Since Mexico is such a close neighbor to the United States, one may find oneself curious of its culture. For those who have been curious enough to visit, there are usually no regrets for time well spent. Mexico has much to offer culturally. Its population is diverse and through the years, they have produced fine literature, art, and music. Moreover, because of Mexico’s closeness, the United States is easily able to relish its cuisine.
It is becoming more common to come across a Spanish-speaking family or individual in the United States. It is also very common to find a preponderance of Spanish speaking people in a community as is evident in parts of California, Florida, New York, Texas, and New Mexico. There are well over 2 million Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in Los Angeles alone. Mexican people are crossing United States borders daily and settling in this country. As they become more a part of the country and integrate their background with American culture, a look at their culture becomes more enticing. Moreover, it becomes more important to be more sensitive linguistically. Firstly, we must accommodate Spanish speaking Mexicans in our businesses, stores, banks, and government buildings by including directions and signs in Spanish. Secondly, some of us may find it necessary to acclimate ourselves to the Spanish language in order to communicate effectively. This especially holds true for teachers that find themselves with a Spanish speaking student who is lonely and scared in an English speaking classroom.
The intent of this unit is to allow elementary students the opportunity to discover Mexico and its culture. The way in which students will do this is with as many hands on activities as possible. Experiencing a particular subject matter in this hands on fashion will make learning more meaningful and exciting. For example, students will not just taste Mexican food, but they will cook it. They will read recipes, gather ingredients, and cook the food in the class. They will not just look at an article of traditional Mexican clothing and pass it around, but they will make clothing and wear it during the day. In addition to this, they will make murals in the style of famous Mexican artists and display them throughout the school. The more students can stay away from ditto sheets and the “paint by numbers” approach, the more effective this unit will be.
This unit will be implemented at Davis Street School and is targeted towards a second grade class but can be adapted to higher or lower grades. Recently, Davis Street School has reached a Magnet School status. It is expected that the school’s population will be more racially diverse in the future. However, for the time being, this unit will be used for a population that is mostly African-American with a small percentage of white and Latin-American students. The unit will also be used during the latter part of the year. Students advance considerably towards the last half of the year and are more ready to meet with more difficult tasks such as effective writing. This topic will not be done in conjunction with other second grade classes, however, other classes throughout the school are doing similar studies of other countries at this time of the school year.
Annually, Davis Street School celebrates International Day in conjunction with Black History Month. On this day, classes celebrate the country that they have been studying by serving food, dressing in that country’s traditional clothing, and holding a school wide assembly. For the past two years my second grade class has studied and celebrated Mexico for this event. For food, we served arroz con pollo(yellow rice with chicken), frijoles negroes(black beans), guacamole, nachos, and burritos. We wore the clothing that we made and paraded around the school. Students found this to be a very exciting culminating activity, however, not one that can be shared by all schools. In the following pages, I will suggest ideas for making your classroom a Mexican restaurant that can be visited by anyone in the school during the day. Students will be given jobs in the restaurant such as cashier , waiter/waitress, and host/hostess. A menu will be created that will include prices and food will be purchased with “play pesos.” Also, the restaurant will be decorated with the murals that students will create as a result of this unit.
This unit will include topics such as language, music, food, clothing, holidays, art, literature, and people. It will not, however, exclude creative writing activities. Writing prompts can be extracted from any topic in the unit and should be done often. If students keep a daily journal, this would be an opportunity to write about what they are learning about Mexico at that time. Once students “absorb” Mexican culture, they will create stories by pretending that they are a Mexican boy or girl for a day and tell of all the things they would do in Mexico. Many of the activities in this unit will be co-operative learning activities. That is to say, students will be working together in small groups for activities that include having a simple Spanish conversation, and creating murals.
Following the unit objectives which are presented on the following page, the unit will be broken into topic area and each area will be expanded on. Lesson plans will not be included at this point, but topics will include background information and plans of topic implementation. The unit will be introduced with literature. From the chosen book(s) students will discuss setting and characters. They will discuss how these settings and characters are different from them and how they are the same. At this point, the concept of culture will be discussed.