Walking a Mile in Another Man’s Boots Any time a student is asked to step back in time, whether he is figuratively standing on a battlefield in his history class, or she is crossing the plains in her English class, it is assumed that he/she will be able to do so, simply because it is part of the curriculum. For my seventh grade students, going even as far back as Selma, Alabama in 1965 or to Apollo 11 in 1969 can be like asking them to pack for a trip to the Paleolithic Era. Any historical period prior to their modern, high-tech existence can be incomprehensible to them, yet that comprehension is vital to the authentic learning we’re asking of them. They must, somehow, make the journey from their i-pod, text messaging lives to a muddy field at the Battle of Bull Run, where a soldier is unable to complete his telegraphed missive to his Colonel. I am a seventh grade English teacher on an Expeditionary Learning team at a public middle school in a small town in Arizona. One of our interdisciplinary units revolves around the Civil War. It is my job to move them toward a genuine seeing and feeling of people and life circumstances completely foreign from their own. I must humanize the historical dates and names for my students. The road into our Nation’s past is, for them, merely dotted with words, like “slavery” and “Northerner” and “Southerner,” but is devoid of any real meaning. Fortunately, there are authors who have paved this road with characters rich enough and real enough to open the students’ eyes in authentic and meaningful ways. One such author is Paul Fleischman. His novel, Bull Run, is a series of vignettes, in which very different characters relate their experiences at the start of the Battle of Bull Run. Eight characters from the North and eight characters from the South provide their unique perspectives on the war. Students learn by walking in the shoes of such diverse characters as a slave woman following her master into battle, a 12-year old sister of a Union soldier, an opportunistic photographer, a committed Confederate officer and a scared courier. Through these diverse perspectives, the students are exposed to a very rounded picture of the Civil War that is both unique and timeless. They come away with an empathetic understanding they could not get from dates and names alone. With your help, I would like to purchase two class sets of Bull Run, so that all my seventh grade students may read it. The vignettes allow for many exciting, in-class opportunities, including readers’ theater and other dramatic readings, which immerse the students even further into the voices of the characters. The vignettes also make it possible to read the text in class, precluding the need to purchase four or five class sets. The students come away from the novel with a very human understanding of such themes as sacrifice, injustice, patriotism and disillusionment, and they are able to grasp the applicability of such themes to the modern conflicts they hear about every day. Students year after year will benefit from this single donation; the Civil War has been and will continue to be part of the curriculum, therefore the books will not lose their curricular value. I would also like the bookshelf so that I can store the books from in high-quality condition from year to year.
|Bull Run Paul Fleischman, David Frampton (Illustrator) • Barnes and Noble||$4.49||65||$291.85|
|Office Depot(R) Brand Basic Bookcase, 5-Shelf, 70 1/8quotH x 27 3/4quotW x 11 1/2quotD, Classic Cherry • Office Depot Inc.||$75.99||1||$75.99|
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