SSR: El Jersey

Published in 2017 by Puentes Language

El Jersey is a 39-page story that tells a story about 7-year-old Matías (who is a real person, and whose actions inspired this book). I bought my copy from Amazon (technically Blue Eagle Credit Union bought it, as this is one of my grant titles!). This story revolves around two boys and one Messi jersey. The story is written in the third person present, with some chapters written about Matías and his experiences, while the others revolve around Brayan. It is written by Jennifer Degenhardt, a long-time Spanish teacher. It is clearly written and has a good glossary.

Now, excuse me for being super nerdy, but I like the word and line spacing in the publishing. At first glance, I worried that this book would appear too intense to attract my students to read it, especially since it has no illustrations. However, I really like how the words seem to have twice the normal amount of space between them, and the lines are double spaced. I feel like that blank space will help students focus on where they are instead of being overwhelmed by the number of words on the page.

I’ll stop talking about the book and return to the story now. As this story is told from the perspective of a 6-year-old and a 7-year-old, it is very logical to be written using such simple (and comprehensible!) language. Whereas we might expect an older character to speak more in depth, these kids’ thoughts are displayed using very concise language, without feeing forced in any way because it is the natural level of language used by 6 and 7-year-olds.

In addition to simple language, the age of the characters also made it easy to specifically highlight some differences in culture as the American Matías travels through Guatemala. I particularly adore that each boy’s story begins at their homes. The difference between their routines at home provided a nice base for comparison, which could be a nice spring-board for class conversations if this were used as a group reading. Another topic of conversation could easily be soccer, too! Many popular players are mentioned by name, as well as a few different teams which could be described and/or compared.

One of the parts I like best, especially if looking for a group-read (instead of FVR/SSR), is how each chapter has one overarching theme that may or may not appear in any other chapter. This could be great for pre-teaching and for providing pictures or other input. While one chapter describes different soccer teams, another describes how kids without proper soccer balls play still find a way to play. (That made me think of providing my students with my recycling scraps to see if any of them could create a useable ball, as was described in the story.)

Also, I just discovered the audio version of El Jersey in the Free Resources on www.puenteslanguage.com! I don’t know how long they will be there, but it’s an awesome feature while it lasts. Degenhardt also talks about this book specifically in her interview on Ashley Uyaguari’s Inspired Proficiency podcast, so be sure to listen to that if you plan on using this book in groups. If you like this book, she also has several other titles, but I don’t have any of them (yet).

And, as always, here are the stats I always want to know:

  • 39 pages
  • No illustrations
  • 12 chapters that range from 2 to 5 pages
  • 8-page glossary
  • Fictional story based on the real life actions of a 7-year-old American boy that takes place primarily in Guatemala.
  • This could be great for a group read, but it will stay in my SSR library for now because I already have several class sets of books that I need to use at least once before I ask for another class set of anything.

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