The Spicy Aroma of Pakora and Nihari: Approaching Afghan culture through language in The Kite Runner (day 2 of 2)

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SWBAT explain and evaluate the unique, cultural point of view of Afghan culture presented in The Kite Runner by defining foreign words through context clues and by comparing the values associated with them to mainstream American values.

Big Idea

As students taste Afghan culture, they explore contrasts with mainstream American culture.

Activate and Hook

10 minutes

Building from Yesterday!  This is a two-day lesson, and today's notes will be completed by the student with a special focus on evaluating the terms.  Yesterday, the students looked up new words such as khastagari (virtuous bridegroom or ceremony of engagement), and now today, they will complete those definition notes and evaluate the significance of these ideas.   Does this concept have a correlation in mainstream U.S. culture (RL.9-10.6)?  Why, why not?  What can people outside of Afghan culture learn from their culture and ways of understanding relationships, ethics, and life in general?  It's a pretty exciting process today! 


I will ask the following questions and expect the students to speak up with examples and insights (SL.9-10-1.)

What is nang, namoos?  What is a khastegari?  What did you learn yesterday when you began to look these up?

How have you learned from yesterday about how to handle the italicized, foreign words in the text?  Now that you have looked more closely at some of these terms, why do you think that the author has not translated these words, but instead has left them in the original language?

What is a word in your home culture that is hard to or impossible to translate into English?  



Whole-class Collaborative: Pairs Add Term Research to our Class Document

15 minutes

1:1 Chromebooks for International Vocabulary

In our 1:1 Chromebook environment, I can create a single uber-notes class page for each of the student pairs to enter information into (Interesting Afghan Culture Terms).  We have already examined a few  strategies for examining foreign words in context as a way of guessing at the definitions (L.9-10.4a), and I will ask the students to do this, but they can also supplement this guess by researching on their chromebooks by using google images and by doing a search for the foreign word on the web (L.9-10.4c).  They will then need to corroborate their findings from the text and from their research. I will post their progress from yesterday's work in order to steer the discussion (Interesting Afghan Culture Terms).

Incidentally, I pre-researched several of the culture terms and found that there were images as well as online definitions of each, so this should not be heavy lifting for the students.  That will come later in the lesson! 


I will post:

1.) Examine the text for context clues.  See if you can get a pretty strong guess about the meaning of the word.

2.) Look up the word on google images AND on the web in general.  

3.) Add the information and come to a reasonable stance on the word's meaning.

4.) Fill in the two blanks on our class uber-notes page.  It's important to fill in a number rating for the column on the right, as you can stake a claim as to whether this term is present or not in "mainstream" American culture.

I will give the students a few minutes to research their assigned word and then to identify a new word and add it on the rows towards the bottom of the handout.  The goal here is to scaffold away some of the supports to see if the students are comfortable identifying a new term and going through the whole cycle of studying it from context (L.9-10.4a) and from a variety of sources. 

Class Discussion: What have we learned about qurma, ihitram, noor, etc.?

15 minutes

During this section of class, I will ask the students to explain their definitions, search process, and their appraisal of how the term relates to U.S. culture.  My school is very multicultural, so comparing any of these terms to "maintream" U.S. culture is problematic, but the standard (RL.9-10.6) calls for us to examine the cross-cultural exchange available in the book, and already in class many concepts have surfaced and have been clarified by students who share similar backgrounds to Amir in culture, ethnicity and religion.  Simplistic connections are not the point here, though, as shades of difference will likely emerge as students contribute substantial insights and examples (SL.9-10.2).  The point is to get the students to observe cultural differences  in the particular uses of italicized language in the novel. 

Metacognitive Journal: What do these terms reveal about Afghan culture?

10 minutes


I am assuming that our discussion will be active and free ranging.  I am also assuming that the students will need to summarize their thoughts, thus I am asking them to draw connections between three of the culture terms in their response summaries as we discuss the international perspectives present in the book (RL.9-10.6) as well as some of Hosseni's thematic insights (RL.9-10.2).  In this way, I am using writing to help students to solidify their thought (W.9-10.10), a major component of the metacognitive journals that they have been keeping along the way and as a part of the Extending Reading that I am using. 


Paragraph Writing

Using as least three of the above words (in italics) write a response to this prompt:

The most important thing to understand about Afghan culture is ________________________, and we see this idea reflected in the culture terms ___________________, _________________, and _________________.

In contrast/comparison, U.S. culture is ___________________, and that is important because of _____________________. 


Model Paragraph (RL.9-10.2)

According to these chapters in the Kite Runner, a key aspect of Afghan culture is that relationships are important.  We see this idea reflected in the term bachem, which the General continually calls Amir, as does his own Baba.   The term means "child," and it reveals the caring nature and also the hierarchy of relationships that exists.  In addition, we see the term noor, which seems to be a term of endearment, like "the apple of my eye."  And finally, we see in the term, hijab, an attention to clothes and dress to reflect an honorable and respectable way of being.  The hijab was worn at Baba's funeral in order to pay him respect.  In contrast, relationships in the U.S. are generally more casual, unfortunately.  While our culture perhaps has more of a sense of spontaneity, freedom, and movement, there is not quite the same level of dignity that we see if the Afghan framework for understanding relationships.