New to teaching Spanish Literature at A Level? Here are some suggestions:

This week we have joint guest bloggers and OUP authors Margaret Bond and Lorenzo Moya-Morallón. With a wealth of teaching experience between them, they’re providing some tips for those new to teaching literature at A Level…

  1. Select your text carefully. Avoid popular novels just because they are popular, choose ones that you’ve enjoyed yourself.  Also don’t be put off by plays even if you are not used to reading them. Think carefully before choosing poetry if this is not a genre you are either particularly keen on or knowledgeable about.
  2. Do your own homework.  If it is a text you don’t already know very well, you should familiarise yourself with it quickly. You will need to have a thorough knowledge of the text and also be familiar with the author. Having read some other works from the same author would be an advantage. For example, a very popular option from the prescribed text lists of the various examination boards is La casa de Bernarda Alba by Federico García Lorca. Whilst you may not be obliged to be familiar with other works by Lorca, a knowledge of the other plays in the Rural Trilogy (Bodas de sangre and Yerma) and of some of his poetry (for example the Romancero gitano) would be very useful and relevant.
  3. Beware of being, or allowing your students to be, too dependent on the English translation of the chosen work as that would not be helpful in the long run. Your students need to become familiar with literature and the more sophisticated language it presents. They will need to be exposed to this type of language gradually as it will be a big step up from what they have been accustomed to reading. You will need to devise some strategies: use small extracts to begin with to do a variety of activities such as comprehensions, gap-fill activities, translations, true/false/not mentioned and summaries. You will find a good selection of these types of activities in the OLCs. The writers have been careful to produce activities which mirror those found in the reading, writing and listening sections of the AS and A level papers, thus enabling the teacher to combine the teaching of the literature component with that of the other required skills.

Need advice on what to choose? Here’s a couple of recommendations:

  • Why choose La casa de Bernarda Alba? Short, classic, interesting, accessible and everyone can relate to it in one way or another. However, for this to happen it is very important that the student understands Lorca’s life and his circumstances. Its themes vary from romance to authority which will make your teenage students react against the injustice of Bernarda’s decision and make them wonder about the different morality imposed on men and women. At first sight students might imagine that this could only happen in Spain in the 1930s, but a simple look at the world today will make them realise how women are still oppressed in so many parts of the world . One thing to remember is that the language used by Lorca is from nearly a century ago and it uses vocabulary specifically pertaining to life in the countryside – therefore your students will not talk like his characters – but it is nevertheless an excellent source for vocabulary and grammar.
  • Another popular choice that can be recommended for its relevance to young students has to be Como agua para chocolate because it contains themes of love, passion, hypocrisy, rebellion and it is presented in a very original way with a different recipe at the beginning of each chapter – (the quails in rose petals dish is particularly delicious!) The main protagonists are young and troubled, which students could relate to. Apart from some localisms, the language is accessible, modern and the use of magical realism can open your students’ eyes to a new genre. It is a good source for extending vocabulary and grammatical structures. Another thing to remember is that this was Laura Esquivel’s first novel and that it has been made into a film. The film follows the book very well up to a point but students need to know how to defend their points of view purely based on the novel and not on any of the subtle differences of the film version.
  • Remember that time can be an issue as there are two texts or one text and a film to be dealt with as well as a large number of topic areas, so leaving your cultural topics to the very end is not an option. One example is to start to study La casa de Bernarda Alba or Como agua para chocolate alongside Los cambios en la familia when talking about changes in the family, or when discussing the equality of the sexes. At either of these points, even a brief introduction to the play or novel would work. Como agua para chocolate could also fit in well when talking about dictatorships (Monarquías y dictaduras).

The authors

Margaret Bond took early retirement from a Head of Department position, after a long career teaching Spanish and French in comprehensive, grammar and independent schools. After a few years of enjoying the freedom to travel, she took up a part-time role as Spanish Tutor for trainee MFL teachers, and Link Tutor, liaising with schools in the training of mentors and ITE co-ordinators for a University PGCE course. She is a committed hispanophile with a keen interest in literature and its application in the classroom. She is a co-author of the OUP AS and A level Spanish course books, and has contributed to Kerboodle resources.

Lorenzo Moya-Morallón is Head of Spanish at an independent school and has been teaching languages since 1999. He studied for a masters-degree in Law in Spain, spent one year studying in Paris and obtained his PGCE at the University of Newcastle. 

Margaret and Lorenzo also wrote the activities for our new Oxford Literature Companions for La casa de Bernarda Alba and Como agua para chocolate.