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Stealing Freedom Part 1

My afternoon class has really struggled with transitioning from one subject to the next twice in the afternoon for 3 x 40 minute periods. They get really engrossed in what they are doing and don’t want to switch, even when they are excited about what they are doing next. They love to learn, but really struggle to keep it together through changes. With this in mind, I decided to try something new. I changed up the afternoon timetable so that instead of all the switches, we spend the first 80 minutes on either social studies or the second subject (art or drama or health) and then finish with gym as usual. The idea was that with about 15 minutes left, we would tidy up and have a snack, a break that my students seem to desperately need. For art or drama or health, this time would make a nice time to debrief or reflect as needed, but for social studies, this would make a great time for a read aloud.

The grade 6 students are currently studying communities in Canada, multiculturalism, and what makes our country what it is. The focus is on different types of communities and different groups of people. The grade 7 students are studying the history of Canada 1800-1850. I chose the book Stealing Freedom for our read aloud as the topic of the underground railroad fits the curriculum for both grades. Right at the beginning of the book, there is this picture:

I asked the students first what they noticed and most pointed out the reward, but some also mentioned the hat and unique/unusual clothing. Some mentioned that she was black. I then asked them to write down on post-its what they wanted to learn about the person pictured. They had some great questions!

We read the first chapter and talked about things like “Where is Maryland?” and “is she a slave?” and in the end, we had a great discussion about why Ann Maria doesn’t know her birthday and how old she is. I asked them at snack to discuss how they would feel if they didn’t know their birthday or how old they were. While many groups veered off topic, they did all seem to discuss and the consensus was that it would be horrible. I forgot to have them predict how old they think she is, but they are hooked.

Today we had an afternoon that went off without any serious incidents. It was awesome! We still have a few tweaks to make to the routine, but I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out in the longer term.  My hope is that we can be more productive during our time and that students will start to love a subject that they mostly disliked when I started.  (So far, it looks good, but I don’t want to be too optimistic too soon.)

2 Comments

  1. Aviva

    I’m so glad to hear that this went well today, Melanie! I’m a big believer in the fact that big blocks of learning time reduce problems and increase understanding of concepts. I’m curious to hear how this continues to go and your approach to problems along the way. Good luck!

    Aviva

    1. Melanie

      We have definitely had some problems along the way, but relative to the problems we were having, they are pretty minor. In fairness, we have had lots of snow days and several people away sick since this took effect so it’s hard to definitively know for sure which factor is making the difference. I will keep you posted.

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