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On the Podcast: Jennifer Serravallo on Developing Reading and Writing Strategies en Español

Image. Jennifer Serravallo's book The Reading Strategies Book and The Writing Strategies Book in Spanish.

One of author Jennifer Serravallo’s most beloved books, the Reading Strategies Book, is now available in Spanish. But it’s more than a translation. El libro de estrategias de lectura takes Jennifer Serravallo's Reading Strategies Book and turns it into a complete resource for reading instruction in Spanish. This resource has 300+ strategies, including some specially created just for Spanish-language development and all new visuals in Spanish. Jen joins us to talk about the work that went into developing The Reading Strategies Book in Spanish as well as the Writing Strategies Book in Spanish which will publish in November.

Download a sample chapter from El libro de estrategias de lectura!

Learn more about El libro de strategias de escritura!




Below is a full transcript of this episode! A transcript in Spanish will be available shortly. 


Jen: So the translation is something I've been wanting to do for a long time because I constantly was getting requests from teachers, reaching out to me through Facebook message and Twitter, asking for a translation. I know how many teachers there are just in the United States who are working in a dual-language classroom. I myself used to work in a dual-language school. And I know that the teachers would just spend so much time translating English-only materials for use in their classroom. It's just, you know, teachers already work so hard and spend so much of their own time on planning, and so this was a way to make it easier. As the book was translated into Chinese, and then French, all the Spanish Language teachers were like, "what about us?" So, I really wanted to make sure that that translation was available, and I was really excited when Heinemann wanted to take this on. 

And then once we began conversations with the translation team, Aparicio Publishing, and also with some of the Spanish Language educators and coaches that we assembled as an advisory team, we talked a lot about what's the same in Spanish, and what's different in Spanish in terms of the language. So things like accent marks, for example, came up.  And it became clear that it wasn't enough to just do a translation. Not just to translate the strategies verbatim from English to Spanish, but we had to really consider what other unique challenges are there to reading and writing in Spanish, and then add in strategies that would help teachers with those particular skills as they support their students. 

I'm trying to think if there are any that we removed. Maybe one or two around vowels, because the vowel sounds are a little bit different. So there are a couple that we removed, and then we, of course, added some that are unique to Spanish. So, I'm really excited about how it all turned out. 

Brett: And throughout this process, it was certainly... you were collaborating with this team to do this adaptation so tell us a little bit about the team that we're going to hear from in a minute, the folks that you're interviewing. 

Jen: Yeah, so I mean... I really can't take too much credit because I am not a fluent Spanish speaker, as much as señor Highland might, my high school Spanish teacher, be sorry to hear that. He worked very hard in AP Spanish to help me learn Spanish. I've unfortunately lost a lot of my language skills. 

So I really can't take any credit for the actual translation, but they did involve me as an adviser. So, you know, we would talk about, what was my intention behind the use of the word engagement, for example? And what did I really mean? And is it enough to say, you know there's not a direct translation, so what is exactly the right term? Is it this, which really means this? Is it this term, which really means that? So I kind of got to serve as an adviser in that way.

And then I also got to assemble a team of people. So we have teachers from California, Texas, New York, Florida. We have people who are native Spanish speakers, people who have learned Spanish as a second language, people who currently instruct in Spanish, people who have in the past instructed in Spanish, coaches who are really familiar with specific state standards around Spanish language... and they were just really an invaluable team of people early on to talk with us at the table about terminology, to bring the translation team back to the different standards that we need to consider.

And then some of the people who were readers, after the entire book had been translated, just reading and looking for nuance. So for example, here's something I never would have caught myself with my minimal Spanish skills, but that was really important: So, early on, when there was a prototype of one of the chapters created, the feedback from the teachers was that the tone of the translation was very formal. And that if you look at my books, the way that my language is with children is much more friendly. And so they looked for some of the ways that the nuance of the language could be tweaked so that it had a more friendly, reader-to-reader, writer-to-writer kind of tone to the strategies and to the prompts, rather than a more formal, teacher-as-lecturer kind of a feel to it. 

So things like that, things like the specific word choice, and even checking for consistency of intent. So, in reading one of my pages, does it feel like the way the translation was done, really reflects the key meaning of what I was trying to get across there. 

So, today we're going to hear from Mayra, who's a coach in Texas, we're going to hear from Emily, who was a former colleague of mine at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, and now consults internationally actually with bilingual educators. And we're going to hear from Clarissa who's in Florida, and formally taught in Nicaragua, where she's from, and also taught in New York. So I'm really excited to have you listen to them, and hear some of their opinions and thoughts. And then we'll also hear from the translation team at Aparicio Publishing, some of the people, Eduardo and Patricia. 

Eduardo: So transadaptation is the blending or a portmanteau made of the words translation and adaptation. So what does that mean? Well, it means we have to take your lessons, all your strategies and translate them, convey the meaning of the original into Spanish. But we have to do it in a way that emulates the English, in how accessible it is, how engaging, how attractive, both to the teacher and to the student. So it means we can't simply do a dry, direct translation of the English. We have to go through several stages of editing and versioning to come up with the Spanish that emulates the English in several ways.

So one little detail for instance, and it happens a lot with headings and titles. One of the features in your books is a hat tip, which is clearly understood in English, but the equivalent term that is used in internet communications is not. So we had to come up with a term that will be engaging and inviting in Spanish, but also reflect the original intent of the English, which is to acknowledge your predecessors as sources you've used as inspiration. So we came up with me cito el sombrero . I tip my hat rather than just hat tip.

Jen: That's a great example and I would love to introduce Patricia now. I know Patricia... gosh, I'm so grateful for your careful eye, your expertise, and I know that you have just poured your heart and soul into this project as the head translator and editor for the project. And I thought we could talk a little bit about, besides just the hat tip key terms in the book that sort of just don't have a direct translation in Spanish and some of the early conversations around what would be the best way to represent the key terms or ideas in a Spanish version. So I remember we were sitting at the table with the advisers and with you and with Eduardo, we were talking about the word engagement. And what would be the best word. What did you end up with for engagement?

Patricia: Well, engagement was one of the most challenging words. We went back and forth several times. We considered participar, like participate in or encourage or attract or dedicate, dedication to reading. And we finally went with despertar interés, which is like spark interest. But there were several terms that we consulted with our writers and translators, also stamina, for instance was one that presented some challenges. Also retelling, for instance, we also had several suggestions and we went with volver a contar.

We did use the glossaries that we have gathered over the years and are widely used in educational publishing here in the United States. We also talked to bilingual teachers and educators. Also, I contacted some of my colleagues at UT where I got my Master's degree in bilingual education. So those are the resources that we have been using.

Jen: I found all the conversations just so fascinating and interesting. I hope you found them that way too. I just love being part of the small bit that I was a part of it, I just loved it. I know the other consideration was dialect, which dialect of Spanish to use in the translation. Can you talk a bit about what you decided to do and what went into your decision.

Patricia: Sure. We have used a neutral or also called a standard Latin American Spanish, which is a variation of Spanish that avoids some local terminology or expressions or grammatical constructions that are specific to one country or one region. So with that we try to reach out to the greatest number of Spanish speakers and also we try to teach to English speakers a form of Spanish that is widely understood.

Jen: That's so helpful. So back to Eduardo. I know that as a linguist you're particularly interested in the nuance of language, differences between languages and you really helped us think about not just using all the same strategies that are in the English version in the Spanish, but rather to add some strategies to the Spanish edition that didn't exist in English. Can you share with us some examples of some of the additional lessons that are in the Spanish versions and why they were important to include.

Eduardo: One of the thoughts guiding the new lessons or the replacement lessons as well is that there are skills in English that don't apply to Spanish, such as short vowels versus long vowels. Spanish spelling and pronunciation is very predictable. There are basically five vowels. So we had a lesson, a strategy on diphthongs because those are challenging. And it's also part of the skills that have to be met at different grade levels. So in terms of grade level expectations, Spanish speaking students need to be able to spell correctly and be able to read diphthongs in Spanish. And even simple words like agua. So right there you can see that word agua has a lot more vowels than the English word water. And it happens a lot with Spanish words, even very simple ones, peine for comb. So those diphthongs that we taught and that was a new lesson where we taught the main diphthongs in Spanish.

Another big one of course is accent marks. They don't exist in English except with some French and even Spanish borrowings, but it's not really part of the English language. In Spanish, they're huge and they can signal a difference in meaning. They're not just there for orthographic reasons. The simplest example is the word for potato and for dad. They're both P-A-P-A, but potato is papa, P-A-P-A no accent mark. Dad is papá, P-A-P-A with an accent mark on the last A. The accent marks in Spanish are used to indicate where the primary stress falls on the word.

So understanding that these little markings, these accent marks actually signal a difference in meaning and they're different words is an important skill to understand in Spanish. As kids go up the grade levels they also learn that even verb tenses can be very different just based on a little accent work on one of those vowels.

Jen: Patricia last question for you. I know that one of the things that you and your team took a lot of care with was making sure that the mentor texts and the sample read alouds and demonstration texts, the children's literature that are mentioned in the English version, whenever possible you swapped out with an authentic Spanish title. Can you share some of what you found or why that was important to you all?

Patricia: Yes. So whenever it was possible we replaced those English texts with culturally relevant books written in Spanish, and by Spanish I mean mostly Latino authors, native speaker authors. I considered this to be very important because research has shown that students flourish and are more likely to learn when they see themselves reflected in the curriculum or where they can identify themselves with the characters and the situation, the settings in the stories they read.

So for instance, in a strategy about rhythm in English, they mentioned the Rain Stomper by Boswell. We have used Jose Louis Orozco's poem, Rin, Rin, Rin/Do Re Mi, which is, Jose Luis Orozco is a very well known poet and a writer of children's literature. Another example for instance is a strategy where you are teaching the children to think about life events that have happened again and again. In English you used When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant and we switched that with Cuadros de Familia by Carmen Lomas Garza, where she narrates and illustrates moments in her life reflecting the Mexican traditions of of Hispanic families in the US.

Another example that I was just looking at this morning is a strategy about using character dialogue and dialects for historical accuracy. And there you use the section from Going to School in 1876 by Loeper and we switched that for a passage from Don Quixote. So all that to help students to establish these connections and of course always taken into account the strategy that is being taught and how books reflect these strategies.

Jen: Oh, I think that is so important and I'm so, so glad that you did that. For kids to be able to see themselves in books is so crucial and I think that teachers are really going to appreciate meeting some new books, finding some new resources that they can use in their classrooms. Do you think a lot of them have also English translations, some of those children's books? I'm thinking in dual language classrooms, maybe having one teacher read the English version, one read the Spanish version.

Patricia: Yes. Whenever we found the book that you mentioned in the strategy, whenever we found that this book had been translated into Spanish, we used that because we exactly thought what you just mentioned, that in bilingual settings teachers may need to use both versions. We swapped the English books for Spanish authors only when we could not find the translations of the English texts. Some of them have the Spanish and the English text within the same spread or sometimes within the same page. But it's not in all the cases. There are just a few. Yes.

Jen: Thank you. So I know that early on throughout the process and even afterward we enlisted the help of some educators, some coaches from Florida, New York, Texas and people that travel around. We really wanted to make sure that we were getting it right and we were keeping in mind all the different states where these resources might be used and that we were hearing from teachers and coaches and people who work with teachers to support them in their literacy instruction.

So I'd like to introduce some of them now. I'm going to start off with Emily Deliddo. Emily was a colleague of mine at the Reading and Writing Project at Teacher's College. I've known Emily for a long time and I know that she has and continues to support Spanish literacy instruction in Mexico, in Bogota, Columbia. She supports bilingual and dual language teachers across the United States. So hi Emily.

Emily: Hi Jen.

Jen: I thought maybe you could talk a little bit about how you might consider using these books in those different settings.

Emily: Sure, absolutely. Yeah, like you mentioned, for many years my work has supported schools in that exploration of reading and writing workshop. Many times in Spanish language instruction, pretty much all the schools I work with are teaching within some version of a unit of study. Some schools have written their own units, others follow published units or use strategies from your books in their reading strategies and writing strategies books to either create new units or supplement their own units.

Within that though, teachers pretty much all implement small group work and that's pretty much where I find the strongest fit for the strategy books pretty easily into that work that I support. The language allocation plan that a school's following, there's a place for those texts in classrooms. So across all of those geographic locations, schools are working on differentiation to really meet the needs of learners, not only at their stages of literacy but also their stages of language.

The reading strategies book is pretty fresh in my mind right now, and I think a quick example is when I've worked with teachers referencing the strategy books to plan small group work. So at one site, all the dual language teachers had grade level planning sessions for strategy lessons. The teachers each brought running records, other reading data for four to six readers in their room or their section. Basically teachers analyzed their own data in pairs. They made lists of strategies that different readers might benefit from, and then quickly headed back into the reading strategies book. The table of contents is super helpful I think for trying to delineate and discern kind of what is the next path for readers. So teachers have planned that kind of on the go quickly thought, "Okay I'm going to teach this strategy," used read alouds that they use in their classroom similar to what Patricia said. That book is so important around the work. And not just the representation but also its place within a classroom.

So I guess at those sessions on a most basic level, teachers had to translate, not even necessarily going into it and sharing around transadaptation, but just even understanding like how do we say word wall or how do we say strategy. The idea that that was different with different people was important. So basically working with colleagues is an important part of that time.

Then we've been able to create lab sites where each teacher brings that group of readers that they want to support kind of in the moment. Teachers implement that strategy with their own learners, their own students, building on the language and explanation from the strategies book, kind of finding out what works, but doing it with the support and feedback from their partner, their wing man or wing woman to then reflect on. I think that professional learning piece is pretty huge.

The one slight difference to that, and I guess very similarly, I've done that work with the writing strategies book. In the past in Bogota I've worked with Spanish teachers who provide daily exposure to the language and the history instruction more in an ancillary role than the classroom teacher role. And students' abilities in both languages can be at quite different levels. So texts like the writing strategies and reading strategies allows those teachers access to freezes and knowledge of content that runs parallel to what the classroom teachers are providing. It's kind of this beautiful partnership.

I tend to think often about how the consistency of language and structure is essential to growth. Both language and literacy-wise. So thinking about how those resources fit together is pretty helpful. And as a former transitional bilingual and dual language teacher as well, professional books like these are pretty important in my own life. So those are just a couple of quick thoughts

Jen: And I'm so grateful to you for being one of the readers. I should have mentioned that, but I know that you advised early on in our early conversations and then you also read through and commented throughout the book and worked in collaboration with Patricia and her team. So I'm so grateful for your careful eye on all of that.

So I have a question for you, Mayra. You're a coach in a large district in Texas with a lot of bilingual students. I'm wondering if you could share a little bit about how you might use reading and writing strategies in your district. How will you use them as a coach?

Mayra: In my district, and I believe in all districts, coaches play many roles when supporting classroom teachers. And we spend a lot of time analyzing data, like running records, anecdotal notes, writing samples, teacher developed assessments and also standardized testing. And bilingual teachers, they have to evaluate all of these assessments in both languages. In Spanish and in English.

Jen: Oh, wow, I didn't even think about that.

Mayra: It's a lot, and you have to look at everything using two different lenses. So they have to use the content lens and also the language lens. And then based on all that bilingual teachers have to plan whole group lessons and small group lessons to meet the needs of all students in both languages. And as teachers are super busy so it can be very time consuming to plan those lessons and also to have those resources there to look at when preparing.

And they often say, "You know what, Mayra, there's not many Spanish resources available to plan these lessons." So, I see these books being used as a resource where teachers have accessible, easy to follow Spanish lessons to select from when planning for instruction. And sometimes it's difficult for teachers to know what strategies to teach students. So as a coach I would guide teachers on selecting strategies from the books that fit under that bigger concept that they're trying to teach or that goal that they're trying to reach. And I'd use the language and the lessons to show them how to frame it in whatever structure they may be using, whether it be mini lesson, a strategy group or a conference.

Jen: Do you think a lot of kids would end up having the same goal in English and in Spanish?

Mayra: That's where we kind of have to guide them. Some goals transfer from one language to the other. Especially those comprehension ones. So yeah, they might have that same goal, but you only have to teach it in one language because it'll transfer from one to the other. When we're looking more at decoding, anything that has to do with grammar, language structure, those word patterns, those don't transfer. So we do have to make sure to teach them in whatever language we're meeting the needs of the students.

Jen: Clarissa, I'm going to introduce you. Clarissa is a teacher in Florida and before that I know you taught in your home country, Nicaragua, and you were a Spanish language teacher in New York. And so many of your students either were learning Spanish or are bilingual but now are learning in English. And I was just thinking that you bring an interesting perspective as well as a native Spanish speaker, but then also as somebody who's working currently in a school where you instruct only in English, right?

Clarissa: Yes. I instruct in English. Jen, how are you?

Jen: I'm good. How are you doing?

Clarissa: Thanks Jen. Thank you so much. First of all, I want to tell you I feel grateful to be part of this project. It's really fulfilling and rewarding professionally for me. And when I was going through the review of the book, something that kept coming back to my mind was I can't wait to share this with the Spanish department in my school. I kept thinking that they're going to be so excited to have this resource. Like Emily was saying, giving them some time to plan together and just go through these strategies and see how they can use them and their small group work or in their one-on-one instruction.

But then as I kept reading and doing some reflection, I'm like, "Oh my God, these resources are going to be powerful for me even if I teach in English," because I have, like you said, I have usually every year I have at least six students whose Spanish is their first language, and they're not reading and writing in English yet. So for them when I'm doing my teaching is a little bit challenging when they're learning to read and writing English.

So I could definitely use these resources and sit down with them. And it's not that they don't know how to read or write, it's just a language barrier at that moment. I could sit down and get to know them really well as readers and writers in their own language and really know what they're able to do, what are their strengths and what are some of the areas where I can help them in their language. And at the same time help them transfer those skills and those knowledge and those strategies into the English that they're learning. So I thought these are going to be very powerful resources.

Another way that I also thought, and I think I'm going to tell, those teachers who don't speak Spanish, but they teach in English. this is a great resource to use as partnership with the Spanish teachers in your building. That's lovely what Emily was saying about how when she goes and do her work in schools, how she had teachers work together just because these resources were not available in Spanish yet, and they had to go and look at the English version. But now that they have the Spanish version, just sitting down with a Spanish teacher and asking her, "Can you please tell me a little bit more about this student who we work together with so that I can get to know that student a little bit more." I think that's powerful. It's definitely going to bring a lot of collaboration, these resources.

And just going back to something that Patricia mentioned, which I think is really, really important. It's about how you see authentic literature in this resources. I think that that's powerful. Now I think about my classroom and I do have a few sets of Spanish books, books that are written in Spanish. And something that I try to do in my library is to make sure that I have books that represent the culture of my students, but having those books written in Spanish are even more powerful for my students, especially for those who speak that language. For them to be able to go in the classroom and get a book in their language and feel successful even though they don't feel as successful in English, so they have something to hold onto and feel successful. In that way their motivation is going to keep growing.

So yes, those are some of the different ways that I am already planning to go ahead and use right when we get started.

Jen: Thank you. I think that's so helpful. And thinking back to when I was a New York City public school teacher, I actually taught in a dual language school. I was not part of the dual language program. I was in a monolingual track, but the kids who were the dual language classrooms were receiving instruction in English and Spanish on alternating days. They switched classrooms every day. But I had a lot of kids from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic mostly, in my particular school spoke, Spanish at home with their families and I wish I had done more of that in my own classroom, providing more books in Spanish for them to read in my classroom. Maybe even just showing them charts written in Spanish so they could understand the strategy that I was asking them to apply even if they were applying it in their English books. I think there's lots of different possibilities where this might be helpful.

Jen:  I want to thank everybody so much for joining today. Thank you for your time and thank you for sharing your expertise, and especially thank you for all of the heart and soul and wisdom that you lent this project. I feel like the book is in such great hands and I feel really honored to have had some small part in working with all of you on this.

Download a sample chapter from El libro de estrategias de lectura!

Learn more about El libro de strategias de escritura!

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Jennifer Serravallo is the author of New York Times’ bestseller The Reading Strategies Book as well as other popular Heinemann professional books, The Writing Strategies BookTeaching Reading in Small Groups; and The Literacy Teacher's Playbook, Grades K–2 and Grades 3–6. Her newest books are Understanding Texts & Readers, and A Teacher's Guide to Reading Conferences.

In Spring 2019, Jen’s new Complete Comprehension: Fiction and Complete Comprehension: Nonfiction were released. These assessment and teaching resources expands upon the comprehension skill progressions from Understanding Texts & Readers and offer hundreds more strategies like those in The Reading Strategies Book.

Additionally, Jen is the author of the On-Demand Courses Strategies in Action: Reading and Writing Methods and Content and Teaching Reading in Small Groups: Matching Methods to Purposes, where you can watch dozens of videos of Jen teaching in real classrooms and engage with other educators in a self-guided course.

Learn more about Jen and her work at https://www.heinemann.com/jenniferserravallo/, on Twitter @jserravallo, on Instagram @jenniferserravallo, or by joining The Reading and Writing Strategies Facebook Community.

Posted by: Steph GeorgePublished:

Topics: Podcast, The Reading Strategies Book, The Writing Strategies Book, Heinemann Podcast, Jennifer Serravallo, Jennifer Serravallo Podcasts, Spanish

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