Thursday, October 11, 2018

Celebrating Diversity with the Mentor Text: The Day You Begin

When you look across your classroom, what do you see? Are your students from similar backgrounds and cultures and do they have similar experiences?

Or do you see a diverse group of kids who come from different places, speak different languages, and struggle to find a place that feels like home?

Either way, as teachers, we have two responsibilities for kids when choosing books: to reflect their experiences with books that serve as mirrors, and to expose them to different lives, with books that serve as windows.

The Day You Begin is an absolutely beautiful book that can serve as both a window and a mirror, depending on your students' experiences.

If you haven't read this book yet, it's definitely a must-read.

The Day You Begin is a lyrical book that shares the experiences of students who have moved to a new, foreign place, and how they are struggling to feel like they belong. The children in the book have come from different places, and their experiences, lunches, names, and languages are different. They feel that "no one is quite like you." And it's not a good feeling.

Over time, they realize they can share themselves and find connections between themselves and other children and "the world opens itself up a little wider to make some space for you."

I dare you to read this book without crying. Seriously, I read it three times in a Barnes & Noble and got choked up each time.

The language of this book is incredibly moving and flowing, engaging the reader from the beginning and asking them to make connections to their own experiences or to people they know. It demands empathy.

And that's exactly how I would use this book. Making connections to oneself, to another text, to the world, and even to each other is a beautiful homage to the intent of this book. Here's what I would do:

1. Read the book, several times. 
Talk to students about your experiences and notice the beautiful language of the book together. Point out the way the author describes feelings and ensure that students understand the meaning. Have real conversations about the book. There's a lot to talk about, despite the short lines.

2. Student-to-Student Connections
Assign students randomly. Give each pair a Venn diagram. Have them brainstorm the things that make them similar and different. This freebie below is a good way to get them started, as it has little categories across the bottom that can help them think about how they're alike and different. Then have them use the sentence starters to write about their similarities and differences!

3. Text-to-Self Connections
Not everyone has had the experience of moving from another place to land in a new home, but most of us have felt like we don't quite belong. Encourage students to talk about a time they have felt like the characters in the book.

4. Text-to-Text Connections
Have students think back to other texts you have read with them or that they've read on their own. What makes this book similar? If you need a few ideas for titles, check out the other titles in this Celebrating Diversity Link-Up and add to your collection!

5. Text-to-World Connections
There are more than enough stories in the world that we can connect this text to. Have students think about things that are going on in the world and use those things to connect the book to the world.

You could actually do one of these things each day for a week and reread the book each day. By Friday, students will have done many different levels of thinking and this experience should follow them as they grow!

Download the Student-to-Student Connections Venn Diagram here on Google Drive!
And head to Amazon to get The Day You Begin with my affiliate link!

The Reading Crew is sharing so many great diverse books today! Click below to learn about some more diverse books to add to your library!

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