La Ruta Larga: A listening unit Part 1

If you have not checked out Radio Ambulante yet, now is the time to do so. It’s a compelling Spanish-language podcast produced by NPR and it’s been an invaluable resource for my own professional development (linguistically and culturally!) over the past year, as well as a wonderful authentic resource to use with my Heritage Spanish classes. I had not considered using it for my Spanish 3 until a couple of weeks ago – when I listened to yet another amazing story, this one about Cubans taking the long road to make it to the United States. It’s fascinating, devastating, and complex. I was listening to it in the car, and when I reached my destination, I stayed in the car to finish it.

My Spanish 3s have been reading Esperanza by Carol Gaab and learning about immigration, and I try to bring in as many cultural perspectives as possible surrounding the immigration issue. For Esperanza and these Cuban immigrants, circumstances, background, and legal issues are quite different and yet they have the same dream to cross the same border. I knew I had to bring this podcast into my classroom. Authentic? Yes. Compelling? Absolutely. Comprehensible? Hmmmm…

I repeated the mantra “change the task, not the resource” as I figured out how to scaffold for students. After a couple of pre-activities, we started the podcast at the end of this week. We have only listened to 3 minutes of it so far. I asked my students for a thumb-o-meter on how they felt about those three minutes – should I pause more? Are they understanding? Thumbs up everywhere with several students saying, “We are understanding it! You can pause less!” Win.

La Ruta Larga Pre-Activities:

(1) Gallery Walk with Images and Text
I pulled some images from this USA Today Slideshow. Students don’t know enough about the history of Cuba and immigration from Cuba, and for this podcast students need that background information.
Here was our process for Gallery Walk:
A. For 10 minutes, students silently and individually look at pictures and added sticky notes with questions or what they think is happening in the photo (yellow and blue stickies in the pictures).
B. For 20 minutes, students worked in partners and read what was beneath the pictures, clarifying with each other for understanding. Then, together they could respond to questions or write their impressions (pink and green stickies in the pictures).

This activity gave them the background knowledge needed to proceed with the topics of the podcast, and it also served as a formative assessment for me to see what they already know about Cuba and immigration.

(2) Anticipation Guide
Students completed the before part of this Anticipation Guide for homework, and then we had a class discussion about it the next day. I would ask the class who was in agreement/disagreement and then have one person from each side explain their reasoning or predictions.

I am very pleased with how well the Gallery Walk and Anticipation Guide prepared my students, and they seemed to enjoy it! Can’t wait to listen to the rest of the podcast with them this week. Stay tuned for a Part 2 post coming with During Listening Activities!

UPDATE: Part 2 has been posted!


  1. […] This is Part 2 of a series of posts about using a La Ruta Larga, a particular podcast from Radio Ambulante, with Spanish 3 students. I’m currently teaching it for the first time (just came out mid-October!) but I think I would like to use it again with my Heritage classes next year. To see the first post with pre-listening activities, click here. […]


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