Last year my fourth graders read Brandon Brown quiere un perro by Carol Gaab. This book is excellent for beginners--while the total word count is 4400, the unique word count is just 100. I know what you are thinking, and trust me I was thinking the same thing last year. How could a book with only 100 unique words be interesting? I don't know how Carol does it, but the book is both captivating and relatable.
Although my students did a great job reading the book, I was not completely prepared to teach it to them. I waited too late in the year to start reading and ended up in a race to finish the book before the end of the school year. This year will be different! I am going to start reading the book earlier in the year and pre-teach more of the vocabulary. My plan is to start reading the book with my third and fourth graders after spring break, and until then I am backwards planning from the book. To do this I looked at the teacher's guide which breaks down each chapter into new vocabulary and cognates (this guide is a must have if you are teaching this book- it is full of great activities and assessments). My first step for backwards planning was taking the words that were new to my students and grouping them together into stories. The plan is for the students to have seen the new vocabulary structures before they start reading the book.
A colleague and I grouped the following structures together:
Next, I picked a student who had a birthday coming up and asked them what they wanted their classmates to make them for their birthday. I put prewritten statements into the Caja mágica and had the students read them to the birthday boy. For example: La clase hace un sándwich de espárrago para tu cumpleaños. La clase hace una sopa de ojos para tu cumpleaños. La clase hace una pizza de cucarachas para tu cumpleaños. The birthday boy would then respond with "¡Qué asco!" My students were excited to see what idea would come out of the box next, which provided me with a compelling way to circle the word hace.
During the next class period I read a book that I created on Storybird (I was inspired by Cynthia Hitz's blog post about using Storybird and by all of the different artwork on the Storybird site). The only issue I had with Storybird was that when I tried to make my story public I received a message stating that stories written in languages other than English cannot be made public. It looks like the link is working now, but feel free to comment or email me if you have any issues. Read the story "Un cumpleaños terrible" here.