Reflections in a Latin-American Mirror is an eight week unit introducing students to Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Mexico and Chile through poetry, folklore and contemporary fiction. We will focus on individual countries after sharing a piece of literature connected to that geographical region. The eighth week will culminate with an interactive exhibit open to all community members. The exhibit will include original art, music, literature and cuisine prepared by the students. It can easily be adapted to any elementary age group.
The countries included in this unit were chosen because they reflect the diversity of my school community. Literature is woven throughout our day, and therefore not limited to the selections outlined here. The student bibliography includes an expanded selection of literature that will be used in this unit. Preference is given , but not limited to, literature written and illustrated by Latin Americans or Latino Americans. Although compiled for Kindergarten, you can easily alter the literature for young adult readers with the assistance of the Consortium of Latin American Studies Program: Committee on Teaching and Outreach at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee listed in the resource section. They review and recognize Latin American/Caribbean/Latino fiction written in Spanish or English.
Regional cooking will be researched on the Internet. The web sites I have listed in the resource guide have links to history, tourism, literature, art, music and local cuisine. In some cases you can read the actual menu and recipes from individual restaurants. E-mail is encouraged and allows for direct interaction with Latin America. The technology available for use with early childhood students has become a great tool for classroom teachers.
To promote global awareness through an integrated curriculum model emphasizing literature, geography, music, art and science
To observe the fusion of African-American, Spanish, and Indigenous cultures in Latin America and the United States
Creating literature , art and music inspired from Latin cultures is a tool for a deeper understanding of their contributions to our global community. The danger in focusing on any one geographical area is becoming a tourist, simply viewing images. For this reason it is essential to discuss:
foreign economies and how they directly effect our region
explorers and their impact on our population
cultural origin of traditions in the U.S. (music, festivals, storytelling, art)
the use of the globe and maps as tools for locating geographical areas
impressions of the U.S. with individuals from each region of study
Equally important, during any unit of study, is to allow time for small group ‘projects’. Students given the opportunity to choose projects will develop a higher degree of interest and motivation to learn. Projects allow students, according to choice, to investigate in-depth topics related to our theme, thereby supplementing and enriching the curriculum. The object of a project is to gather information in lieu of correctly answering questions posed by teachers. Students will divide into small groups to pursue their areas of interest. Our library media specialist will assist with project groups.
Reflections in a Latin American Mirror
strives not to isolate curriculum according to subject. Success in life is directly related to our ability to grasp emotional and cognitive aspects of relationships. It is essential that we begin this process in our schools. One’s love of learning is influenced by environment, emotions, application of new knowledge, and relevance of the material to one’s own life. The curriculum must therefore support integrated and diverse learning models. Literature will act as a scaffolding for our class to build on for each of these models.
The students must have opportunities to experience, discuss, accommodate and ultimately assimilate information to promote cultural literacy. We as educators are afforded the opportunity to become more diverse in our thinking , curriculum and instructional methods. Immersing the class in Latin American language, art, music and literature will enrich our community and ideally be reflected in the daily work of each student. Our two month study will take over every aspect of our room. The walls, displays and learning centers will directly reflect these images. Students will have culturally diverse role models to foster positive self images.