24 October 2011

Not your average health unit

foto por USP Hospitales

A unit on health is common in Spanish class. We have a unit in Spanish 2 on describing ailments and visiting the doctor. Then in AP I have a unit called "Cuidándome a mí" (taking care of myself). It's useful -last year's AP essay was health-related- but for AP I wanted to go beyond the typical reflexive verb, sickness phrases, doctor questions vocabulary and activities. Besides, our principal asked us this year to focus on hands-on learning with our students. So how could I make the learning hands-on, relevant, and connected to communities and culture?

Every unit in AP contains four performance assessments: interpersonal speaking, presentational speaking, interpersonal writing, and presentational writing. I've had a focus in this unit for the past two or three years on healthcare and undocumented immigrants, but this year I wanted it to really matter. Here are the assignments we did for each:

1) Interpersonal speaking
One student played a doctor's receptionist, and the student being assessed was someone in the doctor's office. I was a mother whose child needed a chicken pox vaccine in order to go to school, but didn't have any health insurance or much money. So the receptionist won't let me make an appointment, and the student had to explain to me that I could get the vaccine at the health department. To complete this task my students had to a) get the address and phone number of the health department in our city, b) identify language options at the health department, c) find out what kind of care is offered at the health department, d) find out whether undocumented immigrants can get care at the health department, and e) understand how services are paid for at the health department. And these students had never even heard of the health department!
Here's April completing this task.

2) Presentational speaking
Scenario: The local Latino community is having a town hall meeting to talk about local health care options. Several local political leaders are attending (with translators). Based on an article about undocumented children in the health reform debate and a video about a baby's life being saved at Seattle Children's Hospital, present a 2-minute argument about why undocumented immigrant children should or should not receive healthcare services at health departments and hospitals.

3) Interpersonal writing
Students had to locate a doctor in the city who spoke Spanish. This involved actually calling the offices to verify that they had Spanish-speaking staff and to get their address. Then they wrote a letter to the doctor explaining what they had learned about the undocumented and/or uninsured Spanish-speaking community and encouraging the doctor to get involved in free or low-cost clinics in the area. We are mailing these letters.

4) Presentational writing
Students wrote a lengthy letter to our Congressman, John Yarmuth. Based on a Pew Hispanic Center study, comments by the Republican presidential candidates, and a radio program addressing changes in the California MediCal access laws, students addressed such questions as:
-what is the most reasonable response to the healthcare crisis?
-if we treat everyone indiscriminately, will healthcare costs rise to an unsustainable level?
-how can we control costs for those who can't pay without overburdening society?
-what kinds of healthcare are human rights and what aren't?
-what do we do with undocumented children who had no say in their legal status?
-should undocumented immigrants receive healthcare anywhere, or only in certain places?
-how can we inform undocumented immigrants on their healthcare rights and options?
I am going to write an English-language note to accompany these letters, explaining what we did to Mr. Yarmuth and telling him that my students care enough about the Latino community that they have taken the time to learn their language, and if he will take the time to find someone to translate their letters, he will get some interesting opinions, as well as getting a taste of what language negotiation immigrants have to go through to become informed. Then I'll mail them.

I actually posted about this unit two years ago, but I think now it's become a lot more relevant and service-oriented.


Sra. Spanglish said...

I just...wow...

SO much more applicable than when I tried to get them to do a Whose Line Is It Anyway of ailments! And you got community in there, things they might use one day (and thus not have to call me to translate, like our district office does with things like the vaccination scenario)! I LOVE the finding a doctor part. And writing to the congressmen? Wow! (But do they speak Spanish?)

Sra Cottrell said...

Thanks! {that's how I often feel reading the activities you do on your blog}

I forgot to mention that they're also putting together a pamphlet highlighting some healthcare options in the city: clinics, doctors who speak Spanish, pharmacies with staff and services in Spanish, dental clinics, etc. And the student in charge of pharmacy info is entering pharmacy school next year. My students say, "Wow, we're doing stuff that really matters in this class!" and I think, as usual, "Why didn't we do this before?"

As for the congressman, we are sending the letters in Spanish to make a point that 1) my students have gone an extra mile (or lots) to learn the language of the majority of our immigrants to help them and 2) immigrants have to go through a lot of work and effort to understand our systems and documentation, just to name a couple of things. I'm adding an English note explaining that.