Tuesday, September 3, 2013

I Have a Dream

In honor of the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's speech, I shared I Have a Dream (ISBN 978-0-375-85887-1), which includes a CD with original audio from the amazing speech and Kadir Nelson's breathtaking illustrations to accompany the text.

Mesquite High School is starting a new initiative this year called IGNITE. This is an accelerated academic program in a non-traditional setting that targets sophomore and juniors who have not had much success in a traditional classroom (i.e. they are on the verge of dropping out). These 70 students will be able to do a self-paced credit recovery computer program that accompanies project-based learning with the help of four core-area teachers. My librarian partner, Mrs. Harman, and I look forward to working closely with this special group of teachers and students.

We were invited into the IGNITE classroom on Friday afternoon to share this book with all 70 students. Before we started, I did a quick schpeel to explain that picture books are NOT just for little kids; they are for EVERYONE. Before sharing picture books with secondary students, it's important to set a tone with them--to honor their maturity and intelligence. After this introduction, I asked the students for some synonyms of the word dream. They came up with vision, view, goal.  We listened to Dr. King's powerful voice as I showed the pictures. The majority of the students were fully engaged and took Dr. King's message very seriously. Mrs. Harman noticed that many of them mouthed the words as if they had them memorized.

We even got a shout-out via Twitter!
After the book was finished, I used these questions to guide our discussion:

1. What is the "American Dream?"
2. Why do you think Nelson drew doves on the last page? What do they stand for?
3. Do you think Dr. King's "dream" has come true? Are we better off today than we were in 1963?

This last question brought about an interesting response. I asked the students to THINK about their answers before they responded, which was hard for them to do. Even after asking them to think first and speak second, many of them still blurted out "No, we are not better off." Mrs. Harman was able to be a "primary source" since she remembers the 60s (but that doesn't make her "old"!) , and she was able to share her own personal experiences of growing up in this era to illustrate to students that things are better legally although racism still unfortunately exists today. I concluded the lesson by asking students to reflect on their own "dream."

Next time we share a book with this class, I would like for them to write before they speak to give everyone a chance to think about their responses before blurting them out. This will take some time to build up to because many of these students have a negative reaction to writing, but this is my goal--to eventually incorporate more writing into these lessons.

As we were leaving, a student named Andres came up to me and shared this:

Andres: "Miss, this wise old man told me this one time. There are three kinds of people in the world: people who make it happen; people who watch it happen; people who have no idea what's happening."

Me: "So which one are you?"

Andres: "I'm going to make it happen just like Dr. King."

And with the help of IGNITE, I have no doubt that Andres will do just that.

Overall, this lesson was a great success. Considering that these are not your "typical" high school kids, the fact that they were engaged in this lesson proves that picture books can work with ANYONE.

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