Remembering Others to Know Ourselves

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Puerto Rico Strong Mother DaughterNovember provides people with many opportunities — Veterans’ Day, Armistice Day, and Thanksgiving– to remember and thank those who came before us. This month people come together, tell stories, and share traditions. It is an excellent time for your students to capture these stories and think about the impact a family member, neighbor, or someone from their community has had on our world, country, or town.


As a prewriting exercise, have students read the story La Casita of American Heroes by Anthony Otero and Charles “ooge” Ugas, published in the Puerto Rico Strong anthology (ISBN 978-1-941302-90-3).


Ask students:

  • What happened? Why is it important?
  • How does the illustrator depict the impact of the hurricane? What is the mood? How do you know?
  • What is significant about the narrator being a Marine?
  • Why do you think the author has the wall of family portraits be the only thing that survives in the house after the hurricane? How does the illustrator portray the people in the photographs? How does that impact the tone of the scene?
  • What pattern do you notice about the people in the photographs? What do we learn about Carina’s father? What does that say about the family’s heritage and values?
  • What is the significance of the last line in the story, “Mi Familia is as American as apple pie?”



Following the discussion of “La Casita of American Heroes” have students brainstorm their family stories and heritage. Potential brainstorming questions include:

  • What objects are important to your family? What does it say about your family values and heritage?
  • Do you have pictures of ancestors hanging in your house? If so, who are they?
  • What family stories have you heard over and over? Why? How do they speak for your family?
  • Who are some of your relatives that your family talks about the most? Who were your great-grandparents?
  • Which relative are you the most curious about? Who can you ask to tell you more about that person?


List family members, neighbors, community members who have made an impact. Have students choose one person from the list and create a list of potential questions they’d like to ask their individual. Students can generate their own interview questions or use the excellent questions written by Story Corps, which available on their website.

While conducting their interview, have student capture the answers to their questions as a potential script for the dialogue in their story or comic. For some students, using a voice recorder/memo may be easier. You may want to ask students to bring in a photo or artifact to help bring their main character alive. Following the interview, students can write a prose narrative, create a comic, or create a poem illustrating the impact this person has had on their family or community.