At the San Francisco Teachers for Social Justice conference this year, I went to a discussion facilitated by Ann Berlak on teaching about class and economic justice. Ann wrote picture book Joelito's Big Decision/La Gran Decision de Joelito. The book is a story of the Fight for 15, told from the perspective of a kid. Joelito learns that his friend Brandon's parents are on strike at McMann's Burgers. They are fighting for a living wage. Joelito goes to McMann's every Friday with his family. Will Joelito cross the picket line?
I used this book during our study of ratio tables in 2nd grade. I had students work with a partner to fill out a 1:7 ratio table. If someone is making $7 dollars an hour, is that enough to live on? If a backpack for Brandon's sister costs $21, how many hours of work is that? Mathematical thinking can be a powerful tool to expose injustice and to inspire some big questions.
An assortment of favorites.
American Indians in Children’s Literature
This site provides analysis and recommendations about indigenous peoples in children’s and young adult books and school curriculum. The primary audience is educators. An annotated list of best books by native writers including comics, picture books, and books for middle grades and high school is also available. Links to relevant articles are included along with information about how to start a collection of books about Native Americans.
Disability in Kid Lit
The focus is on the disability in middle grade and young adult literature. They publish articles, reviews, interviews and discussion from the disabled perspective. The audience is readers, booksellers, librarians and educators. The site has a good search function allowing you to search by assistive tools as well as by middle grade and young adult. They are developing a list of recommended materials of disability portrayals. Disability in Kid Lit is also on active on Tumbler, Twitter and Goodreads.
Cooperative Children’s Book Center
This is a project of the University of Wisconsin/Madison School of Education. They also administer the state-wide literacy program “Read On Wisconsin”. The CCBC is a “gathering place” for books, ideas and expertise and focuses on books for children and young adults. Their audience is school and public librarians, teachers, early childhood care providers, university students, and others interested in children's and young adult literature. Each week the website feature a review of a new book. Their regular podcast Shelf Stories includes a review of the book of the week and discusses one or more other books that connect thematically.
Lee and Low Books
Lee and Low is the largest multicultural children’s book publisher in the US. Users can search their site by format, language and theme. They have produced a series of collections by topic and age group (for example, diverse collection for middle school). These collections include teacher guides with resources and activities and information about the reading level and interest level of the particular book. A one stop source for educators!
It was fine weather for Brattleboro's annual Strolling of the Heifers. The highlight was the Vermont Workers' Center "Milk with Dignity" campaign float. I wish I'd taken a picture- but above is one of Ginger.
In 5th grade, we've been eating a lot of popsicles and working on Andy Goldsworthy inspired art pieces in the School Forest.
We had a word study lesson inspired by this article in The Guardian:
A beautiful day to hike to the orchard. We brought our sketchbooks to make scientific illustrations of apple blossoms.
It has been a while since my first post about our nonfiction study groups, and lot of great work has happened in 5th grade.
Above is an excerpt from the beginning part of Colby's essay! He was in the group of students that selected the book Caves on the book ballot. Their group question was: How do caves form and who or what lives in them? They discussed the book, made double column notes, and wrote a collective essay. The next step was to each pick their own (related) question to research. The group got a list of follow up resources on caves. Colby decided to research coal mines. He wanted to know: What is it like to work in a coal mine?
A resource he used was the book Kids at Work by Russell Freedman.
This past Friday, after introducing the books available for study groups....
Each student got a book ballot that looked like this:
Answering Our Questions
Select your top two choices.
Choosing a book means committing to reading the entire book and taking notes in answer to a question of your choice related to the book, as well as reading at least one related article, and possibly viewing a related video, and taking notes on these sources.
It also means taking notes on a group-wide question and taking part in discussions of that question.
For each choice you make, write a short explanation of why it’s a good choice for you.
First Choice ___ because _____________________________________________________
Second Choice ___ because ___________________________________________________
I am excited to see where their research takes them! The theme of this unit is answering questions about the world around us, for ourselves and others. The structure: whole group research and writing to be followed by individual research and writing, and small groups for those who would like extra help.