A Book That Will Help Students Learn Why They Should Speak Out Against Hate

I’m writing this a few days after white supremacists marched around Charlottesville, Virginia, chanting horrible things.  Thankfully, I’ve seen many teachers post messages on Facebook saying they will help their students understand the importance of speaking up against white supremacists and the hate they stand for.  One of my favorite posts was written by Love, Teach which said,

#1 teaching objective in my class this year: Love is louder than hate, but only if we choose to open our mouths.  Clearly, the rest of my curriculum can wait.”

I have also seen teachers post the importance of using specific vocabulary when describing the events of Charlottesville, like this, by Digital Divide & Conquer.

Use Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry to teach students to speak up against hate.

Teachers can talk about this every day in their classroom, but we all know students learn much better through engaging lessons.  I love using books to teach students important lessons because kids can develop a strong connection to the characters of an awesome book.  Once that connection is made, the lesson you’re trying to teach can be learned much more effectively.

Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry is an excellent book you can use to teach your students about the hatred that white supremacists stand for and the importance of speaking up for people who are oppressed.

The book is set in Mississippi in the 1930s, but it’s important that students realize there are still many people who act like the hateful, racist people they read about in the book.  Curriculum often implies that racism is something that happened a long time ago.  Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry teaches students what it’s like for a black family to constantly be affected by hateful things racist people do.  It’s up to teachers to ensure their students realize this sort of hatred still exists.

Brief Synopsis of the Book

The main character is a young girl named Cassie.  She lives with her three brothers, mother, father, and grandmother.  They are very proud of the fact that they own land.  Cassie’s parents simply want to enjoy their land and take care of their children.  Unfortunately, they constantly hear stories of white people doing horrible things to black people they know.  This causes a lot of tension for the family throughout the book.  By the end of the story, the violence hits close to home for Cassie, whose father is forced to make a drastic decision in order to keep people safe.

Several events in this book are powerful teaching tools to help students understand the importance of speaking out against racism.  

Cassie’s family is amazing.  Your students will develop a strong connection with them.  Cassie experiences many things your students can relate to.  She argues with her siblings, but will do anything to protect them.  She has to help with lots of chores at home, but she loves her family deeply.  She has some difficulties at school, but she wants to get a good education.  It’s impossible for the reader to dislike Cassie’s family.

Since your students will develop a connection to Cassie and her family, your students will also feel the tension of the violence and racism that occurs in the book.  (Sadly, you may have students who can relate to it.)  While this may make students uncomfortable, it opens the door for many teachable moments.  For example:

Event #1:  Early in the book, when Cassie and her siblings are walking to school, a white bus driver swerves toward them and forces them to jump off the road into a muddy ditch to avoid being hit.  Your students need to realize there are still white people who would like to do this to black children.  Also, that bus was full of white students.  Ask your students what they would do if they witnessed something similar today.  Hopefully, they would tell their parents to call a school official and get that bus driver fired.  Teach students that someone on that bus should have spoken up against the bus driver for what he did to Cassie and her siblings.  Students must realize this is NOT Cassie’s responsibility.

Event #2:  In chapter five, Cassie helps her grandmother sell milk and eggs at a town market.  Cassie is angry because they have to set up their stand at the back of the market.  Only white people can sell at the front.  Even though Cassie is angry about this unfair rule, she knows she can’t say anything because someone would hurt her.  Your students need to realize there are still ways that black people are not given the same chances as white people to succeed.  Also, discuss with your students how amazing it would have been for some white people at the market to speak up and say that black people should not be forced to the back.

That’s a theme that keeps occurring throughout the book.  Terrible things happen to black people, but Cassie’s parents feel like saying something will only put their family in danger.  Emphasize the importance of speaking up for people who are the victims of racism.  Be sure your students understand things like this happen today.  Again, that won’t come as a shock to some of your students.

Event #3:  A white girl yells at Cassie for accidentally bumping into her at the market.  The white girl then says horrible things to Cassie.  The girl’s dad grabs Cassie’s arm and starts yelling at her too.  As a crowd starts to gather, Cassie’s grandmother is terrified that things could soon become violent, so she tells Cassie to apologize to the girl.  Cassie is furious that her grandmother made her apologize.  When Cassie gets home and tells her mother about it in chapter six, her mother says, “Baby, you had to grow up a little today.  I wish…well, no matter what I wish.  It happened and you have to accept the fact that in the world outside this house, things are not always as we would have them to be.”  The conversation continues for several pages.  Some of your students probably haven’t been forced to have conversations like this with their parents.  It’s important these students realize that many kids today, including some of their classmates, are forced to have difficult conversations similar to this with their parents.  Based on the Facebook posts I’ve read about conversations black parents must have with their children, too many kids today are forced to “grow up” far too soon.

There are several other events where racist white people do horrible things to the black characters in the story.  Students need to understand that these kinds of things still happen.  It’s also important for students to think about what they’d do if they witnessed something like that.

If you need more resources to teach Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry, I have created writing prompts and quizzes that are available in my TpT store.  Click here to learn more.

If you’re looking for more lesson ideas, here are some websites and blog posts that may help.

Teaching Tolerance 

Their website states, “From film kits and lesson plans to the building blocks of a customized Learning Plan—texts, student tasks and teaching strategies—our resources will help you bring relevance, rigor and social emotional learning into your classroom—all for FREE.”

A Collection of Resources for Teaching Social Justice, by the Cult of Pedagogy

In addition to resources, this blog post offers helpful advice for teachers who are planning lessons about social justice.

Social Justice Book List (August 2017) compiled by the National Network of State Teachers of the Year

This PDF gives short descriptions of numerous books sorted by early learning grades, elementary, middle school, and high school.  You can definitely find an awesome book to read on this list.

Words can’t express how grateful I am for all that you do for your students.  Teaching becomes a more important profession every day.  I hope this blog post has given you a few ideas that will help your students understand the importance of speaking up against hateful people.

 

 

 

Four Books That Fifth Graders Won’t Stop Reading

Books Your Fifth Graders Won't Stop Reading

(Yes, that’s my daughter reading Hoot.  My legs are still sore!)

The best part of teaching fifth grade is watching kids get really excited about a good book.  It’s such a shame that reading “experts” in so many districts require teachers to use test-prep passages to teach reading.  Fifth graders are at an age where they crave relationships.  They love reading good books because they feel a connection with the story’s characters — something that’s impossible to do with a 2-3 page test-prep passage.

I’ve got about 8-10 awesome go-to books that I know fifth graders love.  But I always struggled to find time to read new books.  Then if I found a good book, I had to find resources to help me teach the standards using that book.

My goal with this blog post is to give you a brief description of four books and link you to resources I’ve created that can help you cover the standards while using quality literature.  I want you to be able to enjoy these books with your class, not worry about finding activities.

I know you can Google the synopsis of these books, but I will explain a few reasons why fifth graders will enjoy them.  Click the images if you’d like to see the novel study resources I’ve created for each book.

Ungifted, by Gordon Korman

This is about a boy (Donovan) who gets sent to a new school so he can avoid a huge punishment.  But then he surprisingly ends up enjoying this new school way more than his old one.

Fifth graders will love this book because:

–Donovan does not fit in at his new school because he’s not as smart as everyone else.  But he finds ways to fit in, earn the respect of his new classmates, and show that intelligence is not something that is only measured by grades on a report card.

–Donovan is very loyal to his family.

–Donovan is not afraid to take risks.  Here’s a response from one of my 5th graders who loves that Donovan is not a “normal” character.

Five Books Fifth Graders Will Love

 

Hoot, by Carl Hiaasen

This is about a boy named Roy who helps two other kids stand up to a major corporation so lots of animals will be able to keep their home.

Fifth graders will love this book because:

–Roy’s new friends delay this corporation’s project through some creative and funny methods, one of which involves putting gators in port-a-potties.

–They are protecting adorable baby owls.

–Roy stands up to a boy who is bullying him, but not by fighting him.

–At first, Roy has problems adjusting to his family’s move from Montana to Florida.  I’m sure you have students who have moved and miss their old home.

As you can see from the picture above, my daughter couldn’t put this book down!  Here are the novel study resources I’ve created that gave my students things to write about and discuss as they read Hoot.

Books fifth graders will love

 

Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor

This story does a brilliant job of illustrating the life of an African-American family living in Mississippi in the 1930s.  Students will learn how racism affected the lives of African-American families during this time.  Students should realize how racist comments and actions have a devastating impact on people’s lives.  Hopefully, after reading about Cassie’s family, your students will think twice about making racist comments and/or posting hateful messages and images on social media.

Fifth graders will love this book because:

–Cassie is a very strong-willed young girl who stands up for what is right.  She has to make many difficult decisions.  Sometimes she regrets her choices.  But she always tries to do the right thing.

–Cassie’s parents and grandmother refuse to respond to racism with violence.  Instead, they come together in support of the entire black community.

–Your students have probably heard, or been the victim of, racist comments.  Cassie and her family will help your students learn the importance of standing up against racism, and ways of doing so without fighting.

–Your students will develop a STRONG connection with Cassie’s family.  They will feel angry and sad about the racist things that are done in the story.  Prepare for some deep questions and strong emotions as your students read this…which is exactly what we want when kids read, right?

There are LOTS of ways for your students to respond to this book!

Books Fifth Graders Will Love

 

Pie, by Sarah Weeks

This is a fun book about a girl’s mission to carry on her aunt’s legacy of baking wonderful pies as a way to unite her community.  The girl, Alice, also mends her rocky relationship with her mom, solves a mystery, and gains a lifelong friend.  If you’re looking for a new book to try with your class, I highly recommend Pie!

Fifth graders will love this book because:

–Every chapter starts with a pie recipe!  Don’t read this book on an empty stomach!

–After Alice’s Aunt Polly (the famous pie chef) dies, many people try to get their hands on her secret recipes.  There are several mysteries that Alice attempts to figure out regarding this recipe.  Alice also has to figure out who is trying to steal these recipes.

–In the end, Alice learns to be content with whatever life gives you.  She gets along much better with her mom.  And she carries on her aunt’s legacy of baking pies to unite the community.

–This book was selected by Florida students in grades 3-5 as the best book on the state’s 2015-16 SSYRA list!  Every year, the SSYRA (Sunshine State Young Readers Award) committee selects 15 awesome books for students to read that year. Then  kids across Florida who read them vote on a winner.  It’s a really cool process!  I taught fifth grade in Florida for five years and always loved the books on the SSYRA list!

–Again, discussion and response topics are numerous with this book!

Four Books Fifth Graders Will Love

I know the pressure to teach test-prep passages is enormous.  It’s a shame that lots of teachers feel like they have to “sneak” good books in during their reading block instead using those boring passages.  But I hope you are able to read these books with your class this year.  I have created writing prompts and quizzes for each book.  For Hoot, I also have made vocabulary pages, cloze activities, and task cards with discussion topics.  Click the picture below to check them out!  They are available together at a discounted price, or individually if you’d prefer.

Novel studies for books that fifth graders love