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 8: Social Justice and Action - Joseph Bruchac and Francisco Jimenez
Authors and Literary Works
Video Summary
Teaching Strategies
Student Work
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 8. The activities were part of a larger unit on representation. In adapting them to your own classroom, students, and overall curriculum, you may choose to vary the sequence or timing presented here.

  • The Circuit, by Francisco Jiménez
  • The Heart of a Chief, by Joseph Bruchac
  • Our America, by LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman
  • Ethnic Notions, film by Marlon Riggs
  • Voices From the Fields, film by Ulla Nilsen and Selene Jaramillo
  • Photography books, which may include:
    • One More River to Cross: An African American Photograph Album, by Walter Dean Myers
    • Bearing Witness: Selections From African American Autobiography in the Twentieth Century, by Henry Louis Gates Jr.
    • Shooting Back From the Reservation: A Photographic View of Life by Native Americans, by Jim Hubbard
    • 500 Years of Chicano History, by Elizabeth Martinez
    • Americanos: Latino Life in the United States by Carlos Fuentes, Edward James Olmos, and Lea Ybarra
  • Essential questions about representation (PDF)
  • Binder for materials throughout unit
  • "Photography Sheet" handout to guide study of photos (PDF)
  • Double-entry journal
  • Disposable cameras with black-and-white film
  • "Practice Shots" evaluation handout (PDF)
  • "Two Rounds" handout (PDF)
Standards for the English Language Arts


  1. Lisa Espinosa introduces her students to a unit in which they will compare and contrast the ways Native Americans, Latinos, and African Americans are represented in the media and the ways they represent themselves. The students begin by examining a list of essential questions that will guide their study. Espinosa also introduces the three main texts they will read (The Circuit, The Heart of a Chief, and Our America), as well as two films (Ethnic Notions and Voices From the Fields).

  2. She gives each student a binder to organize their materials and explains that the unit will culminate with a photography project through which the students will represent themselves and their community. Throughout the course of the unit, Espinosa provides background information on the African American civil rights movement, the Native American civil rights movement, and Chicano movements. These materials are added to the binder, when appropriate.

  3. Espinosa brings to class several different books of photographs depicting the three groups the class will study. Each student chooses two images he or she considers interesting. Guided by a handout, the students evaluate their photographs for composition, lighting, angle, use of color, and the message conveyed.

  4. The students screen the documentary Voices From the Fields, keeping in mind focus questions such as, "According to the film, what are the common stereotypes of Mexican migrant workers?" and "What were César Chávez's goals for migrant workers?" The students take notes as they watch, and Espinosa periodically stops the tape and asks the class questions about what they've observed.

  5. The class reads "Learning the Game," a chapter in The Circuit. Espinosa asks them to keep double-entry journals for their responses, modeling her own alongside them. (See Teaching Strategies: Double-Entry Journal.) The students write and share their personal connections with the book and the connections they see between the book and the documentary.

  6. The students practice taking photographs with disposable cameras in the classroom. Espinosa reminds them to consider the message they want their images to send. She also provides a handout to guide them in thinking about aesthetics. The students critique one another's work. (See Teaching Strategies: Photography Project.)

  7. To help themselves choose an aspect of their lives to document, the students create a "sensory web" that lists the common sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures in their neighborhood. Espinosa asks each student to choose one theme to depict. She pairs students based on these choices, and each pair shares a camera.

  8. Guided by a handout, the class does an activity called "Two Rounds" in which they analyze and compare two sets of images. The first set includes historical images of Native Americans that have become stereotypes. The second includes contemporary photographs taken by Native Americans of their communities. (See Teaching Strategy: Two Rounds.)

  9. The students read "The Report," a chapter in The Heart of a Chief. Each student chooses a quotation from the novel. He or she writes the quotation on one side of an index card and their responses to it on the other side. They share these in small groups.

  10. Espinosa's students bring together all that they have learned by creating a three-part Venn diagram. They work with their binders to review their notes and find similarities and differences across the three groups they've studied. After they have created the diagrams, they illustrate them.

  11. Each student chooses a favorite from the photos he or she has taken of the community. They discuss their photographs with Espinosa and their small groups. Next, they write about the image they have chosen and the message they believe it sends. Finally, the students exhibit their images in a local coffeehouse gallery, and host an "opening" for parents, teachers, and community members.

  12. Though it is not shown on the video, Espinosa asks each student to choose one essential question from the beginning of the unit and write an extended essay about it.

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