Skip to main content
Close
Menu

The Expanding Canon: Teaching Multicultural Literature in High School

Cultural Studies: N. Scott Momaday and Russell Leong Lesson Plans

This section includes summaries of the lessons featured in the video programs. The lessons explore the literature through through a cultural studies approach.

Lesson Plan 1: Cultural Studies: N. Scott Momaday
Betty Tillman Samb uses a cultural studies approach to help students understand The Way to Rainy Mountain by N. Scott Momaday. She asks students to use family photographs to contextualize the familial experience of Momaday’s work, and to respond through creative writing. Students then work in groups to conduct Web research on Kiowa culture.

Lesson Plan 2: Cultural Studies: Russell Leong
In this lesson, Bobbi Ciriza Houtchens uses a cultural studies approach to immerse students in Asian American culture as they study Russell Leong’s poem “Aerogrammes.” During a class trip to Chinatown in Los Angeles, Leong shares his poetry and guides students as they have a Tai Chi lesson, eat in a Chinese restaurant, and work in groups to create Japanese renga poems describing their experience.

Lesson Plan 1

Author: N. Scott Momaday
Work: The Way to Rainy Mountain

Overview
Betty Tillman Samb uses a cultural studies approach to help students understand The Way to Rainy Mountain by N. Scott Momaday. She asks students to use family photographs to contextualize the familial experience of Momaday’s work, and to respond through creative writing. Students then work in groups to conduct Web research on Kiowa culture.

Preparation
To prepare for the lesson, view The Expanding Canon video program 6, Part I. Online review the Session 6 theory overview, strategies, information about the authors and literature, resources, and the downloadable print guide. Read The Way to Rainy Mountain — excerpts available in the print guide.

Materials
Teachers will need the following supplies:

  • board and/or chart paper
  • copies of The Way to Rainy Mountain
  • computers

Standards
Standards for the English Language Arts

Summary
In advance of the lesson Betty Tillman Samb asks students to read an excerpt from The Way to Rainy Mountain. She also asks each student to bring to class photos of a grandparent or an older relative whom they can remember.

1. Samb asks each student to introduce the relative in the photo to another student.

2. Students write down memories about their relative. Several students read aloud their memories in poetry and prose.

3. Samb shares with the class a memoir she has written.

4. Samb asks students several questions to consider as they listen to a recorded reading of The Way to Rainy Mountain:

  • What is the central idea of this piece?
  • What did Momaday want us to remember about his people, his grandmother, and their traditions?

5. After students listen to the recorded reading, Samb asks them questions including:

  • How does Momaday describe Oklahoma?
  • What does he say about his grandmother?

6. Samb prompts students to compare the style and structure of various sections of The Way to Rainy Mountain.

7. Samb tells the students that they will conduct Web research to learn about different aspects of Kiowa culture. She divides the class into several groups, and asks each group to focus on one aspect of Kiowa culture: religion, landscape, mythology or history.

8. Student groups take turns presenting their findings to the class, explaining how their research connects to The Way to Rainy Mountain.

Lesson Plan 2

Author: Russell Leong
Work: “Aerogrammes”

Overview
In this lesson, Bobbi Ciriza Houtchens uses a cultural studies approach to immerse students in Asian American culture as they study Russell Leong’s poem “Aerogrammes.” During a class trip to Chinatown in Los Angeles, Leong shares his poetry and guides students as they have a Tai Chi lesson, eat in a Chinese restaurant, and work in groups to create Japanese renga poems describing their experience.

Preparation
To prepare for the lesson, view The Expanding Canon video program 6, Part II. Online review the Session 6 theory overview, strategies, information about the authors and literature, resources, and the downloadable print guide. Read “Aerogrammes” — available in the print guide.

Materials
Teachers will need the following supplies:

  • board and/or chart paper
  • a screen or monitor on which to show a clip from the video program 6, Part II, either on a vhs tape or from the Web (optional)
  • copies of “Aerogrammes” from The Country of Dreams and Dust

Standards
Standards for the English Language Arts

Summary
Day 1
1. Bobbi Ciriza Houtchens begins by reminding students that on the next day they are going to meet poet Russell Leong in the Chinatown section of Los Angeles. The class prepares by reading “Aerogrammes,” a poem from Leong’s book The Country of Dreams and Dust. As Houtchens reads, she guides students to make predictions and summarize by asking:

  • What is an aerogramme?
  • What is the poem about?

2. Houtchens asks students to read the poem by themselves, using a technique called “coding.” Students put a check next to interesting passages, a plus next to new information, and a question mark where questions arise. At the end of the class, Houtchens suggests that students bring their copies of Leong’s poem on the field trip, along with a pencil and a piece of paper.

Day 2
1. Houtchens takes her students to Chinatown in Los Angeles to meet poet Russell Leong. She urges the students to be “sponges” – to absorb as much of the cultural experience as they can. (Teachers may want to show the segment from The Expanding Canon video program 6, Part II that features Leong and Houtchens’s students.)

2. Leong discusses his experiences in various Chinese American neighborhoods and gives a brief history of Asian American immigration to California. He then introduces his martial arts instructor, Larry Antonio.

3. Antonio explains that Tai Chi, which means balance, is a martial art that deflects and neutralizes incoming forces.

4. Antonio demonstrates some Tai Chi moves; then leads the students in a series of Tai Chi exercises.

5. Leong explains that Tai Chi is similar to poetry because it combines form, function, feeling, and freedom.

6. Led by Leong, the students walk through Chinatown en route to a restaurant. He and Houtchens urge students to use their five senses to absorb the experience.

7. After lunch in a Chinese restaurant, Leong tells students about his trip to China. Then he reads “Aerogrammes” aloud.

8. Leong answers students’ questions about his poetry.

9. Leong asks students to write down a line that describes one memory the students have of Chinatown. He instructs them to use their five senses when crafting their lines. Houtchens adds that students should be as specific and precise as possible. Leong and Houtchens divide the class into four groups to create Japanese renga poems. They ask that students share their poetic lines with members of their group, and then work together to put the lines in an order so that they become a poem.

10. The groups each present their poems to the rest of the class.

Series Directory

The Expanding Canon: Teaching Multicultural Literature in High School

Credits

Produced by Thirteen/WNET. 2003.
  • Closed Captioning
  • ISBN: 1-57680-676-6