Latinx Literature & Culture Students Engage with Middle Schoolers
By Sarah Giibbons | Wednesday, May 3, 2017
By Sarah Giibbons
Wednesday, May 3, 2017
On April 27th, students in Kristie Soares's "Introduction to Latinx Literature and Culture" class welcomed 23 middle school students from Up Academy Leonard, a middle school in Lawrence, Mass. Lawrence is a town with a large Dominican population, and many of these students speak Spanish at home. Soares is assistant professor in the Spanish and Portuguese program of the department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures.
Collaborating with Up Academy Leonard teachers, Soares arranged for her students and the middle schoolers to read the same bilingual texts and come together to discuss them on campus. Several exercises lead up to this visit, so when the day arrived, the UMass students and the Up Academy Leonard students quickly established a rapport. Spanish major Brook Hansel led the group on a campus tour, and several more students took them to lunch at the Hampshire dining commons.
The class session was a success as well. Class discussions were conducted in both Spanish and English, with the middle schoolers dominating most of the conversation about the literary texts. "I was impressed by the middle schoolers' incredibly in-depth understanding of the readings," said Hansel. She continued, "I think that it is important for college-aged students (or any older person) to see the understanding that young people have in these discussions and conversations.” "I feel like I learned more from them than they did from me," said Spanish major Angelica Troche.
"Bilingual and bicultural classroom spaces are essential to the study of Latinx literature," says Soares. "I think my students would agree that to truly understand the literature of a community, you have to listen to the community itself."
In a reflection questionnaire, Soares's students noted that the event was very impactful for them and that they learned more about the texts by discussing them with the middle school students than they would have otherwise. The Up Academy scholars reported that the visit was their favorite day of the year, and many of them have indicated they now plan to attend UMass Amherst.