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IMGALTTAG Volume VI: Latin America and U.S. Popular Culture


Popular Movements in Latin America
Mark Demmler

This curriculum unit is designed to guide the learner with accessing; collecting, and evaluating five identified popular movements in Latin America’s recent past. Each selected movement represents one of the five institutions of culture:  politic, economic, family, religion and education. Students locate, collect and review primary and secondary sources and learn to describe each movement as it relates to the five themes of geography: location, place, and relationships within places, movement, and region. The data will be compiled and evaluated with respect to given movements’ goals, successes and or failures. Each learner will be prompted to write objective statements based on their accumulated data. Once a learner has an assortment of information, they can then speculate on why a movement occurred, and write a persuasive essay supporting their thesis. This multi-stepped process will illustrate only a small portion of Latin America society—yet poignantly illustrates the ongoing struggle between “those who have and those who have not.”


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Figurative Language and Magical Realism in Latin American Short Stories
Barbara L. Golden
Rogers CAPA Middle School

This unit deals with magical realism in the Latin American short story. More specifically, it centers on the techniques, elements and artistry of language the authors use to tell these stories. The curriculum unit is meant to teach aspects of figurative language using Latin American literature as a basis, to develop a cursory understanding of magical realism, and to appreciate the works of Latin American authors. The objectives of this unit incorporate activities, which foster critical thinking, cultural awareness of our close neighbors and recognition of magical realism.


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Popular Culture and Clothing Choices
Patricia Gordon

This lesson unit focuses on the ways in which popular culture affects the clothing choices we make during our lifetime. One view of popular culture, defined as that which is current at a particular time, indicates that society makes many choices because of where we are that specific time in our lives. Ages, finances, living arrangements, ethnic group, are all factors in determining the choices made. In this piece it is hoped the students gain understanding of the sociological implications of clothes.


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Indigenous Birthing Rituals
By Linda E. Grice

This unit is designed for students who are taking the Childcare/Child Development Applied Technology and Career Development course. The students are eleventh and twelfth graders, sixteen years of age. The students will learn about popular culture and its influences on birthing rituals, planning and implementing birthday celebration activities for preschool age children. During the study of popular culture the student will begin to discover that people are influenced by culture and behave accordingly. But it is important to treat their peers, parents and children with dignity and respect no matter what the popular belief might be. The students will research, create a book to read and give to each child, present work to the class and participate in culturally different birthday parties with the children.


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The African Influence On Brazilian Popular Culture
Linda Jackson

The objective of this curriculum unit will be to explore how people of African decent have influenced the many genres of Latin American popular culture in Brazil. Students will research and present their findings after an introductory study of Brazil’s history and the different genres of popular culture have been established.

The central question to be defined in the execution of this curriculum is, are Africans transformed by culture or do Africans transform culture. The answer to this will be discovered through an in depth study of the African presence in Brazilian sports, music, cuisine, religion, literature, and television.

In addition to the students’ quest for answers, they will experience a sense of ownership and an appreciation of other countries.


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Llévame al partido*
*Take me out to the ballgame
By Marsha Plotkin
Taylor Allderdice High School

Baseball is known as “America’s pastime.” It has been a part of our society and culture since before the Civil War. Many would be surprised to learn that baseball has been played in several Latin American countries for almost as long.  This unit explores the parallel growth of baseball in the United States and Latin America and the influence and impact that Latino players have had on Major League Baseball. It examines baseball’s evolution in terms of Latino players over more than a century, their accomplishments and contributions to the game even under less than ideal circumstances. As the Latino population of the United States has grown rapidly and continues to do so, the number of Latino baseball players from seven Caribbean basin countries has grown rapidly as well. A variety of classroom activities which vary in length, content and complexity have been incorporated into this unit to supplement a Spanish I or Spanish II curriculum. After examining the information included in this unit, perhaps students will rethink calling baseball “America’s pastime,” in favor of “the pastime of the Americas.”


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Decoding the Hidden Techniques in Advertising
Elayne Roston
Oliver High School

In this unit I will inform my students about the intentions of advertisers.

While completing several collaborative activities the students will develop a stronger awareness of the fraudulent consumer friendly advertisements found in our printed and outdoor media. In the Seminar entitled Popular Culture in the U.S. and Latin America one of our discussions addressed the topic of how to interpret the images in advertisements. Decoding advertisement is very similar to translating from one language to another. When reading the codes from messages presented in ads students will be able to look at the obvious message and translate it into the abstract. As a final project the students will produce a commercial and design an ad in English and French. As a productive member of our great American society, I am constantly bombarded with ones’ ideas dictating what I should eat, drink, wear, drive, and aspire to become. Now that I am cognizant of the media mania and all of the advertisers tools of deception, which mislead the average consumer I can distinguish between “real world” and “ad world”. Students are major component of the consumer culture. Consumers purchase aesthetics because of their implicit promises – if one purchases a particular product they might become a particular type of person: more beautiful, confident, rugged, sexually attractive, or happy like the people in the advertisement. Consumers thus link their self-concept with the aesthetic – they see themselves, and want to been seen by others, as a participant in the aesthetics of that lifestyle. At the closing of this unit each student will recognize characteristics that not only allow them to be aware of advertisers deceitful manners, but also give them confidence to determine their own actions.


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Latin American Festivals and Popular Culture
Bethany Sage

Throughout the world, people celebrate the moments in their lives. My most vivid and fondest memories dealt with family traditions and I decided that writing my Pittsburgh Teachers Institute unit on four festivals in Latin America could be a wonderful way to draw my own students into a deeper understanding of Latin American culture. This unit will expand the students’ cultural knowledge by giving them the opportunity to study the importance that these festivals have throughout Latin America and the role they play in the people’s daily lives.

My unit focuses on four specific festivals: Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), Semana Santa (Holy Week), Carnaval (Carnival – also called Marti Gras in the United States), and Santiago de Apostol (Festival for Saint James).  Each of these festivals combines the religious or secular beliefs of the observers with dance, music, costumes, food, or other cultural elements to create a memorable and spectacular event for all participants. Finally, each of these four festivals reflects the combination of three main influences, indigenous, European, and African, and the role of the Catholic Church in Latin American popular culture.


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Food and Fiestas:  Exploring Latin American Popular Culture via Family Celebrations recreated in the Spanish Classroom
Mary Eileen Swazuk
Taylor Allderdice High School

The two things that my high school Spanish students crave most are food and fiestas. At all levels, from middle school “Adventures: classes through PSP (Pittsburgh Scholars Program) Spanish 5, the questions continually asked include: “Can we make/eat/learn about food?” and “Can we have a Spanish/Mexican/Cinco de Mayo party?” Although many times the students use questions like these to distract from other, less interesting topics or activities, it seems like missed opportunities to completely refuse to honor their requests, particularly when so much functional grammar, interpersonal skills, and cultural information can be interwoven within the context of food and family celebrations. The purpose of this curriculum is to provide a framework in which rigorous objectives can be designed and met while still giving students the chance to enjoy learning about the target culture. I will explore and offer activities related to three popular Latin American celebrations and a Latin American Food Festival. Researching, preparing, and participating in activities developed around the themes of the Day of the Dead, Quinceanera, Weddings and the Feria de Comida Latinoamericana offer a perfect chance for students to experience the “5C’s” which comprise language learning: Communication, Connections, Comparisons, Communities, and Cultures.


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Cooking with Culture
By Renee Tolliver

This unit, Cooking with Culture is designed for a ninth grade gifted English class, although it can easily be adapted to any grade level and subject area. Students will learn about popular culture by creating a multicultural cookbook that has three main components: a section with interesting and unusual information about selected cultures; a section with personal anecdotes about rituals, celebrations and other pop culture activities, and a section with recipes that are related to the anecdotes. Students will enhance the cookbook with pictures, photographs and designs. This unit will give students a chance to use a variety of research tools including books, databases, internet sources and personal interviews. They will take advantage of our technology resources by using the digital camera, the scanner, Publisher, Adobe PhotoShop, PageMaker and PowerPoint to complete the cookbook. Students will showcase their work to parents and teachers during a presentation and party where students will unveil their finished book, talk about its contents and serve food made from the recipes in the book.


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Cross-Cultural Learning and Virtual Travel in the English Classroom
Karen L. Williams
Schenley High School

This curriculum unit focuses on the reading and analysis of literary works by Costa Rican writers, and culminates in a virtual trip to Costa Rica. As an anticipatory set, the students read about and discuss the cultural learning process, with special emphasis on the definition of culture, the distinction between tourist and traveler, subtypes of culture, culture shock, and attitudes/character traits that promote culture learning.

As newly aware cross-cultural learners, the students read and discuss their itinerary, El Viaje Tropical, and proceed to do background research on Costa Rica. This mini research project is divided into four segments: (1) gathering resources in the library, (2) writing the mini report, (3) presenting this report with a student created visual, and (4) collaborating as a class on the creation and writing of a travel brochure.

The students are introduced to the literary term magical realism, and read the following literary works by Costa Rican writers: There Never Was A Once Upon A Time, by Carmen Naranjo, Clamor of Innocence: Stories from Central America, edited by Barbara Paschke and David Volpendesta, and When New Flowers Bloomed, edited by Enrique Jaramillo Levi. After reading, analyzing, and keeping readers response journals on the above, the students write their own short stories which include a touch of magical realism.


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Chatham University
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IMGALTTAG Pittsburgh Teachers Institute
Jointly sponsored by Carnegie Mellon University, Chatham University and the Pittsburgh Public Schools.
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