Marisol and Magdalena Lesson Plan
Engage students in the author's use of language, both English and Spanish.
- Grades: 6–8
About this book
Marisol and Magdalena have been mejores amigas (best friends) forever. Living in Brooklyn, the girls are much too American to appreciate the hip-shaking beats of salsa or the tasty frituras stirred up by their Panamanian relatives. And with a long, hot summer to look forward to before the eighth grade, Marisol is more focused on cool clothes and good-looking boys like Junior Vasquez than on the tradition of her tias (aunts). But suddenly, Marisol's whole life changes as she is swept off to live in Panama with her grandmother. Marisol must learn the language and traditions of her mother's homeland, without forgetting all that she holds dear in America.
- Notice and become familiar with the author's use of language in the novel
- Understand the use of language in literary works to convey mood, images, and meaning
Before Reading the Book
Step 1: Read Chapter 3 aloud.
Step 2: Ask students what they notice about the author's use of language. Focus on her use of Spanish and English. How do they know which words are Spanish? (They're in italics.)
Step 3: Ask students why they think the author uses Spanish words. How does that change the way they read the story?
Step 4: How does the author make sure non-Spanish speakers can understand the story? Look at an example on pg. 24: "Compaders, que tal?" Velicidad called out from on top of the stairs. "Mundial, fabulous, couldn't be better," the aunts answered back.
Step 5: Discuss with students that sometimes she defines the words (such as with Mundial, "fabulous") and other times you can tell what the word means by the context. Practice with students by finding some examples of Spanish words and asking them to translate them into English.
After Reading the Book
Step 1: Have students collect Spanish words and phrases from the book and write down their meanings. Have students write down the entire sentence and explain how they knew what the words meant. (Through the context of the sentence, or a definition next to the word.)
Step 2: Go over some of words in the classroom.
Step 3: Tell students they will write two poems from Marisol's perspective with the following instructions:
- The first poem should be before Marisol leaves for Panama. The second poem should be from Marisol's point of view at the end of the book.
- Have students select five quotes from the beginning of the book and five quotes from end of the book to use in their poems. For each quote, they should explain why they want to include it in their poem.
- Remind students that Marisol's use of language might change between the two poems. Would she use more Spanish in the second poem? How have her concerns changed from the beginning to the end of the book? How would she view the traditions of her homeland?
Step 4: Now have students write the poems.
- Research Panama and its traditions. Bring in salsa music and (if possible) Panamanian cuisine for students to experience.
- Have students investigate and write about their own traditions and cultures. How do their experiences compare to Marisol's?
Other Books About Teens and Hispanic Culture
Quinceanera: Celebrating Fifteen by Elizabeth King
A real-life view of the coming of age of two teenagers as they prepare to turn fifteen. The traditions of El Salvador and Mexico are compared.
Sweet Fifteen by Diane Gonzales Bertrand
Stefanie sews her dress for her approaching quinceanera, while she is coming to terms with her father's death and her mother's detachment. Family friend, Rita, helps mend the family and falls in love with Stefanie's uncle.
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Esperanza and her family currently live on Mango Street. Told in a series of vignettes, learn about Esperanza, a young girl growing up in the Spanish-speaking area of Chicago.
Cuba 15 by Nancy Osa
Fifteen is the age when a girl enters womanhood, traditionally celebrating the occasion with a quinceanero. But while Violet is half Cuban, she's also half Polish, and more importantly, she feels 100% American.