Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Teaching Multicultural Literature : A Workshop for the Middle Grades
Workshop 1 Workshop 2 Workshop 3 Workshop 4 Workshop 5 Workshop 6 Workshop 7 Workshop 8
Workshop 1: Engagement and Dialogue
Overview
Authors and Literary Works
Julia Alverez
Biography
Work
Gish Jen
Biography
Work
Tina Lee
Biography
Work
Khot T. Luu
Biography
Work
James McBride
Biography
Work
Lensey Namioka
Biography
Work
Lensey Namioka
Biography
Work
Key References
Video Summary
Teaching Strategies
Commentary
Student Work
Resources
Interactive Workbook -- Explore two poems using strategies from these workshops. Go.
Channel-Talk -- Share your views on the discussion board. Go.

Authors and Literary Works
"What Means Switch"

Mona Chang's fictional Chinese American family follows the same course that writer Gish Jen's real family did -- living in working-class Yonkers, where they were scorned, then moving to the more upscale Scarsdale, which accepted them. "Here we're like permanent exchange students," says eighth-grader Mona. "We're not so much accepted, as embraced. Especially by the Jewish part of town... Pretty soon I'm getting popular for a new girl." She adjusts seamlessly to their boys-and-dating talk. In this generally humorous story, her classmates' mothers seek Mona's approval by inviting her over to taste-test their Chinese cooking.

Cultural tension comes with a twist here. "I come in late ... to discover there's a new kid in class. Chinese." But Sherman Matsumoto is not Chinese, he's Japanese, and Mona isn't any better than her white classmates at telling the difference. As the story develops, Mona's mother reacts angrily when Sherman playfully places a picture of a Japanese flag on her refrigerator door.

Mona is perplexed by Sherman. He and the school authorities seem to think that she should be his shepherd, though they don't even share a language. Sign language fills the gap. The other girls want to know, "Are you going steady?" Mona wants to know, "Are Sherman and I in love?" There is much discussion among the girls about getting to first base or second base. Mona wonders if brushing shoulders with Sherman counts. Sherman's questions are different. Is Mona Jewish? Is she American? She explains that you are American if you are born here -- or you can switch. Sherman is bewildered.

Soon they decide they are in love, but Sherman has to go back to Japan. In their farewell encounter, brushing shoulders gives way to kissing, and then discussion of who should switch -- she to Japanese, or he to American, as Mona suggests.

back to top Next: Tina Lee: Biography


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