lunes, 19 de diciembre de 2016

Casa Dividida... perspectivas diferentes de Cuba

Image result for Casa dividida chris mercer
Update: See examples of student work here

I have always wanted to do a unit on Cuba in my Cultura y Civilización (Spanish 4/5) course, but never have because I have never been able to focus the unit. There is so much to explore: the history of Cuba, the indigenous population, the African influence on culture, the Spanish influence on culture, Batista, poverty, freedom of speech, education, health care, exile, music, poetry, Che, Fidel, Miami, US intervention, the embargo, sugar... and so many varied perspectives (see here for an extremely short video that shows some perspectives). But, I have finally found an excellent resource that can help me pull it all together, the book Casa Dividida by Chris Mercer.

This book tells the compelling story of two families, both of whom are impacted by Fidel Castro's government. Here is the description from the TPRS Books website: 

Appropriate for level 3 and 4 classes, José, the son of one of Cuba’s wealthiest tobacco tycoons, and Luisa, a peasant sugar cane cutter, see their country turned upside-down by the Cuban Revolution. They are then faced with a choice. Stay and defend the Revolution? Or flee and fight for its end?
Based on true events, this novel chips away at  political propaganda with a gripping tale of battlefield heroism, international espionage, economic collapse, and human compassion. You will be left wondering who the true rebels are and what it will take to reunite a house divided.
There isn't a Teacher's Guide available yet, so I came up with an alternative unit plan so that students can show their learning, explore other cultural and historical points, reflect, personalize, compare and contrast, and show their understanding of the novel. I am still thinking about the "Essential Questions" for the unit, but as of right now, this is what I have:

  • ¿Cómo afecta el gobierno la vida del individuo y la de una sociedad?
  • ¿Quiénes son algunos héroes nacionales polémicos de Cuba y de los Estados Unidos? ¿Por qué es importante tratar de entender todas las perspectivas de sus seguidores?

They (and I) can get a bit tired of the "preguntas de comprensión" after each chapter, so instead, students are going to do: an "Álbum de Recortes." I got the idea from Elizabeth Dentlinger's post about Smash Doodles (inspired by Martina Bex). I really like Elizabeth's student handout, particularly because it could be used for any book and I will probably use that in the future with another book.

Here is a link to the "Álbum de Recortes" handout for students and here is the rubric that I will use to guide them and assess them. The rubric contains some "School Wide" strands that I have to use throughout the semester. 

have tried to vary the things that students have to do for each chapter and give them some choice as well. Chris Mercer is obviously very knowledgeable about Cuba because this book is deep with cultural and historical connections (example: is Rolando based on Silvio Rodríguez?), so students will have the option of exploring a wide variety of culture and history, including the following: los taínos, la zafra (and three related songs), Babalú-Aye, José Martí, Silvio Rodríguez, Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, communism, nationalization, the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, the Contras, freedom of speech, CIA intervention, la Bahía de Cochinos, the song "Casas de Cartón," executions, political prisoners, Perestroika and Glasnost, las Damas de Blanco, the importance of education, and a nationalized health care system... among many other things!

Here are some of the things that students will do for different chapters:

Capítulo 1: Luisa y José - Cuba 1957

Capítulo 4: A la guerra
  • Describe este capítulo con una oración.
  • Haz lo que quieras para explicar, resumir, reflejar, opinar, personalizar, hacer conexiones con la historia de nuestro país, y/o analizar este capítulo.

Capítulo 9: La educación de Luisa
  • Describe este capítulo con una oración.
  • Escribe dos citas de Che Guevara y escribe tu opinión sobre cada una.
  • Haz una lista de las cosas importantes en la vida de Luisa.
  • El Ministerio de Cultura censuró la música de Rolando, ¿por qué? En tu opinión, ¿hay situaciones en que la música debe ser censurada? ¿Cuándo? ¿Dónde? ¿Por qué?

Capítulo 14: Una nueva vida para José

  • Describe este capítulo con cinco oraciones.
  • Al final del capítulo, Julie dice, "Yo entiendo que estés enojado, José, pero la familia es más importante que la política. Espero que un día puedas volver y hacer la paz con tu familia." ¿Piensas tú que él volverá? Haz una predicción.
  • ¿Cómo te sentirías si tuvieras que salir de tu país y de tu familiar y no pudieras volver? ¿Qué harías en esa situación?

Capítulo 17: Rebelión

  • Describe este capítulo con una oración.
  • ¿Nuestro gobierno permite que lo critiquemos? ¿Qué pasaría si no pudiéramos criticarlo?
  • Haz una de estas cosas:

Has anyone else used this book? I look forward to spending the three weeks after break delving into Cuba! I will share examples of the "Álbum de Recortes" as we progress. 

A big thanks to Chris Mercer for writing such an amazing book!

18 comentarios:

  1. I'm browsing blogs on this snow day, and just found this. This is great stuff. Having returned from a 10-day trip to Cuba at the end of November, I am entranced. I still don't know how I'm going to use all the stuff in my head. I am also greatly influenced by the fact that my (US-born) grandparents met in Cuba, and my mother was born there and lived there until she went to college. I'm going to read this novel as well as Mira Canion's new one, too.
    Another summer project. :)

    -Kathy Griffith (for some reason, my computer will only let me post as 'anonymous' on some blogs. It drives me crazy!)

    1. Hi Kathy! I am loving this álbum de recortes! Students are really interacting with the novel and my classroom has been *very* student centered. I LOVE this book!! I would to hear your perspective, having such close connections to Cuba.

  2. It is a great book, both for the culture it brings to the student and the reinforcement of Spanish as a second language. I can only post as anonymous too. I'm not sure what is going on.

    Jen Boice-Teacher's Discovery

  3. Hi, I am looking forward to using this book next semester. I think I am going to show Viva Cuba as a closing activity.

  4. Hi, (Shadora Abraham)

    I am looking forward to using this book this semester for my Spanish 4 class. I have a question, did you start the semester with this book or did you ease it in after awhile? I am looking for the best approach. My students have a 67 minute class M-TH for the entire school year. Due to it being a Spanish 4 class, I really want them to delve into some good ole literature!! I'm so excited!!

  5. There is no divided house.. we are a CASA UNIDA against communism and the murderous military dictatorship of the castro family. Would anyone write a book about a divided German family during the Nazi era and find positives in the Nazi perspective?

    1. Have you read the book? I would be much more interested in your opinion if so. Also, leaving a comment like this anonymously is strange. Show yourself and we can dialogue.

  6. What movies have you found would be good companions to this novelist? I use Viva Cuba with my sp2 class, and need a different one for sp4/5 Civ. Thanks! Love your stuff and perspectives. Gives me energy to just get through some days! 😄

    1. Hello Jane! I haven't used found a movie to use with this, but I would love to find one! Please let me know if you do.

      Also, thanks for kind words... comments like that keep me going! :)

    2. Hi all -- I am planning on doing Casa Dividida with my classes when we return from spring break. I'm planning to show Cuba and the Cameraman at the end (Netflix documentary) -- it is mostly in English unfortunately but you can turn subtitles on in Spanish and I think it does a really amazing job showing the changes in Cuba over the last 5-6 decades. Even if you don't show it to your classes its absolutely fascinating and you should watch it for yourselves!!

    3. The Lost City = talks about the revolution/Batista and forced emigration as well as family divide.

      Elián was a great film to show too.
      And the Netflix series "The Cuba Libre" story.

  7. I am currently using this book and I have really been able to go deeper by adding Newsela articles (free to teachers) and using EdPuzzle to add authentic videos with embedded questions that align with each chapter by Big Idea alignment.

  8. Going to use this book for the first time this year. Thanks for creating this. I will be sending some money through Patreon at the start of the year.

    1. Great! I am going to use it after winter break. So looking forward to it!

  9. Thank you so much for sharing! I am excited to use this novel and your work is tremendously helpful!

  10. What a great thread! Has anyone used the accompanying activity packet from Teacher's Discovery to go with this novel? I am curious about it, and wondered if anyone else is familiar. It looks like it comes on CD form, which seems a bit odd, but I wondered if anyone had any more familiarity with it. (You can see the activity book on the book's page here: Gracias!