Tag Archives: lesson plans

Australian Loteria, Part One


Click on the picture to go to the NEH Oaxaca website, also known as the Wired Humanities Project. Scroll down to High School/Middle School Art / Celeste LeTard Williams / “Lotería” to download the PowerPoint tutorial.

Last summer, when I attended the NEH Oaxaca Institute for School Teachers, I created a PowerPoint tutorial on how to make an original Loteria game about any topic.  I am happy to say that it was posted on the Wired Humanities Project page along with some worksheets and resources for the classroom.  Just click on the image to the left and it will take you to the lesson plans prepared by myself and my colleagues from last summer’s Mesoamerican Institute.  You will need to scroll down to the section which says High School/Middle School Art, then look for my name and the title “Loteria”.  There are also some worksheets to be used for students to draw a loteria card, as well as a rubric and a sheet with the original cards and calling rhymes listed on it.

This year, I planned on having my students create a Loteria game about Australia.   The idea was to introduce the original Mexican Loteria and to have the students search out analogous icons and symbols from Australia to replace the Latino images.  I have done blog entries about this idea in the past. This one actually lists the different cards of the Loteria in order.   I also collect Loteria decks and images, which I use for classroom examples.

An important resource is also the gallery of Loteria Card Deck uploads at Elsewhere.org.  There are about 20 decks scanned and uploaded to the website.  They are great for examples.  You could have students research the images there, but just beware of the “Queer” Loteria because of inappropriate images.  Some of the other decks are great for pulling images.  Or, you can just purchase a Loteria game at a Mexican grocery or at an online source.

The thing I appreciate about Elsewhere.org is that there IS a variety of images.  So you can pick and choose your images for classroom appropriateness.  There are things on the traditional deck that could be considered inappropriate.  For example, La Sirena/The Mermaid is usually bare-breasted.  You can find images with covered breasts, such as the Anahuac Sirena and the Compadres Sirena.  There is a non-smoking El Catrin (also known as the Dandy, or the Gentleman), El Valiente (The Brave One)  without a weapon,  La Botella that is not Tequila – yes, I know, the one in the original deck is catsup, but I don’t like the image.

There are also some images that could be offensive, such as El Negrito (The Black Man) and El Borracho (The Drunkard).  And, El Soldado (The Soldier) is pretty much always going to have a gun.  But, you could replace those images with something else from one of the other decks, such as El Payaso (The Clown), or El Mono (The Monkey) or El Moro (The Moor, or Arab), or El Atleta (The Athlete) or Los Boxeadores (The Boxers).  Also, I like it that El Apache could also be El Azteca.  And… El Gorrito (the Bonnet – who wears a bonnet anymore?) could be replaced by El Sombrero (The Hat).  The possibilities are endless!

I really appreciate the work that was done with the Loteria Card Gallery.  Take some time to look throught the images.  Especially noteworthy are:

  • The Clemente Jacques Series 2 and Alternate Series 2 – These were introduced  in the 50’s or 60’s.  The images in the Series 2 Alternate look older than the Series 2, which are more refined.  These decks are very hard to find – I paid almost $100 for a Series 2 on E-Bay.
  • The Loteria de Teresa Villegas – also published by Clemente Jacques and available online – try E-Bay.  Teresa Villegas also has a website with more details about her Loteria project.
  • My Loteria, by Cristina Sosa Noriega, was available at HEB grocery stores, along with coordinating products.  Some of the products are still seen on e-Bay and she has a website.
  • The Loteria Zarela was commissioned by WalMart several years ago and was put on a product line for home and bath.  Zarela Martinez is a celebrated chef who has a restaurant in NYC and has authored many cookbooks.  She also had a designed loteria of fruits and vegetables.  These items are very hard to find now.
  • Maison-Celeste.com – my CafePress Store is where I display and sell my own Loteria designs.

House of the Scorpion Loteria, Card #4


How else do you get a spare heart?

Spoiler alert!  If you have not read House of the Scorpion, by Nancy Farmer, yet: this may upset you…  On the other hand, it tells you right on the back of the book in the blurb what is supposed to happen.  I think that the only person who does not know is Matt, the clone.

The Mesoamerican Ballgame: An Interactive Website


I just spent over an hour at a great website I found.  It is www.ballgame.org and it was the companion website to an exhibit that toured from September 2001 through December 2002.  The exhibit was called The Sport of Life and Death: The Mesoamerican Ball Game.

The website is engaging and well laid out.  The common theme is the ancient ball game played in Mesoamerica for over 3000 years.  There is information on various cultures:  the Olmec, the people of Western Mexico, the city of Teotihuacan, the Maya, the ancient people of Veracruz, the Toltecs, the Huastecs, and the Aztecs.  There are four major parts to the website, including information on the now defunct exhibit.

The first part is called Explore the Mesoamerican World.  When you enter this section there is an interactive timeline that illustrates the rise and fall of several civilizations.  The map is loaded with information on the culture, artwork, ballgames and archeological sites where the ballgame was played. Information can be accessed by clicking on the map, on the time line dates, or on the menu to the left of the map.  The civilizations mentioned above are included and there is also a segment on the Spanish Conquest.

The second part of the site is called Explore the Ball Game.  This section is divided into information about the Ball, the Uniform, the Ball Court and the Game.

The page about the ball has four components: artwork depicting an offering of a rubber ball by a priest (click on it for illustration), a slide show on how the rubber balls were made (from tree to molding), an interactive game that offers interesting facts about rubber and the balls, and a series of first hand accounts written by Europeans who witnessed the game when they came to the New World.

The Uniform page is illustrated with statues and also has a menu to explain each element. The Parade of Players has a wide assortment of clay figures of ball players and spectators that are clearly labeled with arrows.  The Mascots are various animal carvings worn by the players or used to decorate the ball courts – each figure is labeled with interesting pieces of information about the uniform, the players, and animal symbolism. The Locker Room shows more stone replicas of ball player equipment with explanations.  After learning about the parts of the uniform, one can then dress a player for a game.  Watch out – the “hacha” was tricky to place…

The Court page has five interactive parts.  First, there is video panorama of the Mayan ball court at Copan (Honduras).  Click on “Listen to an Aztec Song” and there is a three-part musical rendition of the Matlatzincayotl, which was an ancient song honoring Xochipilli – the patron god of the ball game.  There is an interactive diagram of a ball court with explanations that appear when you move your cursor over parts of the illustration. Finally, there is a gallery of artwork from ball courts, with explanations and symbols clearly pointed out and explained.  In another link to historical art,  there is a cylindrical vase that tells a story.

The Game page has a video clip re-enacting a ball game from the National Geographic Special called “Lost Kingdoms of the Maya”. There are links to click on that ask “Did Women Play?”, “What Happened to the Losers?”, “The First Dream Team” compares ancient sports with those played today, and there is a depiction of the Mayan glyph for ball player.  My favorite link is “Explore this Artwork” which explains how the creation story of Popol Vuh – the Hero Twins is contained within the design on a plate. Be sure to click on the diagram and line drawing to get the full effect.

Experience the Game is a section in two parts: Watch the Game (or Be a Fan) is a narrative interpreting an elaborate clay model of a ball court with players and spectators. You can also click on the links for close ups of the model.  It is interesting, once you get used to the idea that no actual game will be played in the segment.  The final activity: Play the Game (Be a Player) is a great trivia game.  Players who answer correctly win a point for their team.  It can be played more than once – maybe three times before the questions begin repeating themselves.  These questions might also be transcribed for a quiz.

If you click on the Classroom Connections link at the bottom, there are four art projects with instructions: Make a paper face mask, Create a clay effigy vessel, Craft a headdress and costumes from paper, and Mold clay ballgame figures.  In fact, if you click on the different instruction links, there are charts and diagrams that can be printed out – information that I didn’t see anywhere else in the site.  These included a Cosmic Diagram, Story of Popol Vuh, Animal Imagery, a Pronunciation Guide, a Glossary of Terms related to the Mesoamerican Ballgame, and other printables.

This is a very rich website that should be suitable for upper elementary to adult learners (I liked it and learned a lot!).

Common Themes in Magic Tree House and Time Warp Trio:Part 2


Wow!  It was three months ago today that I wrote Part 1 about common themes and topics in the Magic Tree House and Time Warp Trio Series.  I really like these books because they teach history and culture (the MTH series also addresses science and nature), as well as reading.  Here are the other topics I gleaned from my research.

Cowboys and Indians:   In the Magic Tree House Series, there are a couple of possible books to be read together with the Time Warp Trio book.  Perhaps it could be the project for a group of three students.  There’s Ghost Town at Sundown, where  Jack and Annie go back to the Old West (1880?) and are accused of being horse thieves.  In Buffalo Before Breakfast, they go back to the Great Plains almost 200 years ago and meet a Lakota Sioux boy who hunts buffalo.  The activity guide for Ghost Town is here and the one for Buffalo is here.

In The Good, The Bad and The Goofy, the Time Warp Trio is transported to the Wild West.  They meet the cowboys and the Indians, showing both sides of the frontier battle.  This story is also available on the DVD Past, Present & Future.  Even though it is discontinued by the manufacturer, you may still be able to pick one up on eBay or used on Amazon.  Here is a link to the lesson plan, which has a lot of resources to go with it.

Ancient Rome and Pompeii: Vacation Under the Volcano is the Magic Tree House book that takes Jack and Annie to Pompeii – just before the volcano erupts!  There are two on-line activity resources: one here and another here.  But there is also a Magic Tree House Research Guide on Ancient Rome and Pompeii.  Be aware  that the reading level of the Research Guides is higher than that of the series books.

See You Later, Gladiator is Book 9 of the Time Warp Trio series and they go from an innocent wrestling match to the Roman Colosseum.  See You Later, Gladiator was also part of the TV series, but it is on neither of the DVDs released by that company.  There is a great lesson plan to go with it called Gladiators.

Ancient China:  Day of the Dragon King – the only thing I don’t like so much about the Magic Tree House is that sometimes they are not precise in the stating the date.  The fact that Jack and Annie go through a tomb housing clay soldiers must refer to the the terra cotta army in Xi’an.  That would be sometime after 210 B.C.  Here are the activities from the MTH site.

In contrast, the Time Warp Trio books and TV episodes give a timeline or date (usually)  to orient oneself (Orient – get it?).  Wushu Were Here, I think, is a graphic novel set in China as well.  It is set in the Tang Dynasty, which is after 600 A.D.  There is an interesting lesson plan resource with some cool ideas for further reading.

Vikings:  Vikings are fun, right?  In MTH Viking Ships at Sunrise, Jack and Annie see the Vikings attach from the island where they are land in the middle of a monastery.  I think that one of the activities highlights illuminated writing, which was done by the monks at that time.

In Viking It and Liking It, the Time Warp Trio lands on Leif Ericsson’s ship.  The story was also made into an episode on their series, which is available on Time Warp Trio:  Passport to Adventure.  The lesson plan has, among other activities, a Viking Jeopardy Game.

I still have three more to go – later!

Common Topics in Magic Tree House and Time Warp Trio


In a previous post, I wrote about chapter books.  In particular, I wrote about the Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne and the Time Warp Trio Series by Jon Scieska.

Magic Tree House and Time Warp Trio common themes:

Knights and Castles:  The MTH series has kind of a connection with Camelot and Medieval England, because they communicate with Merlin the Magician, and – I think – Morgan La Fey.  Therefore, we have The Knight at Dawn and Christmas in Camelot to work with – I think that The Knight at Dawn is probably more relevant.  There is also a MTH Research Guide called Knights and Castles available.  The two activity sheets – here and here – are pretty basic.

As far as knights and castles are concerned, The Time Warp Trio has a book called The Knights of the Kitchen Table, but there are no lesson plans to go with it because the lesson plans are only for the TV series episodes.  There is, however, a book and episode about Medieval Scotland called Plaid to the Bone in graphic novel form.  So, if you feel like doing some activities about Medieval Scotland, check the lesson plan out.

Ancient Egypt:  MTH has a book called Mummies in the Morning, where Jack and Annie visit ancient Egypt.  There is a Research Guide called Mummies and Pyramids to go with the book.  An activity page to go with the book can be found here, and one to go with the Research Guide is here. If you scroll down, there are some possible activities described for each book, as well as a link to the worksheets.

The TWT counterpart is called Tut Tut – cute, huh? – where the guys go to (guess) ancient Egypt.  There is also an episode called Tut Tut in the TV series, which means that there are lesson plans to go with it.  The lesson plans on the Time Warp Trio website are much more involved that the Magic Tree House activities and lesson plans, but both offer other resources that are useful.

Arrrrgh! Pirates: In Pirates Past Noon, Jack and Annie run afoul of the mythical Cap’n Bones.  The Research Guide, called simply Pirates, goes into more detail and chronicles some of the more infamous pirates.  It has some great illustrations and a timeline with the history of piracy.  I don’t seem to have a link to the activities for Pirates Past Noon, but here is a link to the activities for the Research Guide.

In The Not-So-Jolly-Roger, the Time Warp Trio (Joe, Sam, and Fred) accidentally travel back to the early 18th century and meet Blackbeard.  It’s a little more exciting than MTH, but then, it’s supposed to be.  These books are written on a higher reading level, as well.  The series episode is also called The Not-So-Jolly-Roger and is available on the Passport to Adventure DVD – if you would like to show it.  The lesson plans are here.

Ninja and Samurai – 17th Century Japan: MTH’s Night of the Ninjas, Jack and Annie travel back to Ancient Japan, and find themselves in the cave of a ninja master This could be any time between the 14th and the 17th centuries, according to our ninja sources.  In Dragon of the Red Dawn, they travel to 17th century Japan, to the city of Edo.  There, they meet Basho – a (haiku) poet – there’s more information on page 107 of the book.  There is no Research Guide to go with this era, but is are activities for Ninja here, and Dragon here.

In TWT’s Sam Samurai, the boys also travel to 17th century Japan.  Keeping with the “haiku” theme, Joe, Sam, and Fred are writing haikus for English class.  When they take a break, they get transported and meet some surly samurai warriors.  Since an episode of the series was also based on Sam Samurai, there are nifty lesson plans that may fill in the gap left by no MTH Research Guide.

Neanderthals and the Ice Age:  In MTH’s Sunset of the Sabertooth, Jack and Annie are transported to the Ice Age – in their bathing suits!!!  This book comes with a Research Guide called Sabertooths and the Ice Age.  The book also covers Neanderthals and other animals of the Ice Age.  Here is a link to activities to go with the book and here is one that goes with the Research Guide.

The Time Warp Trio also has a book where they visit the Ice Age.  It is called Your Mother was a Neanderthal.  For some reason, they changed the name for the TV series episode.  It’s called The Caveman Catastrophe.  Here are the lesson plans that accompany the episode.

Chapter Book Project: Magic Tree House & Time Warp Trio



A couple of years ago, I got turned on to the Magic Tree House Series – I had already seen a bit of the Time Warp Trio books.  Both series are educational, featuring time travel to different eras and places.

The Magic Tree House series is an award-winning and bestselling series of children books written by American author, Mary Pope Osborne.

In the first series, consisting of the first 28 books, Morgan sends Jack and Annie on numerous adventures and missions in order to help free Morgan from a spell, solve four ancient riddles to become Master Librarians, and save four ancient stories from being lost forever. After the twenty-eighth chapter book, Mary Pope Osborne started a second series called the Magic Tree House “Merlin Missions”. In these missions, Jack and Annie have quests from the ancient wizard Merlin the Magician. These books are longer than the previous 28, and some take place in fantasy realms like Camelot.

All together, there are 44 fiction books named. Their titles are listed below. In addition, a number of Magic Tree House Research Guides (nonfiction companions to the series) have been written by the author, her husband Will and her sister Natalie Pope Boyce. These books contain more information about the historical places and events which Jack and Annie visit in the Magic Tree House Series.

0439161894_xlgTime Warp Trio books are written by Jon Scieszka.  The series follows Joe, Sam and Fred, three ordinary 10-year-old city kids who get warped back in time thanks to a magic book Joe received from his flaky magician uncle. When the book opens, a pale green mist whisks them through time and space on extraordinary adventures — dueling with gladiators in Ancient Rome, marching to battle with the Samurai in Shogun Japan, or meeting Blackbeard the pirate on the open seas.

Things get really interesting when the boys bump into their own great-granddaughters — Jodie, Samantha and Freddi — three 10-year-old girls living in the year 2105.  As with all great action-adventure stories, the two trios must use their skills and their smarts to outwit the bad guys, survive and figure out how to warp back home.

The Time Warp Trio was made into an animated TV series, and there are two DVD’s available of the episodes.  The first is called Time Warp Trio, Vol. 1 Passport to Adventure and the second is called Time Warp Trio: Past, Present & Future.  Not all of the episodes are included, but the series seems to be running on the Discovery Kids Channel at 2:30PM and 10:30PM.  Discovery Kids has a fansite for the Time Warp Trio with games and episode summaries, too.

Random House also has a website for the Magic Tree House books.  If you go there, you can download a “passport” that can be “stamped” each time a student finishes a book (if they get the 3 questions right).  There are also activities and lesson plans included – as you will see below – but some of the links don’t work.  If that happens, scroll down on the page you land on and you will find it.  Magic Tree House also provides activity worksheets in PDF format, some that are better than others.

I also wanted to give props to whoever organized the Magic Tree House Wikipedia page.  It is a really good resource, with plot summaries of all of the books as well as descriptions of the Research Guides.

Now, back to the Time Warp Trio.  There is also a website devoted to the TV series made by the TWT team.  There are games and fun things to do for the kids.  If you go to the link that says Teachers/Parents, you will find resources for each TV episode.  As you will see below, that means some of the books are left out.  You will also find really nice lesson plans for each episode, organized by show and also by historical topic.

I am writing about all of this because I wanted to come up with a lesson plan/unit/project incorporating both Magic Tree House and Time Warp Trio books.  I will talk about common themes in those books and the resources that are available through their websites in my next post.

House of the Scorpion Loteria Card 1

The purple mountains of Durango...

The dusty cornfields and purple mountains of Durango...

Last year, after my classes finished reading House of the Scorpion (written by Nancy Farmer), I asked them to create loteria cards.  I asked them to draw images that were representations of characters, symbols, concepts, themes – anything relevant to the story.  This was very difficult for them, and a little tedious for me, because there were a lot of repeat cards.   I decided at the beginning of the assignment not to assign the student specific cards, hence the plethora of cups (poison wine), scorpions, and hearts.

To keep myself stimulated while this activity was going on, I decided to do some loteria cards of my own.  So far, I have 32 – each representing different aspects of the story.  I did try one exercise – I laid a card on each student’s desk, then asked the student to turn it over.  Then I asked that student to tell me why I chose that image for my loteria deck.  After some coaxing, my more reluctant students were able to say something.  I had some very sharp students last year that totally got it.

Now, to explain the above card (I am not sure yet if I will put a word on it…):

Durango is where El Patron, the original Matteo Alacran, was born.  His last name a tribute to the people of Durango, who are called “alacranes” or scorpions.  Celia, the cook, and Matt’s mother figure, is also from Durango.  She was saved from becoming an “eejit” because El Patron recognized her accent and kept her on to cook traditional dishes for him.

There is a very important story that El Patron tells four times in the novel.  The first time he tells it is when he and Matt meet for the first time (pp. 57-58).  There, he just provides the bare bones of the story:  that he was born in Durango (he always mentions the dusty cornfields and purple mountains – hence the image above), that his brothers died of various things before they had a chance to grow up, and his sisters died from typhoid.

Later on in the story, El Patron tells the story three more times:  at his birthday celebration (pp. 100-101), when he is in bed and sick for the first time (p. 200), and finally, when he wants to the ultimate sacrifice from Matt (pp. 232-233).  Each time he tells the story, we learn more details about the deaths of his brothers.  He also adds more detail to the fiesta where his sisters contracted typhoid.  It’s a masterful device, and I endeavored to point this out to my students.

I love this book so much – it is obvious that I’m a bit obsessed.  But, then again, I must have read it (okay, listened to it on CD) at least 30 or 40 times, because I also listen to it when my students are reading with the CD in class…  I never grow tired of it and always find something new to remark upon each time.

Collecting Folk Tales



A couple of years ago, I used to teach 6th Grade Exploratory Spanish, also known as Spanish connections.  I came across two anthologies of folktales that were written in a side by side style (Spanish on one side, English on the other).  I had my students read the stories, then draw and color illustrations for a story they picked.  I had them use crayons, exclusively.

I personally love crayons.

There were a couple of drawbacks to this assignment. Since the stories had illustrations with them already, a lot of students just traced or copied the illustration that already came with book.  That was a little disappointing. I had a good time doing my own illustrations, and even went so far as to construct a mural by cutting out and gluing the pictures in collage form. I then filled in the gaps with more crayon and then used two sets of stencils I bought to add interest. I got a lot of compliments on it, but it went missing during my second to last classroom move.  Lucky for me, I had taken a photo of it.

I have also tried to do some folktale activities with my 7th and 8th graders, so at one point I bound them into little booklets to make them easier to read and collect in class. By then, I had collected more stories.  Here are some of the books I have in my classroom:

Stories from Mexico :   Historias de Mexico by Genevieve Barlow and William Stivers

Stories from Latin America :   Historias de Latinoamerica by Genevieve Barlow

Horse Hooves and Chicken Feet: Mexican Folktales selected by Neil Philip Illustrated by Jacqueline Mair  (awesome and bright color illustrations based on Mexican folk art)

Fiesta Feminina: Celebrating Women in Mexican Folktale retold by Mary-Joan Gerson and illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez

El Dia que Nevaron Tortillas / The Day it Snowed Tortillas: Folktales told in Spanish and English by Joe Hayes with Illustrations by Antonio Castro L.

Creepy Creatures and Other Cucuys by Xavier Garza (I bought it because it contained a La Llorona story)

Stories from Mexico by Edward and Marguerite Dolch Illustrated by Ernest de Soto  (Written in 1960 by the Edward Dolch of Dolch Sight Words. “Told almost entirely in the “Storyteller’s Vocabulary”, which contains the 684 words most used in the telling of stories, as found by research” This was a cast-off from our school library and has a page or two missing and gang graffiti on some pages. A wonderful and useful collection of stories.)

The Bird Who Cleans the World and Other Mayan Fables by Victor Montejo

My Land Sings: Stories from the Rio Grande by Rudolfo Anaya . Illustrated by Amy Cordova

Mayan Folktales: Folklore from Lake Atitlan, Guatemala – Translated and edited by James D. Sexton

Latin American Folktales: Stories from Hispanic and Indian Traditions Edited and with an Introduction by John Bierhorst.  (No illustrations, but the cover painting introduced me to Francisco (Chico) Da Silva, an awesome Brazilian folk artist)

Latino Read-Aloud Stories: Best-Loved Selections from Latino Cultures in Both English and Spanish Edited by Maite Suarez-Rivas

This is by no means the extent of the anthologies and resources available.  I still have some on my wish list.  But I am trying to learn that I don’t have to have ALL of the books on any given topic that I am interested in. I have also gleaned stories from online sources too numerous to list. Just do a Google Search, and you will find many.

House of the Scorpion Loteria


scorpion2bAfter we read House of the Scorpion, I worked up a lesson plan that I have wanted to do for a long time.  I wanted my students to create an personal loteria card that illustrated some event, character, or concept in the story.  Then, they were to write a paragraph explaining why they chose that image and what it had to do with the book.

I hate to say this, but most middle school students are reluctant to draw.  I insisted that they give it their best shot.  Some of them did a great job, some traced their images – that is completely okay with me – and some scratched out the minimum required drawing.  I insisted that they fill in the whole card space – making some sort of background.  After I collected them, I planned to scan in the pictures and make a loteria deck out of them.

There were a few things that I had not control over.  I handed out a list of possible drawings, but I really couldn’t say, “Oh, so-and-so is already drawing a heart (or a wine glass or a scorpion):  why don’t you draw something else?”  So I ended up with a couple of versions of the same sort of image.  Of course, I also warned them that they couldn’t just draw a skull and crossbones because they liked drawing them – it had to be explained in connection with the story.  Of course, some didn’t listen, but that’s another story…

After scanningoctaviooriginal the lot of pictures, I decided to “touch them up” a little bit in PhotoShop.  The first one I did was the one above.  The picture to the left was the original.  I cropped it and enlarged it.  Then, as I usually do, I intensified the hues.  Finally, I used one of the many, many special effects to simulate a stone wall.  In the story, the scorpion is probably not stone-aged, but I really liked the effect.  After that, I worked on a few more, with good results.

As often happens with me and Photoshop, I got more and more involved in my editing process.  So, my question is this:  is it really student art now?  I am thinking about it.  Now, if I were a kindergarten teacher and did something cutesy with my students work, I think that would be okay.  So I am going to go for it.

I have three classes of 9-10 students each, and my plan is to combine the images to create Loteria tablas of nine images each.  Each student will receive a card with his or her image included in the group.  I will have to juggle a bit to replace all of those hearts and wine bottles, but I think it will be something for them to keep and remember from the class.  I will post the finished products later.

La Llorona


I often think of ideas a little too late.  Now, for Day of the Dead,  I was right on time (for this year) with the faux sugar skulls we made last week.  During some of my down time, I was looking through one of my many MANY story books I have bought over the past couple of years.  In two of my books, The Day It Snowed Tortillas and Creepy Creatures and Other Cucuys, there were two different stories about La Llorona.  I mentioned her to my students, and they were ready to jump in with information and second-hand accounts. It occurred to me that we could read the stories I had found together.

Then, two things happened:  I hit Google for research and I attended a short session about using Thinking Maps.  I realized that there are more than one account of the Legend of La Llorona and thought that my classes could do some activities using some of the mind maps I now had.  So, tomorrow, I am going to break my classes into groups of two or three and attempt the first activity.

First, we are going to use a Circle Map, which is used to help define a thing or idea. It is used to brainstorm ideas and for showing prior knowledge about a topic.  I have one class of 10 students in particular that this is meant for.  Half of the students in the class are Mexican.  The remaining students are Brazilian (4) and African (1).  I plan on pairing up the Mexicans with the non-Mexicans and having them discuss all that they know or have heard about the Legend of La Llorona.  I have some questions to help them with their brainstorming:

  1. Who is La Llorona?
  2. What does she do?
  3. Why does she do this?
  4. What does she look like?
  5. Where does she hang out?
  6. Do you know of any sightings of La Llorona?
  7. Are there any similar stories that you have heard? (This is for students from other cultures)

After we have discussed what they have found out, I plan on having the students watch the video clip I found from Hometown Tales.  I also have an audio clip from NPR about the story and the song of La Llorona.  That is about 10 minutes, barring technical difficulties.  If I have time tonight, I will come up with some “guiding questions” to keep them focused.  I have a couple of other audio and video clips, but I may wait to use those later.  I may also see if I can find a translation of the Spanish lyrics to the song.

Day Two, we will split up again into groups.  I will give each group different versions of the legend that I have found.  They will read them aloud to each other, and then create a Flow Map on chart paper of the plot of the story that they have.  I can even have different classes do different versions.  I will put the different charts up for comparison.  Later, we can use a Double Bubble Map or a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast different stories.

That’s all I have for now.  Other days could include personal accounts, alternate versions of the story where La Llorona is not a killer.

Below is a list of the resources I have found so far on the Internet.

General information:
Wikipedia.com – includes versions of the legend in other Latin American countries.
Handbook of Texas Online
University of Texas resource – great article with illustrations
New Mexico.org
Legends of America – legends,different Southwest versions, and personal accounts
The Many Legends of La Llorona by C. F. Eckhardt
From Ambergris Cay – Belize legends
The Legend of La Llorona – PDF of a great article by Paul Harden.  Also includes Modern Day La Lloronas…

La Llorona.com – this is the website for The Cry, which was a movie made about La Llorona in 2006 or 2007.  Included is a “timeline” of La Llorona, which seems to me to be a little “Blair Witch” -ish. There is a list of Modern Day La Lloronas – or women who have killed their children (lovely!), similar stories from history and other cultures.  I haven’t looked at the interviews and personal accounts yet, but it looks interesting.

Online versions of the story:
The Joe Hayes version
The Lee Paul version
Another version by Robert Paul Medrano
Two short versions from Spooky Southwest
Mexican version from Aleina Domecq translated by Ilan Stavans – border/coyote story
Obiwan’s UFO-Free Paranormal Page – has several versions of the story, including a German version.  Also, an interesting version with a twist – La Llorona’s bargain with the Devil!
Version by Paulette Atencio
Another Version by storyteller Mary Grace – actually, this is very similar to the Lois Lowery leveled reader
Mexico City Style Story – just found this one last night!
The Wheel Council – with counseling notes for discussion

Rudolfo Anaya:
In addition to the children’s book, Maya’s Children: The Legend of La Llorona, Rudolfo Anaya has short novel called The Legend of La LloronaHere is a lesson plan unit on La Llorona based on this book.  There is even a three act opera version that Anaya helped to adapt.

What’s in a Song?: It’s Mourning in America – this is NPR piece about the folk song.  It is pretty awesome!  There is a narrator that sings the song in the background and also explains the legend.  Also available at Western Folk Life.  It runs 3 minutes and 36 seconds.

La Llorona: An Evolving Myth – A special collaboration between National Radio Project and the U-C Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, student producer Beth Hoffman brings us a look at the myth of La Llorona as told in Oakland, California today, and tells how its meaning has grown and changed over time. It runs 29 minutes and may not keep the attention of some students.

Sibelius.com – instrumental version of song La Llorona

The Compulsive Traveler – Lila Downs performs La Llorona.  The version is a little slow – it’s not supposed to be an upbeat song…  The Video has images of the artist singing, superimposed on landscapes.  Is she supposed to be La Llorona?  It’s also over 5 minutes long.

Hometown Tales: The Legend of La Llorona – An interesting short piece about the legend in Santa Fe, NM.  It was not easy to find a version that is not on YouTube, which is blocked by our school’s firewall.  About 6 minutes long.

Children’s Books:
Prietita and The Ghost Woman by Gloria Anzaldua and Maya Christina Gonzalez.  A kinder, gentler Llorona… Includes an MP3 of a little girl reading the story.

The Day it Snowed Tortillas by Joe Hayes and Antonio Castro Lopez- has a short version of the La Llorona story as well as a sighting story. Cinco Puntos Publishing also puts out The Legend of La Llorona, an illustrated solo book of the story and Two Scary Folktales: La Llorona vs El Cucuy on Audio CD.

The Tale of La Llorona by Linda Lowery, Richard Keep, and Janice Lee Porter- from a leveled reading series called On My Own Folklore – Lexile Level is 460.

Maya’s Children: The Story of La Llorona by Rudolfo Anaya and Maria Baca.

My Land Sings: Stories from the Rio Grande by Rudolfo Anaya and Amy Cordova- anthology that includes a version called Lupe and La Llorona.

Mexican Ghost Tales of the Southwest: Stories and Illustrations by Alfred Avila and Kat Avila. This version has La Llorona offing her kids because they keep asking for food…

Little Herman Meets La Llorona by Judith S. Beatty, Edward G. Kraul, and Jose Gomez.

La Llorona: Encounters With the Weeping Woman by Judith S. Beatty

Creepy Creatures and Other Cucuys by Xavier Garza – Has two La Llorona stories – one a legend and one a sighting.