Archives For Windows and mirrors

What’s your name?

It’s a question we are asked and ask many times in our lives. But how often do we consider all the layers of story and identity connected with the answer?

Some strangers may not even bother to learn your name but size you up by the way you look. You may be identified by your first and last name on paperwork and be judged on that basis. Colleagues might know your name but not your nicknames. Friends might know your nickname but not the story behind them. Family might know the history behind the name but maybe not your feelings.

Each and every name carries a world of stories, feelings, histories, associations, cultures and identities. Here are five ways to mine the richness in a name so that individuals can be seen and known for a tiny, yet monumental, part of who they are and how they feel they belong or don’t.

  1. Ask Questions. What does your name mean? Who were you named after? Why? How do you feel about you name? Has your feelings towards your name changed?
  2. Use These Poems or Story Excerpts as Writing Prompts: 
    • House on Mango Street’s “My Name” chapter By Sandra Cisneros
    • Z is for Zuri in Damitra Brown Class Clown by Nickki Grimes 
    • The Name I wanted by Richard Blanco 
    • Ismi by Suheir Hammad in Born Palestinian, Born Black 
    • His Long Tapered Fingers by Fan Chiang
  3. Have the students or group create a visual representation of their names and their feelings about it and make a name quilt
  4. Investigate historical or contemporary situations where groups or individuals have had to change names to “belong”
    • Ellis Island or Angel Island and current immigration to the U.S
    • Native American “assimilation process”
    • job, loan, and other forms of paper work discrimination based on perceived ethnicity of name
  5. Role play and examine the negative impact of name calling and brainstorm creative ways to be an upstander in those moments

And in case you want one more. Here’s a bonus activity! 

Read any of the books from this “what’s in a name” bookshelf and start a discussion with whomever you are with. ( click the image for book summary.)

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 12.08.04 AMScreen Shot 2015-09-17 at 12.07.40 AM

And by the way: my name Samantha means listener in Aramaic. I was named after the Bing Crosby Song “I am a one gal guy” from the musical High Society. When I was a reporter I used the byline Sam because I liked the gender ambivalence. And when I hear my full name, it’s usually because I am in trouble with my mother.

Feel free to add your own name stories to the comments below or share other name activities.

A Non-Judgmental Class Room Audit

Without a word, classrooms send messages about what identities are valued and celebrated. In a diverse society many biases, conscious and unconscious exist. If we don’t resist them we support them by our silence. So take a moment to “read” & reflect on the messages your space is sending?

  • Who is reflected and validated by seeing a mirror in a poster, a dramatic play item, or a book on the bookshelf and so forth?
  • Do those items match the community you serve?
  • Does your space showcase the diversity of society at large?
  • What windows are you providing that will help your community see and appreciate identities different than their own?
  • Whose voices are missing?
  • How might you address your non-judgmental observations about this space?

As an example: Here’s a snapshot of my library audit as it stands at this moment. I haven’t finished decorating but I know what posters I own. I have put books on display about the beginning of school but I know what other books I work hard to have in my collection. However, what non-verbal messages I am sending is what counts. I know I value an inclusive world, but do those who walk into my space know that? I find it valuable to reflect on that as I set up my space for the new year.

Identity Group Who’s on the Walls/ in materials? Who’s missing? Reflections/Notes
Ability Only abled people

On walls – more differently abled people are represented in a scattering of books – El Defo new graphic novel comes to mind

Non-hearing, blind, wheel-chair bound – basically all categories While I have some books about this I don’t have enough in the collection – need to make sure I have some images and work on the books – I know some of the books exist but do I send an obvious message to those who walk in the library that this identity is valued by me?
Age
Ethnicity
Family Structure
Gender Call me Tree A gender-neutral book – how do I convey this in images?
Geographic Region Maybe add blocks for maker space that reflects different cultures
Race
Religion I need to examine this category more closely – don’t know what I have or don’t – certainly don’t have images
Sexual orientation

Take a moment to jot down your own reflections about the journey that you are on and the one you want to provide your students. Feel free to share you observations in the comments below.

 

You don’t need to be Snow White to understand the power of a mirror. You just need to be a kid who has an adult who shares a book with you that reflects a part of your identity.

The joy which flooded my first grader’s face today as I told her and her classmates about a number of “old friends and new friends” made my aching back and sore feet worth all the while.

I didn’t need the reward of her glee half as much as she needed the validation that the world and her place in it was okay just because during the book fair I shared a book (with her in mind) called Tales of India.

But I didn’t share this book just for Diviya.  I shared it for all my first graders. For Diviya, this mirror, along with my pathetic year-long attempts to count in Hindi every time she comes to library, might help her know that there are people in the world who both recognize and celebrate her differences. But I also want my students, who may not have the direct life experience of the richness of the world, to know it exists. That is the power of story. It can work both ways. Each way forges a connection.

While it was a calculated gesture – I make sure I can share books that reflect my community and also expand their horizons-  it was also a simple and easy act that paid more than it’s weight in delight.

May we all have such  moments where we can feel the delight of self recognition or the awe of  providing it for others. May we all enjoy the thrill of stepping  out of our comfort zones and listening  to unfamiliar stories and experiences.

Go forth and find at least one mirror and one window today.

Call me naive. But I just don’t understand why people are so threatened by a book that can expand a child’s understanding of the world. I am talking about the hullabaloo surrounding the magnificent picture book, Golden Domes, Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors.  domesWhile I am late to the controversy, I want to add my two cents to the conversation. Mainly because the whole brouhaha is a perfect example of why we MUST give children all sorts of windows and mirrors. If we do not share stories from a range of multiple perspectives, then fear will flourish and people will wage war rather than create connections.

If, like me, you are just discovering that there was both a twitter battle and a parent who returned the book in disgust, you might be imagining a very toxic book. However, Hena Khan’s powerfully simple, rhyming text merely shares with the reader traditions and colors of Islam. The artwork by Mehrdokht Amini bathes the reader in the beauty of this way of being in the world.

Yet certain “gatekeepers” feel like it is their obligation to protect children.

But what could be possibly threatening about a culturally specific example of the universal concept of helping those in need?giveneed

I can only imagine the fear that makes someone react to a recommendation or purchase of the book with the stance that “Islam is dangerous” (part of the twitter battle with author/ former educator Kate Messner) or  “I don’t want this culture around my children,…Learn to read and write before we start teaching (about) the fanaticals.” (Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal – Father upset after child finds Muslim book at school fair.)

While there are individuals in any group who may have extreme views or behaviors if we as the adult “gatekeepers” don’t expose children to multiple stories about multiple ways of being, we are accomplices in perpetuating intolerance and terror.

179841-festive-season-across-the-world-halloween-in-the-u-s-and-diwali-2011-fThe daylong days of daylight are dipping into darkness and the harvest season is coming to a close, so it was fitting that last week people all around the world celebrated the festival of lights. I started to write about this important Hindu New Year’s celebration last Monday. However, I spent so much time trying to find books to share with kids that I never finished.

I have always made a display of Diwali books but have never tried to look for a read-aloud. This year, Diwali, observed on the darkest, moonless night in the month of Kartik, fell on Sunday November 3rd. So I thought it would be fitting to share a read aloud with my first graders whom I see on Mondays.

Try as I might, I couldn’t find one title that wasn’t non-fiction. Now don’t get me wrong; I wanted my students to learn the truth about how the traditions differ from region to region, both within India, and around the world. I wanted them to know that “deep“ means light and “avali” means a “continuous line,” and that the lighting of diyas (tiny clay pots with wicks of oil or ghee) symbolizes the triumph of good over evil and the banishing of darkness through knowledge.

Yet I know humans are hard-wired for stories, and so a story is what I wanted to share. I wanted to offer many in my community a window into this lovely celebration, while providing a mirror for those students who celebrate Diwali.

But alas, I couldn’t find such a story. I even recruited a Southern Indian friend of mine, who, whenever she returns to her homeland, brings back panchatantra tales to add to my library collection.

She didn’t have any luck either. She did find one book to have inaccurate information about the gods. A good reminder for us all to authenticate our information. I was disappointed to come up empty. But then I thought, if knowledge banishes the darkness, and stories originated around the tribal fire, what better way to celebrate Diwali than to create a new Diwali read aloud to share.

So if you have narrative story to weave about Diwali, the children’s market is wide open. Get writing. That’s what I’m off to do. Research then write. We’d love to hear what you have to share here first.

Looking for more than just sugary tales to celebrate All Hallows Eve.or Day of the Dead? Never fear; pick the treat just right for you, whether it be a window or a mirror.

 

Los Gatos Black on Hallowen by Marisa Montes

Looking for spooky Spanish vocabulary, then this Bilingual Halloween poem is for you.

Behind the Mask by Yangsook Choi

When A Korean-American boy trick or treats in his grandfather’s mask, “Talchum,” a traditional Korean mask dance, meets up with American trick or treat culture.

Shy Mama’s Halloween by Anne Broules illustrated by Leane Morin

Halloween is the way a Russian immigrant family finds acceptance.

Closet Ghosts by Uma Krishnaswami, illustrated by Shiraaz Bhabha

When you move to a new country and find ghosts in your closet, it is time to call on the Indian Hindu monkey god,Hanuman.

Ghost for Breakfast by Stanley Todd Terasaki, illustrated by Shelly Shinjo

In 1920’s California, a Japanese-American boy and his father investigate a field of ghosts and confront their fears.

Ejoy a spooky night

After expanding their cross cultural knowledge base, my students were almost ready to face the paparazzi. (See this post for how they got there)

In other words, they were nearly ready to play the “Get to know a Hispanic Hero/Heroine bingo game” that I created for them. But first they needed to do a little more work to be an expert.

  • They re-read their mini-biographies and reviewed why their person was famous. They had already highlighted keywords in the paragraph to determine that as the main idea of the paragraph. ( In case you forgot, I found their age appropriate biographies at Scholastic’s site for Discovery History Makers.)
  • They then identified at least one fact about their Hispanic Hero/Heroine that they thought their classmates should know. I had already told them they were going to be “interviewed” by the paparazzi (their classmates).
  • Students then received “Get to know a Hispanic Hero/Heroine bingo game”. Click here for a downloadable version.

hispanicherobingo

  • Once they had found a teacher, or astronaut, etc., they asked the student the name of the Hispanic Hero/heroine that he or she was portraying and recorded it in the appropriate square.
  • They then interviewed the Hispanic Hero/Heroine and recorded the “interview”.
  • The goal was to get a bingo and be able to boast about how much they knew about as many Hispanic Heroes/Heroines as possible.

This week, students will take their paparazzi questions and turn them into “WHO WAS/IS clues” to scatter around the school. Each clue will say ask a third grader for the answer.

This way each child can take pride in the beginnings of their journey as they expand their cross-cultural knowledge and understanding of Hispanic Heroes/Heroines.

Obviously, this unit on learning about Latinos/as can be adapted to any group of individuals. I particularly like thinking about windows and mirrors and groups that aren’t often addressed in the mainstream curriculum. So feel free to adapt this idea for differently abled people, or Cambodian contributors, or whatever under-represented group that you feel passionate to share with the world.

Let me know how it goes.

To help students broaden their cross-cultural knowledge base, I created a Hispanic Hero/Heroine game. I used it with a third grade library class but feel free to adapt it for different ages or for family use.

The unit had a number of objectives. Some were just to review. Some involved practice or mastery of common-core or information-literacy skills. And, of course, exposure to windows and mirrors content.

I wanted students to:

  • Understand a biography is a true account about a person’s life.
  • Read for the main idea
  • Identify keywords in the text
  • Use keywords to extrapolate the main idea
  • Learn how to turn facts into questions
  • Explore interviewing skills
  • Gain information about a particular person in a particular cultural experience.

Here’s an overview of the second lesson in the unit. ( See the first lesson in this post – list all people you know personally or otherwise who are of Hispanic descent).

  1. I gave each student their own mini biography  (a paragraph long) that I printed from Scholastic’s site for Discovery History Makers.
  2. I removed the name, and the job description for each person and created a fill in the blank. My name is…. I am a famous…. or I am famous for being a……. To download my template click here.
  3. Students read the biography and identified the person about whom they were reading.
  4. Students then highlighted keywords that were repeated over and over or had variations mentioned in the text.
  5. The looked at the keywords and determined the main idea or why this person was famous.

Roberto Clemente: the first Puerto Rican to be voted Most Valuable Player in baseball

For example if a student read about Roberto Clemente, he or she may have underlined Major League Baseball, great fielder, great hitter, Most Valuable Player, Baseball Hall of Fame. Then he or she would have said Roberto Clemente is a famous baseball player.

The mini biographies ranged in complexity so I gave the more abstract professions to those who were ready for the challenge and thus allowed for success for a range of students.

Stay tuned for how kids prepared themselves to face the questions the classmate paparazzi prepared for each other.

It’s embarrassing how little I know about Hispanic contributions. You can see below in my own answers to the question I posed earlier this week. (Click for the original post)

I attribute my ignorance to several things.

1)     I didn’t have a lot of Hispanic history or Latino literature taught to me in school.  Let me correct myself. I don’t remember any!

2)     I live in a part of the country where the Hispanic culture and heritage is not prevalent.

3)     I get news from sources that inherently can’t cover every story. So what one organization choses to include or not, shapes my understanding of current events.

4)     I view the world through a certain lens. My lens has been formed by my upbringing, my heritage, my education, my location, my circumstances, etc. So I filter information through that perspective.

All of these contributing factors often remain unconscious. Unless, I make an effort to find out what viewpoints I am missing, or who’s story I haven’t heard, I will continue to have a narrow and less rich connection with all those with whom I share this planet. And why would I want of that?

So I continue to find as many windows and mirrors as I can. I continue to seek out multiple stories and multiple perspectives. That helps me understand what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes while deepening my understanding of the world.

Maybe, one day I can also fill in such a list for all the wonderful different human experiences that exist.

Until then, here are my answers and my gaps. Follow the links to learn more about the individuals I named, or wait until next time when I’ll share who they are and what resources you can use with children.

Congress Women

Writer: Julia Alvarez

Picture Book Illustrator: David Díaz

Astronaut:

Nobel Prize Winner

Basketball Player

Union Leader: Cesar Chavez

Senator

Mayor

Governor

Actor

Singer/Musician: Jennifer Lopez

Community Organizer

United States Surgeon

Golfer

Artist: Frieda Kahlo

Baseball Player: Roberto Clemente

 

Today I asked my third graders if they could name anyone of Hispanic descent. They could list a someone they knew personally, a person from history, or a figure from pop culture.

Their lists weren’t long. In fact. Most were blank.

I wasn’t surprised given the community in which I teach. There aren’t a lot of opportunities for first hand encounters. And so my work begins. Unless I or other adults explicitly have conversations about the rich Hispanic heritage, history, and accomplishment, their lists will remain short.

It was time to lead the children to find stories. My third graders are fairly good at knowing how to solve information problems. So they eagerly rose to the challenge of using the library catalog to find biographies.

I recommend keywords – in this case, search terms like Latino/Latina, Hispanic, Puerto Rican, Costa Rican, Dominican, Mexican-American, Chilean, etc. I remind students of the definitions of Hispanic and Latino/Latina. I also provide them with a few examples. This helps the class brainstorm more names to use in their searches.

One of the biographies that provided my readers with a window

The children know how to identify the call number of a book in their computer search. Then they use that to locate the book on the shelf. So they fly to the next step. Reading the book which offers them a window into new experiences, and a peek into an unfamiliar culture. I remind them that this is just one person’s particular story of being Hispanic and that like any group of people there are similarities and differences within that group as well as in comparison to another group.

Next week they will craft jeopardy type questions to post around the school to educate others within our community one story at a time.