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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 6: Historical and Cultural Context - Langston Hughes and Christopher Moore
Overview
Authors and Literary Works
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.


Video Summary

The following is a summary of the activities featured in Workshop video 6. The activities were part of a larger unit on the African Burial Ground in New York City. In adapting them to your own classroom, students, and overall curriculum, you may choose to vary the sequence or timing presented here.

Materials
  • Breaking Ground, Breaking Silence, by Joyce Hansen and Gary McGowan
  • The African Burial Ground: An American Discovery, video written by Christopher Moore
  • Poems by Langston Hughes (Available in Workshop 6: Readings) PDF
  • "Africa Rising," by Barbara Chase-Riboud
  • Poetry writing guide sheet (PDF)
  • Trip sheets for field trips (PDF)
  • Sample commemorative stamps
  • Art materials for students to create their own commemorative stamps
Standards
Standards for the English Language Arts

Summary

  1. Stanlee Brimberg begins his class by reminding the students of the previous week's discussion on freedom and rights. He prompts a new discussion by asking, "Are people born with rights?"

  2. Brimberg shows the class a variety of books by African Americans, from Maya Angelou to Julius Lester to Frederick Douglass, and asks the students what they know about the books or authors. He assigns a reading from the book Breaking Ground, Breaking Silence for homework.

  3. The class screens the documentary The African Burial Ground: An American Discovery. Brimberg has assigned each student a particular year or span of time about which to take notes while watching. Later, using everyone's notes, the class creates a composite time line of events depicted in the film.

  4. The students prepare to interview Christopher Moore, historian and screenwriter of The African Burial Ground: An American Discovery, by writing open-ended questions. When Moore comes to speak to the class, they ask him about the African Burial Ground, his own family history, the lives and work of the slaves in the city, and the relationship of the slaves with the Native Americans. (See Teaching Strategies: Interviewing.)

  5. The students examine and answer questions about photographs of skeletons exhumed from the African Burial Ground.

  6. Brimberg introduces the poetry of Langston Hughes. The students choose poems to read aloud and explain the reasons for their choices.

  7. Brimberg asks the students to write a poem about a person from one of the photos from the African Burial Ground. He gives the students a handout that provides guidance for creating their poems. (See Teaching Strategies: Connecting Poetry and History.)

  8. Brimberg and the students meet to read the draft poems aloud and discuss their writing process.


  9. The students read Barbara Chase-Riboud's poem "Africa Rising" aloud and examine individual lines. (The poem accompanies Chase-Riboud's sculpture of the same title, at the African Burial Ground memorial site.)

  10. The class takes a field trip to Trinity Church, where white citizens of New Amsterdam were buried, and to the site of the African Burial Ground. The students answer questions on their trip sheets (PDF). Brimberg asks additional questions to help them make connections to the poems by Langston Hughes and Barbara Chase-Riboud.

  11. When the students return to the classroom, Brimberg engages them in a whole-class discussion about memorializing the past. Drawing on what they've learned during this unit, the students create their own designs for an African Burial Ground commemorative stamp.

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