A lesson plan based on the border identities of Guillermo Gómez-Peña
Lesson plan by Malena Salazar, M.A., Doctoral Student
Division of Bicultural-Bilingual Studies
The University of Texas – San Antonio
Biographical note about Guillermo Gómez-Peña from The new world border: Prophesies, poems, and loqueras for the end of the century (1999):
Guillermo Gómez-Peña is an internationally acclaimed multimedia performance artist, social and cultural critic, and author. Born in 1955 and raised in Mexico City, he first came to the United States in 1978. Since then he has been exploring cross-cultural issues in his performance art, multilingual poetry, journalism, video, radio, and installation art.
Gómez-Peña was a founding member of the Border Arts Workshop/Taller de Arte Fronterizo (1985-1990), a contributor to the radio program “Crossroads” (1987-1990), and editor of the experimental arts magazine The Broken Line/La Línea Quebrada (1985- 1990). He is a regular contributor to the national radio news magazine “Latino U.S.A.,” and contributing editor at High Performance Magazine and The Drama Review. He has received the Prix de Parole, New York’s Bessie Award, and the MacArthur Genius Award, among numerous other fellowships and prizes.
Gómez-Peña’s performance work and critical writings have been instrumental in the development of the debates on cultural diversity, identity, and U.S.-Mexico relations. He has won a well-deserved reputation as one of the most effective interpreters of cultural otherness in the United States.
Lesson Plan Title
Constructing the self: A lesson plan based on the border identities of Guillermo Gómez-Peña
Overview of Lesson Plan
In this lesson, students will examine their own identities and read about the border-crossing experiences of Guillermo Gómez-Peña. They then write personal poems or speeches illustrating how their identities evolved.
Grade level 9-12
§110.52. Creative and Imaginative Writing (One-Half to One Credit).
(b) Knowledge and skills.
(1) The student writes for a variety of audiences and purposes to develop versatility as a writer. The student is expected to:
(A) write expressive, informative, and persuasive literary texts effectively;
(F) use word choice, sentence structure, and repetition to create tone; and
(2) The student selects and uses recursive writing processes for self-initiated and assigned writing. The student is expected to:
(C) use vocabulary, sentence structure, organization, and rhetorical devices appropriate to audience and purpose;
(D) use effective sequence and transitions to achieve coherence and meaning;
2 sessions, 1-2 hours each
Language Arts/English as a Second Language Classroom
1. Examine their identities by creating a series of pie charts.
2. Consider the cultural and linguistic and emotional experiences of Guillermo Gómez-Peña as a migrant performance artist and writer by reading the introduction of The Free Trade Art Agreement/El tratado de libre cultura (see addendum A for a copy); and related selected vocabulary that the artist chose to illustrate with his own definitions relating to his identity as a border-crosser (see addendum B for vocabulary list).
3. Examine identity through the language of the essay; consider their own identities in preparation for writing poems or speeches.
4. Write poems or speeches entitled, “How I Became Me.”
Resources / Materials
--INTRODUCTION to The Free Trade Art Agreement/El tratado de libre cultura on pages 5 through 6; provided in Addendum A (make copies for each student). (Reference book: Gómez-Peña, G. (1999). The new world border: Prophesies, poems, and loqueras for the end of the century. Monroe, OR: City Lights Books.)
--Note to the teacher: For a different text by Guillermo Gómez-Peña, the teacher should select examples of his written work that are age appropriate for this lesson. See additional references below.
--VOCABULARY list: selection from Glossary of Borderismos; provided in Addendum B (make copies for each student).
--Short video of a spontaneous poetry activity: puro ¡SLAM! (see Addendum C).
--paper, pens, pencil
--resources about various cultural, religious, and social rites of passage (encyclopedias, global history textbooks, reference books, computers with Internet access, etc.)
Activities / Procedures
--On a blank sheet of paper, students respond to the following task (written on the board for easier access): “Draw a pie chart illustrating the different aspects of your identity. For example, slivers of the "pie" might represent various places you have lived, roles you play (such as daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, etc.), the race/ethnicity/culture passed on to you by your parents or guardians (Mexican American, Neuyorican, Chicana, etc.), your religion, or even aspects of who you are such as your love of soccer or reading, etc. (your role as student, leader, etc.). Your charts will be shared with a partner.”
--After a few minutes, allow students time to pair up and discuss their answers. Then ask the class as a whole which characteristics were most important in defining who they are. Why? Students may grade each other’s work, or teacher may elect to do so for each student.
As a class, read and discuss the INRODUCTION to the essay The Free Trade Art Agreement/El tratado de libre cultura (Gómez-Peña, 1996, p. 5-6), focusing on the following questions (refer to Addendum A for essay):
What is the topic of Guillermo Gómez-Peña’s essay?
How are aspects of Guillermo Gómez-Peña’s identity represented in his essay?
How do you interpret Guillermo Gómez-Peña’s comment that, “for me the border is no longer located at any fixed geopolitical site. I carry the border with me, and I find new borders wherever I go”?
How do the life experiences of Guillermo Gómez-Peña’s reflect in his identities? What is his culture? What is his language?
--Explain to students that they will be participating in a spontaneous poetry activity in which they create a class poem using words and phrases from Guillermo Gómez-Peña’s essay (Addendum A) and vocabulary words (Addendum B). Allow students five minutes to skim through the article and highlight or underline words and phrases that relate to identity and borders in some way. Then ask students to spontaneously and randomly share the words and phrases they highlighted or underlined. It is acceptable for words and phrases to repeat. Encourage all students to participate at least once in this activity. When students have exhausted their lists of words and phrases, discuss what themes or characteristics stand out the most.
--To analyze their respective identities, students will be working individually to create a poem or speech entitled, “How I Became Me.” This poem will describe how the student has become who s/he is now, and will express who s/he hopes to be in the future. To facilitate this exercise, students will view a short video of a puro ¡SLAM! poetry performance as an example of a spontaneous poetry activity (refer to Addendum C for links, or click on the following:
To help students write their poems or speeches, ask them to consider the answers to the following questions (copied into a handout or written on the board):
-Where were you born?
-Where were your parents born?
-Where do you live?
-With whom do you live?
-With which race do you identify?
-What language or languages do you speak?
-What religion do you practice? Is this the same or different from that of your family? (If applicable, consider biological parents vs. guardians.)
-What aspects of your life illustrate your culture, race, or heritage?
-What values are important to you? How have these values affected your life so far? How might these values shape your future?
-What are some major beliefs that shape the way you think and act? How have these beliefs affected your life so far? How might these beliefs shape your future?
-What interests or hobbies have shaped your life up to this point? How have these interests or hobbies affected your life so far? How might these interests or hobbies shape your future?
-What are the five most important life events that have made you who you are today?
Allow time for students to discuss challenges or questions they faced while defining their identities. Were there any questions that they would add to the list posed to them during class? If so, what are they? How will these answers further explain their identities?
Students write their “How I Became Me” poems or speeches. In a future class, students share their work as part of a celebration of self by either reading their work or having a poetry slam in the classroom. Encourage students to bring in photographs or other personal items that can help illustrate their thoughts, feelings, and ideas for the oral presentations of poems or speeches.
Further Questions for Discussion:
-Why is identity important?
-How might culture and language instill a strong sense of identity in children?
-How have your parents’ or guardian’s culture and language affected your identity?
Evaluation / Assessment
Students will be evaluated based on completion of 1) pie charts, 2) participation in class discussions, and 3) presentation of well written “How I Became Me” poems or speeches. Please refer to Addendum D (Activities 1-3) for grading rubrics.
border zone, Third World, First World, border-crossers, cultural exiles, homelessness, uprooted, border culture, migrants
1. Create a personal timeline illustrating the borders you have crossed and expect to go through in your lifetime. Consider events that are cultural, social, religious, etc. Include pictures or drawings to illustrate these events.
2. Write an essay that considers whether or not your experiences are typical for someone in your age group. What makes you just like everyone else at this age? What makes you different? How do you explain these similarities and differences?
Fine Arts- Create a collage illustrating your identity. Include words, people, objects, and symbols that help explain all facets of who you are. Write a brief artist’s statement explaining what you created.
Gómez-Peña, G. (1999). The new world border: Prophesies, poems, and loqueras for the end of the century. Monroe, OR: City Lights Books.
puro ¡SLAM! (2007). Retrieved on September 22, 2007, from http://www.puroslam.com/index.htm
Sale, M. & Khan, J. (2007, June 9). How I Became Me: Writing poems or speeches exploring identity. The New York Times Company. Retrieved on September 18, 2007, from http://www.nytimes.com/learning/teachers/lessons/20070309friday.html
Craven, III, J. A. & Hogan, T. (2001). Assessing student participation in the classroom. Science Scope, 36-39.
INRODUCTION to the essay The Free Trade Art Agreement/El tratado de libre cultura (Gómez-Peña, 1996, p. 5-6).
I am a migrant performance artist. I write in airplanes, trains, and cafés. I travel from city to city, coast to coast, country to country, smuggling my work and the work and ideas of my colleagues. I collaborate with artists and writers from various communities and disciplines. We connect with groups who think like us, and debate with other who disagree. And then I carry the ideas elsewhere. Home is always somewhere else. Home is both “here” and “there” or somewhere in between. Sometimes it’s nowhere.
I make art about the misunderstandings that take place at the border zone. But for me, the border is no longer located at any fixed geopolitical site. I carry the border with me, and I find new borders wherever I go.
I travel across a different America. My America is a continent (not a country) that is not described by the outlines on any of the standard maps. In my America, “West” and “North” are mere nostalgic abstractions—the South and the East have slipped into their mythical space. For example, Quebec seems closer to Latin America than to its Anglophone twin. My America includes different peoples, cities, borders, and nations. For instance, the Indian nations of Canada and the United States, and also the multiracial neighborhoods in the larger cities all seem like Third World micro-republics than like communities that are part of some “western democracy.” Today, the phrase “western democracy” seem hollow and quaint.
When I am on the East Coast of the United States, I am also in Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean. There, I like to visit Nuyo Rico, Cuba York, and other micro-republics. When I return to the U.S. Southwest, I am suddenly back in Mexamerica, a vast conceptual nation that also includes the northern states of Mexico, and overlaps with various Indian nations. When I visit Los Angeles or San Francisco, I am at the same time in Latin America and Asia. Los Angeles, like Mexico City, Tijuana, Miami, Chicago, and New York, is practically a hybrid nation/city in itself. Mysterious underground railroads connect all these places—syncretic art forms, polyglot poetry and music, and transnational pop cultures function as meridians of thought and axes of communication.
Here/there, the indigenous and the immigrant share the same space but are foreigners to each other. Here/there we are all potential border-crossers and cultural exiles. We have all been uprooted to different degrees, and for different reasons, but not everyone is aware of it. Here/there, homelessness, border culture, and deterritorialization are the dominant experience, not just fancy academic theories.
VOCABULARY list: selection from "Glossary of Borderismos" (Gómez-Peña, 1996, p. 240-244).
alien A term used by opportunistic politicians and sleazy reporters to describe any legal or illegal immigrant, people with heavy accents or exotic clothes, and people who exhibit eccentric social, sexual, or aesthetic behavior.
Aztlán The “original land” in Aztec mythology. According to Chicano poets it was located in what now is the U.S. Southwest. Also, the name of a trucking company in East L.A.
border pop A transnational music and fashion movement that encompasses, among other loqueras and rhythms, punkarachi, heavy nopal, rapguango, mambop, jarochabilly, techno-banda, huapunko and the bizarre Tex-Mex Banghra movement.
Canochi An upside-down or inverted Chicano, meaning, a Mexican who has become Chicanized (or Chicano-ized?) without ever having to leave Mexico.
Chica-lango Half Chicano and half “chilango” (a derogative term for a hegemonic Mexico City hipster who happens to believe that Mexico City is the center of the continent – even if it is true).
Chicanadians Second generation Mexicans living in Canada and/or children of Mexican and Canadian parents living in the U.S. Please do not confuse this term with “Can-aliens,” which refers to any undocumented Canadian, inside or outside of Canada.
jaina Spanglishization of “honey.” Sweetheart, novia, torta, chava, chuca, mi locota, etc.
Latinos Alpinos Latino settlements in the Swiss Alps and the Rocky Mountains. Also, the name of a Chilean postpunk band.
pocho S/he who bastardizes the Spanish language and Mexican aesthetics. Infamous pochos include the members of Culture Clash, Sandra Cisneros, Ana Castillo, and Guillermo Gómez-Peña.
Spanglishization A continental infection for which there is no cure.
Short video options of a spontaneous poetry activity: puro ¡SLAM!
--Amanda Flores back in 2006 at puro ¡SLAM!
National poetry slam
2006 under 21 slam 2nd
--Anastacio at puro ¡SLAM!
Rubrics for grading identity pie charts and class participation, and “How I Became Me” poems or speeches. Teacher may delete or modify as needed.
Rubric for Activity 1: Pie chart rubric-different aspects of identity
[CLICK HERE FOR HYPERLINKED FILE]
4 Makes a complete and detailed description of the subject matter and/or elements required in a identity chart
3 Makes a detailed description of most of the subject matter and/or elements required in identity chart
2 Makes a detailed description of some of the subject matter and/or elements required in identity chart
1 Descriptions are not detailed or complete.
4 Shows a full understanding of the task
3 Shows a good understanding of the task
2 Shows a some understanding of of the task
1 Does not seem to understand the task very well.
4 Forms a hypothesis about the symbolic or metaphorical meaning of identity chart and is able to support this with evidence from his/her life
3 Student identifies the literal meaning of the identity chart
2 Student can relate how the identity chart makes him/her feel personally
1 Student finds it difficult to interpret the meaning of the identity chart
Rubric for Activity 2: Class participation rubric-Free Trade Art Agreement
[CLICK HERE FOR HYPERLINKED FILE]
• Raises relevant questions and shares ideas with peers
• Offers clear and concise oral and written presentation of personal ideas and understanding, indicating that time has been devoted to thinking about the topic
• Occasionally participates in group discussions, but rarely initiates or accepts a leadership role in guiding the group
• Does not elaborate on his or her understanding
• Often does not complete expression of his or her thoughts or ideas
FAILS TO MEET EXPECTATIONS
• Provides no oral or written evidence of understanding activity or discussion topics
• Never or rarely raises relevant questions
• Never or rarely provides oral or written communication
• Listens to others; encourages others to contribute ideas; accepts alternative perspectives; is tolerant of the
shortcomings of others; and helps others to succeed in class
• Is tolerant of others, but often dominates the group activity or discussion
• Listens to the ideas of others, but generally maintains personal views and ideas
FAILS TO MEET EXPECTATIONS
• Dismisses the thoughts and ideas of others; possibly uses rude or abusive language to ridicule
• Offers ideas that are limited to his or her personal opinions
• Frequently volunteers to participate in classroom activities
• Demonstrates his or her focus on classroom activities by appropriate eye contact and alert posture
• Occasionally participates in group discussions
• Provides ideas or comments that are largely restricted to reiterations of other’s ideas or comments
FAILS TO MEET EXPECTATIONS
• Sits passively in class
• Does not participate in group discussions
• Does not pay attention to classroom activities
Activity 3: Oral presentation rubric-"How I became me"
[CLICK HERE FOR HYPERLINKED FILE]
4 Shows a full understanding of the topic.
3 Shows a good understanding of the topic.
2 Shows a good understanding of parts of the topic.
1 Does not seem to understand the topic very well.
ORGANIZATION AND OVERALL IMPACT
4 The form of the poem is appropriate to the subject. The poem enables the audience to see, hear, feel, or think about the subject in a new way or in a more potent way than ever before.
3 The form of the poem is appropriate to the subject. The poem enables the audience to see, hear, feel, or think about the subject.
2 The form of the poem should be more appropriate to the subject. The poem enables the audience to see, hear, feel, or think about the subject, but this is accomplished through cliches, wornout images, or other predictable choices.
1 The form of the poem is not appropriate to the subject. The poem does not enable the audience to see, hear, feel, or think about the subject.
ELEMENTS OF POETRY
4 Sensory details and figurative language create vivid images that contribute significantly to the meaning of the poem; sound devices, such as rhyme, alliteration, or onomatopoeia, are used effectively and contribute to the meaning of the poem. Word choice is vivid and exact throughout.
3 Sensory details and figurative language contribute to the meaning of the poem; sound devices, such as rhyme, alliteration, or onomatopoeia, also add to the meaning of the poem. Most word choices are precise.
2 Sensory details and figurative language may be overused, underused, or inappropriate to the subject;; sound devices, such as rhyme, alliteration, or onomatopoeia, may be overused or underused, or they may fail to add to the meaning of the poem. Word choices may be vague, repetitive, or imprecise.
1 There is no use-or consistently confusing or inappropriate use-of sensory details, figurative language, or sound devices. Words may be misused or unclear.
4 Student is completely prepared and has obviously rehearsed.
3 Student seems pretty prepared but might have needed a couple more rehearsals.
2 The student is somewhat prepared, but it is clear that rehearsal was lacking.
1 Student does not seem at all prepared to present.
GRAMMAR, USAGE, MECHANICS, AND SPELLING
4 There are few or no errors in mechanics, usage, grammar, or spelling.
3 There are some errors in mechanics, usage, grammar, or spelling.
2 The poem is difficult to understand at times because of errors in mechanics, usage, grammar, or spelling.
1 The poem is consistently difficult to understand because of errors in mechanics, usage, grammar, or spelling.