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Thursday February 2, 2017 at 8:15am Age: 292 days
Category: Middle School, District

TAKING A STAND: EMPOWERING STUDENTS THROUGH LITERATURE


“Taking a stand”: Two popular dictionaries define it as adopting a firm position about an issue, or expressing one’s opinion.

 

To encourage eighth grade students to form and express their own thinking on important social issues, English teachers at the middle school implement a learning unit under the theme, “Taking a stand.”

 

Students read nonfiction writings by or about historic figures who took a stand against injustice and inequality, and ushered in societal changes.

 

Jessie, a student in Mrs. Stamos class, was inspired by Sojourner Truth’s "Ain't I a Woman?"speech and her lifelong fight for civil and women’s rights.  “It helps me realize that I can do anything in life I set my mind to,” Jessie said.

 

For student Lexie, “It’s important to know that many of the rights and freedoms we enjoy today are because someone stood up and fought for them,” she said.  “To me it seems clear that we should all be treated equally, regardless of race or gender, but it wasn’t always that way.”

 

Readings of fiction focus on three novels depicting utopian and dystopian societies. Through writing and discussion prompts, students examine and compare societal constructs and expectations, and share their views on a range of issues.

 

Mr. Prezioso’s students are reading “The Giver” by Lois Lowry (1993).  Mrs. Stamos class began reading the same novel, after finishing “The Outsiders” by S. E. Hinton (1967).

 

Inspired by “The Giver’s” utopian society, students will work in groups to create their own ideal communities deciding on a form of government, educational and economic systems, and the responsibilities and rights of community members. 

 

Jaden enjoyed the themes of friendship, brotherhood, and caring for each other in “The Outsiders.”

 

Students Estella and Kelli were especially touched by the topic of bullying in the same novel. “It gives me confidence to stand up for myself and don’t be a bystander.” And she had some advice: “Don’t bully someone just because you’re angry.” Kelli connected with the issue of bullying through her own experience. “I think that now I will be more likely to speak out for myself and demand respect.”

 

In Mrs. Pagnanella’s honors class, students are currently reading “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins (2008).

 

Peter enjoys Collins detailed descriptions of the battles. “They make me think about battles in our world,” he said. “We fight for stuff that should be easily resolved. People have different cultures and beliefs--why go to war about that? Just accept each other.”