Monday, November 11, 2013

Amigo Brothers TLAP style

I have always enjoyed this story, but this year I became passionate about it.  As I pondered what to do with this story beyond focusing on point-of-view, I had many of the question hooks from the Teach Like a Pirate book running through my brain.

I searched to find out more about Piri Thomas.  At one point, I saw the words "seven years in prison".  This peaked my curiosity and had me thinking about Burgess's LCLs (life changing lessons).  I ordered from my library Thomas's memoir, Down These Mean Streets.  I decided to use Piri's life as a LCL to show the students that even if your life it at it's worse you can change the road you are on.

Once I knew I was going to create a boxing ring in my classroom, I needed to get items to make it authentic.  I bid for two pairs of boxing gloves on eBay.  Also I bought two pairs of boxing shorts in the same colors that were mentioned in the story. My neighbor gave me four long cardboard rolls from Christmas wrapping paper to help make the ring.

Since I had the idea of how the boxing ring would look like in my head, I needed to think of a way to start to create student interest.  I had left the hooks I had hanging from the cafe so I used them as my hook.  In the center, I hung the words, Antonio Cruz vs Felix Vargas.  On three of the hooks, I hung Antonio, and on the last three I hung Felix.  Students began asking me what they were all about and I told them to make sure they were in school on Monday to find out.

On Wednesday, I found out that the local boxing club was now housed at the Woonsocket Boys and Girls Club.  I couldn't believe it since I can see their building from my classroom windows.  I got in contact with the manager, Kathy Poirier, to see if it was possible to set up a short field trip to see a real ring.  On Halloween night, I found out that not only would we get to see the ring, but the trainer and professional super middleweight champion, Vladine "Mr. Providence" Biosse, would show them the ring, training area, and talk to them about boxing.

Friday afternoon, I stayed late changing my room into Tompkins Square Park and the Golden Gloves Championship ring.  I created sections in my room around the ring making sure they were under the characters' names that were hanging.  To make the ring, I turned four desks over and put the cardboard tubes over one leg.  I didn't want students stepping on the desks so I put up caution tape around all the legs.  I put a folded piece of paper and duck tape in three measured spots on each tubes.  I wanted to make a little lip so that the string would stay up just like a real ring.  I set up a chair in two corners and laid out the gloves and shorts.  I jotted down the sections and how many seats in each so that I could make tickets for Monday's class.

On Monday, I greeted students outside my closed classroom door.  I made sure they could hear the theme song from Rocky, Eye of the Tiger, playing while they waited in line.  I welcomed them to the elimination bout between Antonio and Felix.  I handed them a ticket and said they needed to find their seats once they entered.  I made sure the tickets had different colors and prices for each section.  Also I assigned the trainers and judges based on the tickets they were given.  When the students entered, they looked for their section and seat number by the tags I made for each desk, and they saw the ring for the first time.  They were extremely excited and said it felt like a real boxing match.  After we discussed the LCL of Piri's life, we reviewed the boxing terms we needed to know for the match.

The next day, we did an interactive practice of the vocabulary terms.  I used these how to videos since they show five of the words and I loved that they were filmed at Gleason's Gym because it's mentioned in the story.  Students were up out of their seat practicing the different jabs, hooks, and crosses.

Finally on the day of the big match, I greeted students with my boxing referee uniform and showed the video I created about Amigo Brothers with pictures of Tompkins Square Park.  After watching it, the two students I chose to act out the parts put on the shorts and gloves.  We listened to the audio version I created over the summer.  When it was time for the match everyone took their places including me.  I reminded all students in the audience that they had to do their part when it was read.  Students did an amazing job faking all the punches and falling to the canvas.

Everyone including myself was super excited to visit the Woonsocket Boxing Club.  After lunch, I walked the first group over the footbridge that goes over the Blackstone River and up the hill to the Woonsocket Boys and Girls Club.  Kathy greeted us at the door and took us up three flights of stairs to the previous attic of the building that used to be a school.  We were amazed at the ring and how it looked up there.  In the twenty minute visit for each group, we learned how the boxing ring is set up, how Mr. Biosse became a professional boxer, and how students can sign up to be part of the club and train for only $12 a year.  In the training area, Mr. Biosse demonstrated the different bags and allowed a few students to give them a try.

"Mr. Providence"

Training Area
The summation of this unit had the analysis of why Piri chose third person omniscient instead of third person limited and if he did what effects it would have on the story and the fight.  I used Erin's ACE lesson from her blog, I'm Lovin' Lit, to teach students how to cite evidence and use it when writing responses to a text they read.

Check out my freebies page for everything you need to do this unit.


  1. You did a fantastic job making this experiential for your students. They will certainly remember this lesson for years to come!

    1. Thank you! I hope I can make other lessons as memorable.