How would the art of puppetry tie into a unit using American children's literature to explore family life in Mexico? The art of ventriloquism has been in my teaching repertoire for years and as a result many characters have evolved along with my first grade curriculum. For example, Willie Sunday, a favorite in the classroom keeps the children spellbound by his expertise in phonics, or lack of it, as he misses letters and letter sounds to the squeals and delight of the children. Tuesday's Cup of Sugar, Alphabet Thursday, and Blue Monday have all gained a stronghold in the classroom through their initiation of the writer's workshop, story mapping, interactive writing and modeling classroom stories. Wednesday Delight cannot be missed as she brings new poems for discussion and reading on a weekly basis. Friday Funtastic, a duck who has his own unique carrying case, sporty hat and bright green vest, has been useful in helping to introduce many films for analysis and discussion. All of the puppets contain personalities of their own, interesting voice variations and a flare for bright colorful appearances.
With all of these characters in mind, I would like to pull out Friday Funtastic and give him the opportunity to assist the children in gathering information about the home and family life in Mexico, and how the ancient customs have influenced present day Mexico. A look into the Spanish conquest will help the children see how that culture has blended into the native Indian culture. In addition, we will look at this blend and how it has affected our own culture in United States of America. A great source of information would be the World Wide Web along with various other resource books where Friday will be able to find factual information pertinent to introducing a story in class. For example, while introducing the book Today is the Day by Nancy Riecken, Friday will tell the children about the ancient Myan peoples, their customs and traditions, showing various pictures and contrasting them with the author's illustrations and content of the story. Discussion will center around the food that the family ate, living and cooking quarters, and papa's leaving the family to look for work so that he could provide for the family. The children will be able to analyze their own family structure, compare and contrast situations that are similar or different to that of the story. How do you think the girls felt when Papa did not come back for a long time? Do your mother or father have to leave your family sometimes? How does it feel when your father or mother leave for an extended period of time? Have you ever been afraid like Yesenia was in the story that her father would not return? What did she do while she waited for her papa to return? What do you do while waiting for your parents to return?
Literacy will play an important role in every facet of my unit. In addition to hearing the stories being read in the classroom, the children will share a book with a buddy in the classroom and read together. Parents will assist through the H.E.L.P. program. H.E.L.P. stands for "Helping Every Child to Learn and Progress in Reading." Parents come into the classroom once a week for a fifteen-minute period and listen to the children read aloud.
Of course, Friday's friends, the stories and books, contain many exciting activities for the children. These activities, we soon learn, stem from ancient, as well as, Spanish (i.e. from the country of Spain) traditions and customs. Every child will be given the opportunity to participate in the breaking of the pi–ata at our Mexican fiesta. We will also discuss how many families in the United States of America use pi–atas at their birthday or other party celebrations. It will be fun to participate in a Mexican children's dance. We may even experiment with making our own pi–ata. Most exciting will be a visit to a local restaurant where we will be treated to some authentic Mexican food. Of course, we will want to try our hand at making tortillas with cheese, tomatoes and onion. We will also discuss some foods that were used in ancient Mexico and are common for us today.
A culminating activity will be a drama production based on the story Today is the Day by Nancy Riecken. The production will be rehearsed in our Extended Day Academy and produced on stage for a school wide assembly sometime near the end of the school year.
Although this unit will not be part of an official team effort, Jean Sutherland, her third grade class, along with my first graders and myself will be working together to produce a school-wide culminating activity for the students, parents and the Beecher community at large. The student production "Today is the Day" will be a part of this combined effort.
This unit will involve students, teachers, and parents who work together to create a beautiful unit about the home and family life of the Mexican people, and how the dissent of an ancient group of people has been kept alive in the present day culture.