"The First Tortilla" -Rudolfo Anaya

Amanda Phillips (CI 402 E)

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Book Overview

The First Tortilla is a moving, bilingual story of courage and discovery. A small Mexican village is near starvation. There is no rain, and the bean and squash plants are dying.

Jade, a young village girl, is told by a blue hummingbird to take a gift to the Mountain Spirit. Then it will send the needed rain.

Burning lava threatens her, but Jade reaches the top of the volcano. The Mountain Spirit is pleased. It allows the ants in a nearby cave to share their corn with Jade. The corn was sweet and delicious and Jade took some back to save the village.

Jade grinds the dry corn, adds water, and makes dough. She pats the masa and places it on hot stones near the fire. She has made the first tortilla. Soon the making of corn tortillas spreads throughout Mexico and beyond.

Reading level: grade 3 and up (The class that this Read Aloud will be taught in is 4th Grade).

Information About Rudolfo Anaya

Biography -

Rudolfo Alfonso Anaya was born on October 30, 1937, to Rafaelita and Martin Anaya in Pastura, New Mexico, a small village located on the western edge of the Llano Estacado (the Staked Plains). He was the eighth of ten children (three of them from previous marriages by his parents). Rudolfo was born into a generation of Mexican-American families that experienced the culmination of the displacement of an agro-pastoral, self-subsistence economy by a wage-labor market economy. His father tended to withdraw from this process, while his mother, a devout Catholic, encouraged Rudolfo to explore, adapt, and achieve in the enveloping social world of the Anglo American. Early in his life, his family moved from Pastura to Santa Rosa, where he spent his years as a boy.

In 1952, Rudolfo's family moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Already a teenager, Rudolfo found the city exciting and adapted quickly. Barrio life in the Barelas section of the city swept him into the fold of the urban life of Chicano/as. In 1954, a swimming accident left Rudolfo temporarily paralyzed and gave him time and cause to consider many philosophical questions about life and human existence.

Rudolfo graduated from high school in 1956 and enrolled later that year at a local business school. Unfulfilled by the study of business, he enrolled at the University of New Mexico to study English. There, he discovered the importance of literature as a means for expressing ideas. During his student years, he was influenced not only by his teachers but also by the counterculture of the beatniks, especially by their anti-establishment poetry. In 1963, he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in English and began to teach at an elementary school in La Jolla, a neighborhood in southern Albuquerque. Anaya enjoyed teaching and went on to teach at secondary school levels. His interest in literature remained strong, however, and he eventually returned to the University of New Mexico for further study. In 1968, he received a Master of Arts degree in literature, and he returned later and earned another Master of Arts degree, this one in guidance and counseling. Between 1971 and 1973, he served as the Director of Counseling at the University of Albuquerque.


Other Books Written by Author -


  • Bless Me, Ultima (1972)
  • Heart of Aztlan (1976)
  • Tortuga (1979)
  • Silence of the Llano: Short Stories (1982)
  • The Legend of La Llorona: A Short Novel (1984)
  • Lord of the Dawn: the Legend of Quetzalcóatl (1987)
  • Alburquerque (1992)
  • Zia Summer (1995)
  • Jalamanta: A Message from the Desert (1996)
  • Rio Grande Fall (1996)
  • Shaman Winter (1999)
  • Serafina's Stories (2004)
  • Jemez Spring (2005)
  • The Man Who Could Fly and Other Stories (2006)

Books for children

  • The Farolitos of Christmas: A New Mexico Christmas Story (1987)
  • Maya's Children: The Story of La Llorana (1996), illustrated by Maria Baca
  • Farolitos for Abuelo (1998), illustrated by Edward Gonzalez
  • My Land Sings: Stories from the Rio Grande (1999), illustrated by Amy Córdova
  • Elegy on the Death of César Chávez (2000), illustrated by Gaspar Enriquez
  • Roadrunner's Dance (2000), illustrated by David Diaz
  • The Santero's Miracle: A Bilingual Story (2004), illustrated by Amy Córdova, Spanish translation by Enrique Lamadrid
  • The Curse of the ChupaCabra (2006)
  • The First Tortilla (2007), illustrated by Amy Córdova, Spanish translation by Enrique Lamadrid
  • ChupaCabra and the Roswell UFO (2008)

Non-fiction and Anthologies

  • Voices from the Rio Grande: Selections from the First Rio Grande Writers Conference (1976)
  • Cuentos: Tales from the Hispanic Southwest (1980), with Jose Griego y Maestas
  • A Ceremony of Brotherhood, 1680-1980 (1981), edited with Simon J. Ortiz
  • Cuentos Chicanos: A Short Story Anthology (rev. ed. 1984), edited with Antonio Márquez
  • A Chicano in China (1986)
  • Voces: An Anthology of Nuevo Mexicano Writers (1987, 1988)
  • Aztlán: Essays on the Chicano Homeland (1989), edited with Francisco A. Lamelí
  • Tierra: Contemporary Short Fiction of New Mexico (1989)
  • Flow of the River (2nd ed. 1992)
  • Descansos: An Interrupted Journey (1995), with Denise Chávez and Juan Estevan Arellano
  • Chicano/a Studies: Writing into the Future (1998), edited with Robert Con Davis-Undiano


  • Adventures of Juan Chicaspatas (1985)

Published or Performed Plays

  • The Season of La Llorona
  • Ay, Compadre! (1994)
  • The Farolitos of Christmas (1987)
  • Matachines (1992)
  • Billy the Kid (1995)
  • Who Killed Don Jose? (1995)


A Conversation with Rudolfo Anaya by Directed by Lawrence Bridges

Three Strengths of Book

1. It is a multicultural book that will allow students to learn either more about their culture or a culture of their peers. It does not show any biases towards the culture.

2. It is an example of a cultural folktale. Children are always told the stories of John Henry and Paul Bunyan and this book gives them another example of a folktale from another culture.

3.The book is also bilingual. The text is in English and in Spanish. Teachers could use this book with English Language Learners if their first language is Spanish.

Procedures for Implementing the Read Aloud and Vocabulary Presentation

  1. Introduce the book to the class. Go over CHAMPS with the class. (Conversation Level - Level 0 while teacher is reading to the class and Level 1 when answering questions, Help - If the students have any questions they can raise their hands, Activity - teacher will be doing a read aloud to the class and will be asking questions, the students will then complete a worksheet, Movement - the students are to remain in their seats, without creating distractions, the entire lesson, Participation - the students will answer questions the teacher asks after being called on, Success - the students will help the teacher by answering questions, being respectful of her and their peers, and completing the task at hand). Tell them how it is a Hispanic Folktale, just like the other folktales they have been studying. Ask the students, "What do you believe this book could be about? What culture do you believe this book could be highlighting?" Allow the students to answer your questions. Encourage them to get more in depth if they are confused or need guidance.
  2. Read the first page of the book. Bring to the students attention the design used for the illustrations. They are normal for a Hispanic book.
  3. Read the second page of the book. Bring to their attention a word that may not be known by the students, metate. Explain how Jade's mother was crushing chile peppers into the bowl or metate. The book will use Hispanic words throughout the story. Be sure to address them to the students.
  4. Read the third page of the book. Ask the students, "What dangers could you see in Jade's village?" After the students answer the question. Encourage them to understand that a powerful spirit lives on the volcano and can control what happens to the village.
  5. Read the fourth page of the book. Ask the students, "What is going to help Jade go speak with the Mountain Spirit? Do you believe that it is a spirit too? Why?" Allow them to answer and make encouraging comments before continuing.
  6. Read the fifth page of the book. "What happened to Jade when she was born? What kind of sign do you believe that could be? What do you think Jade could do to help her village?" Allow a few students to respond.
  7. Read the sixth page of the book. Ask the students about the words "generations" and "ancestors". Explain to them what the words mean and have them think of their life and how those words apply to them individually.
  8. Read the seventh page of the book. Ask the students, "Why is Jade willing to go on a dangerous quest?" Once they have answered go over the word rebozo - a shawl or cover up that keeps Jade warm as she walks.
  9. Read the eighth page. Have the students explain the setting of the field that Jade meets the Mountain Spirit in. Explain what cascaded means so the students are not confused.
  10. Read the ninth page. Ask the students, "What did Jade bring the Mountain Spirit as a gift and what did the Mountain Spirit give her in return? What do you think Jade will do with her gift from the Mountain Spirit?" Allow the students time to answer the questions.
  11. Read the tenth page. Tell the students that Jade had a lot to be thankful for. Ask the students if they have anything to be thankful in their lives. Allow them to answer.
  12. Read the eleventh page. Explain what the word 'pozol' means a fermented corn dough and a drink made from it. Show the students how Jade has gotten more people to thank the Mountain Spirit by having them taste the corn.
  13. Read the twelfth page. Explain the word 'elotes' means corn on the cob. Tell the students that Jade used the metate (bowl) again and crushed the hard corn kernels with her mano (hand) and added water, beginning to make the first tortilla.
  14. Read the thirteen page. Jade mixed the crushed corn and water together and made a masa (dough). She flattened it and put the dough on the hot rock and cooked it. Ask the students, "What did she name the delicious flat bread?"
  15. Read the fourteenth page. Jade's family shared their new creation of the tortilla. This gave everyone a reason to thank the Mountain Spirit. Ask the students, "Is there a tradition that your family does that you would like to share with your friends?" Allow the students to share with each other. If they are confused, share something, a tradition, that your family does that you want others to know about.
  16. Hand out the Tradition Worksheets to the students. Show them an example of how it is to be done. In the box, draw a picture of your family tradition. On the lines below, write three sentences that explain what your family does as a tradition.
The First Tortilla
The First Tortilla by Rudolfo Anaya

Research on Culture and Tradition of the Hispanic Tortilla

The videos I found give examples of the culture and tradition of the Hispanic Tortilla. Throughout my lesson, "folktale" and "tradition" are going to be my vocabulary words that I will be teaching.
Fairy Good: Traditional Spanish tortilla
Latino Learning Modules: Latino Culture and Cultural Values
Our Hispanic Identity Lies Within Our Culture

Information About Me

I am a senior at Wichita State University. My major is Early Childhood Unified and I will graduate in May of 2016. My family has a tradition and legacy here at Wichita State since my mother, four uncles, and two aunts attended and graduated from the school. I chose this book as my read aloud because of my fascination with cultures. I am German, Irish, and French and I have a great love for each background. I want my students to be able to love where they came from and to be able to tell others about their ancestors.
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Reflection Over My Read Aloud

1. Why was this particular book selected? How did it "match" the funds of knowledge of this particular class/group of students?

I chose this book because of the Hispanic culture and the bilingual qualities. There are so many Hispanic children entering our school systems and this book would be amazing to use in a classroom such as that. There is one student in my classroom who speaks Spanish fluently and was reading the Spanish translation as I was reading the English version. She smiled as she read the book in her native language. I do not believe that she had ever seen a book like that or ever had a teacher read a book like that to an entire class before. It was quite an experience.

2. What were the strengths of the read aloud/the picture book/vocabulary teaching presentation?

The read aloud was great because it allowed the students to learn a little about the Hispanic culture and about a Hispanic folktale. The students had learned what a folktale was before and being about to shed new light on its meaning was inspiring. They made a connection that all cultures have folktales, not just the ones they know. Tradition was a little harder to understand for them. Some of the students caught on quickly, while others asked for more clarification. I gave a lot of examples which helped the remainder of the students understand. Using those words together helped the students make connections between the two. I also taught a few Spanish words and the students used them throughout the day. It was neat to experience.

3. What would I need to do differently next time?

I need to include more with differentiated instruction. I need to make sure that I include different ways to teach to a variety of students than the specific way. I need to make sure to go over CHAMPS in more depth. I went over it, but I did not go to the CHAMPS board and review it with the students as Mrs. Hohl does. I believe that it would have gone more smoothly. I need to write the Spanish words down for the students to see, with their definitions. The students need more of a visual than what I gave them.

4. Implementing multicultural children's literature that is culturally and linguistically diverse relative to my elementary students has helped me...

learn that showing my students different views of the world will help them to become more accepting and loving of each other, no matter their differences. Growing up, I never had the chance to hear about other cultures in my classrooms and sadly there was never a need to. All of my classmates were from the same culture, with the same color of skin. That seems unrealistic and uncaring, but when I was little there was nothing to question. Now students have friends and classmates of different ethnicities and have questions about the variety of cultures that they experience daily. Students need to be able to understand how their friends and neighbors grew up. They need to be able to see other points of view and to understand that their view may not always be right. I want my students to be able to work with people of different ethnicities and be able to understand why their customs differ. All students should be educated about a variety of cultures so that they can work towards diversity equality.