Dum spiro, spero

Location: Prince George, British Columbia, Canada

I am writer. And a reader. I am sarcastic and afraid of spiders. This is really all you need to know about me. The rest is odd beyond words.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Social Justice in the Classroom (among other things)

Reading the article about social justice in the classroom really made me think. I have always believed that literature can be used to facilitate such discussions (in high school my English teacher scheduled days for us to talk about current events and social issues, often using books as a way to open the door). The article though really made me think about the importance of this and how we need to take every available opportunity to help students discuss things that are important to them. It's so sad, thinking of these children, knowing their classmates have been killed but having no outlet to discuss it. I remember during my practicum (the first) reading a book about a child who was afraid of the alligator that lived under his bed, and all of the students really wanted a chance to talk about what scared them. They really enjoyed the talk and getting to air their own thoughts. I think, as important as it was for these children to talk about the monster under their bed, it is immensely more important for children to talk abotu realy issues, happening in their schools and classrooms. specially with issues such as bullying and racism. If these things are ever to be stopped, students need to know that they can discuss them openly and have someone listen, who really cares. When Art Brown was talking about bullying in Corinne's class, he said most incidents of bullying go unreported becasue students feel that nothing is done. Wouldn't talking about these issues in class, openly, help students see that teachers DO care? That they are willing to step in? I believe this was even one of the examples in the article, a class that saw one kid being excluded and talk about, devising a plan and stepping in. One of the purposes of school is to prepare students fo the real world and becoming responsible citizens. How will they learn that if social justice (and injustice) is ignored and important issues are pushed aside?
I think I am now ranting a little bit.
But seriously. It kind of bothers me that there are teachers out there who do not use every opporunity to help their students understand themselves and the world around them. If students know that a classmate has been murdered, they need to be able to talk about that. They have strong feelings too, and they need to know that they can discuss them. I guess what I am trying to say is I agree with the article. Books are a great way to discuss social issues in the classroom, such as Nightjohn, great book for a discussion about slavery and racism. Literature is great tool, use it!

I shall get off my soap box now.

Literature Circles

For the book Night John, I would not use literature circles. I think slavery and racism are extremely sensitive subjects and during literature circles there is now way to mediate the talks. It would be far too easy for students to, during their discussion, to hurt feelings or offend someone. They would not even have to mean it, but could accicdentaly say something that is taken the wrong way. For such a controversial subject, I would want the class to be together, so I would know what is being discussed.
That being said, there are a lot of things that could be done with this book. It is a great book, and there are lots of connections adn discussions that could come out of it. I think Sue said it made her feel guilty, that the slaves were treated so poorly, and I think this is a feeling that could be really explored in a classroom. There are a lot of projects that could be done wit this book, especially centering on slavery, freedom and the underground railroad. Reader's theatre would work with this book, as well as having students write a diary from the perspective of one of the characters. The book would work well in conjunction with a research project into the history of slaves.
Personally, I found this book to be a little hard to get into. At first, reading it, the style was hard to follow. It didn't seem to flow. Once I got used to the style, I got really into it (and found myself cringing as they cut off Night John's toes) but I wonder how students would find it. I am an accomplished reader (and have the degree to prove it!) and I had trouble. I think this is another reason I would not do literature circles: I would want to make sure the children had managed to get past the stlye and understand the story, at least at first.

The Rest of the List

Ok, two more books to go on the recommended (or not) list.

I Love you Forever by Robert Munsch
Description: This is a book that follows a baby, as he grows up and becomes a man. It is about his mother's love, and how every night she sings to him about how much she loves him. When he grows up and his mother is tool old to rock him and sing like she used to, he sings to her instead.
Grade level: k/1
Link to curriculum: Personal Planning (mental well-being)

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J. K. Rowling
Description: This book is about a young boy who learns that he is a wizard. Actually, he's not just A wizard but the most famous wizard around. (I could go into greater detail, but I have this feeling most people are familiar with the plot)
Grade level: 3/4
Link to curriculum: Language Arts

Saturday, January 28, 2006

recommended (or not) list

Recommended Bibliography

Disney's Pocahontas:
Description: Pocahontas is a First Nations woman. She meets John Smith who is there as a group of English men looking for gold. The two meet and become good friends. A war breaks out among the two groups and Pocahontas and John Smith are caught in the middle. When John Smith is kidnapped by warriors, Pocahontas has to help him out.
Grade level: Any, if used right.
Links to curriculum: Social Studies, society and culture

Yes, No, Little Hippo, by Jane Belk Moncure.
Description: Little Hippo keeps playing in dangerous ways and getting hurt. He falls off his bed while jumping on it, falls off a chair while climbing on it, crashes his bike riding too fast. His dad takes him to the park and shows him how to play safely.
Grade level: K/1
Links to curriculum: Personal Planning, K/1, safety and preventing injury

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
Description: This is the story of the Three Little Pigs as told by the wolf, who was just trying to borrow a cup of sugar on a day he had a really bad cold and is now wrongfully imprisoned.
Grade level: 3/4
Links to curriculum: Language Arts

Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
Description: This is the story of Stellaluna, a baby bat. She gets separated from her mother and is raised by birds, though she never quite fits in. She eventually is reunited with her mother and learns that thereason sh never made a very good bird is because she is a bat!
Grade level: 4
Links to curriculum: Science Gr. 4 (Life Science)

Two More Books to Follow!

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Conundrum of Disney

The other day, doing the muliticultural book, I had picked Disney's book version of Pocahontas, mostly because Disney, as much as I love the movies, bugs me. Their deptictions of other races and women are just awful. I then found it ironic that the in class movie was about just that. It made some points I hadn't thought ot, especially about Beauty and the Beast. I had never thought of the domestic violence aspect before, though now it seems painfully obvious. I suspect I never noticed because it is my favorite Disney movie, and if I looked at it too closely, I may see something that makes me love it less. It made me think: how many times are we blinded by love? We love a book, it's from our own childhood, it's a favorite, so we turn a blind eye to the book's obvious faults. We then share the book with others. I think, when choosing books for class, it's our own personal favorites we have to look at the closest. It's hard to be objective about a book we love, but I think it's something we have to do when sharing with children. Even if it does kind of steal a bit of the magic. After all, how magical is it when Belle can't eat dinner just because she doesn't want to eat with the Beast? As much I love that movie, that has to give me pause. Children are learning from this. What do we want them to learn?
The same goes for all things in Disney. Though I believe that sometimes it can be taken too far (Bert and Ernie were brothers!!!!) people need to be aware of the messages that movies are sending. I think the Disney movie made some people realize how bad Disney can be, behind all the cute animals and happily-ever-afters. I like to think of myself as rather aware, but I had missed some of it. While some of it may be fear-mongering and people taking things too far, at the same time, people need to think: what is this movie saying? That is not to say that Disney should be banned, fire up the book (er, movie) burning wagon, but these issues do need to be addressed. Discuss them with children, at least so we know what they are getting out of it. I think that was the most surprising part of the movie, the interviews with the kids who saw that if you're pretty, sweet, patient and loving, that "beast" will stop hitting you and become a prince. Truly disturbing.
This was also the case with Pocahontas. On the surface it seems to be very PC and innocent but if you actualy look at it closer, it isn't. The Aboroiginals are stereotypes, depicted as warriors, with war paint, hostages and a deep connection with nature that includes talking animal friends. The English, who are supposed to be violent and greedy, eventually save the day as John Smith takes a bullet to save Pocahontas. Pocahontas is another probelm, as she seems to be such a strong female lead but ultimately needs to be saved by a man. In the end, I found this book to be not a good selection for multicultural reading in class.

Monday, January 09, 2006


I've been reading other people's blogs and it really makes me think. About how seeing a book from your childhood can take you right back. Being at the library, browsing the children's books, made me feel like a kid again and I saw a lot of books that I remembered, but hadn't thought about in years. So many good children's books . . . . . Robert Munsch, always a classic. The Serendipity books which I have already mentioned. The Berenstain Bears. The Little Mr. books. Poochie and Fastball and all their little friends. Of course by grade 5 I was into Sweet Valley High. The Black Stallion. Baby Sitter's Club. Chistopher Pike and R. L. Stine. So many good memories.
I kinda want to return to the library and find more books. And I want to get The Giver. It seems familiar, I may have read it before but I can't remember. And now I really want to see how it ends.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Leo the Lop

While at the library the other day, I found the book Leo the Lop. I loved this book as a child. Actually I loved all the books from the Serendipity series, and this one is representing them. This one is about a little rabbit named Leo on the island of Serendipity, where animals talk and pink sea creatures live in, well, the sea. Leo is sad because all of the other bunnies laugh at his floppy ears. They all then go through some stuff and learn that normal is whatever and whoever we are. All the Serendipity had good liitle life lessons like that. I loved these books I think because they were magical. The animals talked. Horses flew. There were pink sea creatures. Also, it was so happy! Positive. Heart warming, even. I think that was the appeal to the little girl me. That and the pretty pictures. Come to to think of, I still love fantasy books, about magical creatures and far off lands. Of course the books I read today aren't always so cheery and positive. But it's still nice, to go back and read these heart warming little tales. They are classics! It says so right on the back of the book!