First of all, in order to frame the unit in a widest context possible, I am going to focus on history, briefly describing the ethnic and social situations in Spain and in the Americas immediately before the colonization in order to list the ethnic, cultural and social composition of the various tribes that were present in the continent when Christopher Columbus and the colonizers arrived. We will then center our later attention, upon the countries I have previously mentioned: Mexico, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Cuba and Guatemala. We will be exploring a different cultural aspect or an artistic field for each country, so the students can easily focus and research in that aspect.
Every week, we will work on the unit for a period or two; we will start searching for preliminary information that will give the students an idea of what to look for in their independent research and development.
I will provide students with various sources –most of them in Spanish with a few exceptions- and they will have to choose the ones that they like because they will be the ones to establish their own searching criteria –always under my supervision and help. This will allow them to have an active role in the learning process.
The research will be in small groups of two or three people (depending on the number of students.) I will emphasize the positiveness of working in groups so the students will learn to value the importance of learning from their classmates and how they can help each other.
We will work in the library for two or three class periods during which all the groups will research a different previously determined aspect (history, economics, culture and/or art) of the country we are working on at that time. The students will end up being "teachers for a day" so they will be teaching and presenting the information to their classmates. They will be able to answer any question or problem that might emerge.
Once we have completed this "process of immersion," we will start working with the reading: poems, songs, stories, fragments..., focusing on the cultural aspects and emphasizing the influence these countries had in the past or are having in American society today. This reading section of the unit will allow the teacher to work on grammar as well. For example: when working with Maná's (Mexican Band) song, "
Justicia, Tierra y Libertad"
from their CD,
Revolución de Amor,
we will be able to review the imperative and subjunctive, as well as work on listening comprehension skills and vocabulary.
We will end each section or country with a movie (or part of it) when possible because there is either limited filmography or the movies are difficult to get as in the case of Colombia and Puerto Rico. Each movie will be accompanied by a written questionnaire that will interrelate the aspects previously used and that will facilitate critical thinking, meaning the ability to provide support for their ideas. This phase of the unit is truly important for me, since I consider students this age to be capable of reflecting and reinforcing this critical thinking in order to have their own points of view without having to repeat or agree with other people's ideas or theories.
We will be posting a gigantic map on the wall in which students will mark/draw the different tribes of Native Americans that inhabited the Americas when Christopher Columbus arrived to the what it was called the "New World."
The students will mark later on, all the features or people (artists, writers...) that they consider important to the improvement of the students' work.
This activity will directly address one of the nine
(Gardner, 1983) Professor Charles R. Hancock explained in a visit to the seminar: the visual-spatial.
Audiovisual devices such as movies are very helpful in a foreign language class, with movies you work with the visual-spatial, the verbal-linguistic and the musical-rhythmical intelligences at the same time. Students will be watching movies or scenes of various movies which will illustrate many of the cultural, social, political…, aspects presented to the class.
El Norte (1984),
Great Day in La Havana (2001)
Another English-language movie that could illustrate the influence of the Spanish in the Americas would be
The Mission (1996).
Students' "Initial Evaluation"
After learning about the diverse sociocultural situation in Spain and the Americas during the process of the colonization, students will write a one page (typed and double spaced) composition. This time it will be written in English, since my main concern is to make sure the students have acquired and understood the information. They will explain the processes that have made countries in Latin America to develop to what they are today.
This "initial evaluation" will help students to understand the influence the different ethnic groups had upon the intrinsic growth of each Latin-American country.
Power Point presentation and "teaching experience"
Students will complete a research paper which, they will make into a power point presentation. They will teach their classmates about the cultural aspect or country they have been researching. They will have to be "teachers for a day," so they will have to have a plan for the lesson. This is a valuable and highly effective activity for the students since they learn a lot and apply the maximum effort on it.
Students' "Final Evaluation"
This "final evaluation" will close the unit and will consist of another composition (in Spanish) in which the students will reflect on different aspects they have learned:
-the concept of identity and why is it so important on the Hispanic societies
-the importance of diversity.
Students will get a complete rubric with all the information they need to insert in this two to three-page long composition.