8th grade Language Arts
In this lesson, students explore fiction and nonfiction texts written by Chinese authors and write literacy narratives as a part of their exploration of these issues. This is a lesson that gets them ready for the theme of identity that we will continue throughout the year.
Skill and Content Objectives
Students will meet the following standards:
Reading Applications: Informal, Technical Persuasive Text 5. Examine an author’s implicit and explicit philosophical assumptions and beliefs about a subject
Reading Applications: Literary Text. 1. Compare and contrast motivations and reactions of literary characters thoughts, words and actions 2. Analyze the historic, social and cultural context of setting 7. Compare and contrast varying characteristics of American, British, and world and multi-cultural literature.
Detailed Lesson Plan
Copy of “Mother Tongue” by Amy Tan
Copy of “Thanksgiving with the Conners” by Lensey Namioka
Discussion Questions for “Mother Tongue” (Appendix A)
Literacy Narrative Assignment (Appendix B)
Literacy Narrative Rubric (Appendix C)
Student Self-Assessment (Appendix D)
Instruction and Activities
Ask students to spend about ten minutes brainstorming a response to this prompt:
[/ol] What are the different “languages” you use? When and why? Consider both reading and writing, and don’t forget about email! If you speak another language, include it (or possibly them if you know more than one).
Encourage students to read their responses aloud.
As they do, keep track on the board or on an overhead transparency of the different “languages” they are describing.
Discuss the interaction of language usage and choice with audience and occasion by focusing on the examples the students have provided.
For homework, ask students to write a journal entry that describes a time when someone made assumptions or even a judgment (negative or positive) about them based on their language usage (written or spoken). For those who say they’ve never had such an experience, suggest writing about a situation they’ve observed involving someone else.
[/ol] Session Two
Open the class by asking volunteers to share their journal entries.
Look for similarities among the experiences students describe, and discuss them as a group. Ask whether they notice stereotypes at work in the situations they describe.
If students have access to the Internet, introduce Amy Tan by sharing clips of her talking and reading.
Hand out copies of “Mother Tongue,” and read the first two paragraphs aloud.
Discuss why Tan opens with an explanation of what she is not.
Read the next two paragraphs. Ask students to explain what Tan means by “different Englishes.”
Shift the discussion by asking why Tan speaks a “different English” with her mother than with her husband. Ask students to consider whether doing so i shypocritical.
Assign the remainder of the essay as reading for homework.
[/ol] Session Three
Divide students into groups, and assign one of the following questions to each group:
What point is Tan making with the example of her mother and the hospital?
What point is she making with the example of the stockbroker?
Tan says that experts believe that a person’s “developing language skills are more influenced by peers,” yet she thinks that family is more influential, “especially in immigrant families.” Do you think family or peers exert more influence on a person’s language?
Why does Tan discuss the SAT and her performance on it?
Why does she envision her mother as the reader of her novels?
After about 15 minutes, ask each group to explain their responses to the questions. Encourage them to support their responses with specific reference to Tan’s essay.
Ask them to write notes and ideas in their journals using the Literacy Narrative Assignment. Stress that students are only gathering ideas. They are not creating the polished essay at this point.
[/ol] Session Four
Tell students that they are going to read a story about a family of Chinese immigrants who have recently moved to Seattle, Washington.
Then, explain that Lensey Namioka often writes of the humorous misunderstandings that occur when immigrants first confront American customs.
Read the first three paragraphs of “Thanksgiving with the Conners.” Have students circle the words showing that a first-person narrator tells the story.
Have students read the rest of the story independently.
Ask the class how different the story might have been if it were told from Mother’s or Mrs. Hanson’s point of view.
Open by discussing the assignment itself. Explain that a literacy narrative tells a specific story about reading or writing. Tan’s and Namioka’s articles are essentially a literacy narrative because it discusses events about language use from her past (whether good or bad) and reflects on how those events influence her writing today.
If desired, ask students to choose examples from the essay that connect writing from Tan’s past to her present.
Pass out copies of the Literacy Narrative Rubric, and discuss the required components for the finished paper.
Discuss the possibilities that students raised in their journal entries.
To begin developing ideas further, ask students to use a Venn Diagram to map and compare the two “languages” that they will explore in their essays. Ask them to think creatively about the qualities and characteristics of the “languages.”
Allow students time to work on their literacy narratives in class.
Assign a draft of the literacy narrative as homework; each student should bring his or her draft to the next class session.
[/ol] Session Six
Begin with a discussion of the problems students are encountering with the assignment.
Brainstorm ways to address one or two of the challenges.
Remind students of the criteria for the assignment in the Literacy Narrative Rubric. For the peer review, ask students to compare the drafts that they read to the characteristics described in the rubric.
Explain the organization of the peer review:
Each student will read two papers, each written by someone else.
On the first paper that you read, make your comments with your black ink pen or in bold.
On the second paper, make your comments with the blue ink pen or in italics.
On the third paper, make your comments with your pencil or with underlined letters.
Finally, you’ll return to your own essay and read over the comments.
[/ol] Arrange the students in small groups of four, having students rotate the drafts among group members as they read and respond.
Once students have read and responded to all the drafts, discuss questions, comments, and concerns students have as they prepare to revise.
Encourage students to pay particular attention to comments that all three of their peer readers agreed upon when reading their drafts.
For homework, have students create their final, polished draft of the literacy narratives. Collect the papers at the beginning of the next session.
http://wiredforbooks.org/amytan/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Audio Interview with Amy Tan
In this 1989 interview, author Amy Tan talks with Don Swaim about growing up as the child of immigrants, working with disabled children, participating in a writers’ group, and her first visit to China.
http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/tan0int-1" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Academy of Achievement: Amy Tan
This transcript of an interview with Amy Tan explores personal issues and Tan’s decision to become a writer. The site also includes a biographical profile and photo gallery.
http://www.bookreporter.com/authors/au-tan-amy.asp" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Bookreporter.com: Amy Tan
The Bookreporter provides biographical information on Tan as well as an interview that features her newest novel, Saving Fish from Drowning.
Plan for assessing student achievement
Observe students for their participation during the exploration and discussion of the Tan’s essay and their own language use. In class discussions and conferences, watch for evidence that students are able to describe specific details about their language use. Monitor students’ progress and process as they work on their literacy narratives. For formal assessment, use the Literacy Narrative Rubric. Ask students to complete the Student Self-Assessment to reflect on their exploration of language and their literacy narratives.
Discussion Questions for “Mother Tongue” • What point is Tan making with the example of her mother and the hospital?
• What point is she making with the example of the stockbroker?
• Tan says that experts believe that a person’s “developing language skills are more influenced by peers”; yet she thinks that family is more influential, “especially in immigrant families.” Do you think family or peers exert more influence on a person’s language?
• Why does Tan discuss the SAT and her performance on it?
• Why does she envision her mother as the reader of her novels?
Literacy Narrative Assignment Write a brief essay discussing at least two different “languages” you use in writing and speaking. Be specific in your description of each one, and explain why that “language” is appropriate for a particular occasion or audience.
You might consider what would happen if you used one of your “Englishes” in a setting more appropriate to another—what would the consequences be? How do your different audiences respond to your “Englishes”? Include specific examples of the “languages,” including dialogue. You may write about yourself right now or a younger self, but write in first person and try to make the writing convey your personality.
Focus There is a clear, well-focused analysis of the issue, including discussion of at least two different “languages.” The main idea stands out and is well supported.
There is a clear analysis of the issue, including discussion of at least two different “languages”; but the supporting information is general.
The analysis of the issue is somewhat clear, but there is a need for more supporting information and/or a more complete exploration of the two different “languages.”
The analysis of the issue is not clear. There is a seemingly random collection of information.
Strong, relevant details give the reader important information that goes beyond the obvious or predictable.
Supporting details and information are relevant, but one key issue or portion of the storyline is unsupported.
Supporting details and information are relevant, but several key issues or portions of the storyline are unsupported.
Supporting details and information are typically unclear or not related to the topic.
Details are placed in a logical order and the way they are presented effectively keeps the interest of the reader. The essay includes a strong conclusion and a variety of thoughtful transitions.
Details are placed in a logical order, but the way in which they are presented sometimes makes the writing less interesting. The essay includes a conclusion and transitions.
Some details are not in a logical or expected order, and this distracts the reader. The essay may be missing a conclusion. Connections between ideas are missing or fuzzy.
There is little sense that the writing is organized. Key structures are missing. The transitions between ideas are unclear or nonexistent.
The writer seems to be writing from knowledge or experience.
The writer seems to be drawing on knowledge or experience, but there is some lack of ownership of the topic.
The writer relates some of his own knowledge or experience, but it adds nothing to the discussion of the topic.
There is no personality in the piece. The ideas and the way they are expressed seem to belong to someone else.
All sentences are well constructed with varied structure and length.
Most sentences are well constructed with varied structure and length.
Most sentences are well constructed but have a similar structure and/or length.
Sentences lack structure and appear incomplete or rambling.
Grammar, Mechanics, & Spelling
Writer makes no errors in grammar, mechanics, or spelling that distract the reader from the content.
Writer makes 1-2 errors in grammar, mechanics, or spelling that distract the reader from the content.
Writer makes 3-4 errors in grammar, mechanics, or spelling that distract the reader from the content.
Writer makes more than 4 errors in grammar, mechanics, or spelling that distract the reader from the content.
• Why is this essay an improvement over or a setback from the last assignment you turned in for this class?
• What was the most significant challenge that you met in doing this assignment?
• What was the most frustrating part of this assignment?
• What measures (at least 2) did you take to ensure grammatical and mechanical accuracy?
• What could we as a class have done to prepare you better to do this assignment?
• What could you have done to make your essay better?