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Teaching Multicultural Literature : A Workshop for the Middle Grades
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Channel Talk


[Channel-talkmsmultilit] Workshop 3 thoughts

From: Aram Kabodian <kabodian@sbcglobal.net>
Date: Thu Apr 12 2007 - 20:33:48 EDT

My students are usually very interested in the mistakes of the past — whether it was the world's lack of strong response to the Holocaust at the time, the overreaction of putting Japanese people in internment camps, or just seeing inconsistencies in the comments of their teachers. I think they would be very taken with Sterling's story, My Name is Seepeetza. I'm pretty sure it's a situation of which they are not aware. I've done enough reading about Native Americans to know that our country made some horrendous decisions regarding human beings of which they knew little; Sterling uses Seepeetza/Martha's simple, strong voice to make the injustices of these residential schools come jumping off the page at us. Initially, my students would say this text looks too easy. Many of the words are very common. However, some of the vocabulary does get a bit foreign, even to the most avid reader. The topic is very gripping, too. I had much sympathy for Martha. I felt her deep sense of loss at having to leave her home that she loved so much: Mum, dad, Yay-yah, horses, outside time-all her loves she left behind.
   
  I haven't ever used a Fishbowl strategy, though I've seen it used several times. Between seeing it in action and the explanation on the Strategies page, I think I will be able to use it in an upcoming lesson. I can see how it would be important to have a few students who are good at discussion involved. While I may be involved like Brownfield, I imagine the goal is to get the teacher out of the circle and have it all run by students. Part of me feels that to achieve the level of listening and insightful discussion, I would have to start at the beginning of the year; my students are currently fairly immature and quick to judge. I still my try it with them, but after seeing Brownfield and her students, I am acutely aware that my students would need some scaffolding, some time, and much more discipline in their 'think before you speak' abilities.
   
  Brownfield asked some excellent questions. Sometimes I think posing the right question is almost more important than finding relevant literature; the ideas and opinions of many students are often never heard due to the discussion questions that don't get at the meat of a piece of literature. Students can be very insightful, as several of Brownfield's students exemplify, but they need that opportunity to share --- many are not willing to talk unless prompted or are not even aware of their insights until the right question presents itself. I liked how Brownfield 'made it real' for the students by asking "Do you see anything like this happening here at our school?"
   
  Brownfield's use of KWL seemed appropriate. She was aware that her students knew a minimum of information and would be curious about the subject for the 'what do you want to know' section. I've used KWL before and in certain cases it really works effectively. Sometimes it is over-used and I am always hyper-aware of not KWLing my students to death.
   
  I think I would need to read more of Tohe's poems to really appreciate them. This one was a nice tie-in to the book, but I felt it was a bit isolated and I bet Tohe's poetry is much more comprehensive and heartfelt. Dwight Okita's poem In Response to Executive Order 9066: All Americans of Japanese Descent Must Report to Relocation Centers is one I where I felt the same injustices as in My Name is Seepeetza. It probably would be confusing to students to use Okita's poem with Sterling's book because they are about two different time periods and races, but I found Okita's work to be more emotionally gripping and poignant.
   
  Aram Kabodian

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Received on Fri Apr 13 08:57:54 2007



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