Show Way - A project That Affirms Identity
As an English as Second Language (ESL) teacher, my job is to analyze my students’ needs and develop their linguistic and communicative competence in English-speaking, reading, listening, and writing skills. One of my goals is to help them achieve a proficient level of English that allows them to function independently in their classrooms, and in society in the future. Another goal is to ignite in them the love for their native language and diverse culture.
I am saddened by the fact that the majority of my students do not see their native language and heritage as an asset. I am not sure what the root for this belief is, but many educators do not see students’ native language and culture as an asset in the classroom. When students do not see themselves in curriculum or in lessons, they get a message that who they are is not important. For this reason, I believe it’s imperative the use of diverse texts in the classrooms. There is a sufficient amount of diverse text available that educators can use as a tool to highlight students’ diversity and enrichment their curriculum and not see diversity as a deficit.
So in order to achieve my goals, I thought about delivering a lesson where my students can develop the English language and also learn to appreciate their language and heritage.
1: Reading text: Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson
We started by reading a book by one of my most favorite authors, Jacqueline Woodson. The book is called, “Show Way” and it is illustrated by Hudson Talbott. The story is dedicated to Ms. Woodson’s family in loving memory of the women who came before her. We learn in this bravery story that family members would make SHOW WAYS (quilts) with secret meanings that are mapped to freedom. This story is a story of hope and courage that inspired many generations...including the author...Jacqueline Woodson.
Though students might need a little background knowledge about slavery and why traveling North vs South, our focus was mainly the characters actions and the production of the quilts.
*In our discussion we concluded that Mathis took that little piece of the blanket because she knew how special it was and believed that she could do something with it. She ended up creating something that made an impact on many people. She treasured her mom’s work and she honored it by making quilts to guide her people to freedom. People would come to her to be impacted by her work.
2: Post-Reading Discussion/Connections
We ended the book discussing how Ms. Woodson became a writer because she wanted to share her family stories of courage and inspire others to value their heritage and have the courage to share who they are and value the people who came before us.
My students were greatly impacted by this story. Without having to tell them much, they were able to see for themselves how important it is to accept, value, and share our heritage and family’s story.
Each student took a few minutes to think about their own family stories. We made a list of who might’ve impacted our family in any way. We listed great-grandparents, grandparents, mom and dad, uncles, aunts, cousins brothers and sisters, and even neighbors and we thought about how each individual contributed in some shape or form to where we are today.
Students shared their ideas and were able to gather ideas from their peers as well. We then made a list of what makes us who we are. What food do we eat? What languages do we speak? Where does the family like to go? What does the family like doing together? When does the family get together? What holidays or celebrations are we part of? Do we (or anyone in our family) wear a different outfit?
3: Project: Our Personal “Show Way” or Identity
4: Sharing and “Showing” our identity
We all had the opportunity to share our sheet and learned so much about each other. We allowed questions for further understanding. Our students were very supportive and respectful of everyone's family representations.
5: Making of our classroom “Show Way”
Once we all shared, we decided to make a list of our similarities and we realized how we share so much. We talked about how we need to be proud of who we are and the importance of sharing with the world all about our heritage. We decided to put all pieces together and create a “Show Way” quilt just like Ms. Woodson’s family to show our appreciation and to remember our foundation.
**This post was featured on Sevenzo's web page as:
Being Who You are is an Asset, not a Deficit!**