In the first module of our 5th Grade curriculum, we explored the question, “What are human rights, and how do real people and fictional characters respond when those rights are threatened?” During our module lessons, we read the novel Esperanza Rising which is about a young girl who moves from Mexico to California during the Great Depression. In addition to reading the novel, we also did close readings of numerous articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). We used what we learned from reading the UDHR to identify events in Esperanza Rising where a character’s human rights were threatened.
While our thinking about human rights and what it looks like to have those rights threatened could have stopped there, we used our labs block time to take it a step further. Students broke into groups and read articles about current and past events. They then worked to identify how the articles provided examples of human rights being threatened. For example, one group researched the story of Dr. Ossian Sweet, a successful African American physician who moved to Detroit in 1924 and bought a house in a predominantly white neighborhood. Students identified how his “Right to Property” (UDHR Article #17) was threatened when white mobs attacked him and his family shortly after they moved into their new house. Another group looked at examples of voting rights violations and identified how UDHR Article #2, “Don’t discriminate”, was threatened in those instances.
Based on what they learned from their research, students then wrote monologues from the perspective of someone who lived through the event they studied. During their module block, students worked to understand what makes an effective monologue by studying model monologues and analyzing the characteristics that made them engaging. Again, we extended that work into our labs block as students worked with their groups to write their monologue using the details they had learned during their research.
Finally, it was time to get ready to perform our monologues! Students identified the attributes of fluent readers and then practiced, practiced, and practiced some more in order to prepare to perform their monologues. While we love the learning that takes place during our module lesson, we are so thankful for the opportunity to extend our learning during our labs block!