In order to give my students the opportunity to understand murals and decode many of the symbols, political, social and cultural references comprised in them, I am going to introduce different themes that will give them a more comprehensive picture of the complexities of this very particular form of art.
The unit will be carried out once or twice a week, starting in January, when students will be familiar with the structure of the course and more confident with their Spanish oral and grammatical skills. There will be a final project that will imply students teaching the material previously learned. I have used this strategy a couple of times with my upper level classes (Spanish 3 and 4) since it is a very good way to determine whether students have understood concepts or not. Students usually like this project and they usually develop really creative, well-structured lessons.
Each part of the unit will be accompanied by a written questionnaire that will interrelate the aspects previously used and that will facilitate 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 points of view or ideas.
First of all, we will be working with history. We will briefly go over the Mexican Revolution since I consider it key to my purposes. Students need to understand the complexities of this particular time in Mexico in order to better apprehend the many political and social implications in all of the murals. In order to achieve this purpose, we will be working with a variety of materials such as articles and pictures of that period. These will lead us to various discussions- a very convenient time to start working in critical thinking skills. The discussions will be monitored but students will lead to conclusions by themselves.
Once students have an idea of what was the context and implications of the revolution, we will work on the Mexican muralists and murals. We will start with the three main figures in the Mexican Muralist Movement: Orozco, Rivera and Siqueiros. We will explore the main elements of the movement presented in the rational of this unit, and then students will search for information on the painters. We will closely analyze some of the murals together. Students will do the same with murals of their choice: every student will explain a mural to the rest of the class orally.
We will then move to the Chicano movement. We will work on the Chicano Civil Rights movement by reading tests and searching information on the main figures of the movement. I will give students a list of material to be covered and they will pick their topic so we will go to the library to research. Then, they all will get together and start planning how are they going to put all of the information together in order to present it to me as a whole, since we will be making a "mini-documentary) on the Civil Rights Chicano movement.
Finally, we will work with the many murals Chicano artists have created in the country, paying special attention to the works of Judith Baca and her Great Wall of Los Angeles, which deals with history, one of the main focuses in the unit. We will be exploring the SPARC web page, a wonderful tool which will give students the opportunity to reflect on the importance of community, as well as to understand historical perspective through art.
As I previously mentioned, there will be a final project in which students will be assigned an earlier section of the unit and teach it to the rest of the class. 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 to it.