|Mexican author Maria Garcia Esperon, right, talks to middle school students from Rockford at Grand Valley State University in Allendale Township Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Near Esperon is GVSU professor Natalia Gomez. (Cory Morse | MLive.com)|
By Monica Scott | firstname.lastname@example.org
on May 07, 2014 at 6:05 PM, updated May 07, 2014 at 9:36 PM
ALLENDALE, MI – North Rockford Middle School Spanish Immersion students Wednesday, May 7, had a rare opportunity to discuss a book they read and engaged in an interactive blog about with the author at Grand Valley State University.
Mexican author María García Esperón flipped open her book, “Copo de Algodón,” and began reading some of the first chapter of the story of the favorite daughter of emperor Montezuma. She moved gracefully around the room dramatically telling the story not just with her voice but her eyes and gestures.
Students applauded when she was done.
Last year, Esperón declared, “I must go to Grand Rapids,” after learning through The Grand Rapids Press/MLive.com that GVSU Spanish American Narrative students were creating a blog this semester for Rockford sixth graders reading her historical and psychological book.
Related: GVSU and North Rockford Spanish Immersion students, collaborating on interactive media blog
Related: 'I must go to GR,' says author after learning her book is being used in GVSU, Rockford schools blog project
“The thing I was waiting for the most was for her to come here, and it has been such an amazing time,” said Micah Merron, 12, who wants to be an author. "The book was so exciting. When she told us she had written another book about the Aztecs, I was like, 'yes!'"
After each chapter of the book, students went to the blog. They received a variety of assignments, including writing essays or short stories, answering questions and performing skits.
Cruz Paniagua, a GVSU graduate involved in the project, said the main goal of students others working on the blog was to make it fun while the Rockford students learned.
“I have a lot deeper knowledge of the Aztec culture now,” said Tate Wierda, 11, who said the blog assignments were thought-provoking and sparked conversations among students. “I think it’s cool we got to meet her. Not only did we get to read her book, but we also got to hear her perspective on her own writing.”
Students were studying the unit on Hernan Cortes and the Aztecs in Social Studies and got two different perspective from the book, particularly on whether Cortes was really a villain.
“I love the energy of these students and the teachers,” said Esperón, who described the Rockford students Spanish as “extraordinary.”
“The students were able to understand everything in the book that was criticized by some in Mexico for being too difficult for children, but it is not true. Students can reach this level.”
GVSU Spanish professor Natalia Gomez said reading is the spine of education. She said Esperón’s visit enhanced the whole project.
“The amazing thing about Maria is she is so humble,” said Gomez, who said the blog will be part of her research about how to motivate kids to read literature.
Esperón participated in a question and answer session with students. She was moved by a book of sketches, inspired by her book, they created for her.
“There are so many different levels to what students got out of this experience,” said Adamus, who said about 20 seventh- and eighth-graders also read the book and made the GVSU trip.
“On the most basic level, these are sixth, seventh and eighth-graders now on a university campus, collaborating with peers and meeting a professional author,” she said.
“In Social Studies context, it is very difficult to see two perspectives, so the fact that they are able to analyze history at such a high level has been apparent throughout other units that I have taught since then.”
After her session in the Mackinac Language Lab, Esperón conducted an afternoon poetry workshop in Mary Idema Pew Library with the Rockford students as well as middle school students from Southwest Community Campus, a Grand Rapids dual immersion program in Grand Rapids and San Juan Diego Academy, 1650 Godfrey Ave. SW.
Monica Scott is the Grand Rapids K-12 education writer. Email her at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @MScottGR or Facebook