¡Mira Look!: Moví la mano/ I Moved my Hand

movi-la-manoSaludos todos! This week I will be reviewing Moví la mano/ I Moved my Hand, written by Argentinian author Jorge Lújan and illustrated by French artist Mandana Sadat, as our last January book on “unsung heroes.” So far this month I’ve reviewed children’s books that focus on heroic and fearless parents, lesser-known cultural icons, like Tito Puente, who were also active humanitarians, and brave firefighters whose invaluable work sometimes goes unnoticed. However, this week’s “unsung heroes” are children themselves.

la-mano-1Moví la mano/ I Moved my Hand tells the story of a young girl whose imagination, creativity and drive hold the power to change the world around her: “When a little girl moves her hand, she discovers the world and her power to change and create it anew.” Lújan’s story reads as a bilingual Spanish/English poem, complemented by Sadat’s stunning illustrations. Every one of the female protagonist’s actions, moving, shaking, stirring and swirling, to name a few, is met by a magical effect, the creation of a lake, finding the moon, and soaring through the sky. This fantastical narrative and its equally enchanting illustrations serve as a metaphor for the infinite potential at the hands of young children: “an empowering and inspiring tribute to children’s magical possibilities.” As a result, this beautiful book helps us honor and celebrate the infinite potential and imagination of young children, the “unsung heroes” of the future, as well as their magical ability to find and create beauty in the world around them.

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January 20th | Week in Review

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¡Hola a todos! Today’s Week in Review is a bit longer than usual because there were so many valuable resources to share this week. The content has given me hope, and I hope it will do the same for you. Enjoy!

– The Zinn Education Project shared a new lesson plan to teach about the Reconstruction Era titled, Reconstructing the South: A Role Play. While a historical lesson, the themes are relevant today. “This role play asks students to imagine themselves as people who were formerly enslaved and to wrestle with a number of issues about what they needed to ensure genuine “freedom”: ownership of land—and what the land would be used for; the fate of Confederate leaders; voting rights; self-defense; and conditions placed on the former Confederate states prior to being allowed to return to the Union.”

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En la Clase: Talking with Mother Earth/Hablando con Madre Tierra

Talking with Mother Earth | Jorge Argueta | Vamos a LeerIn this week’s En la Clase we’re looking at Jorge Argueta’s children’s book Talking with Mother Earth/Hablando con Madre Tierra.  This bilingual poetry book not only speaks to this month’s theme of  diversity within Latinx identity, but is also an excellent resource for those teaching a critical history of conquest and colonization.  As with last week’s featured book, Argueta’s poetry is simple but powerful.  It elicits both critical thought and personal reflection.  Through these autobiographical poems we learn about Tetl:

“Tetl’s skin is brown, his eyes are black, and his hair is long. He’s different from the other children, whose taunts wound him deeply, leaving him confused and afraid. But Tetl’s grandmother knows the ancient teachings of their Aztec ancestors, and how they viewed the earth as alive with sacred meaning. With her help, he learns to listen to the mountains, wind, corn, and stones. Tetl’s journey from self-doubt to proud acceptance of his Nahuatl heritage is told in a series of powerful poems, beautifully expressed in both English and Spanish” (Goodreads).

In last week’s En la Clase, we discussed the importance of authentic cultural referents in children’s literature.  Argueta’s book demonstrates why this is so powerful.  Too often when we discuss native cultures and Indigenous peoples in our classrooms, it’s done in the past tense, as if they no longer exist.  In Talking with Mother Earth/Hablando con Madre Tierra readers learn about the childhood of Jorge Tetl Argueta who identifies as Pipil Nahua.  Argueta writes his poems in first person present tense.  While this may seem an insignificant choice, it’s not.  The explicit and implicit messages sent through the language in our children’s books are powerful.  The use of third person, past tense, or passive language can perpetuate ideas such as Indigenous peoples no longer exist, they have no agency, or they are to blame for the violence that is/was enacted upon them.  For more on this conversation, see Jean Paine Mendoza’s article “Goodbye, Columbus: Take Two” from A Broken Flute: The Native Experience in Books for Children October is often the month in which students learn about Columbus, exploration, conquest and colonization.  It’s important to model for our students how to critique the oppressive messages conveyed in both the fiction and non-fiction literature they read on these topics, and to provide them examples of empowering narratives such as Argueta’s.

Discussion Suggestions:Talking with Mother Earth | Jorge Argueta | Vamos a Leer

Written in a child’s voice, Argueta’s poems are not only engaging reads for younger audiences, they are empowering.  It’s heartbreaking to read about the racist bullying that Tetl endured:

“Cracked-foot Indian,”
my schoolmates used to call me
and laugh at my bare feet.

“Flea-bitten Indian,”
they would call me
and pull on my hair
long and dark as the night
“Indian called down from the hill
by the beat of a drum,”
they would tease me and while the teacher
wrote on the blackboard, they would hit my back.

But, when we continue to live in a society that claims to be color-blind or post-racial, there is something powerful about naming this racism and the stereotypes being perpetuated.  Tetl’s words reveal a vulnerability that provides the space to discuss bullying and racism in a very open way.  This type of bullying continues to happen in classrooms and playgrounds across the nation.  While it’s certainly a complex problem, it’s not going to get any better until we’re willing to have the sometimes hard and uncomfortable conversations about racism in our classrooms.  Argueta’s book provides one way in which to do that.  We talk frequently about literature providing mirrors, windows, and doors.  Here, students who have been bullied are provided a protagonist who speaks both to the experience and how he chose to overcome it. We can also hope that those who have acted as bullies will begin to reflect on the causes and consequences of their behavior.

Talking with Mother Earth | Jorge Argueta | Vamos a LeerIn Dr. Laura Harjo’s introduction to the LAII’s recent screening of the film Tambien la Lluvia, she talked about how one of the effects of conquest, colonization, and colonialism can be seen through the deadening of land as it became property that could be owned.  Argueta’s poetry together with Lucía Ángela Pérez’s beautiful illustrations offer a much different view of land.  Here, Mother Earth is something both alive and powerful.  Exposed to a powerful counter narrative through the introduction to Nahua beliefs and spirituality, readers will hopefully develop a greater appreciation for Earth and the many facets of nature that we often take for granted, such as the wind, sun, water, or plants.

Activity Suggestions:

There’s a lot you could do with the book beyond a read aloud.  These ideas are just a start.  It’s certainly an excellent mentor text for poetry writing.  Argueta discusses his own childhood experiences with both openness and vulnerability.  Using this as a model, ask students to think about a hurtful experience they’ve had.  Perhaps they’ve been bullied, or they have bullied another student.  This could become the inspiration for their own poem.  It’s also an excellent text to use to teach nature poetry.  Ask students to think about the ways in which we take different elements of nature for granted.  Then, choosing one of these elements, each student can write their own poem as Argueta did. If time permits, have students illustrate their poems.  Then, create a class book of the poetry for display.

We’re not alone in thinking this is a wonderful book.  It has received both the  International Latino Book Award and Américas Book Award.

As always, I’d love to hear what your students think about the book!

Katrina

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Book Giveaway: Poesía eres tú and Todo es canción

book giveaway april¡Buenas!

In light of Poetry Month, we are giving away two poetry anthologies in the Spanish language. The two books are Poesía eres tú: Antología poética, written by F. Isabel Campoy and illustrated by Marcela Calderón, and Todo es canción: Antología poética, written by Alma Flor Ada and illustrated by María Jesús Álvarez.

These books would be great for Spanish language learners and ideal for the classroom. The poems draw from everyday happenings, illuminating the beauty and creativity that exists in our day to day activities. Through these poems, I think that children will be inspired to write poetry themselves. Both of the authors have divided their poems into categories, so you can easily find different poetry themes you are in the mood for. I encourage you to check out Alma Flor Ada’s webpage about this book, where you can find a book description, author’s note, book review, and a video of Alma Flor Ada reading the poem “Bilingüe” from her book. Isabel Campoy also has a description of her book on her website that I recommend taking a look at.

To be entered in the giveaway, comment on this post by April 30th. If your name is chosen, we will email you about mailing the book to you.

Good luck!
Kalyn

En la Clase: Love, Community, & Poetry

Vamos a Leer | En la Clase: Love of Community Through PoetryThis week’s En la Clase post continues to look at ways in which to think, teach, and talk about love in our classrooms.  As I was writing last week’s post on teaching about love through immigration, I was reminded of another classroom resource that could also be used to teach about love.  In the fall we reviewed Linda Christensen and Dyan Watson’s book Rhythm and Resistance: Teaching Poetry for Social Justice.  The whole book is wonderful, but given this month’s theme of love, I’d like to highlight one of the lessons that I think could be particularly compelling for creating or deepening the ties of community within our classrooms.  The lesson is available as a pdf here.  In “Remember Me: A farewell poem,” Christensen asks her students to write a Remember Me poem about a fellow classmate.  Christensen uses it at the end of the year, but I also think it could be used during the month of February to expand upon conversations around love of community.  As students are bombarded with the commercialized representations of love, it’s important to provide the space for them to think through these messages, challenge them, and create their own statements on the meaning of love.

In the lesson plan, Christensen writes, “Students need to learn how to build new traditions–ones that don’t involve corporations telling them how to think and feel about death, birth, illness, goodbyes, celebrations, or each other.  By creating practices in our classrooms that honor our time together, our work, and our community, we can teach students how to develop meaningful new traditions.” I couldn’t agree more.  Incorporating “Remember Me” poems into the classroom allows students to think deeply about the people in their classroom community, and hopefully foster a sense of love for that community. Continue reading

En la Clase: ‘Twas Nochebuena. . .

Twas Nochebuena | En la Clase | Vamos a Leer BlogToday’s En la Clase continues our December theme on winter celebrations by sharing how to implement another great children’s book into your teaching.  We’ve already shared posts on The Miracle of the First Poinsettia and A Piñata in a Pine Tree.  Be sure to check those out for some other fun resources if you missed them.

I recently remembered a recommendation a blog reader gave me last year about the beautiful book ‘Twas Nochebuena written by Roseanne Greenfield Thong and illustrated by Sarah Palacios.  Somehow I’d missed this book when it came out in 2014, but I’m really happy to be writing about it this year in time for one of our December posts.  Greenfield Thong and Placios have created a new version of the familiar ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas tale. Here, students will read about one family’s Nochebuena celebration.  This story, like some of the others we’ve highlighted this month, is filled with references to Latino Christmas traditions such as tamales, adornos, canciones, las posadas, and champurrado. Written in a mixture of English and Spanish, the book can be used with English speakers or Spanish speakers, as the surrounding words and illustrations provide plenty of context clues.  The glossary at the back is also a great resource. 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

En la Clase: Rhythm and Resistance~Teaching Poetry for Social Justice

It’s a bit of a celebration here at Vamos a Leer as today marks our 500th post!! It’s been a great three and a half years.  We’re incredibly grateful for all of you who read, comment on, and share our Vamos a Leer resources.  It’s been wonderful getting to know this online community!

Rhythm and Resistance coverIt seems fitting that for today’s En la Clase I’m sharing a book that comes from one of my absolute favorite organizations for teaching resources: Rethinking Schools.  While it was Paulo Freire’s work that introduced me to the powerful potential of education, Rethinking Schools radically changed the way I taught.  Their teaching resources empowered both me and my students through concrete representations of critical pedagogy that humanize the teaching and learning processes.  Last spring we were lucky enough to get to host three Rethinking Schools editors for a day-long conference at the University of New Mexico.  Bill Bigelow, Linda Christensen, and Wayne Au led panel discussions and workshops along side some of our College of Education faculty.  Months later I still hear our local teachers and teacher education students referencing things they learned from that conference.

Today, I want to share with you one of Rethinking Schools’ most recent publications, Rhythm and Resistance: Teaching Poetry for Social Justice, edited by Linda Christensen and Dyan Watson.  If you’re unfamiliar with the book, it “offers practical lessons about how to teach poetry to build community, understand literature and history, talk back to injustice, and construct stronger literacy skills across content areas and grade levels—from elementary school to graduate school. Rhythm and Resistance reclaims poetry as a necessary part of a larger vision of what it means to teach for justice” (taken from the book’s back cover).  While many of us may be familiar with Christensen’s lesson plan on “Where I’m From” Poetry, this book provides an entire year’s worth of such engaging lessons that go way beyond the haiku, rhyming poems, or sonnets we often ask our students to write. Continue reading

WWW: Considering the “Nocturne” and the Importance of Poet Rosario Castellanos

castellanosIt is difficult to talk about Latin American poetry during the 20th century without mentioning this poet.  And no, I am not talking about Borges, nor Neruda nor Paz.  I’m talking about Rosario Castellanos.  Although her name is not quite as famous as the others, and although many scholars would put up a strong argument that it would, in fact, be quite easy to discuss Latin American poetry without mentioning her work, I would argue that her place within the construction of Mexican national identity post-WWII is as important as anyone else. Continue reading