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The Expanding Canon: Teaching Multicultural Literature in High School

Reader Response: Pat Mora and James Welch Lesson Plans

This section includes summaries of the lessons featured in the video programs. The lessons explore the literature through a reader-response approach.

Lesson Plan 1 – Reader Response: Pat Mora
Alfredo Lujan uses a reader-response approach to explore the poetry of Pat Mora. The students write and present their own poems in response to the works in Mora’s collection My Own True Name. By arranging for students to share their poetry at a local café, Lujan honors their writing as a way to communicate with each other as well as with the larger community.

Lesson Plan 2 – Reader Response: James Welch
Greg Hirst uses a reader-response approach by asking students to recognize that — for personal reasons — they are drawn to certain phrases and aspects of literature. In this lesson, Hirst helps his students to understand James Welch’s work by getting them to focus on specific words that they find compelling and significant.

Lesson Plan 1

Author: Pat Mora
Title of work: My Own True Name

Overview
Alfredo Lujan uses a reader-response approach to explore the poetry of Pat Mora. The students write and present their own poems in response to the works in Mora’s collection My Own True Name. By arranging for students to share their poetry at a local café, Lujan honors their writing as a way to communicate with each other as well as with the larger community.

Preparation
To prepare for the lesson, view The Expanding Canon video program 1, Part I. Online, review the Session 1 theory overview, strategies, information about the authors and literature, resources, and the downloadable print guide. Also read Pat Mora’s My Own True Name — selected poems 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 featuring Pat Mora from the The Expanding Canon video program 1, Part I (optional)
  • copies of My Own True Name

Standards
Standards for the English Language Arts

Summary
1. Alfredo Lujan begins the lesson by telling students that Pat Mora’s book of poems, My Own True Name, is about identity. He asks students to reflect on this while they read poems in the collection silently.

2. Students state their names and a favorite line from one of the poems in My Own True Name. Lujan asks students to explain their choices briefly to the class.

3. Lujan asks students to name the poems on which they would like to focus. He writes the titles on the board, then divides the students into small groups and instructs the groups to select a poem from the list. He asks them to discuss what the poem means literally, what they interpret it to mean, and how it applies to their lives.

4. After working in small groups, the students share highlights of their conversations with the class.

5. Lujan asks the students to bring their copy of My Own True Name as he takes them outside to a nearby arroyo. Lujan asks them to look for an object — something they can use as a focus for their writing — and to respond to Mora’s work by creating poems of their own.

6. Lujan introduces the students to Pat Mora. Pat Mora reads her work to the class, and then answers students’ questions about her process. (Teachers may want to show students a clip featuring Pat Mora from The Expanding Canon video program 1, Part I.)

7. The students “publish” their work. They share their poems with their classmates, Lujan, Mora, family, and community members at a local café.

Lesson Plan 2

Author: James Welch
Title of work: “Christmas Comes to Moccasin Flat,” from Riding the Earthboy 40, and The Death of Jim Loney

Overview
Greg Hirst uses a reader-response approach by asking students to recognize that – for personal reasons – they are drawn to certain phrases and aspects of literature. In this lesson, Hirst helps his students to understand James Welch’s work by getting them to focus on specific words that they find compelling and significant. This activity helps students figure out why these words have power in the context of a particular poem.

Preparation
To prepare for the lesson, view The Expanding Canon video program 1, Part II. Online, review the Session 1 theory overview, strategies, information about the authors and literature, resources, and the downloadable print guide. Read “Christmas Comes to Moccasin Flat,” from Riding the Earthboy 40, and The Death of Jim Loney — featured poem available in the print guide.

Materials
Teachers will need the following supplies:

  • board and/or chart paper
  • copies of “Christmas Comes to Moccasin Flat,” from Riding the Earthboy 40
  • copies of The Death of Jim Loney

Standards
Standards for the English Language Arts

Summary
In advance of the lesson, the students read The Death of Jim Loney — except for the last chapter.

Day 1
1. Hirst provides some background information on the author, who was a member of the Blackfeet and Gros Ventre tribes. He then introduces Welch’s book of poetry, Riding the Earthboy 40, and asks them what they think “Earthboy 40” means.

2. Hirst begins a discussion about the poem “Christmas Comes to Moccasin Flat” by asking:

  • What does Christmas mean to you?
  • Do you know where Moccasin Flat is?

3. Students take turns reading passages of the poem aloud. Hirst structures the reading so that each student stops where there is punctuation. At each stopping point, Hirst asks students to write any thought that comes to their minds. During the following discussion, students discuss their personal responses. Follow-up questions Hirst asks include:

  • How many images dealing with numbers have we found?
  • Why would there be 25 images?

4. Hirst asks students to pick out the most important word in each stanza of the poem. Students share their choices, and Hirst writes several on the board.

5. Hirst then asks students to choose one word on the board per stanza as the most important. When one word per stanza is left on the board, Hirst asks his students to use these words to summarize the poem in a sentence or two.

Day 2
1. Hirst begins by asking students to summarize what happens in the novel. In order to promote understanding of the character Jim Loney, he asks the students what all young “Jim Loneys” do when they are in school.

2. Focusing on the end of the novel, Hirst asks students to read passages aloud. He explains that the students are going to write their own alternate ending to the novel.

3. Divided into groups, students decide why they think the novel ends as it does. Hirst prompts discussion with questions such as:

  • Why did Jim kill a man he’s known all of his life on the reservation?
  • What might be the reason this happened at this point in the novel?

4. The groups draft their own alternate ending to the novel. One student in each group drafts the group’s collective ideas. Afterwards each group takes turns sharing the alternate endings with the class.

5. As a final activity, Hirst asks the students to read the final chapter of The Death of Jim Loney and compare it to the endings they created.

Series Directory

The Expanding Canon: Teaching Multicultural Literature in High School

Credits

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