In episode 131, Maris Hawkins interviews Inga Paterson-Zuniga about all the ways her language teaching has changed over the years and how she got started writing comprehensible novels for Spanish learners. Inga shares how her teaching approaches have evolved over the years to be more equitable and focused on success for all students.

Or listen on iTunes/the Apple podcast app, on the Google Podcast app, or on Stitcher!

Download the full transcript here.


Show Notes

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Maris Hawkins is a secondary Spanish teacher and has been a contributor the We Teach Languages Podcast since December 2017. You can get in touch with Maris on Twitter @marishawkins or on her website


Inga Paterson-Zuniga teaches Spanish to novice students in grades 7-8 at West Essex Middle School. Inga has more than 20 years experience teaching. If you want to reach out to her, you can find her on Twitter @IngalaG2.


Resources mentioned in the episode…

…Magaly Rodriguez’s Berto y sus buenas ideas

…Inga’s book Cinco pesos

…Inga’s book Ahorita

…Inga’s newest book Madre tierra


If you want to cite this episode, our suggested APA reference is:
Johnson, S.M. (Producer), & Hawkins, M. (Interviewer). (2020). Evolving Teaching and Writing Comprehensible Novels with Inga Paterson-Zuniga [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from

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6 thoughts on “We Teach Languages Episode 131: Evolving Teaching and Writing Comprehensible Novels with Inga Paterson-Zuniga

  1. Thank you, Inga, for sharing your evolving approach to teaching languages. You comment about the equity of grading struck a chord with me. Grading practices are varied and often opaque. How does a teacher truly calculate “participation” without bias? I’ve been reading a wonderful book, Grading for Equity: Why It Matters and How It Can Transform Schools and Classrooms by Joe Feldman. My goal is 1) to highlight learning by aligning grades with concrete demonstrations of proficiency (I agree with your philosophy of multiple attempts and differentiated expectations for learners), and 2) to motivate my students to love language learning. Grading, as currently practiced, is more punitive than motivational.

    1. Grading for equity is something I was just talking about today with co-workers too! I think I will check out that book!

    2. Yes, “punitive” is key word here. We’ve created a culture of compliance over engagement. In my ideal teaching world, there would be no “grades”. We’d write or share narratives that define individual student growth over time on a positive continuum. We would not compare learners to their peers or mandate arbitrary benchmarks, but we’d compare learners to themselves, looking back at each learner’s starting point and mapping out positive growth over time. Of course we would have to demonstrate evidence of growth and no we certainly would be able to…

      Frustrating that policy makers continue to perpetuate one-size-fits-all assessment and scoring…

  2. I love this episode! So much useful information. Here is a question for you, Inga: What is your TPRS novel writing process? How do you take a book from start to finish? Thank you for your insight and wisdom!

    1. So glad you enjoyed it, Michelle! I don’t know about the other writers, but I find my best inspiration when I’m down in Mexico for summer visiting my family. Stories find me rather than vice versa. I can’t go looking for them. They have to jump out at me and say “here I am!” Voice inside my head tells me this story hasn’t been told and needs to be. It helps me to capture as much as I can on film so that I can look back and get down to business once back home in US. Then I just chip away at the idea every day a little bit, showing up whether I actually have a tweak or not. As for staying CI reader friendly, it takes many revisions until I find sweet spot between depth of storyline and simplicity of language. Even after many revisions it’s still good to do test runs in classroom with my students. Good glossary is key! It does help to have my whole Mexican family to help me with editing process! It eventually all comes together.

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