Friday, January 21, 2011

Social Justice and The Literature Connection

What makes us connect with a person? It might be something as ordinary as a shared birthday.  It might be a common experience.  The more we learn about a person the greater the chance of developing a connection.

I chose to introduce the topic of the Civil Rights Movement by giving my students a Pre-test.  I chose 11 vocabulary words from the book "The Bus Ride that Changed History: the story of Rosa Parks" by Pamela Duncan Edwards.  I then had them tell me what they thought the words meant and to write two paragraphs about either the Civil Rights Movement or Rosa Parks.  I then read the book to them.

My student's knowledge is very sketchy.  As I graded the papers my favorite answer for "boycott" was "some kind of bed" (boy + cot).  This unit of study should give them  an opportunity to expand their knowledge.

As part of my library class I am focusing on the reader/writer connections.  I am pairing fiction and nonfiction books with primary sources from several websites to encourage them to experiment with different kinds of writing.

Next week's lesson will be the e-learning adventure from the National Civil Rights Movement Museum "Before the Boycott: Riding the Bus". (See screen shot to the left.)

 I often share a picture book and ask my students to listen as a writer.  What techniques did the writer use?  What story structure did they incorporate or borrow from?  When I ask them to write I ask them to experiment with some of these strategies.

Before the Boycott is designed for middle school students to use individually.  I am using it with my fifth graders as a whole class activity.  Projecting it with an LCD projector and having the students use individual whiteboards to answer the questions.  The Museum used primary sources (photo's) to develop their e-adventure, they also include a teacher section.

There are two other books that I will use in class.  The first is "If a Bus Could Talk" by Faith Ringgold.  This book is a Reading Rainbow book.  It is a great tool to show how an author can take a real event and fictionalize it. The second book is "Rosa" by Nikki Giovanni and illustrated by Bryan Collier.  The illustrations are rich additions to the story.  I really enjoy using Visual Thinking Strategies with this book.

Visual Thinking Strategies use the following questions to help students explore artwork.

  1.   What do you see in this picture?
  2.   What else can you find?
  3.   What's going on in this picture?
  4.   What do you see that makes you say that?
Every time I use this technique I am amazed at the insight my students share.  I am really looking forward to seeing what connections my students make, as they explore the literature written about Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights Movement.

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