We head, once again on a Friday morning, to R.C. Mixed Primary. Our first class this morning is fortunate to receive the Hand-Me-Down stories from Mrs. Ross’s 5th graders at HIES. We introduce the concept of family narratives and personal tales before handing out the colorful books. The students sit with intertwined arms holding the books so they can point, word-by-word, with their fingers. They read softly together, sometimes speaking in unison and sometimes alternating words in close collaboration. This theme – One World, Many Stories – has been particularly challenging at times, but today is rich in worth. The stories offer novel ideas, new words, and historical depth for students reading in their second language. We are impressed by how little assistance they need and how well they read the work from their friends in America a year ahead of them in school. The students quietly compose their own stories, which are as varied as the personalities in the room; some books are religious based, some outline lessons, and others resemble more lists.
We work with our second class of the day on the portraits created by the 5th grade students at SPARK. We hold the pictures up for everyone to see and we describe the details included within each drawn skull. The students stare and look inspired. They excitedly and politely pass large pieces of paper around the room and we assume that they will be quick to begin. We notice, after a few minutes, that they are noticeably daunted by the task at hand. We attempt to help, Amy traces Erin’s profile onto the board, but this proves to be more comedic than instructional (it was misshapen and terribly exaggerated) so it takes a couple of tries before we are certain that the students understand the process. Once they start to put pencil to page, we decide to hang the long facial portraits in the sun-filled windows. They float and flip as the students braved new artistic realms with the aid of their friends’ work blowing in the slight breeze. We play music to liven the room. The students move their shoulders and upper bodies first; some take a bopping stroll down the desk aisles, while others are so focused that they seem not to notice the world around them.