The Spicy Aroma of Pakora and Nihari: Approaching Afghan Culture through Language in The Kite Runner (Day 1 of 2)

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SWBAT explain 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

Come taste Afghan culture through its unique words. In the photo is "nihari," just one delicious example of what we will learn from The Kite Runner's Afghan terms!


10 minutes

Cultural Perspective through Connotative Language.  It's one thing to read a book published outside the U.S. or depicting another culture than that of the U.S., but it is a whole different and more intense enterprise to focus the class's attention on this international perspective in a measured and deliberate way (RL.9-10.6).  I feel  that The Kite Runner must have some huge potential to explore this standard, and I wanted to explore it through textual evidence (RL.9-10.1) and to focus explicitly on connotative language (RL9-10.4) rather than on character and theme, which are not only more typical but have been done in my class thus far.  But to focus this inquiry on the language itself, I figured, would be an educational enterprise.  (I did not realize how completely awesome it would be; and it was!  More on that in my reflections.) 

Using ESL Strategies in ELA Classroom.  Simply put, what if the strongly connotative language, at least in this section of the novel, comes in the package of foreign/non-translated words?  In that case, we leverage the 1:1 technology of our classroom on these words in particular, and we look them up through images and online resources!  I borrowed this idea from the ESL teachers in my school and from ESL pedagogy (SIOP protocol, for example) that calls for using these types of resources for students who are at the beginning stages of being able to acquire English.  

Research a Culture Term in Pairs

15 minutes

Paired Work. After a brief discussion of a couple of the key terms, such as "khatagari" in order to model for my students their task for today, I asked the students to analyze 2-3 words in our class googledoc notes (Interesting Afghan Culture Terms) page (RL.9-10.1) by selecting evidence from the story and citing by page number.  They are then to add their own definitions through reading context (L.9-10.4a), explaining the terms in full and how they contribute to the story (RL.9-10.4); finally, they "rate" the word as something that they see as translatable or not into U.S. mainstream culture (whatever that is), and I asked them to be able to explain this cross-cultural comparison to the class (RL.9-10.6).  While we are beginning this type of work today, we will complete the research tomorrow; most students will be sharing their insights with the class tomorrow, but I will have a few of them share out today just as a demonstration. 

Class Notes Sheet Resource on Google.  We are making progress in our notes: Interesting Afghan Culture Terms, and I previously simply uploaded a blank slug of this handout to google docs under the "anyone can edit" setting, and I posted the link onto our class web page, which is a google+ community page.  Now, once our notes are completed, I will change the setting to "anyone can view" so that the notes stay intact for the students to use as a study guide, as I am asking the students to be able to write about this standard with specific examples on our  unit test. 


10 minutes

Future Assessments.  Each student will have access to the notes sheet to study for the test, since I will be assessing their application of these culture terms in a short answer constructed response item that will use  to address mastery of the reading across culture standard (RL.9-10.6).  The constructed response (see future lesson) focuses on the students choosing three of these terms and explaining them, so I focus them less on memorizing all of these terms and more on their ability to think cross culturally!


Quick Discussion.  I want to gauge how this two-day lesson is progressing, so I will ask the following questions and expect the students to share their interesting insights (SL.9-10.1):

1.) What did you learn that was surprising?

2.) How does studying foreign terms help you to grasp the novel better?  

3.) Why do you think Hosseni decided not to translate these terms?  For example, he could have used the phrase "virtuous betrothal" for "khastagari," but he kept it in the original and typically offered a translation in context--why? 

4.) As a reader, how do you navigate these terms whilst reading?