Classroom book-a-day is a strategy to be implemented every day of the school year. Every day the teacher will choose a high interest picture book to read aloud to their students. Teachers can use this time in many different ways, but the main goal of this strategy is to build community through literacy. This strategy can be used at any time of the day and is appropriate for all grade levels, as there are picture books for both young and old. In the end the teacher and students will have roughly 180 picture books read throughout the year that have run the gamut of topics and issues. Teachers can reinforce concepts like global warming, racism, acceptance, gender, and a teacher can find many opportunities to include diverse authors as well as characters. This strategy has the power to open up dialogue within the classroom. Students that may not be used to hearing their stories, suddenly do and students with little exposure to other cultures and ideas are hearing them through the voices of others.
In order to build a responsive classroom community that is rooted in culturally responsive practices, it is important to have the space reflect what the students want it to look like, feel like, and sound like as well. Students who have an active role in describing and transforming a space into what they want are more likely to feel invested in the well-being of that space. Use this strategy at the beginning of the year and when introducing a new routines or procedures. The classroom is shared space, a community built on the foundation that all voices matter and should be heard.
Teachers and students are with one another day in and day out. How do teachers create an environment where students feel heard and seen when so much is directed by the teacher? Validating language is one way to ensure that students feel that their voice and perspective have power and meaning. Using validating language is easy, yet it takes a conscious effort of the teacher or adult to listen and not dismiss a students feelings or actions. Teachers should use this strategy anytime a student expresses or shows how they are feeling. This strategy is as simple as saying, "I hear you," and as complex as asking for clarification, "I think I hear you say that..." Regardless of how the teacher enters into the conversation, this strategy is essential in building a positive relationship between the student and teacher.
Exploring the idea of privilege with students offers the teacher and class a chance to engage in rich discussion about the systems in place that benefit one group over another. Throughout history and today many groups are given privileges or inherit certain privileges that are unearned. Through picture books, podcasts, articles, and video, elementary-age students will ask questions and begin to dig into this complex topic.
Students use the essential question, "What was the intent vs. impact of..." to deepen their understanding of historical and current events. Using this overarching question, rich discussion and dialogue is able to take place while also decentering privilege and often times a Eurocentric viewpoint, especially related to historical events. Students question the status quo and the normalization of certain practices while they dig into current events such as policing, policies, and rights.