Students have already engaged in several activities to analyze Frida Khalo's painting, My Dress Hangs There. However, we have not explicitly made connections to the concept of Identity. I communicate this to students. I then ask students to write four sentences or more where they make connections between this painting and the concept of Identity. To guide them, I ask them to consider the questions: How does this painting connect to Identity? What is this painting saying about Identity? How can this painting help me answer my question about Identity? This painting is a good fit for this unit because it invites an interpretation about Identity. Specifically, the dress can be discussed as the painter's expression of her identity and a longing to be back in her home country and away from the United States, which is portrayed as a place in which her dress seems to not belong. These are the type of responses I hope to get from students.
When finished, I ask students to make final comments or ask questions about this painting before moving on to the next text. One of my students asks, "Why did she paint this?" which is a very good question. Another student was able to say that the artist was missing home and that she was unhappy about the fact that her husband insisted in staying in the U.S. longer than she wished and that this was her expression of those feelings and of her feelings towards this country. These are thoughtful comments and they suggest students have a good grasp of what Frida Kahlo may be expressing in this painting.
I now present the next text we are adding today, which is an essay titled "Just Walk on By" written by Brent Staples.
I often find it useful to read the first paragraph aloud for them to help them get "hooked" to the text because they will hear me read with the proper emotion and tone of voice, one they may not be able to readily achieve on their own. We then discuss what is going through their mind as I read, and I connect that to the things on my ANNOTATE chart and allow them to begin marking their text. The introductory paragraph of this essay is very engaging because of the surprise element in the first line. Students talk about the moment when they realized what Staples was talking about and appreciate the way he set up the point of this paragraph. This is one thing I encourage them to note as they annotate.
I tell students to go on and read and annotate the rest of the text, focusing on identifying the central ideas and supporting details, but also pushing their mind to do the kinds of things effective readers do, as listed on the "ANNOTATE" chart. I specifically emphasize identifying central ideas because at this point, my students are generally ignoring that crucial part of deconstructing a text and I need them to make it a habit to mark these on every text they read. The idea is that if students explicitly look for and mark the central ideas and supporting details, I can avoid finding ourselves unable to write or discuss an author's argument to any significant extent because students are not clear about what that argument actually is, unfortunately not an uncommon scene. I give students the rest of the period to read and annotate the entire text. After students have been working for some time, I begin to look over their shoulder to see what they are annotating and get a sense of what they are capturing or not capturing. Also, students ask me a question once in a while, especially questions about the meaning of difficult vocabulary.
Students will be working with this text again in the following lesson to study its structure. I ask them to take it home and finish annotating if they need to and that they should be ready to engage with the text again tomorrow.