It seems that all of my activities over the last week have related to literacy. When my colleagues and I were on the train heading up to New York last weekend we ended up sitting next to Dana Gioia, the Chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts and got to see the pre-release copy of the report discussing how after middle school teenagers and adults stop reading and the impact of that on Society. You can access the report on the Publications page of the NEA website and read his comments about it on the Chairman's page. My former English teacher colleague and I had a wonderful conversation with Mr. Gioia and she got some wonderful ideas for her practicum (she is doing her MLS at Syracuse) which relate to literacy.
At the National Council of Teachers of English conference I got to attend a couple of sessions; one on how to deal with reluctant readers and one where the winners of the 2007 Notable Children's Books in Language Arts as selected by the Children's Literature Assembly were announced. Not all of the authors were in attendance but those that were there rotated from table to table so we could talk to them and learn more about the books they had written. It was a lot of fun especially talking to those who had written historical fiction and non-fiction books about how they chose the topics and how they did the research. It was also interesting to wander through the exhibit hall and see the new books. There is a lot of focus on graphic novels and how they are a tool to reach the reluctant readers many of the teachers are dealing with.
As for our session, we were told we only had 15 participants and ended up with 30. Things worked out but we were scrambling to make sure that everyone had the things they needed to participate in our hands-on activities. Next time we'll be a bit more forceful when asking for final numbers.
As for this week's chapter I found it very interesting how Takaki brought forward the literature of the time to talk about the African-American Migration. When he started talking about Zora Neale Hurston and Her Eyes were Watching God I immediately thought about the playscripts we have online and the Florida Folklife collection where you can actually hear her sing and tell some of the stories she learned while traveling in Florida. What a way to combine literature and history.
However I decided to go in a different direction. One of my favorite exhibitions in the recent past was the Smithsonian Museum exhibit from Field to Factory which looked at the migration of African-Americans to the north. I think I would use that as the basis for a lesson and have students create an exhibition about the great migration.
For those on the lowest level I would supply a large collection of photographs and have the students select images that related to the stories told in the chapter. I would ask them to write captions for the pictures and put them in order to tell the story of African American Migration from the north to the south.
For the middle level students I would have then find photographs but would ask them to look through the American Life Histories to find historical accounts to the travels to the north and the experiences that people had. One that I like (though it is a bit racy) is Harlem Rent Parties. Another interesting story is Jim Cole Negro Packinghouse Worker.
With the highest level students I would introduce them to the art of Jacob Lawrence and the Migration series that he painted that was exhibited at the Phillips Gallery a few years ago. I would ask them what they see in the paintings and what stories they tell. I would want them to compare and contrast what Lawrence has painted with what Takaki has written and then include pictures and materials from the Life History collections and other collections that would make this into a complete exhibit.
Some collections I might use for this project are
The African American Odyssey
FSA-OWI Photographs Of special interest will be some of the alley dwelling photographs
Images from the African American Experience in Ohio
Detroit Publishing Company images Note: Use the term African-Americans for searching.
African American Mosaic: Migration
LC's Prints and Photographs online catalog (tips for searching can be found here)
In Motion: Images from the Schomburg Center on Migration.
I might also use the National Atlases
to show changes in population centers and also show where the largest numbers of African Americans were located and how that changed over time and ask the students to include that in their museum exhibitions.