Slice of Life: Beginning thinking about the past

Friday we visited Riley’s Farm to witness a bit of living history.  It’s the history we hope to understand and reenact at our school in a few weeks.

Monday we read to learn more.
We stayed offline.
Developing initial understandings from just right texts.
And with complex ideas, just right starts simple.

I handed students files of information culled from previous students’ research and the books I’ve collected over the years.
I asked students to start easy and build your understanding by asking…

What have I learned?
What does it make me think?

I sat down next to Selena*. She’s pleased with herself. “Look at the information I’ve collected.”  She lifts her notebook and points to the list of steps that were necessary to make a piece of fabric. Yes, I think. Step one down. Now for the slippery part, “So, what does this make you think?”

She stares at me. Probably disappointed in my response. She might be thinking, “Man, Mrs. Harmatz, always with the thinking. Can’t you give a girl a break?”  Her silent stare continues. I stare back. And eventually, she says, “It wasn’t easy to get clothes.”

With that, my mind spirals off to a place ten-year-olds will not go.
I’m thinking, what a comfortable life we lead. What do we do with all of that extra time?  But I ask, “Is this a new idea for you?”

I want her to see that everyone had to work for everything, so people didn’t have a lot of things or time or choice.

I want her to think about how there is so much extra time in our lives to learn, to think, to do.

I want her to think that this is still the case for so many girls in the world who have to work and don’t have the time to learn, to think, to do.

I want her to see all of that, but she’s ten. Connecting to people in the past is a challenging thing. Our lives are so very different.

She doesn’t make the connection. Yet. And that’s ok. Luckily, she has time. Tomorrow or the next day, maybe in 8th grade or perhaps in 11th grade or in college, when she talks with a group, perhaps she’ll think these thoughts.

The point is she will. This is just a beginning.

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers for Slice of Life Tuesdays. Read more slices here.


9 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Beginning thinking about the past

  1. You push your students’ thinking as far as they will take it. No forced connections. She’ll get there in her own time.

  2. It is hard, and for you “always with the thinking” is something students will remember because as you said, it may take a while to understand. One time I had my students write some kind of report, hand-write it, just as people did years ago. It had to be as error free as they would do on a computer, with bibliography, etc. It was eye-opening as I know you’re doing, or hoping for. It’s hard for me to imagine too. Thanks, Julieanne.

  3. I love the way you allow students to process. You always keep that most important word at the forefront, yet. I’ve been reading Vicki Vinton’s newest book, I see threads of it in your interaction with your student. 🙂

  4. This is so important for us to be mindful of:She doesn’t make the connection. Yet. And that’s ok. Luckily, she has time.
    Yes! She has time, and you have planted the seed.

  5. I love the prodding you do with questions, yet at the same time you make room for students to grow their thinking at their own pace. I love: “She doesn’t make the connection. Yet. And that’s ok.”

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