I got lucky with my Spanish 3 class this year. I had a class full of motivated, excited students who really wanted to learn. It breaks my heart that I have to leave them now – I’m moving to a new school in the fall. With only a few months left with these awesome students, I wanted to leave them with something they could treasure forever. So we wrote, illustrated, and published short stories in Spanish on Amazon – giving them a REAL audience to show off their Spanish! Here’s how we did it:
Step 1: Writing the stories
I gave my students complete freedom on what they wanted to write. All I told them was that we were going to write short stories and work on them every Thursday until the end of the school year. You could definitely give them more parameters than that though, like how long it should be and what story elements it should contain. I just wanted to let them be creative – and they were definitely creative with it!
I gave them two 40-minute class periods (a week apart – we only worked on the stories on Thursdays) to write the stories. Anything they didn’t finish was homework due the next week. During that time I played Spanish music, let them discuss and write their stories, and helped them come up with ideas.
Another important step at this point is getting permission to publish student work. Ask your principal and then send home permission slips. I work at a private school that needs money, so my principal was on board when I told him the money would come back to the school! You could also set it up so that the money goes towards a charity of your choice, or even to your own classroom to buy more FVR books!
Step 2: Illustrating and conferencing
The third week of working on the stories I pulled students aside one by one (we have a small class of 10 students) and I read the story out loud to the student in English to clarify meaning. If something wasn’t clear, we discussed how to correctly write it in Spanish. We discussed if they could add anything to their stories, like more drama, action, or dialogue. I also corrected some grammar and word choices – for example, one student wrote “alienígena” as alien, but we changed it to the more commonly used (at least in my experience) “extraterrestre”.
While I was conferencing with one student, the rest worked on their illustrations. I am so impressed with how seriously they took it! Our book now has some great pictures that truly add to the stories. I had them draw on plain white paper and outline their drawings with a thin black sharpie pen. Two students had already started their illustrations in color, so I just changed them to black and white when I added them to the book.
Step 3: Final drafts
Their final drafts were due a week after conferencing. I then typed them up (in the future – and if we’d had more time – I would have students type them to save me a LOT of time). I corrected some more grammar when I typed them up, things I missed in the first read through. I then asked for proofreaders on Karen Rowan’s How to Write a CI Novel Facebook group and had the incredible Jennifer Degenhardt and John Sifert volunteer to proofread the stories! I was super excited because Jennifer and John’s books are some of my students’ favorites during FVR. My students were SO excited when I told them who edited their book! I shared the stories with them via Google Docs and they made comments and suggestions.
Step 4: Formatting on CreateSpace
After editing the final versions of each story, I created a CreateSpace account (which is run by Amazon). This is the site that will publish your book FOR FREE and offer it on Amazon. Here are the detailed CreateSpace steps you’ll need to take:
- Make an account and log in.
- Click “Add new title”.
- Fill out the name of your book, what kind of product it is (paperback), and choose whether you want the guided or expert process. I’d suggest guided.
- Fill out the Title Information page with the book’s title (again), author name, language, and publication date.
- Click next to get your free ISBN number.
- Click next and move onto the Interior page. Choose whether you want black & white or color. Black & white is much cheaper to print, so you can sell your book for less. Also choose whether you want white or cream paper color. This is personal preference because I think they’re the same price. Chose your trim size – I did 6″x9″, but definitely pick one of their recommended sizes. Then download a formatted Word® template to add your text to. The template you download will have the right sized pages for the trim size you chose.
- Add your text to your Word® template. Make sure your proofing language is set to Spanish so your text isn’t filled with annoying dotted red lines!
- Add your glossary. This took me forever. I should have had my students do it! I went through the stories word by word and added EVERY SINGLE WORD to the glossary. I included every verb form as well, so voy, vas, and va are different entries. The glossary is important if it’s going into any classroom library. It makes the book readable for any level.
- Add the illustrations. I took pictures on my phone of each illustration and edited them using the app A Color Story. I layered the black & white filter multiple times on each photo so that the white background was as white as possible and would blend in on the white book pages. I added the photos on Word® by clicking Insert -> Photo -> Picture from file.
- Create a PDF of the book. Click “save as” and change .doc to .pdf. Super easy!
- Upload your PDF to CreateSpace where it says “Interior file”.
- Create a cover. You can use CreateSpace’s Cover Creator or any other program you’d like. I used Canva to make mine. Just make sure your dimensions are right! I also added our ISBN to the cover on Canva using an online barcode generator. If you created your cover on Canva or another non-CreateSpace platform, select Upload a Print-Ready PDF Cover.
- Submit your files for review. The process can take up to 24 hours, but you’ll get an email with any issues the CreateSpace team found with your files, such as the images being low resolution or the cover being the wrong size.
- After you fix any issues, you can order a proof of your book. You do have to pay for the book and shipping on this one.
- When you receive your proof, read through it to make sure everything looks alright. Then continue to Sales Channels.
- Select the free sales channels – Amazon.com and Amazon Europe. Your book will be available internationally!
- Decide on a price. I think it depends on how many pages your book is, but the minimum price I could set was $3.59. I set the book at $6, which is what most FVR books are sold for. We still only make a small profit from each sale – $1.45 – but it is better than nothing!
- Add your book description. Make sure to add that it is for Spanish language learners and written by students. Also include whether it has a glossary and what level it is written for. Add keywords, too, so that people can find your book when they search terms like fvr, tprs, comprehensible input, etc.
- Under Royalty Payment Information on your account page, make sure your royalties (earnings) are going where they should. I set it up so that my school receives a check for what we earn. You can also do direct deposit.
Step 5: Advertise and celebrate your book!
My students are sooo excited to be published Spanish authors. It’s worth celebrating! I advertised the book on Facebook in a few teacher groups, Twitter, and Instagram. There are some great and supportive language teacher communities on social media and I’m so grateful to be a part of them!
Here is the link to buy our book of short stories: https://www.amazon.com/Cuentos-Espa%C3%B1ol-Spanish-Se%C3%B1orita-Glasbrenner/dp/1719476012/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1527947080&sr=8-1&keywords=se%C3%B1orita+glasbrenner
I hope this post inspired you to do a project like this with your own students! It’s very versatile and gives students a real audience to write for. Plus it adds to FVR libraries across the world! We language teachers NEED more comprehensible readers!
Happy teaching and happy end of the school year! 🙂