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A Time to Teach

Something is happening in our world. The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee –

the cry is always the same: “We want to be free.”

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
from the “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, his last before being assassinated.

To some, this is an uneasy thought: How do we address injustice, pain, and hurt with our youngest, smallest, most precious citizens? How do we teach about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other Black Historical heroes without the shame, horror and ugly truths of reality? Do we teach such things? How much and in what contexts?

First, educators, you must talk about this among yourselves. If this conversation is silent in your school, organization or lives, you must bring it up. We must bring it up because today is only 50 years from Selma and 20 years from the Million Man March, and solutions are still needed. Problem solvers are still needed and will be.

I thought I’d share resources we’re using in my own school. Here are just a few to help you with the conversation…


“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Martin Luther King.Jr


Recently I was chatting with some old friends about the topic of race. One said, “We can’t address that in school. The parents would be in an uproar.” Another said, “I mostly teach math and social studies. How could I fit racial inequality into the demands of the curriculum and the common core?” Both reasons are ones I have heard many times before from teachers. Real valid issues and concerns.

So how do we talk about racial inequality with kids in school?

A year ago Monique and I addressed this in our post Let’s Give ‘Em Something To Talk About

Let’s really talk about how this might go with a class of twenty-five fourth graders.

“The Other Side” by Jacqueline Woodson is one of the best books that really addresses racial differences, fear, and separation.

Interactive Read Aloud Plan: The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson

Common Core Standards Addressed:


Book Introduction:

The book we are gong to read today is one of my favorites of all time! It is called The Other Side. It is written by Jacqueline Woodson. Let’s look at the cover and really think about the title. Why do you think she titled this “The Other Side” and what might you expect to see in this book? Turn and tell your partner

Read pg. 1: Method of teaching–Teacher think aloud

Reading Skill: questioning with inference

Do a think aloud saying: That’s weird, I wonder why the mother said that? And why would the writer mention white people? Maybe the mother and her family are black and they are afraid of white people. Look at the cover again. The girl by the fence is white and the girl on the tire is black. OR maybe she had heard yelling from an adult and was afraid. Or maybe she is simply concerned about her daughter playing on a fence.

Read pg. 2: Method of teaching—Turn and Talk

Reading Skill: questioning with inference

Have the kids turn & talk as you listen in. Say: Guys, what are you wondering about? I wonder why….how come…? And then prompt: It could be…or maybe it’s because…

Read the next page (3) stopping at maybe yes, maybe no:

Method of teaching—Think Aloud

Reading Skill: Critical reading

Think Aloud saying: Hmm the narrator’s friend Sandra has a lot of power. She makes the decisions without even asking anyone. It’s interesting that the narrator is uncomfortable with that but doesn’t say so.

Read the next page (4):

Method of teaching—Turn & Talk

Reading Skill: Critical reading

Have the kids turn & talk as you listen in. Say: Interesting line Jacqueline Woodson the author included in her writing—“That summer everyone and everything on the other side of that fence seemed far away.” What do you think that means? Turn and tell your partner.

Read the next three pages stopping after reading pg. 7:

Method of teaching—Turn & Talk

Reading Skill: Prediction

Have the kids turn & talk as you listen in. Say: Hmm…she feels brave and free….interesting. Think about the tension that has been happening the text. What do you think is going to happen and think about how the narrator is feeling… Turn and tell your partner.

Read the next three pages stopping after pg 10 after “Neither did mine,” I said.

Method of teaching—Stop & Jot

Reading Skill: Checking on your prediction (correct or should you revise it) and predicting forward

Say: Readers was your prediction correct if not, revise it and add on to what you think might happen next keeping in mind the other characters in the book in their feelings. Stop and Jot on a post it.

Read the next pg. (11) and stop.

Method of teaching—Think Aloud

Reading Skill: Synthesis (character change)

The teacher says: Hmm… Remember earlier where Sandra decided that the group wouldn’t jump rope together and Clover didn’t say anything. Now Clover is ignoring her friends when they are being mean to Annie. Clover is standing up to them in a way. This is making me realize that she is changing because she knows Annie and she likes her and realizes she is a kind and fun person not a scary one like her mother said earlier.

Read the next pg (12) and stop

Method of teaching—Turn & Talk

Reading Skill: Synthesis (secondary character change)

Say: Interesting comment from Mama…Let’s think about this page. What did we learn here? How does this go with earlier and what does it make you think?

You might prompt with: This goes with earlier because or this is making me realize…or this is giving me new ideas…

Read to the last page and stop:

Method of teaching—Stop & Jot

Reading Skill: Theme

Say: Wow, these characters are teaching us so much? What do you think Clover and Annie might be teaching us? What is this story really, Really, REALLY about? Stop & Jot:

Might Prompt: Sometimes in life people…instead they…

When finished have a whole group Grand Conversation about the text. Some provocative ideas to prompt for are:

  • Who has the power in this book?
  • Whose perspective is being heard and why?
  • Whose perspective is not heard and why?
  • What is the theme of this text? Does it go with other themes we have read?
  • What lines struck you? Why do you think the author crafted them in such that way?
  • What is the significance of the title? The ending?
  • Does the main character remind you of other characters we have read and why?


“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Let’s have some faith, actually~

Monique & Christy





















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