American children's literature becomes the basis of analysis for enrichment and enlightenment as young children gather information about early native people's home and family life, their resistance to Spanish control, and how the blending of the two cultures has helped to shape the present day nation of Mexico. Can children conjure thoughts and pictures in their young minds about an ancient people and their culture and traditions that are vastly different from their own, and how those fighting back to keep those traditions helped to shape present day Mexico? Are they able to compare, contrast, and gain insightful information about this impact on another culture through the help of children's literature? Has the blending of the two cultures in Mexico had any effect on the culture of the United States of America?
With these thoughts in mind, I would like to explore strategies in which puppetry and the art of story-telling, via children's literature from America, can be integrated into a unit for helping young children examine the art, poetry, dance and other cultural examples of both Spanish and ancient native people. At the same time, we want to look at how both groups have helped to shape the present day nation of Mexico, and how this blend can be seen in the culture of the United States of America. In addition, my goal is to enhance my first grader's reading skills and critical analysis of stories. A key component to my unit would be the active participation of children in using puppetry and American literature in reading and analyzing ancient family traditions, and its impact on the Mexican culture of today.
Mexico, rich in culture, geography and history is like traveling across many yesterdays. One soon becomes acutely aware that this is a large, rich and complicated country, filled with much diversity. Despite the military and political dominance of Spain, the culture of the native people of Mexico could not be smothered. What exists in Mexico today is a result of a blending of two cultures that are clearly evident in modern day Mexico. In the large cities, many Mexicans work in modern office buildings and live in comfortable homes. However, outside the cities, Indian farmers live in thatched roofed houses, and still cultivate the land as they did hundreds of years ago. The past melts into the present and future as an ultra-contemporary building complex rises to form the background of the steps of an Aztec ceremonial center. Holidays still bring brightly colored fiestas to the streets containing half Christian and half pagan activities and practices. Interestingly enough, sometimes Mexican culture can be viewed as a contradiction. For example, it is not unusual to see an Indian couple dressed in traditional clothing lead a burro past a Volkswagen while glancing at a Japanese motorcycle. With this much diversity in culture, it is difficult to comprehend the complexity of the country as a whole. However, through the eyes of authors and their written works and pictures, we are able to get a glimpse of this beautiful country and its people, and learn from their ancient roots and colorful traditions. A good starting place would be Helen Arnold's book, Postcards from Mexico. The book uses large print with brightly colored pictures describing various places and people of Mexico. In simple terms easily understood by first graders, the book gives insightful information about ancient peoples and their traditions as well as children and Mexican people in modern times. We will find out that rodeos had their roots in Mexico, and then spread to the United States of America. Colors of Mexico by Lynn Ainsworth Olawsky is another insightful book using different colors to describe family traditions and holidays in various parts of Mexico. We also discover that many foods that we enjoy today come from the ancient natives of Mexico. Fictional books such as The Hummingbirds' Gift by Stefan Czernecki and Timothy Rhodes along with Nancy Riecken's book, Today is the Day and Saturday Market by Patricia Grossman and Enrique O. Sanchez will help to give information about the Mexican home and family life, and how this has helped to shape the culture and traditions of the nation of Mexico. We soon discover that in many places of United States, colorful markets are also found and used to purchase foods and material goods for families and their homes.
More specifically, my unit would include activities suitable for children in kindergarten through third grades with an emphasis on literacy for the first grade child. Along with reading and the language arts, the lesson plans would cover curriculum areas such as math, social studies, science, music and art.
I teach first graders in a self-contained classroom at L. W. Beecher School on Jewell Street in New Haven. My classroom contains approximately 26 children from a variety of ethnic backgrounds with varying abilities in the six-to eight-year-old age range. Along with a need for improved vocabulary, many children exhibit poor self-images and have difficulty conveying their thoughts and feelings. I want the children in my classroom to be able to draw upon their inner strengths, enhance their academic skills and strengthen their overall social-emotional development.