27 February 2013

Experiencia Afrolatina, Part 3: For the Kids

I needed a question that tied to something more personal and yet more universal for my teenage audience. And quite frankly, my class is both exceptionally small this semester and entirely white. Nevertheless, they are not unsympathetic sorts, and they are actually very reflective and open-minded individuals. This does not, however, guarantee background experiences that connect easily to say ChocQuibTown's or Haitian-Dominicans' experiences. So I'm going more superficial.

Instead of trying to trick them into being interested with irresistible music or flashy videos, I started with them. I had them fill out a survey about themselves and how they saw themselves, with questions in Spanish like "Are you attractive?" and "Are you a good friend?" and "Do people want to be your boyfriend/girlfriend?" Spoiler: on average there were no more than 4 no's out of 35 questions.

Then, I showed them pictures of various people we were going to "meet" throughout the unit and had them answer the same questions, about people like Kalimba, Memín Pinguín, Celia Cruz, Goyo, Tostao, Slow, the narrator from Cartas a mi Mamá, and even Rafael Trujillo (I also should have included Nicolas Guillén, because it looks like he's going to fit nicely this time). There were not quite as many yeses this time around.

We had a discussion in Spanish (well, Spanglish--but I stayed at least at my target 90%, and they understood me!) about whether what other people thought even mattered and when and why it does. I also tried to get them to come up with a target audience for the message about what other people see and think, but for naught. 

So I went about preparing ye olde comprehensible input, opting this time for a picture book introduction rather than my standby a ChocQuibTown videos, breaking down Me llamo Celia into digestible pseudo-PACE chunks. Then it hit me: if a picture book is the way to get this group into the unit, then a picture book might be the way to reach a worthy audience.

And so,we embark on our mission to create a book--as a group/tiny class--that can help children deal with a world that doesn't always see them for who they are. We will have to get into some need-to-knows to determine the characters to include, what roles they'll play, the story structure, how to illustrate, and how to convey the message in a way that kids can understand AND benefit from. We'll address those questions as I introduce them to the different players from the unit, look at the examples I have about historical figures, and hopefully come up with something worth reading to a local ESL class, maybe, maybe even putting on the market?


  1. This sounds like a great way to teach the "Experiencia Afrolatina." I like how you are making their experience a universal experience. Thanks for sharing. I would love to see the end product!

  2. Have you determined the target vocab structures that you will introduce? I teach in an urban public school district and have taught a unit on Afrolatinos in February for several years. This will only be the second year I have taught it using CI. In the past, we have focused on topics such as Afro-Latin music and instruments, Dr. Henry Louis Gates' "Black in Latin America" series from PBS (comparing and contrasting relationships between Dominicans and Haitians), Memín Pinguín (stereotypical representations of race and racial perception) , and articles from the Miami Herald's "Afro-Latin Voices" from 2007 (self-image.) I am excited to hear MORE about your plans!

    1. To tell the truth, I was not quite so targeted with my language approach when I implemented this unit! In retrospect, I think my targets might have been soy/eres/es, puedo/puedes/puede, quiero/quieres/quiere. However, I would have to go back and look at the texts again more carefully to attempt to align with the input.