There will be about 66 students in this 7
grade class, divided into three sections: the majority have some Latino/a heritage. Truman School is a renovated K-8 school situated on the edge of the Hill neighborhood in New Haven. While it is not a magnet school, it is also not a neighborhood school; many students are bussed daily to Truman from other parts of the city. Reported scores on state mandated tests show that Truman students are not making Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) which is a requirement for some state and federal funds under the No Child Left Behind educational program. Staff members and outside consultants have spent considerable time grappling with this lack of progress and trying to decide how to reverse the trend. I am hopeful that a program of Latin American literature will be of sufficient interest to this group of students to not only engage them in the actual reading material but also persuade them to participate in in-class exercises and homework devoted to grammar, vocabulary and independent writing and reading.
Each section of the 7
grade has a wide ability span in language arts which includes assessable skills for reading comprehension, vocabulary knowledge, conventions of writing, expository writing, persuasive writing and "free" writing which can be in journals as well a personal narratives. As a group, they have proficient oral language skills in English. Slightly less than one quarter of these students are officially identified as English Language Learners (ELLs) and are entitled to academic support from a certified Teacher of English for Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). Many have been born in the United States, but continue to be classified as ELL because they speak Spanish at home or because their language test scores are below average or both. I have worked one-on-one and in small groups with these students for the past two years. Because my primary focus at Truman has been with younger students, this will be the only direct teaching unit I will have with these students. I am pleased to be able to share the unit with Mr. Sal DeLucia, a certified seventh/eighth grade language arts teacher, entering his third year at Truman School. We will be teaching as a collaborative team, and he will continue with reading and writing exercises for this unit during the class periods I am not in his classroom.
grade reading curriculum is designed to address various strands of the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT). For example, Strand C calls for Reader/Text connections (connecting or associating the text with life outside the test). Strand C includes Objective C2 which asks students to select, synthesize and/or use relevant information within a written work to write a personal response to the text. Strand B calls for developing an interpretation: interpreting and/or explaining the text, and the accompanying Objective B2 asks students to draw conclusions about the author's purpose for choosing a genre or for including or omitting specific details in a text. Within the context of this curriculum unit which focuses on observations both of the outside world and observations about oneself, all of the readings will comply with CMT strands.
During each of the four sections of this unit, the two teachers will be asking students to appreciate character, settings, themes, and consider the author's background and purpose in writing. In addition, students will be asked to write their own reader/text connections following the format: "which part of the story was most interesting or surprising? Use information and details from the story to support your answer". We will encourage students to write their own poetry, short folktales, or biographical sketches while showing us what kinds of observations they can make about the world around them and about their own lives.
Part VI: Working Bibliography: For Teachers
1. A Companion to Latin American Literature and Culture. ed. Castro-Klaren, Sara. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. 2008.
Note: A comprehensive guide to the major Latin American authors.
2. A Companion to US Latino Literatures. eds. Caulfield, Carlotta and Davis, Darien J. Woodbridge, Suffolk, England: Boydell & Brewer Ltd. 2007.
Note: A comprehensive guide to Latin American authors, most of whom live in the US.
3. Allende, Isabel. The Stories of Eva Luna. New York, NY: Macmillan Publishing Company. 1989. Translated by Margaret Sayers Peden. English edition copyright 1991.
Note: These stories are told as if Scheherazade were telling them to the King. While they are delightful, they are quite racy and I think not suitable for 7
4. Allende, Isabel. Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses. New York, NY. HarperCollins. 1998. Translated by Margaret Sayers Peden.
Note: A collection of recipes accompanied by erotic pictures. Again, I think not suitable for 7
5. Cai, Mingshui. Multicultural Literature for Children and Young Adults: Reflections on Critical Issues. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. 2002.
Note: While informative, this book is also very dry and says very little about Latin American literature. At the end there is a helpful appendix of websites and bibliography with primarily African and Asian listings.
6. Cockcroft, James. Latinos in the Making of the United States: The Hispanic Experience in the Americas. New York, NY: Franklin Watts. 1995.
Note: A good history of Hispanics in America, especially agricultural workers, union issues, and Latino Civil Rights issues. Includes pictures, extensive notes on each chapter, and a bibliography; however, it needs updating to the present.. The book was a helpful companion to Esperanza Rising and Parrot in the Oven (see Student Bibliography).
7. Gonzalez Echevarria, Roberto and Pupo-Walker, Enrique, eds. The Cambridge History of Latin American Literature, Vol. 2. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. 1996.
Note: Comprehensive historical information on major authors and works of literature.
8. McDougall Littell. The Language of Literature. Boston, MA: The Houghton Mifflin Company. 2006.
Note: This is the current 7
grade Language Arts text for the New Haven (CT) Public Schools. While the curriculum is being changed for the 2009-2010 school year, the text book may remain in use. Works by Neruda and Cisneros are included in this text, along with many other multicultural authors. The book is densely packed with exercises and many suggestions for skill development. Seventh grade teachers that I have co-taught with are not excited about using it as a teaching tool because of this density. While this text is listed for teachers, it certainly should be accessible to students as well.