What is the best practice for using telenovelas effectively in the WL classroom?
First and foremost, I think we can all agree that there is no such thing as “one size fits all.” In fact, it goes against what a balanced curriculum entails. If we are going to use telenovelas, I believe that we need to keep the following in mind:
As I am preparing for this upcoming school year, I have a deep urge to use El Internado. I will be teaching Spanish I classes. In my school district, I have not met a single teacher (yet) that is using telenovelas to teach Spanish. My thinking on this is that I will cover the curriculum by making sure I am hitting the units required by my school district:
Oh, and a whole lot of tenses that I will target regardless. My plan now is to create stories and resources that provide meaningful, contextual, and cultural frameworks that cover the required units and at the same time run them parallel to the telenovela. And many activities will be centered around the students to make connections (PQA all the way).
my game plan
A lot needs to be figured out. For example, how many days a week do we watch El Internado? How to adequately pace? How to ensure that my students are ready to take on El Internado? Reading Mike Peto’s blog, I agree that it is essential for my students to be really comfortable with the Super 7 verbs as well as the Sweet 16 ones. And I like his idea of teaching a Caperucita Roja story before embarking on the El Internado adventure.
First and foremost, I am going to begin with backward design to establish appropriate learning experiences and create an index for academic expectations. Once I have an idea of what each unit will entail, I will begin to think about assessments, and ultimately create a series of lessons.
This is going to take some serious planning time. My goal is that I will create a year’s worth of substantial enjoyment, enrichment, and advancement for my students. I am thankful for all the resources that I have found from other teachers who instruct with El Internado. As I attempt to bring this yearly “curriculum” to fruition, it’s nice to know that there are many world language teachers that have shared their experiences and resources. This is invaluable. In the days, weeks, and months ahead, I look forward to sharing mine.
Los jóvenes actores de 'El internado' mantuvieron en vilo a millones de personas durante siete temporadas | Foto: Atresmedia Internacional
Too legit to quit
Everyone loves a fictitious and dramatic train wreck, right? How about this scenario: A group of young adolescent students try to figure out the many dangerous secrets of the their boarding school—which was previously an orphanage—in order to survive being pursued by former Nazis, who are experimenting with fatal medical examinations, and a torturous Head of School, who relentlessly psychologically tortures the students while carrying out strict orders from the Nazi party. Now add in a few love triangles, the release of a deadly disease, and enough bad guys to make your stomach churn and head spin. And for good measure, let's throw in a traitorous student and another student who sees dead people. All this together makes up El Internado. Are you curious yet?
Or maybe you prefer a period piece drama that begins with a missing maid, a brother who won't return home without her, and two psychopaths who run the most luxurious hotel in Spain? Where social class dictates social norms, and playing with fire surely gets you burned. Welcome to Gran Hotel.
As you can see, telenovelas are compelling! Everyone loves a good mystery with lots of surprises, especially students. I love using resources in class that engage my students so much that they are teetering with excitement and intrigue. In case you haven't already guessed it, the magical resources I speak of are telenovelas, specifically El Internado and El Gran Hotel. Both have enough mystery and intrigue to last the entire school year and beyond. And while I think there are other telenovelas that can be used, El Internado and El Gran Hotel have proven to be invaluable to CI teachers these past few years (dating back to at least 2009; shout out to Mike Peto). Both students and teachers just can’t get enough. In fact, I’m watching El Internado as I’m writing this. So, why are these telenovelas still relevant?
the power of the telenovela
If you’ve watched El Internado, Gran Hotel, or just about any other telenovela, you know that it’s very easy to get reeled into the “telenovela microcosm.” For some reason, the characters, their situations, and their relationships with others draw the viewer in—the more drama the better! And, oh boy, is there drama!
In a conference I attended back in 2012, I attended a workshop called Explorando la identidad adolescente global a través de las telenovelas presented by Maria Meléndez and Kathy Ozment. Going back through my notes, I recall the presenters stating that telenovelas are so compelling because they are addictive and engaging authentic content that individuals can relate to. There are a variety of common educational themes (e.g. social hierarchy, good vs. bad, racism, domestic abuse) that telenovelas display that you can use to teach in your classroom, even if it’s often portrayed through hyperbolic situations. I like the way PBS states that "telenovelas are a cultural touchstone...and a conversation piece." I firmly believe that telenovelas will continue to remain relevant if they continue to be accessible, relatable, and irresistible. As such, they will remain a novel way to teach and acquire Spanish.
Do you have a favorite telenovela? Apart from the Spanish series El Internado and Gran Hotel, I also love Silvia Navarro in Amor Bravío, Jacqueline Bracamontes in Sortilegio, and Ana Brenda Contreras in La que no podía amar, oh, and, Juan Diego Covarrubias in De que te quiero, te quiero, and, also, Angelique Boyer en Lo que la vida me robó, and, well, you get the picture...