Living on the edge of the agricultural heart of California, most of my students have never grown or harvested fresh vegetables. In an 8th grade English class for students who are having difficulty achieving proficiency in English Language acquisition, students strive to see how they can fit into the mainstream community of California. Our school serves a mixed community that includes military dependents, recent immigrants and local low income families. We are a Title I funded school in Program Improvement seeking innovative ways to help our students create a community of learners that will excel. Students need to see their efforts blossom and harvest the fruits of the garden we will create.
In a diverse population, xenophobia is an obstacle difficult to overcome unless we can find some common ideals to share. Literature helps to build that bridge when the students can see themselves in the characters. As we begin the new school year, students will be handed textbooks that they will return at the end of the year. Few of the students have the resources to go out and purchase a book that they will use in the class and be able to keep as their own. Our school has had funding cut to the point I can't even use my classroom budget to buy copies for the most deserving students. We have the chance to create a community garden on our campus where the students can grow flowers and vegetables, but I need to have a hook to make my students understand the value of the 'community' in community garden.
My school's English department has discussed using Paul Fleischman's book "SeedFolk" as a school-wide read in the coming academic year. I am seeking 35 copies of that book to give to my Transitional Language Learners. With their own copies of the book, students will be able to mark and annotate the text, highlight language forms that they are studying in class and make connections to the growth of a community of strangers.
Having their own book that they can use to create meaning for themselves is the first step for my students to see themselves as powerful readers and users of the English language. They will become better readers and find a a place in the community garden we are creating.
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