Sunday, August 3, 2014

Novels for Spanish 1 through Spanish 5

At my school district, we stress the importance of reading in the target language with our students.  In each level of Spanish, from the introductory course at the middle school, to level 5 at the high school, we read novels with our students. In Spanish 1 through Spanish 5, we read a minimum of 2 novels.  In levels 4 and 5, students are also required to read a novel on their own (outside the class time) per marking period, for a total of 2 additional books per level.

Several teachers have asked what novels others read with their students.  The purpose of this post is to share what we've found to work at our school.  As we constantly review our curriculum and our students' needs, we sometimes need to make changes and adjustments at which level the books are read.  Also, with the growing number of writers publishing new books, the choices are even greater and sometimes we find a new book is a better fit with our curriculum. In order words, our curriculum is a living, changing documents; an aspect I appreciate!

Also, please note that there is a variety of authors represented in the books.  I believe the students benefit from the different writing styles of each author and I look forward to even more new authors publishing books in the future. (Ahem - maybe that will be YOU!)
We are working on updating our Spanish 1 curriculum and during that process we will decide which two books ALL Spanish 1 teachers will read with their students.

Under the photos of the Spanish 2 books, I listed (some of) the major themes in each book.  Our "units" are built around the books and the themes/subjects. 
There may be changes in level 3 when we update our curriculum.

Last year I read Esperanza with my Spanish 4 class. The publisher of "Esperanza" lists the book as a level 1 book, but it also easily fits into higher levels because:
1) It can be very beneficial for students to read a book that is "below their level". I like to begin the semester with a book that all students feel successful when reading it.
2) This book deals with immigration and Spanish 4 students are better equipped linguistically to hold meaningful discussions in Spanish regarding this issue.
We did not read La Hija del Sastre in Spanish 4 last year, but we will be reading it in both Sp4 and Sp5 this school year.

Last year I had a mixed Spanish 4 and Spanish 5 class. Since the Spanish 5 students had already read the Spanish 4 novels, I read La Guerra Sucia which we usually read in Spanish 5, and added Felipe Alou and La Calaca Alegre.  

This year, some of the students now in Spanish 5 that were in the mixed Spanish 4/5 class last year, have already the Spanish 5 novels, but since I piloted a book last year in Spanish 5, we didn't read La Hija del Sastre (as we usually do in Spanish 4).  My plan is for the Spanish 5 students to read La Hija del Sastre and La Llorona, along with other legends and short stories, (i.e. Chac Mool, La Conciencia, Cartas de amor traicionado),  so as not to repeat the books they have read before.  

The above books and teacher's guides can be purchased at the following:
I recommend visiting these sites to discover other books available to use with your students. 

There are so many great books not listed above that I would love to read with my students, but the limited time does not allow me to do that.  My dream is to have a Spanish reading club, but...somehow I doubt that would attract a crowd. :-)

Please note: In my school district, each Spanish level consists of 90 days of 70 minute classes.  Final exam days, interruptions and short or missed classes due to state testing, weather delays, and assemblies, are included in those 90 days.  The reason I mention that is to make you aware that when students complete Spanish 5, they actually have LESS hours of instruction in the classroom than most students, at other schools that finish Spanish 4, with 4x4 block schedules or the traditional schedules.  In reality, our level 5 is level 4, our level 4 is level 3, etc. Our level 5 is NOT an AP class.


  1. You blog is awesome! This is such a great resource! Thank you.

  2. I know this is an old post, but I wanted to see what you did to work with Problemas en paraiso? Going to read that next year with Spanish 3. Gracias!

    1. Hi TY,
      I have never read Problemas as a class novel. It is in my SSR/FVR library and students often choose to read it during that time.
      If you want resources and ideas, there should be a teacher's guide available at Fluency Matters.
      C. Hitz

  3. Great blog! Thanks for sharing ideas and recommended texts. I have been looking for spanish novels or spanish readers for my fourth year class.

  4. You're welcome. I wrote this in 2014 and there has been an explosion of new Spanish novels since then, some of which I use as class readers such as Frida, by Kristy Placido; El escape Cubano by Mira Canion; and I recently purchased Vector by Carrie Toth. I also read a novel aloud to my students in Sp4 called El Silbón by Craig Klein, and this summer I'm going to work on La Estatua by Jeremy Jordan to see how I can work that into my classes but in a different way other than a class novel - maybe through telling (not reading) the chapters of the book, followed by some type of reading task afterwards.
    So many books - so little time with my students.
    C. Hitz

  5. Hi Señora Hitz, I came across this blog post while looking for CI options for my Spanish 1 equivalent course at the middle school level. I've already come across "Agentes secretos..." but the other two titles are new to me. I'm looking forward to looking into them.

    My big question for you is: how do you integrate these books into your classroom? As someone who has been tied to the textbook since starting teaching four years ago, I feel overwhelmed (but excited!) about this new teaching paradigm. Where could I go about reading more of the strategies/approaches to integrating stories and books like these into my classroom?


  6. Senora Hitz
    I am an adult student of Spanish, working with several on-line instruction courses (Lingoda, Duolingo). What I miss is the opportunity for reading in Spanish. I appreciate your book lists which I will attempt to follow. I will try to obtain these books through a local independent book store. Perhaps you have some further suggestions for the books themselves and/or their sources.

  7. I teach 4 th and 5 th grade Spanish exploratory. 2x 30 min. Every 6 days. Do you have any recommendations for that level?

  8. I am researching books for Spanish 3 honors and AP Language kids for some SSR next year. I am going to write a grant. Any suggestions would be helpful. Thank you.

  9. Hola,
    I am looking for suggestions for books from Spanish authors that are geared towards a Spanish 4 class. My students are low intermediate readers. Thanks for any help!

    1. Hi MK,
      I apologize for the delay in responding. Have your students read novels in previous levels? If not, I suggest the following:
      - Robo en la noche
      - Esperanza
      - Frida Kahlo
      - El duende de Salento
      There are others, but these are some of my favorites.

      If your students have read novels in the previous levels of Spanish, then I recommend:
      - Bananas by Carrie Toth - takes place in Costa Rica and is about a family that works for a company that owns the banana plantations
      - Minerva by Nellie Hughes - about Las Mariposas, the Mirabal sisters story from the Dominican Republic
      - Selena by Nellie Hughes - about the life of Selena
      - Vida y muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha - about gangs in the US
      - La guerra sucia - about the Dirty War in Argentina, I read this with my Spanish 5s (students that have had 400 hrs of language classes before coming to my Sp5 class)

      Those are a few. You can also check out Fluency Matters website for more books, or search for Adriana Ramirez (she has written many books and you can find them on Amazon), Mira Canion's website, and there is another website of independent authors but I can't recall the name of it at this moment. Hope that helps. If you have additional questions, feel free to reach out and ask me. :)