Writing Resources That Give Students the Freedom to Explore

Writing Resources That Give Students the Freedom to Explore

“El aquelarre” by Francisco de Goya is in the Public Domain

When he began compiling his textbook anthology Leyendas y arquetipos del Romanticismo español, Robert Sanders knew that his students weren’t taking upper-level Spanish to become professors of Spanish literature. They were mostly minoring in Spanish with other career goals in mind. This sort of insight into students’ needs is what makes open resources authored by language instructors so valuable for modern education.

Leyendas y arquetipos is an openly-licensed introduction to nineteenth-century Spanish literature for intermediate university students of Spanish. Dr. Sanders chose the works of poetry, drama in verse, and short stories for their literary interest and the social importance of their themes. After piloting the book with students, he compiled vocabulary, historical, and cultural annotations to facilitate comprehension.

Dr. Sanders made many choices in compiling and writing the anthology to allow students the flexibility to pursue their own interests. He did not prioritize any one interpretation of the texts in the anthology. The discussion questions mention scholarly works as a jumping off point for analysis rather than a definitive interpretation. The author biographies in the anthology are short in order to encourage further investigation and richer discussion by students, and the book lists sources for further research, such as Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes, the Centro Virtual Cervantes of the Cervantes Institute, or the Biblioteca Digital Hispánica of the Spanish National Library. In his course, students have  even created their own multimedia take on a chosen work by creating fan fiction, graphic novels, film storyboards, and musical compositions.

The multimedia potential of the book is also reflected in the paintings, photographs from films, and other art that are as valuable as the texts in their potential to teach about literary and social movements of the time. The art provides a whole other avenue of exploration and analysis to students.

Dr. Sanders compiled the book himself with support from the Portland State University Library, which has supported the prolific creation of open textbooks (several of them for languages) in order to save students money and provide a customized learning experience. The book has a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license, which means that anyone can copy it, share it, and make modifications, as long as they give attribution to the author, maintain the same license, and do not make a profit off of it. With this in mind, what could you do with this book? Has it given you ideas about reading with your students? Tell us in the comments.

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