Sneaky reading activity…

So every kid LOVES to read especially in a foreign language…

HA HA! Nope. Yes, there are those of us (me included) who enjoy reading and find it fascinating to read in another language. But as Dr. Krashen said “We are not normal.” I mean that is the basic idea of what he said. He means we are “language people.” The only thing a text has to have to be compelling to us “language people” is be in a different language.

I had to learn the hard way that for most people…

Just because it is in Spanish doesn’t make it compelling.

What do I mean by that? Well, if the information or story isn’t compelling in English then it isn’t compelling enough in Spanish for most people.

*** Disclaimer – Controversial opinion ahead (especially among elementary teachers)

I avoid telling stories that my students already have heard 100 times in English. For example- three little pigs, little red riding hood etc. Or… reading the same story in Spanish 17 times. (Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments.)

So all that to be said, sometimes you have to get tricky with reading activities. It is like sneaking carrots into their spaghetti sauce. Kids will most likely pick up on your ulterior motive by the end but by then they are too engaged to care.

Martina Bex does this with some of her activities where she sneaks reading into the activity. For example, I use her activity where one kid has the pictures to the story without text and their partner across from them has the text. The kid with the text helps the other student tell the story by keeping up with where the student is in the text (they have to read to do this … muwa hahaha insert evil laugh) So the student telling the story has a chance for output in a low stakes situation and the other student has an authentic, organic reason to read carefully. I cannot for the life of me find this activity on Martina’a blog ( Help me out if you know which one I am describing. I will come back to update this post to include it. (and give you credit of course! 😉

So…. long introduction over. What is my “sneaky reading activity”?

In 3rd grade we told the story from ¡Somos! Unit 1 – Dice (free!) about a boy who is going to Wal-Mart until he meets Mr. Beast. Mr. Beast tries to win him over with giving him a million dollars (very Mr. Beast-like if you have seen his YouTube videos).

(If you don’t know who Mr. Beast, or Sr. Beast as we call him is then …. you need to know. AND he has a channel in SPANISH now! My middle schoolers were impressed!)

My students really got into this story so I did an activity that I love to do where I take a story template (again from Martina… can you tell I am a fan?) But a page with 6 boxes would work just as well. Then I break the story into 6 parts. I type the different parts under the boxes. Then students draw the story , illustrating each box based on the text below it (READING!!).

When everyone is done, each student has their own personal comicstrip of the story.

So this is where the magic happens… this is ONE of the activities you can do with this. (Have an idea of another activity to use these comic strips? Tell us about it in the comments.)

  1. Have students CUT the story into pieces. Each picture and text box is separate. Have students put their initials on the back of each piece of paper in case pieces get mixed up. Give them a baggie to keep all the pieces.
  1. Pair students up (groups of 3 could work as well.)
  2. Each student swaps their “sets” and then the student has to put their partner’s pictures and text back together in order of the story. They have to match their partner’s pictures to the text (READING!) then they have to put the whole thing in order of the story (READING!).
  1. Each student “presents” their answers to their partner to see what they got right. The partner has to check their work (READING!).
  2. Students switch partners and do it again.


  • Maybe they have to swap with 3 people before they sit down or you put the class in 2 interfacing circles and they move around the circle.. etc.
  • After everyone is done students give “awards” or “shout outs” to people they think did a great job at a certain part of the story.
  • Class discussion – Did your partners have an easy time or hard time putting yours together? Why or Why not? What made some pictures easier to identify than others. Based on how your partners did with your pictures what might you do differently next time to make it easier or maybe what you will do again? (Maybe they can go back and add more to their pictures.)

Troubleshooting: 🧐

  1. Kids rush through the drawings or are hesitant to do it We have a good discussion on how to show you understand the text when drawing like adding dialogue boxes, facial expressions etc. Also I don’t do this with every story. I really only do it with stories my classes have really “gotten in to” You could also demonstrate drawing for the first box. If you are a good drawer then fake being a bad one and show how you can represent the text even with stick figures. Plus there is a natural consequence to rushing through this because the other student might not be able to tell which picture goes where and they will probably voice that frustration.
  2. It takes too much class time for them to draw. I totally understand this. I have students who will be done in 5 min while others want to spend 15. I do not do this with every story. Only the stories that really “click” And I don’t tell stories (TPRS-style) every week. I have seen the results of working with their illustrations and I have deemed it worth it, but you may not come to the same conclusion. I let students take them home or back to their classes if they have free time to work on them. I have students who are done do other things or put on a video.
  3. Students make fun of other students’ pictures. Unfortunately as humans we have to be taught to not make fun of someone else’s work. And if a student hasn’t learned this yet then they can start learning it in your classroom. Role play a student making fun of your drawings and get students to react to how that makes you feel. You can even discuss what to do when they see someone’s work and it is not good or maybe it is wrong. Role play together how they can handle that situation or if someone makes fun of their pictures what they can do/think.

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