In developing a culture unit about the Dominican Republic for high school Spanish 1, my colleagues and I brainstormed about the best way to introduce and discuss the history of the Trujillo regime and the Mirabal sisters who gave their lives in the fight for justice. How could we introduce this key period of Dominican history in a way that is engaging, thought-provoking, and accurate? Furthermore, this history is one of very difficult and disturbing truths. While I am a firm believer that it is important and necessary to teach the darker episodes of history (for reasons I won’t delve into here, but would be happy to discuss in the comments), I strive to do so in the most appropriate and considerate way.
Julia Alvarez’s novel In the Time of the Butterflies has long had a place on my bookshelf as one of my favorites, so I was delighted when a colleague found a movie adaptation of the novel. We all watched the movie and decided that its depiction of the events was appropriate for our lesson. As all communities of students, parents, and administrators are different, please use your own discretion in determining if this is right for your classroom.
As Fridays were “culture days” in our FL department, we showed this movie the two Fridays following our introductory presentation on Dominican culture. (I plan to share the materials for that soon!)
The movie guide I prepared and am sharing here has three main parts. Part one provides questions for a brief warm-up and discussion to help students activate previous knowledge, part two features comprehension questions for students to answer while watching the movie, and part three features short-answer discussion questions for students to answer in writing and then discuss. Regarding part two, the comprehension questions, I have found that they do help students stay on task in the movie. Furthermore, I pause the movie frequently and go over the past two or three questions that students have answered, as well as allowing students to ask any questions that may have arisen. I have found that this method helps students to stay engaged and it also allows me to assess how well they are following the movie and understanding key concepts. My students were really full of questions about In the Time of the Butterflies! The following discussion of the movie was one of the best we had all semester, and I was truly impressed by some of their thoughtful comments while grading part three of the movie guide.
You can watch the movie right here! (Click the arrow symbol to make it full screen. I have embedded it from Hulu.com.) Since Hulu provides it for free, it does have commercials. I do believe it is available on Netflix as well.
As always, any feedback is welcome and appreciated. There is lots of room to expand upon this lesson. Please keep the comments coming!