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Teaching Multicultural Literature : A Workshop for the Middle Grades
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Workshop 7: Social Justice and Action - Alma Flor Ada, Pam Munoz, and Paul Yee
Overview
Authors and Literary Works
Alma Flor Ada
Biography
Work
Interview
Pam Munoz Ryan
Biography
Work
Paul Yee
Biography
Work
Key References
Video Summary
Teaching Strategies
Commentary
Student Work
Resources
Interactive Workbook -- Explore two poems using strategies from these workshops. Go.
Channel-Talk -- Share your views on the discussion board. Go.


Authors and Literary Works
My Name Is María Isabel

For María Isabel Salazar López, the first day at a new school is hard enough, but then her teacher suggests to her that, with two other Marias in the class, the class should "call you Mary instead." For María Isabel, who is named for both of her grandmothers as well as an uncle and a father, the loss of her real name is the loss of herself. In fact, she often doesn't realize the teacher is calling on her when she says the foreign name "Mary Lopez," and as a result she misses the opportunity to take part in her school's winter pageant. But when the teacher asks the students to write about their "greatest wish," María writes, "My greatest wish is to be called María Isabel Salazar López. When that was my name, I felt proud of being named María, like my papa's mother, and Isabel, like my grandmother Chabela." In the happy ending, María gets to sing in the winter pageant, and, most important of all, her teacher recognizes the importance of calling her by her real name.


Alma Flor Ada drew this story from her own life as an immigrant, but she also had the actual experience of a teacher changing her name. In third grade her teacher decided that her name was just "Alma" rather than "Alma Flor," and for years Ada was known simply as "Alma" as a result. "But in reality it wasn't my real name," Ada says, remembering that it took years to convince people to use her full name again. "Now," she says, "my real friends call me Alma Flor." But her story is very common for immigrant children, Ada says; "My own personal experience grew to be the experience of many people." In schools all over the United States, children change their original names -- for example, "Jesus" or "Jose" -- to more "American" names like "Chuck" or "Joe," and lose, she suggests, a piece of their culture in the process.

In My Name Is María Isabel, readers can see from the point of view of a little girl the larger struggles of a Puerto Rican family to improve their lives in America. María Isabel's experience will resonate for readers regardless of background.

back to top Next: Alma Flor Ada: Interview


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