Friday, August 15, 2014

GUIDE for Silver People by Margarita Engle

One hundred years ago today, the first ship passed through the newly completed Panama Canal changing the route through the Americas forever. Although this was and is celebrated as a technological achievement, I wasn't aware of the cost in human lives and ecological impact till I read Margarita Engle's vivid and compelling novel in verse, Silver People

I was fortunate enough to read an early copy of the book and create an educator's guide for sharing the book with young readers. You can download the guide here. To whet your appetite, here are just a few components to explore.

To set the stage for reading this novel in verse, identify the time frame (1906-1914) for the story’s setting as well as the place and geographical location (Panama). Talk about what was going on in the world at this time (during Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency and prior to World War I) and locate Panama and the surrounding countries (particularly Cuba and Jamaica) on a map. Look for Bottle Alley, Lake Gatun, the Chagres River, the Gaillard Cut, and the island now known as Barro Colorado extensively studied by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Look for historical photos and documents that help provide a context for understanding the building of the Panama Canal. One resource is a jackdaw of facsimiles of primary source documents available at Jackdaw.com, specifically this collection: “Panama Canal: Building the 8th Wonder of the World.” This includes many maps, blueprints, ship’s dockets, personal letters and telegrams, ledgers, health records, period postcards, etc.

Characters
As students read or listen to this novel in verse, encourage them to visualize each of the main characters and talk about what they look like, what country they are from, what language they speak, how they feel about these events, and what dreams or goals they each have. Work together to draw character sketches or find magazine or web-based images for these characters.
  1. Mateo, from Cuba (our protagonist and a canal laborer who aspires to be an artist)
  2. Anita, from Panama (an orphan and herb girl, sweetheart of Mateo)
  3. Henry, from Jamaica (digger, friend of Mateo)
  4. *John Stevens (Chief Engineer) p. 43
  5. Old Maria (surrogate mother to Anita) p. 83
  6. *Theodore Roosevelt (U.S. President) p. 95
  7. Augusto (New York scientist and artist originally from Puerto Rico) p. 115-117
  8. *George W. Goethals (Chief Engineer) p. 149
  9. *Jackson Smith (Manager) p. 151
  10. *Gertrude Beeks (Welfare Department) p. 163
  11. *Harry Franck (Census Enumerator) p. 213
(*These characters are actual historical figures.)
Students could also each choose a favorite character and read aloud the poems from her/his perspective readers theater style.

Animals of the Panama Jungle
Each of the following animals is featured with a poem from its perspective. Students can choose one of these to prepare for oral reading, researching (online) images and sound effects to accompany their reading. One helpful resource is Animals.NationalGeographic.com
  1. Army ants p. 137
  2. Bullet ants p. 138
  3. Capuchin p. 200
  4. Crocodile p. 105
  5. Giant hissing cockroach p. 104
  6. Giant swallowtail butterflies p. 201
  7. Glass frogs p. 26
  8. Howler monkeys (see separate listings)
  9. Jaguar p. 106
  10. King Vulture p. 202
  11. Monkey-eating eagle p. 58
  12. Mosquitoes p. 172
  13. Poison Dart Frogs p. 231
  14. Poison dart tadpoles p. 245
  15. Quetzal p. 244
  16. Ruby-throated hummingbird p. 136
  17. Scarlet macaws p. 230
  18. Three-toed sloth p. 59
  19. Tree Viper p. 60
  20. Vampire bats p. 173-174
  21. Violet-Green swallows p. 175
Check out the GUIDE for more information on:
  • Teaching figurative language
  • Making STEM Connections: Engineering, Machinery, Math
  • Exploring themes
  • Offering literature links
Now head on over to Heidi's place for more Poetry Friday fun.



Image credits: welldonestuff.com;history.howstuffworks.com;paho.org;a-z-animals.com;revuemag.com



5 comments:

Mary Lee said...

This is a teacher's guide that will help ME understand this book better! Thanks for sharing, Sylvia! And what perfect timing!!

LInda Baie said...

We use Jackdaw work all the time at school, will look for the one with the Panama Canal. I've given a copy of the book to our school library, and now I have your support too, Sylvia. Thank you for all this "organized" background. It's a wonderful book!

Linda said...

You've created a fantastic resource, Sylvia. I'll be sure to share it with the teachers at my school.

Karen Edmisten said...

It's going on the wish list -- thanks!

jan godown annino said...

Appreciations.
This is personally important to me because not only do I love this author's work, but I also have materials from a relative on my father's side who worked on this
massive project. I am so glad to
know of this title & your guidelines.

j a n