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The Expanding Canon: Teaching Multicultural Literature in High School

Inquiry: Rudolfo Anaya and James Baldwin Lesson Plans

This section includes summaries of the lessons featured in the video programs. The lessons explore the literature through an inquiry approach.

Lesson Plan 1: Inquiry: Rudolfo Anaya
Jorge Arredondo integrates inquiry into his classroom by encouraging students to formulate and pursue personal questions about Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima. Arredondo stimulates questioning, discussion, and research by taking the class to see a mural — created during the same era in which the book was written — that depicts struggles by Mexican Americans.

Lesson Plan 2: Inquiry: James Baldwin
Bo Wu uses an inquiry approach to help students understand three works by James Baldwin. Sparked by their personal interests, the students research topics related to these works and collaborate to produce group Web sites.

Lesson Plan 1

Author: Rudolfo Anaya
Work: Bless Me, Ultima

Overview
Jorge Arredondo integrates inquiry into his classroom by encouraging students to formulate and pursue personal questions about Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima. Arredondo stimulates questioning, discussion, and research by taking the class to see a mural — created during the same era when the book was written — that depicts struggles by Mexican Americans.

Preparation
To prepare for the lesson, view The Expanding Canon video program 3, Part I. Online, review the Session 3 theory overview, strategies, information about the authors and literature, resources, and the downloadable print guide. Read Bless Me, Ultima.

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 3, Part I, either on a vhs tape or from the Web(optional)
  • copies of Bless Me, Ultima

Standards
Standards for the English Language Arts

Summary
Teachers may want to show students the profile of Rudolfo Anaya from The Expanding Canon Workshop Session 3 program – Part I.

Day 1
1. Jorge Arredondo tells his students that they will discuss their favorite parts of Bless Me, Ultima and then they will look at a mural to compare it to the book.

2. Arredondo asks students to choose any passage from the book that relates to their lives or raises questions to which they want answers, and write it down.

3. Students share the passages they’ve chosen with the class, explaining why they have made their choices. Arredondo also shares a passage and explains why it’s important to him.

4. Building on the issues that students raised, Arredondo prompts them to discuss larger themes from the book, such as the interweaving of folklore and religion.

5. Arredondo tells his students that they are going to see a mural painted in 1972 by the Mexican American Youth Organization. (Teachers who do not have access to a similar artwork may instead show their students murals or Mexican American artwork on the Internet, or a clip featuring the mural from this video program.) Arredondo asks his students what themes they expect to find in the mural. Building on their predictions, he shares some relevant background information. He explains that Mexican American farming has its roots in Aztec culture, and that migration played a big role in Mexican American history.

6. Arredondo asks his students to think of questions they have about Bless Me, Ultima, and to keep these questions in mind as they look at the mural. He responds by summarizing students’ ideas about the book.

Day 2
1. The class views the mural. As students look at it, Arredondo reminds them to keep in mind their predictions about the mural, the relationship of those predictions to themes of the novel, and the relationship of those themes to the passages and personal questions the students originally raised. He asks students questions such as:

  • Did your predictions come true?
  • What themes does the mural depict?
  • How do they relate to the novel Bless Me, Ultima?
  • Does the mural help to answer some of the questions you had about the book?

2. In their journals, students record their responses to the mural and any connections they find to Bless Me, Ultima. They then read these observations aloud. Arredondo’s students remark on the way that spirits and healers watch over the living. They also talk about the tension that arises when one person tries to control another’s destiny. During the discussion, Arredondo explains who some of the figures are in the mural, while helping students to clarify their ideas.

3. Arredondo asks his students to use what they have discussed in class — passages, personal connections, the major themes, historical information, and the associations between these — to formulate a question they would like to research further. He reminds students that the pursuit of answers can lead to actions that will make a positive difference in their community.

Lesson Plan 2

Author: James Baldwin
Work: The Fire Next Time, “Sonny’s Blues, ” and “The Rockpile”

Overview
Bo Wu uses an inquiry approach to help students understand three works by James Baldwin. Sparked by their personal interests, the students research topics related to these works and collaborate to produce group Web sites.

Preparation
To prepare for the lesson, view The Expanding Canon video program 3 – Part II. Online, review the Session 3 theory overview, strategies, information about the authors and literature, resources, and the downloadable print guide. Read James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, “Sonny’s Blues,” and “The Rockpile” — excerpt available in the print guide. Additionally, you may want to explore the following links for information about creating Web sites.

Home Page of Litstudies.com and ThinkQuestNYC.org
http://www.litstudies.com/
The Web site created by Bo Wu and her students.

The Internet in Action
http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/ntti/iia/
Advice for teachers interested in creating Web sites.

Materials
Teachers will need the following supplies:

  • board and/or chart paper
  • computers
  • copies of The Fire Next Time, “Sonny’s Blues,” “The Rockpile”

Standards
Standards for the English Language Arts

Summary

Day 1
1. In order to get students thinking about their personal connections to a literary text, Bo Wu asks her students to keep a journal (in a notebook and/or online) of questions or topics that interest them. She prompts them with questions, such as:

  • What aspects of the text most spoke to you?
  • How have you responded to the reading?

2. Wu explains that students will be working in small groups to research James Baldwin on the Internet, and then, as a group, they will choose a focus related to one of the three works and create a Web site about Baldwin. Wu asks her students to generate questions that might help them decide what they are going to research. She suggests they think about what they would like to know about an author that might help them understand his or her works.

3. Wu then divides the student-generated questions into some general topics. She tells her students that they will begin their projects with some research about Baldwin’s life and works. She asks students to explain online research techniques, asking questions such as:

  • What key words would you put in the search box to find information about Baldwin or his works?
  • What other words can you use to search

4. Students describe their experiences researching James Baldwin’s works and discuss what they’ve learned.

5. Based on their research, students write down a topic connected to James Baldwin that they would like to research, along with an explanation of why they have chosen this topic. Wu encourages students to develop two questions that indicate what they want to learn about the topic.

6. Students share their questions aloud, and the ensuing discussion helps students focus their questions.

7. Students research their questions on the Internet, taking notes, making connections, and summarizing as they find information. Wu asks them to continue this research at home, reminding them that they can use the Internet at the public library. Finally, Wu explains that they will be synthesizing their research with that of other members of their group at the next class.

Day 2
1. Wu greets her students by reminding them that the class Web site has a summary of what they covered in class previously. She then asks students with similar topics to sit together, pool information, and create a report that represents the interests and research of the group.

2. As a homework assignment, Wu asks the students to read the Baldwin essay or story on which their group has chosen to focus, based on their research. She also asks students to write in their online journal, responding to the reading. Wu provides the students with questions to help focus their responses, such as:

  • What don’t I understand about the work?
  • Which of the work’s topics or issues would I like to explore further?

Day 3
1. Wu begins the class by asking her students to share their journal entries from the night before.

2. Next Wu explains to the class that they are going to start building a Web site about James Baldwin. She tells the students that this Web site is a digital portfolio students can fill with material of their own choosing. Prompting students to generate ideas for information and features they can put on their Web site, she asks questions such as:

  • Who is the audience for your Web site?
  • What kind of material will you provide for this audience?

3. Wu asks the students to decide within their groups what they want to put on their Web sites.

4. Finally, each group creates a Web site.

Series Directory

The Expanding Canon: Teaching Multicultural Literature in High School

Credits

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