|Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird||Self Portrait with Cropped Hair||The Two Fridas|
With a student to teacher ratio of 8:1, small classes are the norm at Whitfield. In the language department, this translates into an immersion learning environment in which pair and group speaking activities involve face-to-face communication and active listening to develop oral proficiency. Additionally, through a study of French, Spanish, and Mandarin languages, students develop skills in reading, writing and listening while gaining an understanding of the home culture(s) of their chosen language.
In Level Four Spanish, students improve upon their critical thinking skills and oral proficiency through discussions of issues that are meaningful to them including current events, literature and music. The curriculum also includes a unit on art in Latin America which highlights the work of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. As part of their study, students read a synopsis of the biography of Kahlo, watch a portion of the 2002 biopic film “Frida” and interpret three of her most famous paintings—analyzing how Kahlo’s art reflects specific events of her life.
“Culture is integrated at all stages of language learning at Whitfield,” said Cipriano Casado, language department chair. “Students explore culture through authentic experiences in dance, cooking, music, travel and in this case, art. I emphasize with my students that effective communication doesn’t just happen through language; it happens with our body language, eye contact, and in the Latin culture, definitely through music and dance. Frida Kahlo is a perfect example of someone who communicates through her art.”
Andrew Hanin ’18 appreciates the intellectual content of class discussions during this unit. “I enjoy talking about more sophisticated topics versus practicing our speaking skills by simply sharing about our weekend plans,” said Hanin.
For Lizzie Fagin ’19, studying Frida Kahlo and her artwork has provided her with a unique perspective. “This unit helped me gain a deeper understanding of Mexican culture during that time period—we don’t really learn much about that in history class.”
*images courtesy of https://www.fridakahlo.org/