The world of reading in the target language just got bigger, adding more intriguing layers with the new novel, Caras Vemos, from Theresa Jensen. Over the summer, we saw a record number of teachers, picking up the pen with the goal of enriching our literary experiences, and upping the acquisition factor. Some of the books featured this summer were La última prueba by Jennifer Degenhardt, La ofrenda de Sofía by Theresa Marrama, Alice, La liste by Cecile Laine, and El mensaje by A.C. Quintero. Jensen added to this working body of student-friendly literature with the highly anticipated, Caras vemos (corazones no sabemos). In this post, you will get to know Theresa, what compels her to write, and why you should get her new book! Best of all, she has just published a teacher’s manual, so if you are thinking about this book for a classroom novel, go for it! She’s got you covered!
This summer, I had the opportunity to speak withTheresa, and I learned that she is very letrada! She has been teaching for a total of 20 years! She currently teaches Spanish level 3. Her knowledge of curriculum spans the gamut, as she teaches in both the AP and IB programs. Adding to the mix of thematic and skill-based learning, she is celebrating her 10th year as a TPRS practitioner. The these experiences have enriched her grasp on language acquisition, and guided her on her first CI reader: Caras Vemos. See the transcript of our conversation below:
A.C: What is your favorite aspect of teaching with CI/TPRS? What changes have you seen when you started experimenting with this approach?
TJ: My relationship with my students is different than it ever has been, as the focus is on them. I feel like before I was more of a taskmaster, more focused on the curriculum. Now I am 100% about helping each individual student achieve his/her potential. I always wanted that, but the different methods brought about by CI-based instruction have helped me connect more with students and reach even my less invested students. My absolute favorite part about CI is the sheer JOY it brings to my classroom.
A.C: Do you have a favorite CI/TPRS resource?
TJ: Currently Señor Wooly is just about my favorite discovery.
A.C. Free Voluntary Reading has really taken off these last few years. I remember learning about it from Mike Peto, and although I was an author, at that point, I had only read some novels, both mine and others with my students and some short stories. I had not started with FVR reading. Once I did, I was amazed! What role has FVR reading have in your curriculum?
TJ: Last year I began a FVR program with my students. I was very concerned they would just pretend to read, but the research was so convincing, I had to try. I did everything I could to fund it. I wrote little books, printed free books online, and bought them with my own money. We did it once a week, and at first it was a little tough for some of my students. They had never read by themselves before. As the year went on, through observation and Google form surveys, I saw that their interest and confidence increased. They were so proud they were reading books all by themselves! They actually looked forward to reading! Then, I brought up the idea for Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica, which I sponsor, to provide a mobile FVR library for our department (9 Spanish teachers). From the start, my colleagues began doing FVR with their classes for the first time, and their students loved it! The library is continually growing, and this year I have a mini library so we can do FVR more than once a week! It has been transformative!
A.C: That is so exciting!!!! Speaking of FVR, let’s talk about your new book, which I love by the way! I actually studied in Cuernavaca, and found the city and people to be very inviting. I love the compelling storyline, and the way the culture has been interwoven throughout the book. The artwork is so supportive of the story, which I love.
TJ: The title is “Caras vemos,” which is short for “Caras vemos, pero corazones no sabemos (or “faces we see, but hearts we don’t know)” explores the idea is that people are sometimes just not as they seem.
Synopsis: A girl wakes up in a park beaten and disoriented with no memory of who or where she is. Every face is unfamiliar, and all have a different story to tell. Who is the mysterious man? What happened to him? The more she learns, the less she knows what to believe or who to trust. The novel is set in beautiful Cuernavaca, known as the “city of eternal spring.” Cuernavaca is the capital of the state of Morelos, Mexico, just south of Mexico City. All of the places and businesses in this book are real. Experience everyday Mexican culture as the search for truth leads you around the city. Join her in a harrowing adventure to discover the secret of her past, and learn the meaning of “caras vemos, pero corazones no sabemos.”
A.C: That is intense! Love it! For those teachers who will consider this amazing story as a class novel, what details could you give us to help them decide?
TJ: This book is intended for novice high to Intermediate level Spanish students, so level 2-3. Word count is just under 8,000. There is a comprehensive glossary, as well as some small culture lessons, both integrated and in boxes on the side, throughout. Teachers can get the book in paperback on on kindle!
A.C: Why Cuernavaca?
TJ: I have a very strong connection with Cuernavaca, Mexico, the setting of the story. I have been to all the places in the story multiple times and am in love with the city. I have been happy, stressed, sad, annoyed, lost, scared, excited, enamored, in wonder, and I believe the characters experience all of these emotions too!
A.C: I have to ask, what motivated you to start writing?
TJ: I’ve always written stories for my students, but never thought about publishing before. Inspiration just struck the end of June! A while back, I began learning Italian off and on just in free time, and after a year of reading when my students did FVR, I thought hmmmm I should practice what I preach! I then bought my first intermediate novel in Italian, “Il segretto di Julia.” I began reading and liked how mysterious it was. It was a first person perspective and only told you enough to intrigue you, but not enough to really know what was going on. I only read one chapter before I put it down to flesh out an idea I had for my own story. I later read the rest of it and I highly recommend it! My book is actually nothing like it, but it inspired a book I am very proud of! Two of my students contacted me about something else and I said hey, want to read a book I wrote? They did and loved it! my favorite message that one (Grant) sent was this:
Shook” lol! I love it! He also wrote the following:
A.C: I love to get messages like this! They really affirm what we’re doing as teachers and writers.
Teachers, thank your for checking out this post and reading about Caras vemos, the debut title from Theresa Jensen. Please check out this book, and don’t just take my word for it, look at the reviews! Also, Theresa’s daughter designed the cover and interior art. I don’t know about you guys, but I can’t wait for another book by Theresa.
If you want to learn more about Free Voluntary Reading, check out these podcasts and websites below!