One of the things this teacher excelled at was bringing in a variety of different resources to teach the students with. She was not satisfied with the textbook that the course called for. She brought in speeches, audio recordings, diaries, the fabulous documentary Eyes On the Prize, and so many other primary and secondary resources. Watching her, and learning how to teach from her, I was always inspired by the variety of things she used and did to get kids to learn. One reason her teaching method worked so well is that it kept the kids on their toes. There was always something new, and different, and interesting. But her method also worked because it helped all of the different kinds of learners. There was something for the strong readers, something for the kids who responded best to visual images, and something for aural learners. She changed up the things we did in class too, so there were activities for kids who liked to write, different activities for kids who needed to get up and move, and something else entirely for kids who liked to talk. Not all of the students responded to all of the different materials and activities all of the time, but they all had something that worked really well for them sometimes.
I thought of this teacher this weekend while I was watching President Obama's speech at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday.
I know that there are people who resist graphic novels. They are not seen as serious enough, or quality enough. Graphic novels are sometimes seen as simply comic books or the funny pages (I could make a case for comics and funny pages, but I will save that for another day). Not real books, and certainly not 'Good Literature'. We do a huge disservice to students (and ourselves) when we discount graphic novels and keep them out of the classroom. When I picked March Book 2 up after watching President Obama's speech, I realized it could be used for so much more than just teaching about American history.
Besides being used in a history classroom, these books could be used just as effectively to teach literacy. The books focus on the Sixties, the protests, and the marches, but they are framed by John Lewis' present day. The books start on January 9th, 2009, with Congressman Lewis' experiences the day he watched, along with the rest of the world, as the United States inaugurated a black man as President for the first time. This framing brings the story of the Movement out of the Sixties, connecting it to the present, and works as a perfect literary device. Now, I remember being taught how framing could be used in literature by reading hundreds of pages of Canterbury Tales. While that will work with many students, a book like March can be used to teach it as well, without the 14th Century language. It is good for teachers to have lots of examples of different kinds of books in their collection to reach all of their students.
Finally, one of the jobs we have as educators is to teach kids how to become readers, and give them the space to do it. Many students just need to find a book that they can connect with in order to find a love of reading. When we give value to the books and other things they are reading, we help to instill what it is to be a reader. That means giving respect to classics, graphic novels, magazines, and nonfiction. If we show interests in what they are interested in, and give it value, we give them the chance to grow as readers and learners. And that should be the goal of all educators.