Friday, March 10, 2017

El Escape Cubano, chapters 1-5

After you have introduced your students to Cuba through discussions, photos, and videos, and pre-taught vocabulary that students will encounter in the novel El Escape Cubano, by Mira Canion, you are ready to dive (no pun intended) into the book. (See this post for information on preparing to read a novel and specific ideas for El Escape Cubano.)

Below are a few of the activities I used when reading the novel with my Spanish 2 students. Every teacher has his or her own style of reading a novel with their students - some build entire units around a novel that may take a month or two, and others spend considerably less time. There is not a wrong or right way. Go with what works best for you and your particular group of students.

El Escape Cubano - Chapter 1
I've already mentioned an activity to either introduce or review "se queda" in THIS POST, but the second time I read this book with my students I added another activity:

Explain to the students that one of them (choose one of your students) has a ticket to go to a Beyonce concert and invites another person to go with him, but the night of the concert the invited person does not go along; the invited person stays home. Why? Ask students to brainstorm why a person would not go to a concert and then list the possibilities on the board, each time repeating "(name) se queda en casa porque..." 

When I planned this brainstorm activity, I thought the students would think of 5 or 6, but the list grew to more than 14 ideas, all which they expressed in Spanish.  An alternate option is to let students sketch a reason the person stays at home if they don't know how to say it in Spanish.

El Escape Cubano - Chapters 1 & 2 
Give students a piece of paper and have them fold it into 4 squares and reopen it. In each square of the paper, write one of the following names: Miguel, Yordani, Fabio, and Gloria. The teacher reads chapters 1 and 2 to the students.  As you read, the students will write information they learn about the characters. (I use this novel at the beginning of Spanish 2. The students were taught with TPRS and CI in Spanish I and have read two novels in Spanish I. They have had many experiences with similar listening comprehension activities.) 
Students share their information with each other in small groups or with the entire group.

(note: I need to create a document for this listening activity before I read this novel with a new group of students.)

El Escape Cubano - Chapter 2
A listening review to provide input of the YO form in context:  
Choose 2 students that are comfortable reading in front of the class. Give each of them a copy of the paper to the right. (The document pictured has the answers highlighted.) Tell the class that the two students in the front are Miguel and that you are going to interview him. Students listen to the two answers and write the letter (a or b) of the correct answer. 


El Escape Cubano - Review of Ch1&2
To the right is a powerpoint slide that I use the following day if I want to refresh the students' memories about the main character, Miguel. The students tell me information about Miguel and I write it directly on the board as the slide is projected.

To emphasize what Cubans went through to find a motor for their crafts used to cross the 90 miles to the US, I show the below short clip to after reading chapter 2.   

El Escape Cubano - Chapter 3
For those interested in additional repetitions of the YO form, the document to the right is a more traditional paper with questions addressed to Miguel.  Students answer as if they were Miguel, referring to the text as needed.

El Escape Cubano - Chapter 4 - TIME TO ACT!!! 
The setting and action in chapter 4 are perfect for Reader's Theater.  
- a boat shape (borrowed from my church's props)
- a blue sheet with two students holding each end and waving the material to imitate waves in the ocean

How do you bump Reader's Theater up a notch? Include sound effects and lighting!
- I turned off the main lights in the room and turned on a small lamp that I have in the back of the room. This scene takes place at night so I wanted to similate that. (For the photo I had to turn on the lights.)
- I used THIS LINK to play the sound of ocean waves in the background.

The students had fun acting and watching the acting for this chapter. When the text says a big wave pushes the mother back towards the shore, the two students stretch out the sheet out that was the wave and "pushed" the mother away from the raft. (just wait until you see the student prop for the chapter with the shark!)

A big MUST for Reader's Theater is to coach the actors.  Don't settle for mediocre acting! If it says the father yelled, then the actor needs to talk in a loud voice and don't continue until the actor delivers the line appropriately. When I need actors for Reader's Theater, I ask for volunteers. Sometimes the class "voluntold" their friends, but I always check to make sure the students is ok with being an actor. When you find someone that hams it up when acting, your job providing compelling, comprehensible input becomes easy in a snap. After acting, we applaud each of the actors as I say their name. They should be recognized for their contribution to your class!

Predictions - Ask students what are problems that Miguel and the others may encounter while they are on the raft. This is a good time to project a map of Cuba and the United States on the board (again) to remind students of the distance. As students gave suggestions, I wrote them on the board, providing an extra opportunity for students to read in Spanish.
My students said things link: no hay comida; la bolsa rompe; olas grandes; la guardia costera, and then I added a few words if necessary to make complete sentences. 

If you haven't told the students any statistics about the number of people that die each year attempting to reach the US in a raft, this would be a great time to introduce that material. I used some facts that Mira had sent me when I was piloting the book. When the teacher's guide becomes available, purchase it - it will save you hours of work!! 

El Escape Cubano - Chapter 5
Students worked with a partner for this assignment. I drew a T-chart on the board, with QUIERO and NO QUIERO, and told students to put themselves in Miguel's place and write his thoughts related to what he wants or doesn't want.
After they had a minimum of 4 thoughts on their T-charts, I asked students to share their answers and I wrote them on the board. 

Then I handed them the paper on the right and they chose one of the answers on the board, or one they had on their paper, and copied it into the bubbles on the paper.

You can expand the possible answers by not requiring students to use the words QUIERO/NO QUIERO.

I will upload the links to the documents mentioned in this post in the near future when my internet connection is being less contrary. Maybe the mid March snowstorm has something to do with the finicky connection. :/

More to come...
In the next few days I'll share some of my activities for the second half of the novel.


  1. Great activities! If I ever decide to teach this novel, I'm coming back here! :)

  2. Thank you for sharing! These are fantastic! What grade are these kiddos in?

    1. Most of the students in this class were in grades 9 & 10.

  3. Great resource...I am currently working with this novel.

  4. These are awesome activities! Thanks for sharing. We have just started reading this novel in Spanish 2. Have you had a chance to upload the documents in the post? I can make my own but just checking to see if yours are available. Yours look much better than mine do!

    1. Thanks for sharing! I'm wondering if you have the Chapter 3 questions for YO form practice. It says that it's to the right, but I don't see them. Anything you can pass along would be much appreciated! ¡Gracias!

    2. I sent it. Hope it is useful to you.
      C. Hitz

    3. Did you ever get a chance to upload the documents that you mention on your blog? I am reading this book with my Spanish I. This is my first novel ever and I am a little nervous. This blog was great help while putting together the Scope and Sequence for El Escape Cubano, thank you so much for all your insight!

    4. Can you email me the questions for chapter 3? Thank you so much.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing! I am also wondering if you have the Chapter 3 questions for more practice. Anything that you may share will be great. ¡Gracias!

  6. Do you have pdfs of the material you present here? Thanks for your ideas. Mela

  7. Hi Cynthia,
    I think that I already posted here, but it seems that my question wasn't sent. Do you have you resources available as pdf? That would be great. Thank you. Pamela

    1. Hi Pamela,
      Which resources in particular did you want in pdf form?
      Also, I will need your email address in order to send materials to you.

      Cynthia Hitz

  8. Hi Cynthia,

    Muchas gracias for your wonderful ideas! I was wondering if you could also share the pdfs with me- especially for chapter 3 questions. I appreciate your help! My email is Thank you in advance.

  9. Do you have a TpT page where I can purchase your materials? They will be a time saver for me? If not, do you mind sharing your activities with me? My e-mail is

    ¡Mil gracias!

  10. Do you have a TpT page where I can purchase your materials? They will be a time saver for me? If not, do you mind sharing your activities with me? My e-mail is

    ¡Mil gracias!

  11. Hello! Do you have a TpT store where I can purchase your materials for this novel. This would be such a time saver for me. If not, do you mind sharing the activities with me. My e-mail is

    ¡Mil gracias!

    1. Did you ever find any resources you could purchase? I did not find on TPT. Thanks!

    2. I think Mira Canion is, or has already, published a teacher's guide for this novel. Google her name to find her blog/store and you can check there.

  12. We will be watching "Viva Cuba" after reading the book.

  13. I like to create a wall with the characters faces, Los personajes de la novela. This is what it looks like. Then the students can create a page with the description of each one if them. this is the wall

  14. Thank you so much for these resources. Could you please send me a copy of the Chapter 2 listneing activity. My email is ccloud@delsearegionalus

  15. Hola Señora Hitz,

    Do you have a link to the activities you mentioned above? I don't seem to find them.

    ¡Muchas gracias!
    Sra. Morales

  16. Is there a good movie to show at the end of the book that would reflect the reasons why some Cubans would like to leave the island? (appropiate for 9th grade) I have VIVA CUBA, but it isn't great! Gracias :)

  17. I have created Edpuzzles for each chapter. You may find them easily by Profe Andersen.

  18. I created a packet for the students so they can write main ideas for each chapter, and descriptions of the characters of the novel.

    I hope is useful!

  19. Hello Cynthia, I'm getting ready to start this novel and I was wondering if you were ever able to upload the materials you mentioned in the post. I would love it if you could possibly share them with me. My e-mail is
    Thank you so, so much!