Immigrant and Refugee Narratives from 2016

By Lauren Freedman

This week, I will be sharing four new books from 2016. These four books speak to the most current issues facing us if we want to continue to be a welcoming nation in 2017 and beyond: refugee safety, immigration, undocumented Americans. The first two books are picture books that tell refugee stories. One provides a general sense of the refugee experience, the other is about a specific refugee family from Syria. The third book, also a picture book, is a compilation of United States’ immigrant stories told in sparse, lyrical text accompanied by many moving photographs of individuals and families from many different countries around the world. The fourth book is an academic text for adults that shares and discusses the experiences of undocumented teens living in America.

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Picture Books, Chapter Books Showcasing Immigrants and Refugees

By Lauren Freedman

This week, I am sharing works of fiction, nine picture books with illustrations that deepen the reader’s empathy and understanding and four chapter books, all written in free verse. The free verse, I think, captures the shifting emotions and swift changes in locations and circumstances the characters are experiencing and helps the reader feel part of the story. Though fiction, all these stories are based on the real and often current experiences of refugees and immigrants from many parts of the world. For most of the books shared this week there are extension resources available on the internet.

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The Importance of Sharing Immigrant and Refugee Stories

By Lauren Freedman

December’s WOW Currents will focus on sharing immigrant and refugee stories of those children and their families who have been forced to leave the comfort of their homelands. Immigrants and refugees leave their known lives due to war, famine and genocide, among other hardships and disasters. The topic of immigration and refugees is of specific relevance in the current political climate throughout the United States. Sharing immigrant and refugee stories is particularly important in our schools, where bullying of students who are deemed to be “different” due to language, religion and skin color has increased.

sharing immigrant and refugee stories

Illustrations of characters from Playing War by Kathy Beckwith, illustrated by Lea Lyon.


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Text Sets: An In-depth Look

By Lauren Freedman, Western Michigan University

For this last Monday in May, my blog provides examples of text sets created by teachers from various grade levels and content areas. The topics are insects, weather, shapes and angles, amazing animals, and artists. The text set lists include 30 titles and for each book the following information is given: the bibliographic data, a brief summary of the book, what makes it useful within an inquiry, and special features that it may have. Continue reading

Students and Scholars Respond: Text Sets & Inquiry Deepens and Strengthens Learning

By Lauren Freedman, Western Michigan University

Children and teachers, mired in narrow curricula and “say this now” instruction geared toward raising achievement scores on standardized tests, are hungry for interesting, engaging, and filling content to be reading, writing, speaking, listening, thinking, and learning about. In a 5th grade Social Studies classroom, the students engaged in an inquiry built around the American Revolution and used a tree as a graphic depiction not only of what they were learning, but also as a metaphor for their learning process and the ways in which inquiry and text sets facilitate learning. Along with the content learning depicted in the photos, the students also engaged in a metacognitive discussion about the ways in which “…a reader is like a tree.” The students’ responses quoted below clearly demonstrate the growth possible when the literacy diets of our children are varied and nutritious. Continue reading

Learning Centered Classrooms: Where Inquiry and Text Sets are Essential for Literacy and Learning

By Lauren Freedman, Western Michigan University

An inquiry framework provides both teachers and students with a flexible structure that can be used for learning prek-12 within any content area and perhaps most effectively when integrating content areas. An inquiry framework requires careful planning keeping both the learning goals and each student’s strengths and needs in mind. The importance of students’ choice and voice is honored and the use of text sets provides the tools for students and teachers to reach more deeply and broadly into and across concepts. Continue reading

The Power of Choice, Voice, and Inquiry: Students and Teachers Talk about Text Sets

By Lauren Freedman, Western Michigan University

Moon Text Set

It’s more books than we can read, but we get to choose…and the pictures really help…I never used the raggedy old [text] books, we used to have…but now I like these new books and there’s so many, I feel like I’m at the library…you can investigate history and science facts and some books even disagree; then we go to Mr. Xxx and he says “look it up on the web,” so we become investigators.

The books help me learn to read cuz I can go ‘til I find a book that makes sense to me and then there’s another book and then another so I can read as many as 3 books sometimes in one class and that’s a lot…yeah, but you don’t gotta read a whole book to find what you need so you don’t really read 3 books but look at maybe more…and Mrs. Xxx says that’s okay…and you still learn a lot…the trouble with these books is that they make you ask a lot of questions and then Mr. Xxx says the answers are in these books, find ‘em…yeah then you gotta read more.

–7th grade focus group

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The Way School Should Be: Navigating Learning with Text Sets

By Lauren Freedman, Western Michigan University

Don’t let school get in the way of a good education. Mark Twain

Ok! I introduced the books and ninety minutes later, I was physically taking books out of students’ hands and pushing them out the door. Let’s talk about getting more of these for other units. A teacher using text sets for the first time

While sometimes school can be irrelevant, it doesn’t have to be. In fact, school can provide the beginnings of a fabulous life exploration that takes children on adventure after adventure learning about the world in which they live while laying the foundation to preserve it and change it as needed. While books (and other print media) are often thought of as providing mirrors and/or windows, I contend that they provide living, breathing, breathtaking experiences (albeit vicariously). Continue reading