People and Places: Land and Identity Unit

Inquiry-based Unit for Heritage Speakers in Greek Community-based Schools

Created by Eva Prionas, PhD.

Stanford University

American Association of Teachers of Modern Greek


People and Places: Land and Identity

This is a unit of an inquiry-based course for heritage speakers who are at the Advanced Low or Intermediate High level of proficiency in Modern Greek and take Modern Greek classes at community-based Greek schools in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is designed for students in grades 9-12 and can be adapted for college-level students and adult learners of Modern Greek. The course takes 10 weeks to complete and focuses on the Greek-speaking world and its identity. Classes meet for 4 hours per week. The course is inquiry-based; it engages students' creativity and inspires autonomous learning. The role of the teacher is to create learning opportunities and organize appropriate resources while the class focuses on collaboration and exploration of topics relevant to students' needs. Students' work will result in projects and presentations that involve the Greek community. 


Course: Greek for Heritage Learners

Course Title: The Greek-Speaking World and its Identity

This is a Modern Greek language and culture class using a thematic approach to advance language proficiency and intercultural competence.

 Unit Theme

 People and Places: Land and Identity

Short theme description  Land signifies much more than ownership, as it is part of our identity, history, and heritage. We will explore the impact of land on identity and how we relate to places as individuals and as people. Continuity and putting roots in a place, or loss of land and nostalgia, can affect the identity of both the individual and the community. the class uses Greek language to explore the topic. Students work collaboratively, with an inquiry-based approach, in all models of communication -- interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational. 
Quote to discuss in first class

"I don't want to live where I just breathe

I want to breathe where I love to live"

The quote brings up discussion of Land and Landscapes-Boarders-Environment-Land Rights-People-Communities-Diaspora-Immigration

Discussion topics

Some emerging topics to discuss in detail:

  • Nature and landscape
  • Protecting land and community
  • New ways to view conversations about land and community
  • The process of connecting with your environment and community
  • Changes in the landscape-Immigration and refugees
  • Diaspora



Folk songs With reference to land/landscape

  • Favorite Poem-Project Videos
  • The collection of 50 short video documentaries showcases individual Americans reading and speaking personally about poems they love. The videos have been regular features on PBS's News Hour with Jim Lehrer and are a permanent part of the Library of Congress archive of recorded poetry and literature. They have also proven valuable as teaching and learning tools for a range of classrooms and ages. 
 Other materials include films, YouTube clips, Use of Google earth as a tool, web-based material, and related resources
  • Film viewing: Plato's academy

Poem (Sample "Our Land")

We climbed the hill to look over our land:

fields poor and few, stones, olive trees.

We shaped the old man's clothes into a scarecrow against the ravens.

Our days are making their way toward a little bread and great sunshine.

Under the poplars a straw hat beams. 

The rooster on the fence. The cow in yellow. 

How did we manage to put our house and our life in order 

with a hand made of stone?  Up on the lintel

there's soot from the Easter candles, year by year:

tiny black crosses marked there by the dead

returning from the Resurrection Service. This land is much loved, 

with patience and dignity. Every night, out of the dry well,

the statues emerge cautiously and climb the trees.

By Yiannis Ritsos


 Folk Songs (sample Thalassaki mou)

(Greek Island Songs)

Project objectives
  • Investigate the concept of identity
  • Analyze how the authors/singers express themselves through their works
  • Analyze/interpret the lyrics of a song/poem of your choice in relation to land and identity
  • Identify the themes of a song/poem of your choice and talk about how it relates to your experience
Collaborative work
  • Brainstorm: The songs/literary works that most identify you
  • Analyze the lyrics of the songs/literary works
  • The history and origins of the island folk songs-regional differences
  • Identify song/poem themes and their ties with heritage
  • Listen to the PBS video - Reflect on land and diaspora identity-cultural citizenship
  • View film and analyze (structured)
  • Final presentation
  • Create a blog to be published and presented

Design of unit: 

It is based on literacy practices that are identity-affirming and on an inquiry-based, student-driven approach

 The design of the unit is based on:

  1. "Literacy practices that are identity-affirming and are likely to increase students' literacy engagement. They represent expressions of identity, projection of identity into new social spheres, and re-creation of identity as a result of feedback from and dialogue with multiple audiences."
  2. It is inquiry-based, student-driven, and has an authentic audience.


  1. Brainstorm topic (ownership) - Examples:

    Land and Identity: Generational impact

    The sense of loss of land: Immigrants and diaspora


  2. Access resources (Develop questions to interview community members)
  3. Analyze data
  4. Communicate new knowledge
  5. Create a blog to present their findings. Invite community members to share findings and comment
  6. Present their work on international Mother Language Day and showcase student work



Work on this unit was inspired by the Summer 2020 workshop on "Critical Approaches to Heritage Language Education" led by J. Eik Diggs

Resources and bibliography: Provided by the workshop leader

Textbook: Practical Advice for Teachers of Heritage Learners of Spanish: Essays on Classroom Teachers. Edited by Mike Peto, May 2020

Published: Thursday, October 1, 2020