A few years ago I attended a session at NCTE with Smokey Daniels and Steve Zemelman. They talked about all the things the Common Core forgot: creativity, curiosity, choice, inquiry, collaboration, altruism, peacemaking, justice, courage, responsibility, equality. We (participants) were asked to create an identity web for ourselves – model with it in our classrooms, find connections, and invite wonder.
We created an Identity Web for Ruth’s family from Ruth and the Green Book, a story set in the 1950s by Calvin A. Ramsey. Ruth’s father had a new car, but the adventure was darkened by the family traveling at a time in history where the Jim Crow laws caused many African American families to suffer great indignities (See also The Gold Cadillac by Mildred Taylor). Although this story is fiction, the story of The Green Book and how it helped African Americans is well documented.
Follow-up questions helped to move a discussion forward – first, in partnerships; then in whole group.
How would you feel if you were a member of this family taking the trip from Chicago to Alabama? Why?
Have you ever been in a situation where an authority figure confronted you or a family member? Describe that situation. How did it make you feel?
Have you ever felt like you were alone or not part of the right group? How did it make you feel? Why?
Sometimes, it’s important for us to reach beyond the classroom and give our students a voice. We have to create classrooms where students are willing to take risks and tell their stories. Our learning community is not just about individual success. It’s about making learning relevant and engaging. It’s about giving students a sense of efficacy. Student voice is a way to address social inequities and gain ownership and true purpose to learning academic skills.