  And if you haven’t gotten one recently… THANK YOU!

I see you.

I appreciate you.

Keep fighting the good fight.  What you do is worth it.

We world language teachers teach the world more than language.

¡Vamos a cantar!- Song of the Week

I have been doing songs of the week for the past 3 years.  Previously, I had chosen random songs that struck my fancy.  Maybe it was a catchy chorus or a tear-jerker video.  They were a great source of input for my students but I felt like I wanted to take it up a notch this school year.

I decided I wanted a theme that connected all the songs. One of my biggest beliefs in modern education is that we have a greater teaching responsibility beyond the curriculum.  Many students do not get the adult guidance that they deserve in order to become caring, respectful, responsible members of our global society (I need to start writing school mission statements:)  But seriously, we are the de-facto role models for many of our students, and it is our job privilege to give them more than just comprehensible input.  World language teachers teach the world more than language!

So, I chose the theme of respect.  (Here is that playlist again: Song of the Week- Respeto) Respect for others, respect for differences in culture and beliefs, and respect for oneself.  I feel many of our students are missing some or all of these concepts in our “let’s stay glued to our screens and laugh at the plight of others society.”

CHOOSING THE SONGS

I do a song of the week in my Spanish classes as a means to provide compelling comprehensible input.  Depending on the level, that input might come directly from the song, or if the lyrics are beyond them, scaffolded activities to allow the students to understand the words and/or the message the video presents.

What do I look for in a Song of the Week?  Here is the basic idea:

I always choose videos that have: strong positive messages, good musicianship, and catchy lyrics.

I try to choose videos that have: a video/storyline that adds a second layer to song, represent a wide variety of Spanish-speaking countries and genres, and have engaging visuals. (I still need help finding great Banda, Tejano, and Norteña songs;)

I do not choose videos that have: lyrics/visuals that depict drugs and alcohol in a positive manner (I personally love the song Calma (by Pedro Capo) but can’t use it because of the phrase “abre la medalla”), women depicted as objects (I am still on the fence with Sofía (Álvaro Soler) and can’t use Échame la culpa (Luis Fonsi/Demi Lovato), swear words, overt sexual themes, or are discriminatory based on sexuality, race, gender, age, or beliefs.

This is a personal choice.  You do you.  Choose what you think works in your classroom.  For me, if I would be embarrassed to show it to my own eleven-year old twins while explaining every word of the lyrics, I don’t use it.

ACTIVITIES TO DO WITH EACH SONG

I do something with the song everyday of the school week.  Sometimes it is only 5 minutes, other times it takes the entire class period.  If it is providing comprehensible, engaging language (or even great discussion in ENGLISH) I roll with it.  Lesson plans are PLANS, not the Bible.  If we spend an entire week immersed in music, language, culture, and positive ideals, everybody wins!

Since I do a new song every week, I don’t like to do the same activities with every song.  Here are some of my go-to choices. I have not defined every activity, but many of them are very searchable on the iFLT/NTPRS/CITeaching and the CILIFTOFF Facebook pages:

5 key words/phrases–  I teach with untargeted structures.  (ie- I don’t have a set curriculum that I am trying to “cover” each year, week, or day).  But in the case of songs,  I guess I am semi-targeted.  I do like to find 3-5 key words or phrases that I feel the students need to be introduced to, or need more input with, in order for them to be better acquired.  Many of our discussions and activities focus on these.

Picture Talk

Movie Talk/Clip Chat/Film Discussion/Get-on-your-students-last-nerve-as-you-make-a-3-minute-video-last-2-class-periods Conversation 

Sentence match (can’t remember the real name for this activity, but it is where you cut up chunks of the songs and have students try and match the Spanish and English translations)

Readlang.com– I use this site to play the videos.  It is a free service where you create a lyric video where the words are highlighted as they are being sung. It is a pretty easy set-up. First you upload the lyrics, link the YouTube video, and then you sync the video which takes 5-10 minutes.  You choose the sync option, and as you play the video (before using it in class), you click on a few words as they are being sung.  You don’t have to do each word, but I like to get the first word in each phrase or line and anything else that might have weird timing.  You can always go back and add other “sync markers” to make the highlighted words perfect.  Here is an example of one I did for  “Besos en guerra” by Morat: Besos en guerra

Translate together– Going over the lyrics together in order to make sure they understand the meaning in the L1.  BE CAREFUL! If the song is complicated, lengthy, or has lots of low frequency vocabulary, it becomes very old, very quick for the students.  You don’t have to go over every word of every song.  Sometimes just the chorus or an important verse is enough.  I do like to do as much of the song as I can, but if I did that for every song, the kiddos would rebel!

Turn and discuss

Focus on the lyrics– Some songs we spend most of our time on what the message of the song is.

Focus on the storyline- Some songs we don’t really worry about the lyrics, but on a compelling message provided by the video (La estrategia by Cali y el Dandee is a good example)

Predictions-  Show a still image or clip and have students guess what the song is about.  Alternately, play a line or two of the audio and do the same.

TPR-  I use TPR to focus on the 3-5 key phrases I have chosen to semi-target.

Biography of artist(s)- I almost always include a short bio of the artist(s) in a Powerpoint.  I like to include a map showing their home country, the style of music they sing, other hit songs in case the students want to “study” them further, and key points of the artists life. Sometimes this takes 2 minutes, other times it can last a class period and we don’t even get to the song until the next day.

Sing-a-long– Sometimes we just sing along and enjoy the sound of the language!

 

WHAT ABOUT RESPECT?

Okay, so I must confess, this blog post is a work in progress.  Since this idea of a theme is new to me, I am still figuring out how I want to make the overarching focus on respect (Hey, it is still July!  I can’t be THAT prepared!) . My initial idea is to have discussions on how and why each of these songs represents one of those main “respects” I mentioned earlier (Self-respect, respect for culture, respect for beliefs, respect for others).  I want the students to come up with these, I don’t want to spoon-feed them.  I want to try and connect them to their real lives.  I want them to see and be immersed in a culture where the idea of respect is valued and lived.  As I brainstorm and solidify what I want to do with this overarching theme, I will add to this post.

Please leave comments on your ideas of how we can develop RESPECT through LANGUAGE and MUSIC.  I would love to hear and share your ideas with everyone else!

 

¡Hasta el próximo abrazo!

John Sifert

Be nice, and don’t die! (maybe I’ll blog about this phrase in the future!)

 

Purpose of this site

This site is dedicated to helping create classrooms that are filled with comprehensible input!  Whether you use novels, MovieTalk, PictureTalk, The Invisibles, OWI, TPRS stories, Story Listening, Song of the Week, or whatever- keep it comprehensible and compelling!

Hopefully you might find a thing or two here that will help you in your journey.  Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you or even just to point you in the right direction.

Be Nice, and Don’t Die!    (more on that later!)

 

Señor Sifert

(Padre de cinco)

My new novel! La isla más peligrosa

I am so excited to release my first comprehensible input-based novel!  Please feel free to explore the description, book trailer, and links to Amazon for purchase!

facebook banner final

How do you survive when death is never more than 3 feet away?

Swimming  to  a  deserted  island  after  his  plane  exploded, Caden thought he had escaped the worst. Little did he know, he and the other survivors had washed up on la Isla de la Quemada Grande– commonly known as Snake Island.  Here, there is an average of one venomous snake every square meter.

In the midst of avoiding deadly serpents, crash survivors with dark secrets, and finding food and water, Caden just wants to find his dad and brother and go home.

But to make matters worse, Caden soon discovers that the person who brought down the plane may still be on the island with them!

La isla más peligrosa is a suspense-filled novel focused on delivering comprehensible Spanish while not leaving out a compelling plot.  This novel features less than 200 unique words and many cognates- perfect for the novice reader.

 

Read the first 2 chapters and the complete glossary!

Purchase this novel on Amazon!