1. At the beginning of class, have students answer the following
“How would you define the word “culture”?
Explain your answer in a half page journal entry.”
the students 5 or 10 minutes to ponder and write about
2. Have a short discussion about the word "culture." What
does this word mean? Some students might use synonyms such
as “heritage,”“beliefs,” or “traditions.” Explain that all of these are elements of culture. The
term race may be used by students;
it is important to be aware that it is a very loaded concept
and should be explored carefully.
that culture has to do with the beliefs,
traditions, and values which are associated with a specific
region or population. The term race is typically associated
with traits of inheritance; it is important to be clear
with students that genetic differences among human groups
limited. The greater differences that exist among humans
are cultural or environmental rather than genetic in
that the concept of race in humans is of little to no
importance in biological terms and should be avoided.
4. Ask the students to compare and contrast the concepts
of ethnicity and culture. Are these the same? How are
different? Discuss the differences and interplay
between culture and ethnicity.
Most social scientists, drawing on such biological research, believe common race
definitions in humans have little taxonomic validity. They argue that race definitions
are imprecise, arbitrary, derived from custom, and vary between cultures.” http://encyclopedia.laborlawtalk.com/Race
Pass out copies of the story “What Means Switch” by
Gish Jen. Explain to the class that today they will be
reading about a young girl and her
experiences growing up in America, surrounded by different cultures
and ethnicities. Ask the class if they are familiar with
the term “melting pot.” Briefly
talk about why some people refer to the U.S. in this
way. As the class begins
to read the first half of the short story, ask them to think
about the following questions:
How does the main character, Mona, reflect the many cultures surrounding
her, both at school and at home?
What different cultures are mentioned in the text? Which seem to be having the
most success in America, and which seem to be struggling?
Why do you think Mona’s family came to the U.S.? What was their perception
of this country? Was it realistic?
Read about half of the text with the students in
class, preferably aloud, using a method
which allows all the students to have
a chance to read. Practice
chunking by pausing the flow of reading at the end of each
page and ask the students to summarize what is
in the text. Refer
during the reading, or at the very end, and conclude with a
of Mona’s experiences.
1. At the beginning of day two, post the following question on
the board: “What
is Mona’s ethnicity? What is Mona’s culture? How is she affected
by the neighborhood and city she lives in? Explain your thoughts.” Give
the class about 5 minutes to answer these questions in their journals.
You may invite a few students to share their thoughts, or collect
the journals for later
2. Briefly review the events of the story from the previous day.
Have the class continue reading the second half of the story silently,
writing a dialectical
journal entry. Have students use a separate sheet of paper divided
in two columns (draw a line down the center). In the left column,
students will write a short
summary of the story, drawing out the main ideas and major details.
should be no opinion in the summary, but in the right hand column
write their thoughts, opinions, and questions about the text. This
will be collected
at the end of the hour. Allow the class about 20-25 minutes to finish
reading and writing.
3. Discuss issues of culture and race raised by the short story.
Students may use their journal entries as a jumping off point for
the following issues:
What is Mona’s impression of Sherman Matsumoto? How does
her opinion of him change over the course of the story?
is Sherman’s ethnicity and cultural background? How does he feel about
his heritage? How does Sherman’s attitude about culture contrast to Mona’s?
What does Mrs. Chang think about Mona’s friendship with Sherman?
Why? What cultural history colors her views?
- Do you think Sherman and Mona would have become different people if they
had grown up in their countries of origin? Why? How does living in America affect
each of them?
Why do you think Sherman’s and Mona’s attitudes about
their cultures are different?
How does our culture become like a “lens”? How does
it affect the way we look at life?
At the end of class, ask students to think
about the ways in which our environment and cultural surroundings
affect the person we become. This is a very interesting short
story which brings up
many different questions concerning cultural values. Some students
may feel strongly about these topics, and you may want to remind
the class to be sensitive of this.
None for today.
students’ responses in journal entries and during discussion.
Check to see if students understand the text, and see that their
analysis focuses on the cultural questions brought up by the
story. Students should be able to identify the different beliefs
and values of the characters, and explain how these affect their
actions and perspectives.