This past October my class was SUPER excited to celebrate Halloween, as any American Kindergarten class would be. As a person of Mexican heritage, I decided to take this opportunity to also acknowledge/celebrate Día de los Muertos, a holiday I knew my students had knowledge about (99% are Latinx). Especially since 1) many people in America mistake the two celebrations as Halloween and 2) Día de los Muertos is not often celebrated/acknowledged in America.
We were just about to finish Unit 2: How are characters different? and begin Unit 3: Why do living things have different needs? During the previous year I had come across a book called Rosita y Conchita: A Rhyming Storybook in English and Spanish by Eric Gonzalez and Erich Haeger, but I hadn't gotten the chance to use it. When I reviewed the book I realized that it was perfect for Unit 2 because it basically compared the title characters who are sisters, one in the world of the living and the other in the world of the dead. The book uses a rhyming story to detail some of the practices of the holiday, while telling an engaging story.
I used the CCSS referenced in the unit* to guide my use of the book. Using this book allowed my class to really engage with the content and standards. We had the opportunity to have many conversations on the practices of the holiday, students made connections and predictions, and we felt inspired to make our own ofrenda (offering) as a class. I noticed almost immediately that students really connected to the book, allowing them an easier entry point to the standards of comparing and contrasting, and identifying elements of the story. Students who were typically quieter and less confident in English were suddenly yelling out answers and raising their hands to speak. Students who produced minimal written work were drawing and writing more (and it was pertinent to the topic) and asking how to spell words, when they hadn't before.
I noticed such a difference in the general aura and energy of our class that I knew it could only be due to the choice I had made in text. I even began to be flooded with ideas for our ofrenda, but I knew we had limited time. I decided on a few things we could easily get done in addition to writing about who we were celebrating:
- make calaveras (sugar skulls) out of clay
- make paper food offerings
-color some mariposas (butterflies) and cempazuchitles (marigolds)
Here are some photos of our final ofrenda.
*Standards I used:
RL.K.3. With prompting and support, identify characters, settings, and major events in a story.
W.K.8. With guidance and support from adults, recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question.
RL.K.10. Actively engage in group reading activities with purpose and understanding: a. Activate prior knowledge related to the information and events in texts.
How can I supplement the existing OUSD Language Arts curriculum to engage multiple perspectives (Framework 2) and have the ability to incorporate and draw on student's self and community love and knowledge (Framework 1)? Will supplementing prescribed curriclum with culturally relevant Ethnic Studies curriculum show increased student growth/academic success by mid-year?
In my own experience as a student, I don't remember seeing myself reflected in curriculum until an elective Ethnic Studies course in college. I remember that my Latino History class was where I had many aha-moments and felt, for one of the first times, a real connection and passion for what I was studying-- and paying for. I feel like this experience could/should have happened earlier in my education-- in elementary school. Now as a teacher, I recognize that our prescribed dual language curriculum lacks cultural representation, therefore, making it less likely that students connect to it. While the curriculum features characters of color and some stories of Latinx origin, it is still quite difficult for our first generation and newcomer students, who are overwhelmingly from Central American countries, to contextualize materials.
In order to make standards and curriculum more accessible for all my students, I have dedicated myself to using/creating alternate materials that I feel would make more sense in our classroom. It has been relatively simple to substitute my own choice of books for that of the curriculum, but the work is not just about substitution. So, I use the CCSS for Kindergarten as my guide to help me modify and create materials.
I am teaching the English side of a Kindergarten dual language program within Oakland Unified. I completed my credential in 2017 and will be finishing my MA at Mills College this coming year 2019.