African Lit Circles at MJS

From Paige Henry, MJS Language Arts Teacher...

The MEF made possible the formation of an 8th grade African-based lit circle this spring, and the books tied directly to issues studied in Social Studies.  Seven new titles enabled  us to create high-interest reading experiences while differentiating and meeting students' varying ability levels.  The lit circle was a tremendous success, as was the follow-up research project.  The students really enjoyed reading the novels and there was a lot of excitement throughout the classes for all of the titles (so much that it inspired our follow-up MEF grant request which is currently in the pipeline to expand the availability of titles). Additionally, I thought you would enjoy knowing that these novels and the in-depth study inspired the students so much that two of our students have begun organizing a local 5K for this fall specifically to benefit children in Africa.

From students...

"The (connection between Language Arts reading and Social Studies content) definitely made what I learned so much more memorable.  Instead of just seeing numbers and thinking, “Oh, that’s really terrible,” I now have a better grip on what the people were experiencing.  I thought about these problems for a long time even after reading.”  ~Jordan M.

“I now have a heightened awareness of several of the crises throughout Africa because of my lit circle novel, and also from what my classmates shared about their lit circle books as well as the activities they did.  Since we read about and researched different countries, I have grown more aware of other crises, not just the one I focused on for my novel and research paper.”  ~Casey M.

“Hearing about a crisis from the point of view of someone living through it is far more moving than learning general information about it. The main characters’ ages in Burn My Heart are in very close proximity to mine, so I could connect with them.”  ~Nick J.

“This research project was more compelling to me than others because I read A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk.  So many unfair and even inhumane things happen to kids younger than me. As a person who thinks of reading as a huge hobby, reading this book pushed me to realize there are hardships, real ones that are significant around the world today. This book, being a chord-striking and meaningful read, taught me what was going on with the Lost Boys in a way I really could not forget.” ~Sarah W.

“My experience with the Africa unit was like no other.  Learning about al the places and the troubles they went through while reading a book about it from the point of view of a kid my age really moved me.  Learning about emotional stuff is hard, and that’s what the Africa unit was, emotional.  Reading Lost Boy, Lost Girl really helped me, and I wondered how I would have handled such a horrible situation.”  ~Ben M.

“Rarely do I get a lit novel that I don’t drag through.  A Long Walk to Water was a piece of literature that I was never bored by. There was so much emotion and action, which really kept me “in” the book.  My project in Social Studies was also easier and more fulfilling because of the book.  I felt I had a better understanding of the material.” ~Mike B. 

“Sometimes in Social Studies, I think, ‘Why do I have to learn this? It’s on the other side of the world and has nothing to do with me!’  But by reading my novel, The Other Side of Truth, I could see how horrible it is through the eyes of a girl my age who had to live through such tragedy.  Studying Africa in SS while reading these lit circle novels really put the African crises in perspective.” ~Will H.

“I read Broken Memory.  In the book, a girl loses her mother to genocide.  Her story became real to me. I realized if I had been born back then in Rwanda, I, too, could have been in the same life or death situation. Anyone could have possibly been her.  When we learned about the Rwandan genocide in Social Studies, I was much more interested because I had read this novel.” ~Alex J.