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For my Spanish 3 IB class I have created a theme around social issues, including immigration. In Spanish 2, students watch the film La misma luna and and answer questions related to it. The movie is also a good starting point for a discussion surrounding immigration and the issues that face people who leave their homeland. I think that the IB class is a good place to further explore the human side of this topic. They’re mature enough and open to discussing controversial this more than my other classes may be.

I introduce the topic with the short film Schwarzfahrer (literally “Black Rider” but also the term for someone riding without a ticket). Even though it is in German, it is a great vehicle for discussion. Students discuss (in Spanish) the use of black and white film, the year the film was made and its relevance today, who the Schwarzfahrer is, the various people and their reactions (or lack thereof) on the bus. I love hearing the students analyze the film. They notice things that I don’t and ask great questions.

After discussing the film, we listen to the song “Mojado” by Ricardo Arjona. (I usually have to fight tears in the opening verse because the lyrics and music are so heartbreaking.) Again, I have a series of questions designed to promote conversation–what do certain phrases imply, why does he refer to “Neptuno,” etc. We also work on new vocabulary that I take from the song.

The last piece that I bring in is the chapter from Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street called “Geraldo No Last Name” or “Geraldo sin apellido” in Spanish version. To introduce the literature, I show a photo from 9/11 of victims’ shoes lined up along the street to discuss the uncounted victims of that day. Students may not realize that many people who were killed in the attacks were undocumented workers and therefore uncounted in the death totals. I tie this in with the chapter about Geraldo, who has no papers and dies in an accident. I use a good-old KWL sheet to generate questions surrounding Geraldo’s life and have several of my own questions.

To wrap up the unit, students are going to design a project related to a social issue. In the past I asked them to find a  song that spoke to them related to an issue. I want them to be more creative this year and produce something of their own.

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