Each child is reading an MLK themed text on his or her level for their Good Fit Book (GFB). While the reading level of the text is appropriate for the children, the topics they address are anything but simple. We have had numerous discussions on subjects like: assassination, non-violence, Ghandi, equality, laws, lawyers, the Supreme Court, marches, sit-ins, fair vs. equal, boycott, and so much more. I have been asked everything from "Why is there a policeman behind him in the picture?" to "Why would someone want to kill him?" to "Why do we only celebrate him once a year?" to "Where would I sit on the bus if I lived back then?"...and that is only in 3 days! Several of my students have tried to figure out what they would say, do, and how they would be treated if they lived back then.
We have devoured all of our classroom books on MLK. Today we read over 24 pages of a non-fiction book (stopping to discuss each picture) in one sitting! First graders should not have to sit that long and they usually can't, but they were so interested and curious that we just kept going.
I have to admit it is intimidating to try to explain these very complex concepts to children. My students want more than the surface level that I expected to be teaching about, but I am struggling with answering their questions in a satisfying way, but without scaring them or talking above their head. I am in all honesty having discussions with them that I would expect to have with a class of middle school students.
My mentor teacher and I discussed showing the students some of the "I have a dream" speech. I am going to show this clip:
The vocab is hard and it will probably lead to even more questions, but I believe my students are ready for it. What I really am trying to help them understand is that he was able to make changes because so many people believed in the change. He inspired them to believe and that things could be better. I really feel that at this age, no one explains that to children. My students came in knowing a lot about MLK, but they thought he made all of the changes himself. I want them to see him as a leader, as a symbol, and understand why he was so important--which is that he inspired others to do good things. That is why his legacy lives on.
MLK has been a huge part of our Social Studies curriculum, but it has also been integrated into language arts. We have been able to discuss the features of non-fiction texts, used pictures to better comprehend our reading, practiced our fluency, most definitely stopped to ask questions to aid in comprehension and later this week we will be doing a GFB pair and share, a paragraph frame, and a text to text comparison. There will be no superficial cloud "I have a dream" pictures for the First Grade Froggers and I could not be more proud!
On a side note, during parent-teacher conferences, one family told us that their child requested to go to Atlanta, Georgia to see MLK's home on their next vacation.
Enjoy your Monday off, but realize WHY we get the day off. Take a minute to celebrate a great American whose legacy will live on forever--my first grade students have given me proof of this.