Thursday, August 15, 2013

Awakening, the next ‘big idea’ OR, Muddling of the mind

Some of you may remember that every summer, at the end of August, before school starts, I present a book talk to a group of elementary teachers around a ‘big idea’ that they've selected to teach to K-6 throughout the year.  The principal calls it ‘a book talk on steroids’.  I think that’s good, right?

This year’s big idea is AWAKENING.

It’s big alright.

Every second kids book can somehow be linked (at least in my head) to this idea of awakening.

Here are a few of the ideas that I immediately came up with:
beginnings, epiphany, perceptions, fresh starts, awareness, new life (nature: spring/seasons, birth, hatching, blooming, budding, etc.) start of the day, new ideas, insight, understanding, enlightenment, openings/openness, revolution (political, Arab Spring).

Here are a few activities, actions, or thought processes I associated with awakening:
creating/creativity, innovating, activism, inventing, blooming, spontaneity, capturing imagination, opportunities, gaining perspective, tapping into the subconscious, critical thinking.

Here are a few of the opposites that I considered important to think about, too:
sleeping, decline/decay, shutting down/out, death(?, underworld stories), ignorance, worry/fear, narrowing.

Those are my thoughts.

When I received the planning notes from the teachers last June I found many of my ideas matched with theirs, which was a relief.  As well, I noticed that this year there was a lot more synchronicity between the grades compared to previous years.  The way I'm interpreting these notes is coming up with a focus on the internal processes of self awareness, mindfulness, living in the moment, awareness of others (as in community and society, local and global), empathy,
how the brain works, and well being. All of this somehow connects to developing meaning and purpose in one’s life.

Each grade also presents some specific ideas that more closely connect with the Alberta curriculum, current events, and Calgary, too.

So back to translating all of the above to books teachers can use in the classroom.  Well, there’s a lot that could potentially work.  Here are a few titles that I think will be solid additions in the classroom:

8th Grade Superzero by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich – Great choice for upper elementary that covers many of the aspects about awakening.

A Bus Called Heaven by Bob Graham K-3, a terrific story that will connect personal action with community.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly. – For grades 5-8. An historical novel that explores the nature of gender, family and awareness of the natural world.

Have Fun Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke. – For grades 3-5.  Nothing like travel to ‘awaken’ one to how other people live and discover things about oneself at the same time.  An African girl comes to Canada to visit her grandmother for the first time.

Home of the Brave by Katherine ApplegateGrades 5-7.  Told in narrative verse, we too experience culture shock as a young Sudanese refuge figures out the complexities of living in a large American city.

I Know Here by Laurel Croza – For K-3 level about really knowing your home and community especially the physical landscape. (Canadian)

Love That Dog by Sharon Creech – For grades 3-6.  Another story told in verse that shows Jack’s deepening appreciation for poetry and how poetry gives him a voice and a way to handle life’s problems.

My Map Book by Sara Fanelli – K-2.  I'm pretty sure I've recommended this one before to the teachers at Nellie McClung.  I use it a lot in many of my workshops.  Works with the geographical thinking component of social studies as well as identity, family and what’s important in this particular child’s life.

Zen and the Art of Faking It by Jordan Sonnenblick – Another good choice for upper elementary that especially touches on identity, empathy and activism with a Buddhist kick.


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