Day 1 is planned. Now what?

It’s my last week of summer, and I’m fortunate to spend some of it with my family at my dad’s cabin in northern Minnesota. This is my view right now:

It doesn’t get much better than this. (Truth be told, I’d prefer an ocean view, but Minnesota isn’t close to any oceans, so the lake will have to do.)

So, while my husband and parents are out golfing and my kids alternate between playing, arguing and snacking, I’m enjoying the calm and thinking some about my vision for the first weeks of school.

Beyond day one, which I talked about here, my focus in our first few weeks will be on diving into writing workshop while building community and beginning to explore our identities.

For the past few years, I have started the year with a short unit on the stories behind our names. I have found that it’s a powerful way to build community while practicing reading, writing, listening and speaking in a variety of ways. This year, I will adapt this unit to fit the workshop structure.

We will use “Mi nombre” from La casa en Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, first as a quick write and later as a mentor text to write our own name stories. I will also use the short video of actor Uzo Aduba talking up growing up with a Nigerian name that English speakers find hard to pronounce. You might be thinking to yourself, “Wait, this is Spanish class. Why is she showing a video clip in English?” And to that I would simply say that my students are all bilingual, and sometimes the content is so valuable, it’s worth sharing, even if it’s in English. To me, the content of this video clip is extremely powerful. My students found it to be incredibly relatable, and enjoyed the humor and craft of the storytelling as well. We will watch the clip and then write about it. I’m excited to see where students go with their writing about this piece.

The final part of this intro unit has students ask a parent or other family member how their name was chosen. I start by telling a story about how my parents chose my name, and I also talk about how my husband and I chose our children’s names. I provide some questions and students come back with the answers. Hopefully, it gives them an opportunity to connect with a family member in a meaningful way. At the very least, they get to hear a story that they otherwise might have never known. We will write these stories, using “Mi nombre” as our mentor text, and then we will sit in a circle and share our stories.

I’m still looking for another text or two to use with this unit. I’m using “text” in a broad sense here: written, visual, audio, anything really that might relate to the topic of name stories. If you have any ideas, please share them in the comments, and let me know how you start the year with your heritage learners!

7 thoughts on “Day 1 is planned. Now what?”

  1. I love this idea! I may have them record themselves using Flipgrid(presentational) to tell their stories and then find a video and comment on a classmates story(interpersonal). No sé, just an idea.


    1. Certainly the vignette Mi nombre would be appropriate. There are some others that I would definitely preview and decide if they are appropriate for your students and your situation. I am not using the whole book and it has been many years since I read the whole thing.


  2. This is my first year teaching a Heritage class. I’ve been learning all summer, including the virtual HL summit and taking a class through Univ. of Wisconsin-Whitewater. I’ve also just read En Comunidad and am looking forward to the webinar coming up. But I still feel unprepared! I guess I don’t know what to expect. But I did want to add another book suggestion…Alma y cómo obtuvo su nombre..which is also mentioned in En Comunidad. I think it would be a great addition to the name unit. Thanks for all you share!


    1. Susan, it sounds like you are far better prepared than I was when I started! It’s a lot to figure out, but if you are honest with your students, you’ll start to build strong and and go from there.
      Thanks for the book suggestion, it’s on my list for this year. I’ve added several great videos and a section from Poet X as well. Maybe I will have to update this post.


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