Social Justice Through Popular Culture

I have put a lot of thought into how I am going to supplement my new curriculum to make sure I am representing all of my students. I have decided to take a note from one of my favorite3 YA authors, Kwame Alexander.

Kwame Alexander has shown so many students what the power of song and poetry is. I wanted to take a note from him and work with my students on the power of poetry. I have always stopped just shy of this when working with poetry before because I am so uncomfortable with writing poetry. I took several classes in college on poetry writing and analysis and I never felt like I fit in. I think it is because I never had a story to share.

My entire first unit is usually spent showing students the art of story-telling. They write personal narratives and short stories as well as a few poems that have specific forms or rhythms. Ideally, I would push past this boundary of forms and let students move into the story-telling aspect of poetry and rhythm like Kwame Alexander has in his books. If I am lucky and my district decides on the curriculum I am hoping for, I will be able to partner this new project with Kwame Alexander’s book, The Crossover. Here are a few songs/poems that have inspired me, and I hope to use in my classroom.

Latinoamérica” by Calle 13 – I have linked to the translated version of this song so that all of my readers can see how this song tells the story of someone who is trying to find their place in a world they don’t feel like they belong or are being kicked out of. This is familiar to so many of my students and their families. It would be a great project to use a this song as an inspiration for my students to write their own.

“Mexico Lindo y Querido”by Vicente Fernandez – This is an ode written in Spanish declaring his love for his home. There are poems in my current curriculum written from an African–American perspective that are odes to their homes. It would be such an easy addition to have this poem as an option to read.

Rolas de Aztlán: Songs of the Chicano Movement– This compilation of songs is a overture to the Chicano Movement. This is a great example of what a “playlist” might look like for a time period. It would also be a great idea to split these songs up between groups and have them analyze them individually and then come back together to see how each songs fits into this album.



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