"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Learning about courage from Beekle

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” 
― E.E. Cummings

Today's lesson was the bookend on a conversation about community character traits.  Like all teachers, there is an invisible thread sewing my lessons and the ideas they embody together. The trick is helping the students not only see the thread, but also understand it. This week, I am connecting our first conversation about what we want to be with our second conversation about who we want to be and by realizing what these two things entail: courage.

What we want to be:

Who we want to be:

This week's conversation centers around one character trait that is inherent in all of the others: CourageWhat better story than the beautifully written and illustrated, The Adventures of Beekle, The Unimaginary Friend, written and illustrated by Dan Santat and published by Little Brown.

Here's the description from the publisher: "This magical story begins on an island far away where an imaginary friend is born. He patiently waits his turn to be chosen by a real child, but when he is overlooked time and again, he sets off on an incredible journey to the bustling city, where he finally meets his perfect match and-at long last-is given his special name: Beekle. New York Times bestselling and award-winning author and illustrator Dan Santat combines classic storytelling with breathtaking art, creating an unforgettable tale about friendship, imagination, and the courage to find one's place in the world."

Just as Beekle tried to find his place in the world, we're working on finding our place in our learning community.

The third grade students that I shared the book with today had no problem identifying with Beekle and his quest to find a friend. Having an imaginary friend is not so far from many of these students reality. 

This image of this spread does not do it justice...I would have a framed copy if I could.

Dan Santat's art is breathtaking - sweeping vistas and shifts in perspective keep the reader journeying onward with Beekle. In this interview, Dan Santat explains how he came to make the book and describes how he created the book. 

My students understood exactly how Beekle felt at this point...
When all seems lost...

And encouraged him to journey forth...
...we should all do the unimaginable.

And rejoiced when his persistence paid off...
because you never know what might happen...

After reading the book, we talked about the trait that allowed Beekle to set off to look for his friend: courage

I pointed out that it takes courage to be the people the want to become: thoughtful listeners and curious explorers who are risk takers that make room for all learners. It takes courage to:

~ say what one thinks, feels, or believes
~be risk-takers
~be curious
~be listeners
~be forgiving
~be inclusive

It takes courage to be a community

To connect the conversation back to the one we had after reading My Teacher is a Monster! (No, I am not)we talked about the courage to reach out and connect with another person. I pointed out that I thought that Bobby and Ms. Kirby had shown  tremendous courage moving past their school relationship to find a connection outside of school. Also, as we did with My Teacher is a Monster! (No, I am Not)we can speak the importance seeing things from a different perspective. 

Near the end of the discussion, one of the students asked why courage was not one of the words on the window, I explained that those were words that the students had shared and that no one had mentioned courage. I shared that I had been thinking of courage since before school started and had placed the word in front of them. Before school started, I typed up, laminated, and hung up this poem by Naomi Shihab Nye.

To be let in,
A word must slide and sneak and spin
into the tunnel of the ear.
What's to fear?

A word must travel through 

a tongue and teeth and wide air
to get there.
A word has tough skin.

But a word is brave.

We read the poem silently and then aloud.  We rounded out our discussion of community character traits by talking about courage and the importance of both sharing what you believe and hearing what others believe.  I hope that my students hold onto the character traits that our community values, but the one that I hope drives our learning is courage. 

So, there you have it, two books, My Teacher is a Monster! (No, I Am Not)  and The Adventures of Beekle, The Unimaginary Friend, that encourage great thinking. Think of them like bookends - two great books that support the same important central conversation. 

I think it is going to be a great year.
Note: Many students had not noticed the poem or taken in its meaning until we shared it together, an important reminder that for students to take ownership of what is written and hung on our walls, they need time to take it in and think about it.

No comments:

Post a Comment