Lesson Plan 3

Title “1.200 fosas todavía por abrir”
Subject Spanish
Level(s) III / IV / V (Intermediate High / Advanced Low)
World Language Standards Students will read authentic texts to gather information (Standard 1.2), discuss what they have learned and their opinions about it (Standard 1.1), understand the relationship between products, practices and perspectives of Spain (Standards 2.1, 2.2), acquire information with a distinctive viewpoint from an authentic source and engage in an ethical-historical debate (Standards 3.1, 3.2).
Keywords Mass graves, victims of Francoism, historical memory, issues of government involvement, family vocabulary, fear vocabulary, death and burial vocabulary, large numbers, structures using infinitives

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Essential questions What responsibility does a State have for historical events?
Synopsis Students will be reading an authentic newspaper article about mass graves left unattended since the days of the Spanish Civil War and about one organization’s attempt to recover the bodies and provide them with decent burials.  Along the way, students will learn about (or apply their knowledge of) key events in twentieth-century Spanish history, and consider the essential question, below.  They will also develop their Spanish vocabulary and their reading ability.
Standard Alignment(s) used
Recommended Teacher Background The teacher will need to be able to answer students’ questions about the background knowledge section of the reading guide.  You will find useful information below, and at the following links:

  • 23-F is 23 Feb 1981, the date of a right-wing coup attempt in Spain in the infancy of the current government
  • 20-N is 20 Nov 1975, the date of Franco’s death.
  • Valle de los Caídos (Also search for news articles regarding the latest on the controversy surrounding it.)
  • Federico García Lorca
  • The geography of Spain. See also the provided map of political parties that governed different regions since the 1978 Constitution.  (Communities are shaded with the color of the party that has controlled them for most or all of the year span indicated on the map.  If a community has more than one color, each party has had control for a significant span of years.)  PP is the primary conservative party, often derided by the left as the inheritors of Francoism.  PSOE is the primary progressive party.  Several other autonomous parties operate in various Autonomous Communities.  http://www.partidospoliticos.net/ to see all of Spain’s political parties.
  • Etxeberria is a Basque last name.  The Basque region has historically been anti-Francoist.

A useful resource is on the Spanish Civil War is the ALBA website.

Connection to other disciplines Students will make connections to history, geography, political science and ethics in this lesson.
Number of class periods


Objectives Standards adressed
Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.10
Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1
Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.1
Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.7


Pre-Assessment, Activation of Prior Knowledge: Students will be reading an authentic text from El País about mass graves. They should have practice reading authentic texts and a solidly Intermediate High to Advanced Low language ability. Spend adequate time on the pre-reading activities below, as they will help to introduce important vocabulary and cultural information to facilitate student reading.  Be sure that students understand a rough timeline of the Civil War and the Transition to Democracy.  They should also understand the two sides of the Civil War and the two major parties  in Spanish politics today, the PP and the PSOE.  (See Recommended Teacher Background Resources, above.) Lesson Activities:

  1. Lead-In/Hook: Start by introducing the sets of vocabulary related to fear, death and burial.  You may select a small subset of words to introduce to the students in model sentences.  Then, have them begin to form their own sentences to use with each other.  As they begin to wonder why they are learning these words, you have them hooked into the article.  Another approach might be to directly ask them how to bury someone decently, or what things our government should have to tell us.  Some use of English might be necessary here.
  2. Step by Step:
    1. Antes de leer – Have students work through the first four sets of vocabulary on the reading guide, getting practice with their dictionaries.  You may wish to have them do other practice, such as writing original sentences or quizzing each other on the words.  You may want to suggest to the students that they only learn the vocabulary for recognition, rather than for mastery.  The lists are generated to help them read the article.  You may also wish to select some vocabulary to be active vocabulary for them.
    2. Re-teach higher numbers, if necessary and have the students practice the numbers they will see in the article.  Encourage them to read them in their head (or aloud) in Spanish, rather than jumping into English.
    3. Review the structures with them, explaining what each one means.  You may also wish to find them in the article and read around them.
    4. Go over any background cultural information with them.  If you’ve been studying twentieth-century Spanish civilization at all, they may know some of these things.
    5. A leer – You may need to repeat and recycle the previous steps, until the students are confident and prepared, ready to read the article.  Give them plenty of time to read the article individually and use the questions to guide them.  Since the question numbers are tied into the paragraphs, you may advise them to number the paragraphs in the article.  You may also wish to preview the questions with them.
    6. In groups, have students review the questions and their answers with each other.  See Differentiation, below.
    7. Go over the answers with the students and have any necessary discussion.
        Answers and comments (marked with asterisks):

      • 1a.- Los dejaron al aire para que la gente aprendiera del «ejemplo».  Solo después fueron tirados a la fosa.
      • 1b.- Después de la muerte de Franco, «hubo numerosas exhumaciones».
      • 1c.- Se interrumpió (después d)el 23 de febrero de 1981 por el golpe.
      • 2a.- A las 11 de la mañana, un arqueólogo, Julio Vidal, desenterró una bota en la provincia de León.
      • 2b.- Emilio Silva Barrera (*explícales que Emilio Silva Faba es el abuelo. Recuérdales cómo se heredan los apellidos en España.) empezó la Asociación para la Recuperación de la Memoria Histórica para ayudar a familiares que quieran recuperar los restos de sus seres queridos y volver a enterrarlos.  Él la empezó porque la bota (de la pregunta 2a) fue de su abuelo.  (*Asegúrate de que entiendan a qué se refiere el pronombre lo al final de ese párrafo.)
      • 3a.- Se han abierto 363 con más de 5400 víctimas.  Promedio = 14,87 cadáveres / fosa.  Quedan 1.200 por abrir, así que es lógico que encuentren a unos 17.851 más.  Sabemos que encontrarán aun más cuando exhumen los que están enterrados en el Valle de los Caídos.
      • 3b.- En diciembre de 2009, habían gastado 47 días de trabajo y 70.000 € de inversión para encontrar una enorme roca y nada más.
      • 4a.- Hay un punto que señala cada fosa común (2.232 en total).  No se puede ver las fronteras entre las comunidades autónomas con tantos puntos. (*Muéstrales el mapa de fosas y si te apetece, el mapa de las comunidades según quien les gobierna.)
      • 5a.- Muchas de las fosas se han convertido en vertederos.
      • 5b.- Los herederos de los asesinos también han escrito en las fosas: Fueron ajusticiados, no asesinados. / Rojos, os falta memoria. / Vencimos y venceremos. Falange.
      • 5c.- Cada 20-N hay disturbios nostálgicos y neonazis con ganas de bronca. Cada vez menos, pero los hay.
      • 6a.- Se aprendió el miedo durante la dictadura.  Pero en la democracia, eso se ha disipado, ahora quieren recobrar la memoria.  En los últimos diez años, la gente ha empezado a salir a la calle a buscar justicia.
      • 6b.- Silva es el fundador de la Asociación para la Recuperación de la Memoria Histórica.  Él insiste en que el gobierno asuma y subvencione las exhumaciones. Ahora lo hacen voluntarios pero para él, el Gobierno deberá cerrar las propias heridas.
      • 7.- No. Partes del gobierno no reaccionan contra los franquistas.
    8. Either as you discuss the individual questions, or as you finish, probe how students feel/think about some of the following:
      • the use of punished criminals as “examples” (Question 1a),
      • what it must feel like to claim your missing grandfather’s boot (Question 2b),
      • the sheer numbers of bodies (Question 3a),
      • the amount of time and money spent to try to find someone famous, when so many anonymous dead are still unclaimed (Question 3b),
      • the political system (paragraph 4),
      • the Francoists and Neo-Nazis – the idea of a conflict still unresolved today – (Questions 5b and 5c),
      • the change in recent years toward demanding justice (Question 6a),
      • the role of government versus private enterprise (Question 6b).
  3. Closure: Después de leer – Be sure to give the students plenty of time to debate the particulars.  As their conversation moves to more universal issues, let the central guiding question be, ¿Qué responsabilidad tiene un Estado por los acontecimientos históricos?  After they have debated some, have them commit to something on paper.  Have them write a paragraph or two response to this question, either in the universal sense or in the specific case of Spain and the Civil War dead.  You may wish to have them write in English or Spanish, as their abilities allow, or offer tiered compensation for those who choose to write in Spanish versus English.  Collect the papers to be graded according to the rubric below, but also bring back some of their best ideas and most incendiary statements to generate one final debate in class. Differentiation: Having students work in groups to answer the questions will provide a great way to have students help each other, and for the teacher to give extra help or extra challenges to the students with special needs.  If some students will have more difficulty reading between the lines, you may wish to shorten the list of questions to the most literal, and then add the other questions back in on a second pass through the text.


In addition to the written response described above, a brief quiz (See Materials) will show students how they have developed in their reading abilities and vocabulary.  There are rubrics provided for each of these assessments.