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Language and Culture Are Celebrated During Dual Language Literacy Block

students and teacher raise their hands in the air “¡Ay, caramba!” students yelled out, thrusting their hands into the air with enthusiasm. The second graders in Inginia Jackson’s Dual Language class at Mount Kisco Elementary School were actively participating in a read aloud with their whole bodies. This was not a quiet, still story time. The atmosphere was more like that of a celebration. 

As Jackson read the class Los Mariachis by Rita Rosa Ruesga in Spanish, students regularly responded to her cues by repeating key words and phrases in a singsong chorus.

“We have been celebrating Hispanic heritage by reading authentic books to bring cultural awareness into our classroom while developing comprehension skills,” Jackson said. Many of Jackson’s students are of Central American heritage and their excitement was palpable when the class discussed familiar aspects of their culture.

Los Mariachis is similar to the classic ten little monkeys rhyme, except it features ten members of a mariachi band. The book slowly counts down as members of the band break instruments or get sick. The rhyming, repetitive nature of the book was engaging to both native Spanish speakers and native English speakers — something which was enhanced by Jackson’s enthusiastic reading of the story.

Jackson was incredibly animated as she read, making a “ding, ding, ding!” sound to bring students’ attention to key vocabulary words as well as words that sound similar in Spanish and English. Throughout the book, students also added vocabulary words to the classroom’s word wall.

“We collect words here. We figure them out,” Jackson told students.

Jackson also asked students questions throughout the story in both Spanish and English.

“What’s happening in this book? What’s the pattern?” she asked at one point. If students struggled to answer, she encouraged them to use their native language when needed. After the story, students paired off to speak to each other about their favorite part of the book. 

Aside from vocabulary and comprehension, the lesson also worked in math (students subtracted as mariachis dropped out of the band) and culture. Jackson showed students a clip from the movie Coco and another of a band so that they could see and hear what mariachi music sounds like, noting that it’s popular in Mexico, Guatemala and Puerto Rico.

The Coco clip also led to a discussion about Día de los Muertos.

“In the US we celebrate Halloween, but, in other parts of the world, they don’t celebrate all of the same things as us,” she said before asking students if any of their families celebrate Día de los Muertos instead.

This Dual Language literacy block was fun and engaging from start to finish, incorporating diversity, inclusion, cultural awareness and so much more.