Overview: Many cultures have traditions that involve meals and seating arrangements, but often students have not examined what occurs in their own families.
Objective: The students will practice expository writing by completing a Type 1 and a Type 3 assignment explaining a family meal time custom.
Materials: paper, pen or pencil and ...and Now Miguel p153-156.
Activities and Procedures:
The students will be asked to brainstorm and then write about a family celebration that involves a big meal. Questions to stimulate thoughts might include --Does everyone sit together? Is there a children's table? Do they long to sit with the adults?
Note: A journal question before or after this assignment might be -- Why would Miguel find sitting with the men so special? Is his being allowed to join them for a meal a symbol of his acceptance for more responsible chores?
Assessment: Written papers will be checked for details. Oral sharing of corrected Type 4 papers will be encouraged.
Red Scarf Girl
location is China but the problems Ji-li faces in school are identifiable to students everywhere. Early in the novel the students are told to participate in a movement to criticize the educational system by writing big posters called da-zi-bao. During the Cultural Revolution these da-zi-baos, normally used to discuss important issues, were used to attack and humiliate people. Ji-li came to school one day to discover she was accused of having a "relationship" with a teacher on a da-zi-bao. The poster stated that he had made her the math teaching assistant because she was rich not because she was smart and worked hard. This accusation hurt Ji-li but she finds solace in her friend An Yi who also had things written about her mother being an evil monster. The two girls comforted each other.
Ji-li had to endure many other changes that summer as their neighbors' houses were raided and she was forced to stay inside or close to home in case her family home was raided too. Her parents felt the need to dismiss the housekeeper to help them to keep a lower profile. This decision meant more work for Ji-li, shopping, cooking and cleaning. She was not good at these things but learned through her mistakes. The book continues with many events that are unpleasant and Ji-li details how she dealt with each. Students should be reminded that Ji-li examined each event carefully and kept a positive attitude as she realized she could not control the situation. This book will be read aloud by the teacher one chapter at time, because the events are good for group discussion and written journal entries. For example, after reading "The Sound of Drums and Gongs" the assignment will be :
Ji-li had a summer experience that was unpleasant. Describe a time when your plans were changed by circumstances beyond your control.
Change evokes emotional decisions such as those made by Gerald, Miguel and Ji-li, and this idea is a great source for thematic comparison of the three novels. All three books emphasize the importance of history, change and the continuity of the generations, this is one source of comparison I will explore with my students. Gerald's story shows the extended family caring for each other in a difficult time. Miguel is joining the men in the family tradition of sheep herding. Ji-li learns her family history as it relates to the political climate within her country.
This discussion of family, history and geography will be the segue into the project's overall objective to conduct a comparative study. Once the students have completed all three novels a comparative study will be conducted to illustrate the "cultural" similarities and differences of the characters in the given stories.
The three main characters are similar in age, while differing in gender. The students will be able to speculate the differences in dress, schooling, foods, celebrations and other issues through research within the novels and from other sources. I will divide the class into study groups. The students will then list the similarities and differences between the characters in the three novels. Another class session will be used to analyze maps of the story locations. The students might be divided into three groups, each group representing one of the story locations. Each group would make an oral presentation on their location after making maps, researching climate, natural resources, customs and other areas of interest.
The culminating project will be a class book with the working title of "The Clock Tower on Grand Avenue". This title is derived from the center piece of the middle school, a large clock tower rising toward the sky. The clock tower also symbolizes the students standing tall and making a statement of who they are and from whence they came. The students will write their own vignettes and essays to reflect the similarities and differences they see within the small Fair Haven community. They will be encouraged to write about their own family experiences, cultural celebrations, and/or any thing that has challenged them in their lives. All forms of expression will be accepted -- plays, poetry, prose, songs stories and artwork. The students will use the Collins Writing Across the Curriculum method to complete all phases of the project.
The Collins Writing Across the Curriculum Method is way of standardizing the format of student written product in all middle school subject areas. Students are taught to set up their papers with the name on the top line of the right hand side of the paper with date underneath their name. The method features " types" of writing that are not necessarily sequential. Type I writings encompass the brainstorming phase of composition. Students are told the subject and asked to reflect their thoughts either in lists, webs, outlines or by whatever method is desirable to the teacher and students. Usually they are then asked to use the brainstormed information to write a draft essay or a Type 3 paper.
Type 3 writing is in rough draft form. Students are told to skip lines as they write. In the upper left hand corner they are asked to write the focused corrections areas (FCA'S) for this assignment. A sample FCA might be use of subject/verb agreement. The teacher will only correct those areas of the draft. Once student's finish writing they are asked to read heir work aloud to themselves as a means of self-correction. Type 4 writing is a re-writing of the corrected Type 3 in paragraph form. The Type 5 is a totally corrected completed published work usually with a cover and ready for sharing and/or display.
Perhaps you are wondering about Type 2 writing. This is used for answering questions or essays that have a definitive answer and is very good to use as a method of checking for understanding after a lesson. They are quicker to write, can be given any time and are usually written in normal paragraph form.
In summary, this writing method concentrates on various types of written expression and the writing assignments given during each novel study will reflect this variety. Techniques such as brainstorming; definitive answer questioning to check for reading comprehension; open ended questioning to elicit opinions; predicting and character analysis are some of the methods that will be written into the unit discussion and lesson plans. It should be noted that the student's journals maintained throughout the reading of each novel will make the final comparisons easier. Therefore, periodic checks of the journals is advisable.
As previously stated, the overall objective of this unit has been to incorporate reading strategies and writing techniques into a cultural adventure for students. It is my intention that my students will read, enjoy reading and learn something about other cultures in the process. Ultimately, I hope they will learn to express themselves in humanistic terms that just happen to reflect their cultural heritage.