Want to guide your advanced students through a culturally-relevant novel by a Hispanic author, written specifically to adolescents? Good! Intensive reading for pleasure is the best way to acquire vocabulary in any language.
I’ve put an incredible amount of work into writing reading guides and vocabulary lists for all 20 chapters of Ciudad de las bestias by Isabel Allende. In the story, Alex, a 15-year-old Californian, must spend some time with his eccentric grandmother while his mother receives cancer treatment in Texas. His grandmother is a nonfiction adventure writer, about to leave with a team from “International Geographic” for the Amazon, in search of the (mythical?) Bestia–the ‘abominable jungleman.’ Alex’s presence can’t throw a wrench in her plans so he must tag along. Suddenly the California boy finds himself in the middle of the Amazon, picking off leeches, swimming with dolphins, befriending a young Brasilian-Canadian girl with whom he gets kidnapped and must embark on a journey to answer tough questions about who gets to use what in the jungle and what the future holds for the indigenous peoples of the Amazon, as well as where his true riches are and where he can find purpose.Sound like culture? communication? motivating subject matter for teenagers?My reading guides aren’t perfect–just the other day one of my students pointed out I hadn’t put page numbers on a few questions– but here they are, and I encourage you to see the power of reading come alive for your advanced students.**UPDATE 3 FEB 2011** For new info on these guides, see this post.I’ll try to post some tips on class novel reading soon, but my first one would be to start reading together before assigning it outside of class, so students can get used to the big keys which are:1-read the question first so you know the big idea you’re looking for2-read so you understand the gist, but not so you understand every word.