On Monday, me and the North Star 3, 4, 5 & 6 students read The Little Refugee, by Anh and Susan Do, together in class.
As part of Project Awesome the plan was for students to read this text and to connect with Bianca’s year 8 class from Davidson High School who are reading The Absolutely True Dairy of a Part Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie.
One of the ideas behind this connection was to get students to discuss the texts that they have been reading and, since both texts are about life stories, to share what they have learned from another person’s life story. We also wanted students to share some information about themselves as part of their own life narrative and to get to know each other a little better.
To this end, prior to the reading, both classes had engaged in a couple of Twitter Q&As together, the Davidson High kids had shared an introductory video and the North Star kids had begun creating their own introductory video for Davidson.
Anyway, the reading.
It went OK. The students were listening and contributing and genuinely interested (for the most part). Questions were asked about the Vietnam war, how long it would take to get to Australia from Vietnam in a fishing boat … (that ellipsis means that we discussed other stuff that I can’t remember right now).
There were however a few things that I would change.
As part of the reading I’d planned to discuss with students a few things about visual literacy.
I grabbed a bunch of post-it notes and annotated numerous pages in the book with comments regarding a bunch of visual literacy stuff that we’d been looking at at uni.
As we read through the book I stopped at each note and discussed the it with the class – I’m not sure that this went so well, and I don’t think I’d approach a similar situation in the same way again in future.
There are at least three reasons for this:
1. Too much floor time.
2. It’s better to just read the book together first.
3. I’m not an expert at many things, especially not visual literacy.
The first is reasonably self-explanatory. Kids get restless fairly quickly, and if you sit on a chair in front of them rabbiting on about angles, modality, vectors and gaze, they’ll get restless even more quickly.
The second is kind of related to the first in that nobody really wants to be introduced to a book by sitting down and analysing it, they just wanna read it. Analysing takes ages and leads swiftly to restlessness and boredom. A better approach would be to simply read the book together and enjoy it, talk about it afterwards. You can always revisit the book together later to talk about all the visual literacy stuff.
The third … well, as I said – I’m no expert. I explained what I think I know about visual literacy to the class and I think that maybe some of the students learned from it. But it felt wrong and I would much rather have spoken with students about what they thought good, effective, etc about the book’s illustrations.
Having said that, we’ve revisited the book and the vis lit stuff since this lesson and the responses have been great. Also, as I said above, most students seemed to be genuinely interested in and enjoying the book.
I’ll be writing about the follow up lessons and other stuff we’ve been doing soon.
It’s been a busy, awesome week.