Sneak peek: Four resources to use for teaching the novel Cajas de cartón.
Cajas de cartón is a great novel to read with a heritage Spanish speakers class. It’s written as a memoir from Francisco Jiménez and includes stories from his childhood that touch on many impactful and relevant topics. Jimenez covers the migrant experience as it pertains to poverty, language barriers, moving around, and valuing education. This book provides an inside look at the life of migrant farmworkers which pairs well with learning about Los braceros, César Chávez & Dolores Huerta, and what the current working conditions are today for farmworkers.
There are twelve short chapters that are comprehensible for most Spanish-speaking students. Depending on the level of your students, you may need to pre-teach some vocabulary before reading.
My students read this novel as a class, so sometimes we all read together and other times they read in small groups or by themselves.
I decided to focus my class instruction on summary writing alongside this novel, so while reading each chapter students worked through a packet that had them take notes on the key events and new words from the chapter. Then, they condensed everything that happened in the chapter into a 150-word or less summary in their packet.
Before we began this process of summary writing for each chapter I went over the guidelines in the beginning of the packet that showcase what a good summary must include. I also did the first chapter summary with them so they could see exactly what I was looking for (summary examples for each chapter are included for the teacher in this resource).
As students read independently, I called students to my desk, one at a time, to go over their chapter summary with them by giving them feedback in their rough draft packet.
Finally, upon completing the book and a rough draft summary for each chapter, students began working on their summary compilation booklet. Using the feedback I gave them on their rough draft summaries, they cut out pages, decorated the cover, colored each page, and copied down their final draft summaries into a beautiful booklet.
In order for students to make connections between their life experiences and those of Panchito’s (the main character), I had them answer questions for each chapter that had to do with their own life.
I assigned these digitally, but I also created a printed version of task cards, and also a worksheet format to use if I decide to do it differently in the future.
These questions were great for sparking discussion among students as I had them share their responses with an elbow partner. It also helped me learn more about my students’ life experiences as we moved through the material.
In order to hold students extra accountable for their reading, I gave a quiz after each chapter. Then, I actually used these same 12 quizzes for a final chapter test at the end of our unit.
If you want to do more of an informal assessment after each chapter followed by a final end-of-unit test, you can find lots of already-made quizzes on Kahoot and Quizziz when you search Cajas de cartón.
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After we read the novel and completed our project and test, we watched the documentary La Cosecha. This documentary brings the migrant worker experience to life and from a more current-day perspective.
The documentary is primarily in English with some Spanish, but I gave my students a post-viewing quiz in Spanish.
I found this documentary was available to stream for purchase on Youtube and Amazon Prime. The DVD is also available for purchase on Amazon.
All of the resources mentioned in this post are available individually in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, but you can save money by purchasing them as a bundle.
These resources are also included in my Year One Bundle for heritage speakers.
Have you read Cajas de cartón with your heritage speaker students?
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