Our 5th grade Spanish students have been learning a world of information from our Middle School Librarian Ms. Annie Tsai Gomez. In a collaborative Spanish and art lesson, Ms. Tsai worked with Spanish Teachers Ms. Christine Mayer and Ms. Anne Williamson as well as Art Teacher Ms. Jayme Zimmer. In the lesson, Ms. Tsai shared her unique story: how she grew up in four countries while speaking multiple languages and facing different challenges that come along with transitions.
While speaking solely in Spanish, Ms. Tsai shared that she is half Taiwanese and half Uruguayan. Not only has she lived in Uruguay, where she was born, but she’s also lived in Taiwan, Honduras and Panama. As she pointed to each country on a map, she shared photos of herself as a kid in each of the respective countries. She explained that her native languages are Spanish and Mandarin, and she learned English in 3rd grade.
What a wonderful person for our 5th graders to learn from as they open their eyes to Spanish-speaking countries, different languages and transitions in life!
Throughout the presentation, Ms. Tsai fielded questions from students. Some asked, “Wasn’t it difficult to move so frequently?” or, “Wasn’t it difficult to have to learn a new language?” She took this moment to talk about transitions. Many of our 5th graders have experienced their own transitions recently: some have moved to St. Louis from other states, cities and countries; many recently transitioned from Lower School to Middle School; some are experiencing changes in friendships. Ms. Tsai talked about working through the challenges in making new friends and experiencing different aspects of culture shock.
As part of the lesson, Ms. Tsai read aloud the book Dreamers by Yuyi Morales. The book talks about a Mexican immigrant who deals with the emotions of confusion and loneliness upon trying to transition to the United States. The immigrant ultimately finds refuge in a library, a fitting story for our Middle School Librarian to tell, and learns English. Intrigued by this story, 5th graders asked questions about immigration and Ms. Tsai talked about her own path to becoming a United States citizen in 2017. The book also depicted a Monarch butterfly on every page, nodding to the topic of transitions and our recent butterfly migration story in Spanish class.
Next, Ms. Tsai worked with Ms. Zimmer to tie in an arts component to this lesson. They took the 5th grade classes on a virtual tour of the beautiful murals at the San Francisco Mission’s Balmy Alley. The alley includes murals by Latin American and Central American artists. This inspired conversation on learning how an artist is feeling and glimpsing into who they are based on the art they create.
Finally, students were challenged to create their own piece of a mural. They identified an emotion and got to work, expressing it in any artistic way they desired: abstractly, realistically, in a drawing or collage. Observers should be able to glimpse a little bit into who each 5th grader is by looking at their mural pieces. To culminate the project, the quilt pieces were placed all together in the Upper Shoenburg Hallway as one big 5th Grade mural. Be sure to stop by Upper Shoenburg to see the masterpiece!
Thank you to Ms. Tsai for sharing your fascinating story with our students and community!