Books Spark Discussion of Hair in a 5th Grade Classroom

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By Jill Tullish

"In a school where Black Lives Matter..."

In my 5th grade ELA class at Munda Verde Bilingual PCS, each day during the Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action a family member from our class came in and described what Black Lives Matter means to them. With gallery walks, unpacking, and connections students became experts on the 13 guiding principles of the Black Lives Matter Movement.

As a community each day we read a book each that centered around at least one of the guiding principles. We then had a small group discussion about how the book connects to our lives and then discuss the principles that were connected to the book. Each day we filled out a note catcher that that guided our investigation of what Black Lives Matter looks like, sounds like, and feels like in our school.

One day a parent came in to read Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut and Don't Touch My Hair and shared their personal connections with a great deal of knowledge and compassion. Every student was surprised to hear that not everyone in the class has the same experiences and or family traditions surrounding hair. Some students shared their experiences going to the salon with their mothers for the first time whole group, while others went into depth about the names of time it took to complete favorite hair styles.

It was clear each child had an "Ah ha!" moment. Our note catchers read: "In a school where black lives Matter....we would hear compliments about hair, see different hair styles, feeling comfortable to wear their hair anyway you want, hear conversations about the barber shop, respecting personal space and always asking for permission.

At the end of the week we used our note catchers and the pillars to create posters. The posters were copied and displayed around the school. In the hallways, classrooms, elevations, water fountains, etc.

This was such a beautiful week filled with affirmation and celebration! I am so thankful to everyone who organized BLM week of Action in D.C. because the resources and discussion they created at workshops is what guided our instructional discussions that are now positively influencing our school community.

Wed2019Allison Acosta