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Hidden Stories of Change: Relevant Biographies and Non-fiction for the History Classroom

by Charlene Klassen Endrizzi with Karen Matis

Cover of The Grand Mosque of Paris depicting Jewish families walking into a blue mosque.

This week we continue our exploration of “Hidden Stories” by revealing historical personalities too often overlooked. We zero in on adolescent books highlighting change agents chosen by history preservice teachers.

“I took many history courses in high school and college. Why have I never heard of these events?” (Makenzie, history major). This refrain, in response to Isabel’s Learning Invitation on the nonfiction book The grand mosque of Paris: A story of how Muslims rescued the Jews during the Holocaust (Ruelle, 2010), became a familiar response as we delved further into our hidden stories exploration. Continue reading

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Hidden Stories of Courage: Relevant biographies for the ELA classroom

by Karen Matis with Charlene Klassen Endrizzi

Cover of How We Are Smart depicting six Black historical figures.

As collaborators in our work with secondary education preservice teachers each fall, we offer a month long look at picture book biographies filled with stories of courageous, determined global citizens that will especially appeal to adolescents.

The selected biographies we share present “Hidden Stories” of diverse writers, historical figures, mathematicians and scientists, all courageous activists who tackled their own set of problems in by-gone years. Our goal focuses on offering inspirational moments through relevant texts, thus revealing spirited advocates for change.

The past year brought unrest into the lives of many adolescents. In the midst of their naturally occurring coming of age insecurities, young people also endured circumstances resulting from health, social justice and political uncertainties. Such upheaval creates openings for middle school teachers to pause and ponder much needed moments of inspiration. We invite you to our discussion of inspiring picture books that encourage adolescents to consider their own lives in juxtaposition to others who also faced uncertainties in their lives. Continue reading

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Responsible Citizens, Workers and Activists: Uncovering Informational Text Trios

By Charlene Klassen Endrizzi with Karen Matis

text trios
Open minds Operate best.
Critical thinking Over tests.
Wisdom can’t be memorized.
Educate! Agitate! Organize!

Nagara, 2013

Innosanto Nagara’s ambitious declaration parallels Eel’s change of heart which initiated Karen’s and my month-long investigation into Responsible Citizens and Workers. A is for Activist embodies an edginess designed to encourage teachers and students to contemplate action. Our classrooms need to include more moments of agitation where teachers and students are nudged to evaluate their current lives and ponder civic responsibility. Continue reading

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Responsible Citizens: Considering the Power of Words

By Karen Matis with Charlene Klassen Endrizzi

the power of words
“I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race.”
from The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, 2012

Death, an unconventional narrator, contemplates this final thought in Marcus Zusak’s historical fiction novel The Book Thief. In the context of World War II, these words offer a blunt description of a citizen who stands up for what is right and the possible unfortunate consequences of becoming an advocate for others. This week we continue our investigation of Responsible Citizens alongside a different seventh grade class studying The Book Thief. I offered this rhetorical question to help students contemplate Zusak’s thoughts related to their lives: “With which group do you want to be associated? the overestimated, popular opinion, or the underestimated, who labor against the grain to enact positive change?” Continue reading

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Responsible Citizens and Workers: Tackling Informational Texts

By Karen Matis with Charlene Klassen Endrizzi

tackling informational texts

One fascinating aspect of the seventh graders’ questions during our conversation after the author Skype was their curiosity regarding specific vocabulary (such as “cesspool” or “costermonger”) used by Hopkinson. I think Dr. Matis’ Word Wall was a great tool for students, allowing them to discuss and learn new words.

Ben Gaul, history preservice teacher

This week we continue our exploration of what it means to be responsible citizens using The Great Trouble, Stolen Dreams, and companion web resources. My two seventh grade classes started our exploration of The Great Trouble with a Word Wall. Like Ben noted, I also see students’ engagement with texts increase if we collectively analyze unfamiliar words. The first word selected to place on our wall was “mudlark,” a term introduced and defined on page one. Readers eagerly contributed to the wall when they came across new vocabulary. To help students connect to words of low practical use but an integral part of understanding The Great Trouble, we acted out new terms or mimicked facial expressions to physically demonstrate a word’s meaning. Continue reading

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Responsible Citizens and Workers: Nurturing Ethical Viewpoints in Seventh Grade

By Charlene Klassen Endrizzi with Karen Matis

examine civic responsibility“Instead of looking with my eyes, I decided to see with my heart.”
(Eel, mudlark in The Great Trouble by Deborah Hopkinson, 2013)

Eel, an adolescent protagonist, along with larger than life teens like Iqbal Masih and Malala Yousafsai from Pakistan, became central figures in a four week exploration of Responsible Citizens and Workers. Overarching questions like “What makes a responsible citizen?” and “What makes a responsible worker?” initiated a collaborative inquiry between Karen’s 45 seventh graders and 12 secondary education minors enrolled in my literacy course. Previous interactions with Deborah Hopkinson led us to contemplate various social justice themes in her books. We set out to create opportunities for middle school readers to explore their place in the world and consider avenues for making meaningful contributions. Eel’s ethical outlook of “see[ing] with my heart” invited adolescents and preservice teachers to examine civic responsibility in their present day lives. Continue reading