My students love watching all the videos from Craig, especially the ones with Pablito. They always laugh when Pablito, el ratoncito, finds un tomate en el baño. Jajaja. His super creative stories will delight you. Read here to get to know more about this fantastic writer and teacher.
Childhood in Colombia
I was very fortunate to grow up in Colombia. I was born in the eastern mountain range of the Colombian Andes, very close to the Venezuelan border. There, in the evergreen mountains, I spent the first 19 years of my life.
When you grow up in Colombia, you take for granted the spectacular biodiversity that surrounds you. I’ll give you an example: In just a 30-minute walk in the woods it’s easy to spot up to 100 different species of birds. Here in Iowa, where I now live, we see many birds, but only a handful of species. I grew up with an almost perfect climate. At fifteen hundred meters above sea level in the tropics, temperatures always stay between 65 and 80 degrees throughout the year. I only understood how fortunate we Colombians are when I moved to the Midwest of the United States.
I had a beautiful childhood, with a lot of freedom. I spent countless hours riding my bicycle up and down the inclined streets of my hometown. I remember exploring the mountains, climbing trees, eating tropical fruits, bathing and fishing in the crystal-clear streams. When I go back home, it’s wonderful to relive these moments with old friends.
I spent a lot of time with the farmers in the region. Hence the love for gardening and peasant music of Colombia. I was never a farmer, but gardening is one of my passions. That’s why today, in my little backyard in Iowa, I grow everything I can. I have more than 20 different berry bushes, and various vegetables and legumes.
Teaching Spanish – Discovering Comprehensible Input
I started my career as a teacher working with university students. After some years working with adults, I applied for a job at an elementary and middle school. It was a very difficult change for me. I just didn’t have the experience and knowledge needed to manage and teach young children. My first year working with children was anything but easy, and I even thought about quitting to return to my previous job at the university. However, I researched, observed and asked many teachers for help. After seeing what a Comprehensible input teacher had accomplished with her students, I was quickly convinced that CI was the path I wanted to take. Gradually I began to improve and understand that much of my work is based on creating community to connect with students. Once I understood this, my life as a teacher began to improve dramatically.
I started writing and telling stories in class as a way to connect with my students. We all like stories. That’s why we watch movies, soap operas, and read different types of literature. Students are always curious to learn more about the life of teachers. My students love to hear stories about my childhood. “Let me tell you a crazy and painful story that happened to me when I was your age.” With that simple start, I will have the majority of them hooked. Students love stories, and if the story is compelling, it will be effective.
For me, the most satisfying experience is knowing that most of the students in my school consider Spanish to be an easy and fun class. When kids are saying that Spanish is their favorite class and are wanting to be there, that’s a sign that the ground is fertile for language acquisition.
Super Funny Easy Readers and Videos
The website Spanish Cuentos was initially created to offer Spanish tutoring services to members of our community. People can use the website to contact me for private classes. I work with many children and adults in the community. I also train teachers and hire them to work with families and cover the hours that are beyond my reach.
The website now has a store and access to an annual membership. The membership allows access to videos and downloadable materials. In the store you will find books, posters, maps and many other useful materials for Spanish classes.
Most of the books I write are illustrated novels. I try to include over 200 illustrations in each book. Illustrations are a very important part of my books. When 4 year olds start reading in their native language, they will have a better understanding of the text if is accompanied by illustrations. In the case of second language learners, the experience is not that different. They are also learning to read in the new language. Many of the difficulties that 4 and 5-year-olds encounter when starting to read in their native language are also shared by second language learners when introduced to reading in a new language.
In our language classes, we talk about the importance of visual aids, gestures, pointing and tones of voice to make the language more understandable for students. Well, the illustrations are there for that same purpose: To make the language more comprehensible. The illustrations help students make sense of the text. The drawings help language learners find the meaning of the unknown words, making the reading less stressful and much more pleasant. Difficult readings are not effective. I believe reading should not be difficult.
For a language learner, a book in another language can be intimidating, and a book with illustrations gives the student a sense of control and it helps him/her build self-confidence.
Tips For Aspiring Authors
The options for publishing books are endless. It’s quite easy. I recommend self publishing sites like Lulu, KDP, Smashwords and even Teacherspayteachers.
The best tip I can give teachers or anyone who wants to write a book is to start writing. If you don’t take that first step, you’ll always be in the same place. Teachers always ask me to read their stories. They are not sure if their story is good enough. Trust me, if you think you have an interesting story, you probably do. So start writing for your students. Try it with different classes, different levels. Share your story with other teachers and ask them to try it out in their classes. Ask native speakers for some feedback. If you are a native speaker, ask native speakers from other countries or regions to read your story. Once you take that first step, everything else will slowly fall into place. Start writing!
Easy to Read and filled with illustrations – From Elementary to High School
Based on the video “The Duck Song.”