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the expanding canon teaching multicultural literature
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Session 6 Cultural Studies: N. Scott Momaday and Russell Leong - Lesson Plans

Lesson Plan 1
Lesson Plan 2


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Download the Session 6 Guide

Author: Russell Leong
Work: "Aerogrammes"

In this lesson, Bobbi Ciriza Houtchens uses a cultural studies approach to immerse students in Asian American culture as they study Russell Leong's poem "Aerogrammes." During a class trip to Chinatown in Los Angeles, Leong shares his poetry and guides students as they have a Tai Chi lesson, eat in a Chinese restaurant, and work in groups to create Japanese renga poems describing their experience.

To prepare for the lesson, view The Expanding Canon video program 6, Part II. Online review the Session 6 theory overview, strategies, information about the authors and literature, resources, and the downloadable print guide. Read "Aerogrammes" -- available in the print guide.

Teachers will need the following supplies:
  • board and/or chart paper
  • a screen or monitor on which to show a clip from the video program 6, Part II, either on a vhs tape or from the Web (optional)
  • copies of "Aerogrammes" from The Country of Dreams and Dust
Standards for the English Language Arts


Day 1
1. Bobbi Ciriza Houtchens begins by reminding students that on the next day they are going to meet poet Russell Leong in the Chinatown section of Los Angeles. The class prepares by reading "Aerogrammes," a poem from Leong's book The Country of Dreams and Dust. As Houtchens reads, she guides students to make predictions and summarize by asking:
  • What is an aerogramme?
  • What is the poem about?
2. Houtchens asks students to read the poem by themselves, using a technique called "coding." Students put a check next to interesting passages, a plus next to new information, and a question mark where questions arise. At the end of the class, Houtchens suggests that students bring their copies of Leong's poem on the field trip, along with a pencil and a piece of paper.

Day 2
1. Houtchens takes her students to Chinatown in Los Angeles to meet poet Russell Leong. She urges the students to be "sponges" - to absorb as much of the cultural experience as they can. (Teachers may want to show the segment from The Expanding Canon video program 6, Part II that features Leong and Houtchens's students.)

2. Leong discusses his experiences in various Chinese American neighborhoods and gives a brief history of Asian American immigration to California. He then introduces his martial arts instructor, Larry Antonio.

Antonio explains that Tai Chi, which means balance, is a martial art that deflects and neutralizes incoming forces.

4. Antonio demonstrates some Tai Chi moves; then leads the students in a series of Tai Chi exercises.

5. Leong explains that Tai Chi is similar to poetry because it combines form, function, feeling, and freedom.

6. Led by Leong, the students walk through Chinatown en route to a restaurant. He and Houtchens urge students to use their five senses to absorb the experience.

7. After lunch in a Chinese restaurant, Leong tells students about his trip to China. Then he reads "Aerogrammes" aloud.

8. Leong answers students' questions about his poetry.

9. Leong asks students to write down a line that describes one memory the students have of Chinatown. He instructs them to use their five senses when crafting their lines. Houtchens adds that students should be as specific and precise as possible. Leong and Houtchens divide the class into four groups to create Japanese renga poems. They ask that students share their poetic lines with members of their group, and then work together to put the lines in an order so that they become a poem.

10. The groups each present their poems to the rest of the class.

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