En la Clase: Using The Circuit in the Classroom

As you probably already know from previous posts, our featured book for the month of November is Francisco Jiménez’s The Circuit.  As we do each month, we created our own Educator’s Guide as a resource for using the book in the classroom.  We kept our guide purposefully short this month because as I began researching the book a few months ago, I realized that there are some really great guides and resources already available. I thought I’d share two of them in this week’s En la Clase post.  The first guide focuses on 7th-12th grades, while the second guide is more appropriate for elementary through middle school.

The first guide integrates film and literature. I had heard great things about the film The Harvest/La Cosecha (click on the title for more information about the film), so I was incredibly excited when I found an in-depth companion curriculum for grades 7-12 that incorporates both The Harvest/La Cosecha and The Circuit into a 5 lesson English/Language Arts unit plan. The curriculum was produced by Shine Global, the same company that produced the film, and is available for free online.  For those of you not familiar with The Harvest/La Cosecha, the following is a brief description from the film’s website:

“Every year there are more than 400,000 American children who are torn away from their friends, schools and homes to pick the food we all eat.  Zulema, Perla and Victor labor as migrant farm workers, sacrificing their own childhoods to help their families survive.  THE HARVEST/LA COSECHA profiles these three as they journey from the scorching heat of Texas’ onion fields to the winter snows of the Michigan apple orchards and back south to the humidity of Florida’s tomato fields to follow the harvest.

 From the Producers of the Academy-Award® Nominated film, WAR/DANCE and Executive Producer Eva Longoria, this award-winning documentary provides an intimate glimpse into the lives of these children who struggle to dream while working 12 – 14 hours a day, 7 days a week to feed America.”

The unit plan is a great way to incorporate literature and film into lessons that support literacy skills.  Because the lessons touch on such a variety of content knowledge and skills they could be incorporated into a variety of classes: English, Language Arts, Social Studies, History, Current Events–the possibilities are endless. The stated goal of the unit is “to explore the use of narrative in literature and film in educating students about the effects of immigration and being child migrant laborer on personal development.”  There’s no doubt in my mind how powerful this unit plan could be–the combination of The Harvest/La Cosecha and The Circuit is sure to engage your students. While many of our students may not be familiar with the life of a migrant farm worker,the film will help them to understand Jiménez’s autobiographical recounting of his childhood as a migrant farm worker and to realize that these are still pertinent issues today.

The second guide is a two week unit based on The Circuit created by Santa Clara University.  The guide does an excellent job of integrating writing assignments into the novel study, supporting both reading and writing development.  It would probably be the most useful in an elementary or early middle school classroom. Having been an ESL teacher, I think it could be particularly good for ESL students. It focuses heavily on reading comprehension skills such as context, vocabulary, and sequencing while integrating daily writing activities.  You may even want to incorporate clips from film The Harvest/La Cosecha discussed above. The guide contains several suggestions for opening and visual activities. Also laid out are the daily reading, writing mini-lesson, key question(s), key paragraph, and daily prompt. At the end of the lesson, you will find a Spanish to English translations for vocabulary in The Circuit. It also has excellent geography and timeline activities that are used throughout the unit plan.  One of my favorite parts of the unit plan is the Final Assignment.  Here students take the writing snapshots they have completed through the unit and create their own autobiographical essay modeled after Jiménez’s. I should note, this unit plan is written to accompany the Write Ahead curriculum, but can be used without it.

Below I’ve included some other helpful links and resources for using The Circuit in the classroom.

We also received another great idea from Martha, one of our teacher readers. She’s planning on using The Circuit in conjunction with the young adult biography, Jessie de la Cruz: A Profile of a United Farm Worker by Gary Soto.  She wrote the following to us

“I’m hoping to use these together when I get enough class copies of “The Circuit”. I also picked Jessie de la Cruz because she is a female example of a migrant farmer. It’s good to pair different viewpoints. My boys in my class often relate better to a main character that’s a male in the same way that my girls respond better to a main character that’s a female. I love these books!!! For my younger students Esperanza Rising is a good choice, but since I have a little older students now…I think I’m going to start with The Circuit.”

I’m actually not familiar with Soto’s biography on Jessie de la Cruz, but I can’t wait to check it out now! Thanks for sharing with us Martha!

If you have any thoughts or ideas–please share them! When I was in the classroom, I always got the best ideas for lesson plans from other teachers!


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