As a nation of immigrants, the United States has a rich linguistic life. English is a common language of communication; still, many other languages unify
American communities and influence our lives as we work, reflect, and create. For writers, a second language can influence word choice, grammar, and other aspects of craft. Bernardo Atxaga, Randa Jarrar, Roger Sedarat, and Francisco X. Stork and Cathy Park Hong discuss the ways in which they rely upon, contend with, and work through a language other than English in their professional and creative lives.

Themes: language, coming from bilingual backgrounds, immigration
Skills: making text-to-text and text-to-self connections, analyzing poetry, scholarly discourse


  • Read an excerpt from the introduction and/or first chapter of Hunger and Memory by Robert Rodriguez before watching this video. Hunger and Memory will serve as a HOOK or an introduction to the themes discussed by the panel. After reading, model making a TEXT-TO-SELF CONNECTION for the class. Then, ask each student to make a TEXT-TO-SELF CONNECTION themselves. Ask students to share their connections and discuss how their personal connections deepened their understanding of the text. End the activity with a 10 minute, silent journal exercise in which the students reflect on the idea shared in the small group discussions.
  • Divide students into groups of three, and provide each student in the group with concentric circle graphic organizer (this looks like a three ring target). Explain that, while reading a poem, they will place a significant or telling word in the inner most circle, a striking phrase in the middle circle, and their favorite line in the outer circle. Then, have students follow along to Cathy Park Hong’s reading of “Ontology of Chang and Eng, the Original Siamese Twins,” annotating and looking for their word, phrase, and line as they listen. Once the reading is over, students independently complete the concentric circle activity. Then, in groups of three, students share their selected word, phrase, and line, explaining their choices to their group members. Finally, the group of three must negotiate and select
  • just one word, phrase, in from their pool of nine options. Their final choices will be displayed on a large, poster sized concentric circle graphic organizer and presented to the class with a coherent explanation of the rationale behind their selections.
  • After listening to the panel discussion, each student will write a question they wish the moderator had asked. These questions will serve as prompts for a class wide SOCRATIC SEMINAR. Detailed instructions on leading a Socratic seminar can be found at


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