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Teacher Lesson Return to "My Family’s Loss"
My Family’s Loss
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Discussion: Haiti on Our Minds

Note to staff: Your students have heard about the Haitian earthquake and its aftermath, and most probably know Haiti as a very poor country. Cassandra Charles’ story, “My Family’s Loss” is a poignant teen view of the catastrophe that your students will find very compelling.

However, there's more to Haiti than poverty and destruction. To help remind readers that Haitian teens also have regular lives and concerns—about love, family, acceptance, and, and homesickness—we have included excerpts from several previous NYC stories. The following lessons give you an opportunity to help students strengthen their English skills while making a connection with their Haitian peers.

Objectives: Give students practice in:
reading;
understanding two ways of telling a story;
identifying important events and key emotions in a story;
recognizing metaphors and similies;
writing a story based on a story they’ve read.

Stories: Haitian stories on pages 16-17

Before the lesson: You will be leading a discussion based on reading five excerpts and asking the group to talk about the main events and emotions in the stories. You will also stress the important of using concrete nouns in descriptive writing (nouns you can touch, not abstract nouns like liberty, fear, etc.)

You will also discuss two ways of telling a story. One way is by describing a particular, specific event. For example, Raelle describes dancing with her father at her first Communion party.

Another way is to write about events in general. In her story, Raelle also writes about dancing at birthdays, Christmas festivities and carnivals but does not write about any particular occasion.

Here is a very rough “events/emotions/metaphor-simile/nouns” guide for you to consider as you read the stories yourself before the session. The story titles appear at the end of the story.

Note: Here are definitions of metaphor and simile from dictionary.com

Metaphor: a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance, as in “A mighty fortress is our God.”

Simile: a figure of speech in which two unlike things are explicitly compared, as in “she is like a rose.”on page x of this Tips.)

Letting Haiti Go
Main events: Kaela’s mother tells her that they are moving to America. She spends her last two weeks there on a food and friendship binge.
Main emotions: Loss, helplessness, disbelief, sadness.
Simile/metaphor: She feels like a fish in the last sentence.
Nouns: coffee, sugarcane, mangoes, dolls, teddy bear

A New World Full of Strangers
Main events: None
Main emotions: Shame, uneasiness, hope, helplessness
Simile/metaphor: None
Nouns: None

Dream Girl
Main events: David courts a childhood friend but loses her when she moves away and then he moves to America.
Main emotions: Shyness, attachment, sadness, loss, distance
Simile/metaphor: Loss of his friend leaves an “empty space” in him. His connectedness to his friend is like being on the same page in different books.
Nouns: Hair, letter, mangoes, farm, avocadoes, bread, tree.

Moving to the Music
Main events: Dancing with her father
Main emotions: joy, attachment, religious feeling
Simile/metaphor: Dancing is compared to experiencing a slow ocean wave.
Nouns: feet, wave, sea.

Finding My Haitian Pride
Main events: Classroom discussion of students’ cultures
Main emotions: Pride, excitement, satisfaction
Simile/metaphor: She compares her connection to Haiti as being like breathing air or drinking water.
Nouns: Plate, beans, tongue, and many more.

Activity #1: Reading and discussion
Tell the group they are going to read short passages written by Haitian teens about growing up in Haiti and coming to America. (You can ask them to read all the stories or choose 2-3 depending on your group’s skills and your time constraints.) Tell them to focus on finding the main event in the story and the most important emotions expressed.

After they are finished each story ask them about the main events and emotions. Do they agree with each other? Did they miss any mentioned in the above guide?

Then ask them if they noticed any metaphors or similes in the passages. Be prepared to give them the definitions.

Activity #2: Writing
Tell the group you want them to write a short passage on an important event in their childhood. It should be about 300 words.

Tell them to read “Letting Haiti Go” if they haven’t already done so.

Ask them to notice that Kaela uses two ways of telling a story. One way is to describe a particular event. Tell them an example of that is when she opens the story with her mother telling her that they are moving. Then tell them that Kaela also describes her life in a general way without describing a specific event. Point out the fourth paragraph: “I lived in an apartment with…”

Tell them their passage must contain a description of one specific event in their childhood and some general information about their lives. You can give them an example:
“I remember my mother taking me to different place in the city: parks, zoos, museums, etc. We lived in Brooklyn and would sometimes take the train into Manhattan. My favorite time with her was that cold day she took me to Times Square where we…”

Tell them that they should use concrete nouns to give the reader a real sense on why that event is important to them.
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(NYC-2010-02-22b)

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