How can we better understand the details of the umbrella terms, “Hispanic” or “Latino”?
Are the majority of this group foreign-born immigrants or native-born citizens?
“Latino” and “Hispanic” can be catchall terms for Americans who trace their ancestry to many different countries and cultures. What are some of the largest subgroups? Where do they trace their ancestry?
What regions of the United States are home to significant Hispanic populations?
The three-part, groundbreaking PBS documentary series “Latino Americans” presents the history, culture, and experiences of the largest minority group in America. Beginning in the 16th century, the series explores the struggles and triumphs of a people who have been a central part of American history—a story often neglected or ignored. Use “Latino Americans” when you study civil rights, stereotypes, immigration, and contemporary topics in the news. For more about the series, see http://www.pbs.org/latino-americans/en/ and other PBS LearningMedia resources at The Latino Americans collection.The lesson shown in the video has been adapted from the Stereotypes vs. Statistics lesson.)
1. In the video, some students were surprised to learn that many Latino Americans are citizens and are not foreign-born. Before beginning a discussion of Latin-American stereotypes, assess students’ knowledge of the topic by having them contribute terms typically used to describe Latino Americans. As the class learns more, refer back to the list. How did these terms come to define Latino Americans? What terms are demeaning or offensive? As myths are dispelled, cross off terms on the list.
2. As shown in the video, teacher Emily Silas of the Boston Community Leadership Academy in Boston, MA, uses a “multilayered” approach when tackling the controversial issues of immigration and stereotypes. In addition to using data to dispel myths, she uses the “Latino Americans” film as text. One of the students says, “It’s always good to observe the primary source [the people in the video] because they were there, so we know the information is good.” Explore with students how to assess the reliability of film as text. How do you “unpack” film as a primary source? Questions might include:
What is the genre of the film (fiction, literary adaptation, nonfiction, documentary)?
When was the film made?
Why was the film made? What is the goal of the filmmakers?
What is the film’s target audience?
What ideas, information, and points of view are expressed?
Is the information balanced? Why or why not?
What techniques does the filmmaker(s) use to present their
3. To examine the experience of Latino Americans, you can combine the “Latino Americans” video with excerpts from novels and memoirs, as well as poetry. In addition to your school librarian, check out “The Hub,” the literature blog for the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) http://www.yalsa.ala.org/thehub/ for recommended titles.
4. One student comments, “Watching the videos makes it seem more realistic and brings it to life.” Another says, “I didn’t think it was going to be this much fun.” Why is video so effective in engaging students? Have students choose a contemporary issue relating to immigration and Latino Americans, such as the constitutionality of the current anti-immigration laws, the pros and cons about granting citizenship to immigrants who entered the country illegally, and the status of the “guest worker” visa program. Have them present their findings and opinions using video they have found or made. Ask the class to reflect on why they think video helps convey information so memorably.
5. During a unit on Latino Americans, have students research notable Latino Americans (many of whom are featured or mentioned in “Latino Americans” film). Include representatives from as many regions of Latin America as possible, as well as diverse disciplines—politics, science, art, music, literature, and so on. (Examples include Cesar Chavez, Herman Badillo, Rita Moreno, Willie Velasquez, Eliseo Medina, Sonia Sotomayer, and Julia Alvarez.) Have students create a classroom “portrait” gallery of the people they have investigated. Ask for a volunteer from each group to give a “tour” of their part of the exhibit. How did the film and the assignment change students’ understanding of who Latino Americans are?
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