En la Clase: Teaching About Frida Kahlo

Frida CanvasAs you’ve read in recent posts, this month we’re celebrating women’s history through sharing resources about strong Latin American and Latina women.  With such a focus, it would be remiss not to highlight Frida Kahlo as part of this month.  Of course, we would advocate for teaching about Kahlo anytime of year, but I think she is of incredible importance when we’re discussing women who have changed the way in which we think about female identity and the role of women in society. We’ve made great strides in gender equality, and it’s important to recognize the multitudes of women (and men) who have helped to make that happen.  I particularly appreciated the discussion in the article “Embracing the Modern Female Heroine–In All Her Forms” by the Children’s Book Cooperative (CBC).  It’s vital that we continue to highlight the ways in which we are challenging and redefining what it means to be a woman in today’s society because it is certainly happening and our students need to be aware of it:

While the challenges of ethnic, racial, and sexual diversity still loom large, I found some comfort this past year in seeing an emergence of strong, complex, and challenging female characters depicted in modern entertainment. Women depicted making morally questionable choices.  Women whose principle dilemmas didn’t revolve around a dashing leading man. Women who took on what society often dictates as standard male personality traits (physical and emotional strength, relentless determination, and even questionable moral conduct) and redefined them as their own. Women who traveled down paths of their own making, shaped by a clear understanding of who they are as people, and holding onto that identity with all they have.” (From Embracing the Modern Female Heroine–In All Her Forms)

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WWW: Back in Activism!

¡Feliz viernes a todos!

Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable holiday break. Thank you for joining me again. This semester we are kicking off with a focus on activism. You may notice that many of our upcoming posts connect and highlight important activists in Latin America, the organizations they belong to, or the programs they founded. In honor of the focus on activism, I am highlighting some of Ana Teresa Fernández’s recent work on “erasing” the U.S.-Mexico border—using art!

Vamos a Leer | WWW: Back in Activism!Ana Teresa Fernández is a Mexican-American artist. She and a group of thirty volunteers teamed up to paint the border fence in Nogales, Sonora a light blue color in order to blend it with the sky. In her video about the project, Fernández talked about the fence as a “symbol of hate and pain.” She thought to change that by making it invisible (at least a piece of it). Her work constitutes activism “because it re-contextualizes a possibility. It makes you not see the border — just for a split second — and [makes you see] how two countries can exist, or coexist, peacefully,” said Fernández in an interview with Raquel Reichard from Latina. To her, the problem of the border fence is that it divides two groups of people who could otherwise live in harmony. The idea, while earning support from many people, sparked hate in some who have taken to writing hate mail and nasty correspondence to the artist. Continue reading

En la Clase: A Piñata in a Pine Tree

A Pinata in a Pine Tree | Teaching Holidays and Celebrations | Vamos a Leer BlogI realize it’s still November, but based on our search statistics, many of you are already looking for books, lesson plans, and resources for teaching about winter celebrations like Christmas and Las Posadas.  I’m impressed! You all are far more organized than I was when I was in the classroom.  You’ll definitely want to check out this week’s giveaway of Merry Navidad!  In previous posts we’ve discussed our philosophy for how to approach teaching about cultural celebrations and traditions in a way that’s authentic and meaningful.  Many of those same ideas are relevant here as well.

First, I thought I’d share some of the ideas I’ve written about in past posts on teaching about winter celebrations.  This time of year was always one of my favorites times to be in the classroom because the possibilities for engaging and interesting lessons were endless.  When I taught third grade, at the beginning of each December I began a unit on three winter celebrations: Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Las Posadas.  As a child, I remember talking about Hanukkah in school, but the extent of what we learned seemed to be limited to eating latkes and learning a song and game about dreidels.  I wanted to go beyond that.  I wanted my students to have a deeper understanding of cultural traditions that may be different from the ones they or their families personally observe. Continue reading

En la Clase: Gracias~Thanks

Gracias Thanks |En la Clase | Vamos a LeerIn last week’s En la Clase I talked about using Round is a Tortilla and Green is a Chile Pepper as the basis for a poetry activity based on gratitude, gratefulness, and awareness.  This week I’m highlighting Gracias ~ Thanks, another beautiful book illustrated by John Parra and written by Pat Mora.  As the title suggests, thankfulness is the main theme of the book, making it the perfect book for this time of year. The publisher’s description writes, “There are so many things to be thankful for. . .Straight from the heart of a child flows this lighthearted bilingual celebration of family, friendship, and fun.  Come share the joy, and think about all the things for which you can say, ¡Gracias! Thanks!”  Like last week’s books, Gracias ~ Thanks is a book written with young children in mind, so it’s great for your pre-school or early elementary students.  But, with such an important and universal theme, it’s great for encouraging a mindfulness of the everyday things for which we can be thankful in older and younger students alike.  Plus, each page is written in English and Spanish, so it’s great for English, Spanish, or bilingual classrooms.

In all of our busyness, it’s easy to take for granted the people or things that make our lives so special.  Mora’s poetic words and Parra’s beautiful illustrations turn the very commonplace things in our lives into reasons to celebrate.  They highlight the ways in which the ordinary actions of family and friends can make our lives such lovely experiences.  Not only is it a fun book to read, but it easily lends itself to writing activities. Continue reading

En la Clase: Gratitude, Awareness, and Poetry for the Classroom

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It’s officially November. Here at Vamos a Leer we’re not advocates of teaching the traditional tales of Pilgrims, Indians, and the First Thanksgiving (Charla does a great job discussing this in her post “Thanks but No Thanks: Creating a November with No Stereotypes”). This doesn’t mean that we want you to entirely ignore the fall season. One of my favorite parts of being in the classroom was that I was able to explicitly call attention to the changing of the seasons.  This made me so mindful of the different things I loved about each time of year and allowed me to encourage my students to do the same. The end of fall and the beginning of winter are a great time to have your students focus on gratitude, gratefulness, and awareness. So for today’s En la Clase post, I thought I’d highlight the ways the two beautiful books by Roseanne Greenfield Thong and John Parra can be used as the basis for a great seasonal literacy activity.  The books by this duo are amazing. If you’re not familiar with their work, you must remedy that right away! In tVamos a Leer | 2015 Pura Belpré Award Winners and Honor Books| Green is a Chile Pepper by Roseanne Thong and illustrated by John Parrahis post, I’m going to discuss Green is a Chile Pepper and Round is a Tortilla. Check out the review Lorraine wrote last year of Round is a Tortilla for a quick introduction to their work.

Focusing on shapes and colors, both of the books were written with young children in mind.  But as with many great children’s books, this doesn’t mean that young readers are the only ones who can enjoy or benefit from them.  For me, these books really inspire the reader to be fully aware of all the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures around them.  Full of cultural references, they really encourage students to think about all of the everyday things that not only make up our daily experiences but really enrich our lives.  As is probably evident from the titles, Round is a Tortilla encourages this kind of awareness by focusing on the shapes of the things that surround us, while Green is a Chile Pepper highlights colors.  Written with a lyrical style, I think the books really lend themselves to a poetry activity. Continue reading

Teaching is an art.

Teaching is an art, despite what main stream media may say.  As we go back to our classrooms, I think it’s important that we hold on tightly to this truth.  So much of what Christensen says here really resonates with me.  In the hopes that it will speak to you as well, I thought I’d share her post.

Rethinking Schools

by Linda Christensen

Linda Christensen

I love the first days of school.

I love putting the books back on the shelves, polishing the tables, stacking my bins of colored highlighters, sticky notes, and blue tape in the cupboard.

I love arranging and rearranging my tables, chairs, and file cabinets until the room feels right — ready for work.

I love the chalkboards—green and smooth, ready for the first scratch of chalk. Yes, I’m old school: I still have chalkboards.

I love putting up photographs and poems, quotes from scholars and former students.

I love planning: drawing out the four quarters of the year, marking up the board with sticky notes about the units I will teach, noting the writing assignments and extra readings I will use with each unit.

I love to pause and look out at Mt. St. Helens on a clear day, as I listen to the football players on…

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WWW: The First Female Hip Hop Artist from Oaxaca, Mare Advertencia Lirika

mare5bContinuing along with our theme of the merger between women’s rights and poetry in Latin America, we have an amazing video resource to share today.  Unlike past examples, however, today’s post will focus on a present day, female, indigenous hip hop artist from southern Mexico and an amazing video that comes with English subtitles so the entire class can appreciate the poetic lyricism of her call for human rights, women’s rights, indigenous rights, and a greater social consciousness.  Her name is Mare Advertencia Lirika, and today we will be watching the video for her song entitled “And What Are Your Waiting For?” (Y Tu Que Esperas?).  In this song, Mare combines the metrics of rap lyrics with elements of social resistance that have been present in her community for quite some time.  At 1:45 of the video, Mare says:  “We have been denied our own history/ Our words have been taken by other mouths” (1:45).

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