Secret Agent Fans Want to Know-Part 1

My students have asked a lot of questions after reading four chapters of Agentes Secretos and after their first look at Picasso’s Guernica (after reading Chapter Four):

  1. What part of Spain is  Guernica in? Why isn’t it on the map?
  2. Why did Franco choose to bomb such a small town when he could have killed more people by bombing a larger city?
  3. When did the Spanish Civil War start? Why?
  4. Was there a connection between WWII and the Spanish Civil War?
  5. Why would he bomb his own people?
  6. How did he bomb the city?
  7. Why did the Germans help Franco?
  8. Who are the Basques? Are they Spanish? What is their culture like?
  9. Did Franco die of natural causes or did someone kill him?
  10. How many years was he the dictator of Spain?

We don’t have time to answer all of these questions in class. Too much time in English. It tells me that they are very interested in the topic and that they want to set the story in its proper context. I just get thrilled that kids want to know about history. Next time I teach this, I hope to give them age-appropriate information to augment their learning experience.

Information that has come up that makes them think, stimulates them to make connections to today, to notice patterns from history, and makes them feel compassion for others:

  • German airplanes strafed Guernica, dropping bombs on the city and its people for three hours.
  • It was market day in Guernica, on the day of the bombing, so  many people were outdoors, in the streets, and away from home.
  • Franco was Spanish and he bombed his own people.
  • Germany was responsible for the actual bombing (helping Franco).
  • The United States also bombs and kills people in other countries (helping the leaders of those nations).
  • Franco tried to “shock and awe” the people of Spain with the attack on Guernica, very much like the American bombing of Iraq meant to paralyze the adversary and destroy its will to fight back.
  • Picasso was hired to paint a mural for the World’s Fair (Paris International Exposition). The fair highlighted the technology of the day–airplanes, being an important technological advancement of the time. That technology destroyed Guernica. The ironic connection is inescapable. How might that look today?

Cosas de la vida:

One of my kids, who works very hard to overcome hyperactivity and attention problems, told me yesterday that when he was out sick the other day, he was watching television at home. This show on the Discovery Channel came on–something about Hindenburg. They started talking about Franco and his relationship with Hitler. The kid said that it seemed very coincidental that, as we are starting to learn about this period and these people, he sees this on TV. He said he wouldn’t have noticed it at all if we hadn’t been reading Agentes Secretos. He is just a sixth grader, but he is thinking and beginning to connect important things. Hurrah for Agentes Secretos!

3 thoughts on “Secret Agent Fans Want to Know-Part 1

  1. Still getting used to the editing on this blog. Sorry for so many mistakes. In one of my edits that didn’t quite make it was the comment that I know Mira, the author, is working on auxiliary materials for the book. I look forward to seeing (and purchasing) them soon.

  2. Reading this, I so wish that we had similar works in Russian. Spanish teachers are very lucky to have Mira writing books that grab kids’ attention and make them want to know what happened in history.

    I’d love to come up with some sort of story around almost anything in Russian history, but it takes a person well-versed in the details of history as well as knowledgeable about what makes kids (especially boys) want to read. Then add writing skill and creativity–I’m just not getting there fast!!

  3. I agree with you 100% on all of these points. One thing I have noticed, however, is that the book alone is NOT going to make this happen. Your skills as a teacher, your relationships with your students, and the trust atmosphere that you create in your classroom work together WITH the book to form this interest that you talk about in your note above. (I know you have those.)

    Yeah, writing one of these “lower level” texts is much harder than it would initially appear. We are certainly luck to have Mira writing these books.

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