My Kids’ Response to the Book, Brown Girl Dreaming

Bubbles

The first day back after vacations are always a bit hard. Hard for kids and teachers alike. It’s nice to do something a bit fun and unusual after a break. It eases the transition back. Why not bubbles? We can never go wrong with bubbles. But I wanted it to be more than just some fun; I decided that bubbles were the perfect way to introduce comparison poems, similes and metaphors. So Monday morning came and we went outside and had a blast blowing bubbles. When we came back inside we read some comparison poems and discussed what we noticed. We charted “bubble” words. And we were suppose to begin writing bubble poems. But the bubble poem writing never happened.

As we transitioned into bubble poem writing one child who was reading Brown Girl Dreaming asked to share the first entry because she loved it and because she didn’t quite understand it. She put the page under the document camera for all to see and then read the passage. We discussed it and the  many confusions around it. So of course the conversation explored slavery and civil rights both in the 60’s and today. Baltimore came up as did the uprisings of the past few months. Many children were very aware of what has been happening regarding race relations in our country right now. The term Civil Rights came up and surprisingly many of the kids didn’t really know what it meant. We discussed it in detail and one boy said racial discrimination wasn’t the only discrimination happening and mentioned gay rights. Most kids knew what that meant and felt very comfortable discussing their beliefs about that as well. Let’s just say that this younger generation is much more open and accepting than my generation is. Several shared stories of loved ones. They were a joy to listen to.

Just as I felt we were finishing our conversation and feeling ready to go back to our bubbles writing a quiet little girl raised her hand and said she wanted to talk about something that was kind of about this but kind of not. “Of course,” was my reply. She wanted to share a story about someone else that she felt was being judged by something outside of her control. She shared the story of Jazz, a transgender youth. And her story inspired many of her classmates to share more in depth personal stories of  the people in their lives that have experienced discrimination because of common societal prejudices. I was blow away.

As we came towards the end of the conversation I redirected them back to poetry. “We’re not getting away without writing poetry this morning,” I said. They groaned. That was a first. They usually enjoy writing poetry. Maybe bubbles was just too, fluffy for them at this moment in time. “Not about bubbles,” I said. They looked at me confused. I asked them to pair up if they wanted to and write a poem about something we were just talking about. “YES!” they yelled in unison. OK, we were on to something. A few chose to work alone but most paired up. They all grabbed colorful glitter pens and began their work. As I walked around the room listening in on brainstorming conversations I noticed one girl sitting alone and just leaning on her hand looking lost. “That was a lot of confusing conversation we just had, wasn’t it”? I asked. “It sure was.” she sighed. She went on to tell me that she had no clue what on Earth we were talking about. At that moment a young boy in my room who usually works hard to write as little as possible was listening in on our talk. He admitted that the conversation made him sad so he offered to write a poem with her. He said he could help her. “What a great idea! Why don’t you two write a poem for two voices.” They loved the idea and proceeded to write one of the most beautiful poems I think I have ever read.

After about an hour of writing, the kids joyfully shared their poems in front of a classmate with an ipad. The poets were recorded while reciting their poems. The topics ranged from the Civil War, slavery, living as a black boy in a city, being gay, and a girls acceptance of transgender. Blown away again. This was one of the most moving, powerful days of my entire teaching career. Once again, I underestimated their talent.

The next post will highlight a few of the poems and hopefully a few of the video clips.

Peace, love, and acceptance,

Mary

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