So today I started the day a little frazzled but had decided already that I wanted to talk to the kids about how stories reflect real life. I am listening to Where the Crawdads Sing while I work out in the morning and Internment in the evenings at home and we have been talking about them and how they can serve as commentary on different topics in society. For my students I turned to a handful of picture books to explore this topic further.
We started with the discussion around Mirrors, Windows and Sliding Glass doors from Rudine Sims Bishop. It was interesting to see my students work through the analogy. I thought it would be harder to understand but they got the Mirrors and Doors part immediately. For the windows they just couldn’t see it because, “if you had a sliding glass door why do you need a window?” haha
We moved on from there and discussed topics of the world that picture books might address and looked at titles like Those Shoes, Last Stop on Market Street, Love, The Promise, Adrian Simcox does not have a horse, The Invisible Boy and a few others. Students read them in small groups and discussed what they were thinking. Today the connections were pretty surface level but the conversations were happening. The scene in Love with the boy under the table always sparks a conversation about why that scene is needed. The representation of multiple elements and struggles that we see in The Invisible Boy were expanded as a student pointed out an issue I had not considered.
Later in the day this same class had a few options, continue working on the picture book reflections or work on some poetry exploration. The class split half and half and it was enjoyable being able to read amazing poetry (I am totally getting them all to love the work of Rudy Francisco) and discuss elements of picture books. Throughout our rather chill period the kids and I discussed how the year is flying by and the topic of a final exam popped up. It was crazy how quickly the chill joyful attitude was sucked from the room as the kids started focusing on the tests that were still months away. The anxiety that spiked and the questions that broke away from the creative side and became more grade obsessed.
A day of joyful literacy work where conversations create more conversations came to a screeching halt because of one word. Test.
As we reimagine what education looks like, especially in the face of those who say the traditional ways are best, we need to make sure the most important voice is that of our students. Are our intentional and unintentional actions promoting learning and growing? Or are we shutting the door on that process for the mechanical process of testing?
I will choose a million conversation about learning over a test on it.