Living Between Two Worlds
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Grade Levels 7
Subject Areas Social Studies,
California State Standards http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/index.asp
History 11.11 Students analyze the major social problems and
domestic policy issues in contemporary American society.
Grade 7 Reading Comprehension (focus on informational materials)
2.4 Students identify and trace the development in text of an
author's argument, point of view or perspective.
Grade 8 Reading Comprehension (focus on informational materials)
2.3 Students find similarities and differences between texts in
the treatment, scope and organization of ideas.
Grades 9 and 10 Writing 1.0 Students write coherent and focused
essays that convey a well-defined perspective and a tightly reasoned
argument. The writing demonstrates students' awareness of the
audience and purpose. Students progress through the stages of
the writing process as needed.
In this lesson, students will explore issues common to all families.
They will examine school, work and conflict in their lives and
the lives of the family profiled in the film. They will have an
opportunity to roleplay solutions to school conflicts based on
a series of vignettes. Examples from literature that focus on
voice and identity will also be examined.
To enable students to:
learn about the Dominican Republic.
understand some aspects of the immigrant experience.
learn about the problems bilingual students face in the
explore the commonalities that exist between their own
family life and life in the Ortiz family.
Two to five 50-minute class periods
Videotape - My American Girls: A Dominican Story by Aaron
Book - The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros(optional)
The purpose of this activity is to help students develop background
knowledge about the Dominican Republic before they view the film.
1. Divide the class into small groups to conduct research on
the Dominican Republic. Ask each group to collect 20 to 25 facts.
As a class, compile the information into categories.
2. Have the students create a class exhibit on the Dominican
Republic. Ask each small group to choose one category and work
on a presentation for the class exhibit. Provide large pieces
of chart paper and drawing and writing materials for each group.
Some possible categories include geography, culture, transportation,
tourism and so forth. Some possible presentation ideas include
drawings, maps, brochures, dioramas, music and so forth.
3. Invite an audience to view the class exhibit.
Some good Web sites to begin research include
(On the site, scroll down to the section entitled "The Dominican
Republic From Columbus to the 1990s: A Brief History")
The purpose of this activity is for students to learn about
the filmmaker's reasons for creating the film.
1. Prior to viewing the film, read, as a class, an interview
with the filmmaker at http://www.pbs.org/pov/myamericangirls/thefilm.html.
Choose different students to read the questions and answers aloud.
Ask the students to briefly write in their journals their responses
to these questions
What do you think the film will focus on?
What do you think will be the most interesting aspect
of the story?
Which character do you think will be most compelling?
This activity looks at author Sandra Cisneros,
who is known for her portrayal of Hispanic women in contemporary
urban society, and the importance of multicultural literature
in our society.
Teacher Note: You may choose to acquire a copy of Cisneros' House
on Mango Street to share with your class.
1. Have students spend a few minutes writing answers in their
journals to these questions:
Of all the books you have read in your lifetime, what
book do you feel you related to most on a personal level?
What do you think it was about the book that made you
respond to it in this way?
What book have you read that was the most difficult for
you to relate to on a personal level?
Why do you think that it was difficult for you to relate
to this story?
2. After students have finished, discuss their responses. Send
students to these Web sites to learn about author Sandra Cisneros
Ask each group to gather five pieces of information that they
find interesting about Cisneros and to answer the following questions:
What was Cisneros' childhood like?
What authors did Cisneros try to imitate during her early
years? Why do you think she did this?
How does Cisneros' "writing about what she knows" differ
from the topics of other authors you have read?
Why does Cisneros say that she has something to write
about that traditional American writers don't know about?
What is Cisneros referring to when she talks about finding
her own voice?
Why do you think Cisneros sees literary success as changing
the way someone thinks about her community, gender or class?
3. Discuss the answers to these questions and lead the class
in a discussion about why it is important to have books written
by a diverse population.
4. Have students write a vignette about where they live. Students
may choose to write about their physical residence, the people
they live with or their neighborhood.
5. Share the vignettes with the class. Discuss what the Ortiz
daughters might include in a vignette about their home, family
or neighborhood. Have students compare and contrast their vignettes.
Also have them compare and contrast their vignette with what the
Ortiz daughters might have written in their vignette.
The purpose of this activity is for students to think about
the problems that immigrant families may face in the school system.
Divide the class into small groups and provide each with one
of the following vignettes. Ask each group to brainstorm responses
to the situation described in the vignette. Have each group act
out its problem and solution.
My high school daughter doesn't know how to work. I have two
jobs and work very hard to give my children everything. She doesn't
study. She says her teacher doesn't give her any homework. I tell
her to work hard but she doesn't listen. I don't want her to drop
out of school, and I don't think she will work hard enough to
keep a job.
I don't really know how to help my son with his work at school
because I don't speak English. He is in the fifth grade. The teacher
sends home notes that I can't read. I brought him to school on
the first day but I haven't been there since. He came home in
tears and told me he was failing.
I don't want my parents to come to my school because they don't
understand what is happening there. I do my work and my grades
are good. It is hard for me to explain to them that I am handling
things myself. They want to be more involved.
The purpose of this activity is for students to discuss the
commonalities shared by their own family, the Ortiz family and
families throughout the world.
1. As students view the film, ask them to note down examples
of issues that are central to the Ortiz family.
2. After viewing the film, record all of the examples on the
board. Here is a list of possible examples from the film
Parents struggle to start a life in a new place.
Parents are torn between wanting to live in two places.
Myra argues with mother about schoolwork.
Mother wants daughters to have the educational opportunities
that she didn't.
Father likes to work hard.
Mother feels that her daughter doesn't appreciate her.
Myra's teachers and parents think she isn't living up
to her potential.
Parents are working hard to make a better life for their
Parents want to work hard and move away for retirement.
A daughter is proud of her mother, but doesn't tell her.
There is always something going on in the house.
A younger sister doesn't like to be compared to her older
A daughter is fighting about the rules of the house.
3. In a class discussion, have students the Ortiz family issues
with their own family issues.
4. Ask students if they agree with the idea that, universally,
families generally share a common set of cares and concerns. Generate
a list of universal family concerns.
5. Ask each student to create a Venn diagram showing issues
that relate to his or her own family, issues that relate to the
Ortiz family, and issues that are common to both families.
6. Ask students to write a response using the diagram and ideas
generated during the class discussion, to the following quote:
"People need to respect each other's concerns and differences.
And frankly, there's far more in common than divides us."
-David Dinkins, Mayor of New York City, in a 1991 radio interview.
POST VIEWING ACTIVITIES
1. Have students visit http://www.latinousa.org/program/HHMS.html
and listen to the interviews. Then ask them to write a short essay
that captures what they have learned about Latino identity.
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