Friday, June 13, 2014

Text to Connections, Mirror and Window Connections

Jaqueline Woodson crafted this book from the perspective of a young girl growing up in a different time frame. By creating the dialogue in this way, Woodson makes the story more personable so that the reader can feel a connection between the characters of the story. Woodson also allows you to sort of peer through the window of what it’s like for someone such as Sean, her brother who is deaf, and all the emotions that he is feeling as well as the things he is going through. The story may also mirror the feelings of what it’s like to be a new student in a different environment, where they might feel they don’t exactly fit in such as the experience with the Jesus boy who is the new white boy in a predominantly black school.  There might also be the connection of growing up or living on a different side of town or even a connection with Frannie’s mother who has gone through some struggles and hardships with not being able to carry some of her babies to full term, and losing one shortly after being born. There are many connections a reader might have with the story, which I think might be one of the reasons why it won a Newberry Medal.   I related to this book through multiple characters as well as the setting and environment, and for me it was an interesting read that kept me reading and left me wondering what happened after the book finished. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Anchoring Text for Teaching Social Issues, Developing Tolerance, and Building Community in the Classroom

In reading Feathers, the advice that Frannie’s grandmother gives her is so true, and I reflect back and think on all the advice or consejos my grandmother used to give me. When Frannie tries to tell her grandmother about the new boy in school, her grandmother says “remember there is a time when each of us is the different one, and when it’s our turn we’re always wishing and hoping it was somebody else. You be that somebody else when you see that boy. You be the one to remember.” This is so true, whether you are the new kid at school, the new person on the job, the new family in the neighborhood, or anywhere else, there is always this shy and awkwardness at first. The people that are nice to you and actually try to help you are usually the ones you remember the most and sometimes end up being some of the best friends. I think this story is meant for students to be compassionate and more understanding of other students, and people in general that are different from them. Not only from the differences among Frannie’s friends, but also among the new boy in school, and Frannie’s brother. In this section Frannie’s brother smiles so confidently for the hearing girls that are talking to him, until they realize he is deaf, and his smile sadly leaves him. Frannie can’t quite understand why he seems disappointed, but quickly realizes how he really just seeks a connection to a world he feels outside of. I think in the classroom I might ask students to talk about or write down an experience they had when they felt awkward, shy or as if though they didn’t belong. Or even a situation that they might have witnessed that made them feel like they should have said something, or done something but didn’t or couldn’t. I would also take the time to have an open discussion about the book and see what the student’s reactions are to certain situations like the argument between Trevor and the Jesus boy. I would ask them what they might have done in the same situation, or if they were also watching from the sidelines if they would have intervened or done anything differently. While discussing some of these issues, I might give the students an example of a new student in the school and offer different situations to see what their reactions might be, or during the course of reading this book, to have the students write a small story of a situation and what they would do in that situation. I would definitely hope to build a community and foster tolerance, but hope that acceptance and understanding would trump fostering tolerance. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Feathers: Author's Use of Descriptive Language

Woodson uses descriptive language very well in this book, perhaps because it's written in first person and when Frannie describes something, for me it's like painting a picture. When she describes the "Jesus boy", I picture him tall, skinny but most of all having wavy hair with curls. She also describes her brother Sean quite well explaining how she thinks he's beautiful and she's ordinary. She also explains the rec center which is familiar as she describes the smell of sweat and loud kids running around. That's sums up pretty much any community recreation center. In telling us how her mother is now pregnant again, the death of Lila, and the other babies not making it all the way, you can almost feel her pain, yet understand a bit of sibling rivalry being she's the baby that made it. Not so much jealousy, just that she wants her mother not to go through the hardship and pain all over again. When she sees the Jesus boy at the rec center and they start talking just before Trevor starts picking on him again, you can also sense the tension in that moment and in the moment after his father comes to pick him up. There are a few books I can think of that paint a descriptive picture with words, but for me my most vivid memory ban would be a Stephen King novel, particularly The Gunslinger. I've read that book multiple times, and couldn't put it down. The Dark Tower Series is by far one of my most favorite books, as well as The Hobbit. I think there has been more than one book to paint a vivid picture for me, but these would be two of the ones that painted a picture that stayed with me throughout the years. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

"Feathers" A Book In Review

I am on a journey to read "Feathers", a Newbery award winning novel by Jacqueline Woodson. Won't you come along and take a journey with me…

The opening of the book draws you in automatically as it brings you into the classroom where everything is routine and the same but there is a new student that stands out. He stands out because he is the only white boy in the whole school. Frannie, who is telling the story, couldn't shake the feeling of coming to school a month late, after everyone had buddied up. The backdrop is in the 1970's, and this school is on the other side of the highway. Frannie sees how his demeanor is different. He is calm and collected, even after Ms. Johnson the teacher introduces him to class and gives her a smile, yet give a subtle stare at Trevor after he pretends to cough, but covers up a word underneath. Frannie is also thinking about the poem Ms. Johnson had read the class the day before:
Hope is the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul
And sings the tune-without the words
And never stops at all
------Emily Dickinson
Frannie had scribbled the words, hope is the thing with feathers in her notebook as she loved the sound and it had stuck with her. When she mentions the poem to her mother, she notes that her mother thinks Ms. Johnson is trying to get them to look forward and not backward since it is the seventies now. Frannie still doesn't quite understand until she asks her brother Sean in sign language about the poem and what their mother said. Sean clarifies it by explaining that it's a metaphor. The next few days Frannie notices how calm yet wistful the boy was. Even after some comments from Trevor, who seemed to be the one picking on the boy the most. He had the lightest skin of all the kids with deep blue eyes. Each time the boy's eyes met Frannie's, he gave her a sweet smile, and it seemed like they had a connection without saying a word.  While at the playground, Trevor, Rayray and some other friends started picking on the new boy. Rayray has asked for his name and when he didn't respond, Trevor started picking making fake signs as though the boy was deaf. Frannie watched with her friends from the fence, when she saw the boy respond in sign language saying no he was't deaf, then looked at her and smiled. Trevor and his friends began calling him Jesus boy, and the next day he mentioned this to Ms. Johnson an the rest of the class, but he also said he liked the name. Which leaves those that dubbed him Jesus boy wondering and questioning. Another thing that draws us in is that we don't know his name and are left wondering if we will find out his name. We also find out that he came from the other side of the highway and didn't belong, and now he's here in Ms. Johnson's classroom with the somber look about him. There are other novels that draw me in but he setting or the mystery such as Doll Bones which is another book I'm currently reading. The mystery of the doll and the adventure three friends are about to take leaves me in suspense, and I love suspense books like this.