Cajas de Cartón: an ebook reader’s guide

cajas coverLicense

Copyright 2014 Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell
Purchase includes the rights to reproduce or digitally distribute this digital file for the students of the purchasing teacher. Not transferable after use. Respect copyright law.
The memoir Cajas de cartón is copyright 1997 (Spanish translation copyright 2000) by Francisco Jiménez. All rights reserved.


Check out the guide for Chapter 3.


You can receive this document with a license to reproduce or distribute it as much as you like, for all of your students, for as long as you’re teaching, for $39.95.

NOTE: If you are only interested in the chapter guide for chapter 9, which is the short story also called Cajas de cartón, you’ll find information about purchasing that on my resources page.

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For a great description of how Allison’s experience teaching this book changed between the plain question lists and the elegant ebook guide, see her posts Planning for Cajas de cartón and Literature Conversation Circles.


  • Illustrated
  • Professionally formatted
  • 61 pages
  • Detailed introduction
  • Spanish/English glossary of all vocabulary words and phrases

I was first introduced to the powerful themes in the memoir Cajas de cartón by a professor in graduate school, in a course on teaching literacy to ESOL learners.  As I set out to teach the memoir in my Spanish 3 courses after grad school, I wrote chapter guides for each chapter as I taught it through a year.  Years after making those basic comprehension questions publicly available via a blog post, that post continues to be one of my most-accessed on any given day.  However, like the Ciudad guides, I wrote them for my students.  When I wrote the review vocabulary, I included words I knew my students had seen in previous years or in our regular vocabulary.  Word auto-corrected my lists in weird ways I didn’t catch.  I forgot what words were included in previous chapters and included them again (and again, and AGAIN).  My non-native Spanish made a few constructions awkward or I simply made mistakes.  And I was often too focused on comprehension alone instead of comprehension paired with critical thinking skills. I knew how I wanted to incorporate culture and technology, so I didn’t bother writing those down.  And I included bonus questions that may or may not have been worth asking as a bonus question.

cajas screen snap 1All of that and more has been fixed and vastly improved in this second Musicuentos ebook, Cajas de cartón: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide to the Memoir by Francisco Jiménez.  All review vocabulary includes only words mentioned in previous chapters.  No vocabulary is repeated in a new list.  Irrelevant questions have been removed and more critical-thinking questions involving skills like deduction and prediction have been added.  Native speakers have edited the document to minimize awkward or incorrect constructions.  There are no bonus questions – you choose how to assess each question.  There are no English translations of anything until the glossary.  And most importantly, the ebook edition includes profiency- and vocabulary-boosting activities with every chapter:


Each chapter’s section begins with a vocabulary list.  I chose the words based on their frequency of use, application to advanced themes, or importance in the chapter.  Words and phrases that are especially important to the plot or that help students improve their proficiency are emphasized.  Within the Vocabulary section, several activities get students using the words and phrases in memory-boosting ways.  Translations of the words are not included so that you can determine how students interact with the meanings of the words. All words and phrases and their English translations are listed alphabetically in a dictionary at the end.

A repasar

After the first several chapters, each chapter includes a list of vocabulary words previously mentioned in a Vocabulario section. Sometimes these words are variations of previously used words.


These questions enhance memory by causing students to relate vocabulary meaningfully to the world around them.


This section lists pairs or groups of words that are related somehow.  Boost memory by asking students to make connections among vocabulary words.  Are they all parts of the body?  Things that you wear?  Words related to injuries?

Diccionario Visual

Students remember more when a picture is attached to a word.  Students are encouraged to look up several vocabulary words using Google Images.  (Note: I have
looked up every word I recommend students to view, but still remind students to use discretion and turn on Safe Search.)


Students perform a task specifically related to improving their proficiency, such as describing a scene, making a comparison, or narrating a story.


Students have the opportunity to practice interpersonal conversation by talking with a classmate or friend about something related to the chapter and its vocabulary.

Imaginación con un modismo

Students practice idiomatic expressions, a key to developing advanced proficiency, in a way that uses their imagination, which increases memory.


This section asks students to focus meaningfully on how particular words are formed or function in sentence.

Herramientas para el cuento

This new section offers specific advice on how students can improve their narration skills, important for students at the intermediate level.


This section was something I wished I’d included in the Ciudad guide. It suggests a journaling activity that will cause students to reflect on events in their own lives in order to help them preview the chapter’s main themes.

A leer

The second part of each “chapter” is a set of questions about the plot of the story, accompanied by proficiency-boosting activities.

Reading questions

These questions usually relate to major plot developments and often ask students to think critically about what they’re readingcajas screen snap2

Para ti

This activity asks students to relate something in Francisco’s story to their own world. Making cultural comparisons is an important skill in improving proficiency.

El mundo de Francisco

Students are asked to investigate cultural concepts Francisco mentions in the chapter, like La Llorona or los corridos mexicanos.


This section suggests ways for students to take the perspective of immigrants by investigating a process, activity, or product mentioned in the chapter within their own community.

Para comprender más

Here I suggest comprehension-boosting activities such as making diagrams or character sketches or looking up pictures or videos of things or actions mentioned in the chapter.


The book ends with an 8-page glossary of every word or phrase included in the vocabulary lists.


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