Experiencing Mexico without leaving the classroom : an honors thesis (HONRS 499)

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Smith, Heather R.
Martin, Linda E.
Issue Date
Thesis (B.S.)
Honors College
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During my student teaching experience, I completed my honors thesis for the Honor's College at Ball State University. I created a unit designed to make students aware of the Mexican Culture. I had the opportunity to teach this unit to the fourth grade students I was teaching. I believe that they gained a better understanding of the Mexican culture that is rapidly growing in their community. The Hispanic population is the fastest growing in the United States today. In some regions, there are many misconceptions about Mexico and the citizens that move to our country. My five-week experience in Mexico helped me to clear many of the misconceptions that I harbored. Children need to be aware of where their new neighbors are coming from and to appreciate the differences between the cultures.The content of the unit covers a wide variety of areas. I developed a lesson that compares Mexico and the United States because I believe that the students need to see where the similarities and differences lie between the two countries. I also included a geography lesson to incorporate learning land regions and locating important features in Mexico. The next two lessons dealt with the Aztecs and Aztec art. These experiences provided the students with a look at Ancient Mexico. Next, I developed a lesson that looked into literature: folktales and legends. This is a good way to learn about a culture and its beliefs. I also included a lesson on the language. The class enjoyed learning bits and pieces of another language. Finally, to bring the entire unit to a close and link all we had learned, I ended the unit in a fiesta. The fiesta includes many aspects of an open market and authentic experiences. The materials included in this unit were no more than could be found in any school or community. I found music and artworks, literature and trade books, to create a learning center for the unit. I included all of these things throughout the lessons as well. The materials I provided allowed the students to learn through seeing, hearing, and hands-on experiences.Most of the instruction included group work and self-discovery. I introduced a topic and then gave the students a task to complete. They were able to learn and answer their own questions without the teacher spouting off information. Student interaction was important because of the diverse cultures represented in the classroom and the objective of learning about another culture.Assessment took place by the use of a portfolio. The students added writing samples and activity sheets to the portfolio throughout the unit. I, then, graded the portfolio by using a checklist. As the papers were turned in, they received a separate grade and the portfolio was the final grade for the unit.