A father and his children in Colombia

Four weeks into his journey, Brandon is frankly feeling a little homesick. What sounded like a great adventure at first has led him to discover just how important his family and friendships really are. Compounding the homesickness is the fact that he is visiting classrooms where students are talking about their childhood, their families, their cultural customs in comparison with cultural customs around the world. Who wouldn’t start to miss their mom and dad!?

It struck Brandon that before he left on his journey he didn’t realize he even HAD a culture! As he visited classrooms and saw what life is like for students around the United States, he began to realize that while he had studied cultural highlights like Day of the Dead and Cinco de mayo in his Spanish class, he had never thought about his own culture as a student from Denver, Colorado!

The Brandon Brown series is rich in lessons about students’ own culture. From cellphone use to car ownership, there are things about our students’ lives that they may not realize make them part of the culture of the United States! Don’t forget, especially in level one, to focus on your students’ lives through novels that follow kids who grew up in the US, like the Brandon Brown series, Nuits mystérieuses a Lyon / Noches misteriosas en Granada, and Vol des oiseaux / Robo en la noche. Learning about their own culture gives them the foundation to then compare it with the world cultures they study at all levels!

Families and Communities is an AP theme that really allows us to get to know one another. One of the ways to really connect to another culture is by getting to know individual people. Nothing creates a feeling of warmth and belonging like making a friend or feeling accepted into a community. Something that we have found works really well is teaching about the biographies of compelling people that are a part of the target culture. Through a biography, the reader or learner gets a natural sense of life in a target culture family/community and comparisons can easily be made between individual students and the subject of the biography.

In Felipe Alou, for example, we are able to compare Felipe’s family’s attitude toward race as a mixed-race family to attitudes in the United States at the same period in history or even now. We can dig a little deeper and take a look at how the sport of baseball is one of the foundations of childhood in the Dominican Republic. Even avid baseball players growing up in the US have a very different experience with sports typically!

In Frida Kahlo, readers explore Frida’s journey as an artist and as a person whose life was filled with both great suffering as well as joy. We see her blended family, her natural conflict with her siblings, her often strained relationship with her mother, and her close relationship with her father. All of these aspects of Frida’s life are very relatable to modern students, and the rich cultural context of her biography brings students a feeling of warmth and familiarity with her culture.

Fluency Matters is proud to announce the addition of two new non-fiction readers focusing on the biography genre for this fall. Vidas Impactantes by Kristy Placido is a collection of 6 biographies of people who have made an impact! It features stories of perseverance and triumph through adversity and disappointment. Even though you may have heard of some of these people before, we are sure you will learn something new about each of them! Our other new reader is Santana, the biography of legendary Rock ‘n’ Roller Carlos Santana by Ben Lev. His story is a winding, gritty path with lots of bumps along the way. Carlos Santana is the epitome of the immigrant success story!

How to enter the Flat Brandon Contest!

Enter the contest by printing out Flat Brandon, coloring his clothing  and  accessorizing his wardrobe  to reflect the AP theme your class is targeting. You may incorporate Brandon into a new “setting” by adding a new background if you like! You may even hold your own Flat Brandon contest in your classroom and select one as your official entry! Your submission should incorporate the printout of Flat Brandon AND visually communicate proficiency-mindedness through one of the 6 AP themes:

1. Beauty and Aesthetics
2. Global Challenges
3. Science and Technology
4. Contemporary Life
5. Families and Communities
6. Personal and Public Identities

Once Brandon is decorated, either send a single (digital) photograph or a collage of him participating in the unit of study so we can watch him learn and grow in global and communicative competence. Tell us in 1-2 sentences what Brandon has been up to in your classroom. We are looking for images that capture Brandon acquiring language and becoming globally minded through communicative activities that are creative, innovative, and enjoyable! Remember, the path to proficiency should be pleasant!

Share images on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #flatBrandonCIPeek and tag @FluencyMatters. You may also enter on Facebook by posting your photo on the Fluency Matters Facebook page with the hashtag #flatBrandonCIPeek. Limit ONE entry per teacher, please! The contest deadline is October 24 and we will announce our winner on October 31. The winner will receive a class subscription to the Fluency Matters’ Flip Book E-course for the novel of their choice! Up to 150 students will have full access to the E-course for 5 months (limited to current availability)! All Flip Book E-Courses include an online novel, audiobook, pre- and post-reading activities, and comprehension quizzes.

View full contest terms and conditions here.

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