Teach This Poem, though developed with a classroom in mind, can be easily adapted for remote learning, hybrid learning models, or in-person classes. Please see our suggestions for how to adapt this lesson for remote or blended learning. We have also noted suggestions when applicable and will continue to add to these suggestions online.
The article “How Millions of Women Became the Most Essential Workers in America” by Campbell Robertson and Robert Gebeloff was published in The New York Times in April 2020.
Warm-up: Sketch the person or people in your life who are most important to you.
Before Reading the Poem: Read the article “How Millions of Women Became the Most Essential Workers in America” or explore the graphic in the article. What do you notice? What does it mean to be deemed “essential”?
Reading the Poem: Read the poem “In a Neighborhood in Los Angeles” by Francisco X. Alarcón silently. What do you notice about the poem? Annotate for any words or phrases that stand out to you or any questions you might have. (Teachers, if you are meeting synchronously, we suggest sharing a video screen that allows for students to annotate together. If you are meeting asynchronously, we suggest asking students to post/share their annotations in your online classroom platform.)
Listening to the Poem (enlist two volunteers to read the poem aloud, in Spanish and English): Listen as the poem is read aloud twice in both languages, and write down any additional words and phrases that stand out to you. Call back the lines that you like by saying these lines aloud with your classmates. (Teachers, for synchronous meetings, you could ask two students to read the poem. For asynchronous meetings, students could read the poem on their own or with a family member.)
Small-group Discussion: What imagery stands out to you about the speaker’s neighborhood? Family? How would you describe the relationship between the speaker and the grandmother?
Whole-class Discussion: In what ways is this poem a celebration of culture and/or every day life? Think back to your earlier discussion on “who is essential.” How does the parents’ work impact the speaker?
Extension for Grades 7-8: Create a poem or image that honors the most important person or people in your life. (Or, teachers, you might want to supplement this lesson with the bilingual poem and lesson plan “Calculations” by Brenda Cárdenas here.)
Extension for Grades 9-12: In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, read more poems by Latinx poets here and select a favorite poet. In a class presentation, share a poem by your selected poet and share a brief biography of this poet. (Teachers, if teaching online, encourage your students to create anthologies on Poets.org.)
In a conversation between Alberto Ríos and Raquel Salas Rivera about the art and experience of translating, Ríos asks, “Do you believe that Spanish offers a different perspective on the world at its core and not simply in its descriptions? Is this an issue when translating?” Read more.