Driving Question: Is the person who other people see the person who you really are?
The goal of the driving question is, in fact, to drive students, to impel students to desire to know MORE. I've finally gotten past the idea of organizing essential questions for the language classroom around vocabulary or grammar goals, but then I found myself developing questions driven by the authentic texts I had selected. And we are not looking for DRIVEN questions, now are we? So I wrestled with how to turn the Afrolatinos unit I had been developing over the past few years into something that connected with students, that would drive them to want to know more.
While I, myself, am interested in exploring questions like "How is African heritage expressed in Cuba/México/Colombia/Dominican Republic?" or "How are Black people perceived in different Spanish-speaking countries, and what is the history behind those attitudes?" they lack drive. They are more academic, esoteric, and not personal. For a question to drive, it must have a personal connection. Some teenagers are into exploring other cultures, but ALL teenagers are into exploring themselves. The trick was to tie the two together, and thus the topic of appearance versus identity.
And now, to do it in four weeks. (I got a little carried away with the EMT App unit, for better or for worse. And then there are exams.)
So I must narrow my selection of texts to explore for time purposes as well as for streamlining to fit the new question-that-drives. I also need to break down the goals of the unit into tangible objectives (because Heaven knows that the Common Core Essential Standards do not spell out what students should produce).
At this point, students have done a little introspection by describing themselves and analyzing what roles and characteristics they subconsciously choose first. Then I showed a candid shot of each student (some knew I was snapping pictures, some didn't) and had individuals describe the person they saw in the photo in two words. I'm also putting together a video to show them (with WeVideo--a godsend as online video editing goes) with images of Afrolatinos with 10 different possible aspects of Afrolatino identity:
- Appearance (shape, size, color)
- Community (family, neighbors, organization)
- History (personal, intergenerational)
- Land (origins, home)
- Religion (ceremony, beliefs)
- Food (preferences, traditions)
- Language (accents, slang)
- Style (clothing, hair, accessories, attitude?)
- Entertainment (hobbies, sports)
- Art (music, dance, visual)
Ultimately, I would like for them to compare their perceptions and experiences to those they observe as we explore the Afrolatino experience in different countries, to draw parallels and define contrasts, choosing at least three of those categories to emphasize.
Believe it or not, pretty much all of the 10 categories of aspects I chose I picked out of ChocQuibTown's "Somos Pacífico," so that will be the first text that students analyze. Students will get the 10 categories from my video and then see how many they can pick up in ChocQuibTown's, first upon viewing, then with the lyrics in front of them.
Since the dichotomy we're exploring is appearance versus reality, the controversial Mexican cartoon character seems the most obvious place to emphasize appearance. I've scraped together a few different images from the comic books with some Google searching, and this is always a good place for some interpersonal discussion.
We'll skip "Negrito Sandía" in the interest of time.
Kalimba (tweet and interview)
After we've seen a little bit of the historical perspective in Mexico, then we can look at something more contemporary, with a racial tweet about pop star Kalimba and the ensuing interview with his reaction to it. I'd like to mention the big scandal that came shortly after that one, but not spend very long on it.
Cartas a Mi Mamá
I usually focus on the parts where the narrator describes people's reaction to her appearance versus her own, and that seems particularly relevant here. There are some interesting passages pertaining to the orishas of West African pantheons that would help inform the religion aspect as well.
This song incorporates community, history, and land as unifying forces, which poses a nice contrast for what's next with...
Masacre del Perejil
We have pop songs, comic book pages, tweets, an interview, and novel excerpts so far, so how about a wikipedia article to highlight some of the historical community issues between Haití and the Dominican Republic? To be followed by...
...an excerpted version that focuses on the issues of identity and disparity rather than the foundation of Haiti or the current state of the French-speaking nation.
Me Llamo Celia
I think this picture book would be a nice cap-off text, not only for the pictures and relative simplicity of the text, but the way it incorporates history, community, appearance, style, art, entertainment, land, and even a little food (¡AZÚCAR!). To focus attention on identity, there will be some excerpting here too.
As for the project itself, basically, students will choose how to express at least 3 aspects of their own identity and relate it to the same aspects they observed in one or more of the countries we explore.I have laid out the description of exactly what I expect here, along with a growing collection of resources that include the above, plus the bonus material that either time would not permit or that did not strictly fit the direction of the question.