These students will explore the big ideas for this year, namely What is Migration? Why do people Migrate? What do they find when they get “There”? by writing their own song about migration while also reading “Esperanza Rising” by Pam Munoz Ryan, which is the story of a wealthy and somewhat spoiled Mexican girl who is forced to grow up too soon in the harsh and hard-working world of migrant farming in the US after her father is murdered and her mother falls ill. On the first day, this class watched a musical number from “Annie,” “It’s A Hard Knock Life” , told from the point of view of overworked orphans in Miss Hannigan’s hellish home for girls. They analyzed it for content, including Theme/Feelings, Action, Language, Details, Character and Setting, and also did a close read of the lyrics. Students are also listening to Mexican ranchero songs with lyrical content that parallels plot events in Esperanza Rising. They will analyze these for musical characteristics that can be included as elements of their final song composition.
Students created Mexican tona masks, above, with a student art teacher.
This is Ruhid’s first year with us. Many of these students are below level in reading and are also ESL, so making connections between the book (Esperanza Rising) they are reading/being read in homeroom and a ranchero song we played in music class was harder for them than we thought it would be. Students will be working on Mexican tona masks that demonstrate Esperanza’s character traits and then will begin writing ta song in the ranchero style about Esperanza once they have gotten further in the book.
Luis has been in the project with us all three years. Students are also practicing identifying instruments in a group work, a music literacy skill, and elements of style. They will then decide what elements to incorporate in their original Esperanza song and explain their choices by referring to the ranchero example, “Rogaciano”, that we have studied in class.
The parallels between “Rogaciano” and Esperanza Rising were, we thought, obvious, but most students only identified one or two of the many parallels, which included; the song and the book are set/have events that take place on a ranch; the setting is described with lush figurative language in both the book and the song; the song is culturally Mexican and the main characters in the book are Mexican; the song is about the death of a loved one and the main character’s father dies in the book; the song is in Spanish and Esperanza speaks Spanish; the song is a “ranchero” song and might have been the kind of song Esperanza’s father’s field hands might have sung. . .By the end of the semester, the kids should have internalized these connections and made more. We will ask them again.
(original song lyrics for “Nostalgia, Sacrificios”
These students started reading Esperanza Rising, but they are largely ESL, and were not able to read the book quickly enough, even in Spanish, to base song lyrics upon that thematic material. We had intended for the students to write a song about something that happened in the book and to learn elements of Mexican music in the process. They had already enjoyed listening to and analyzing both the lyrics and instrumentation for two versions of “Rogaciano,” a nostalgic Mexican folk song. So, we adjusted our project. The students worked on Mexican Tona masks with a student teacher, Mr. Eric, and explained in their portfolios how the spirit animal they chose represented traits in their own character as well as those of characters in the book. Then we left the book behind and began exploring the theme of nostalgia as a result of migration.
Miss Lisa (teaching artist) assigned students a parent interview. Students asked their parents, mostly from Mexico, Ecuador, and Puerto Rico, what they were nostalgic for. Did they miss the food? the customs? family gatherings? natural settings? Three major themes emerged. Parents said that they missed the freedom of life there, the extended family gatherings at holidays. They also mentioned that the food here did not taste the same as it did there. We explored these ideas with the students over several class periods and gradually created verses in a mix of English and Spanish that evoke a sense of the homes sacrificed for a better life in the US.
Examples of interviews with parents here, which followed a format I provided. We also asked parents to share snapshots of themselves or their children in Mexico.
The student below said that his grandfather was a mariachi musician. We have enjoyed listening to mariachi music in class and analyzing the instrumentation and orchestration and comparing it to sones, which are Mexican folk songs and the model for our original song.
Many children responded in Spanish.
Above, a design for Esperanza’s cabin in the migrant camp, as based on the novel Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan.
This student did an excellent job of explaining why he chose this animal and what character traits it has in common with both him and a character from Esperanza Rising.
Here, an assignment in which students explored how migrant workers might have been perceived by others
Ivan made an out of class connection by bringing in this scrapbook, a class project about Chicago from a few years ago. He said that this book made him “nostalgic” for that time in his past. Listen as he explains:
Protest posters created by students, who also studied the dust bowl.
Below, Josue makes connections between Esperanza Rising and music we are studying in class.