The novel Vida y Muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha is a compelling drama about life and death in the MS-13 gang. We read it in level 4 and I always like to do a lot of pre-reading activities to prepare the students for the novel. I give them vocabulary that they need to acquire, background cultural knowledge, and I hook them. Here is what I do to accomplish that.
- Unit Hook from Kristy Placido: “Recruiting Day” Have an administrator come in and “remove” a couple students. Read more about this hook HERE.
- Background Info on El Salvador: In order for the students to better understand the culture and history of the novel, I briefly talk about El Salvador and its civil war. I make sure to talk about the FMLN and about the recruiting of 12 year old for the war. I use the slideshow found on this site.
- Film Study. We watch Voces Inocentes before reading the novel. It is a powerful film that shows the instability of El Salvador during the war. It is a great lead in to the novel. Kara Jacobs has great discussion questions on her blog.
- Essential Questions. I give them this essential questions sheet as a guide through out the unit. They answer the questions as we discuss the film and the novel.
- Pre-teach vocabulary. I pre-teach a lot of the vocabulary structures from the novel using TPR. I used this TPR story as a way to do that. I had students act out the story as I read it.
- After about two weeks of pre-reading activities, we are ready to start the novel.
- The teacher’s guide has a lot of great activities for this novel. It is a must buy!
- Other resources for this novel: