At the start of the second lesson in this unit, we'll tap into the background knowledge we have as a class about the Middle East & Asia. Students are ask to complete this Entrance Ticket: Pooling Middle East Knowledge:
We are about to start a new unit centered around the Middle East. Before we begin, we will need to combine all of our background knowledge on the subject. What do you know about the Middle East? This can include countries that make up the area, facts about the culture, or the United State’s current involvement with the Middle East. Explain below.
As kids finish, they can pick up their independent reading texts and silently read.
To be honest, my knowledge of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict is very limited. I am ultimately uncomfortable explaining it to students for two reasons.
A. This topic is very heated. There are people who represent both sides everywhere.
B. I am relatively uneducated when it comes to this topic. I conduct research and have learned about it alongside my students, but still feel uncomfortable diving in.
Luckily, I teach in a community where there is a lot of tolerance. I think the novels chosen for this unit do a nice job showing multiple perspectives. Also, the documentary "Promises" does a fabulous highlighting the Palestinian & Israeli conflict in a kid appropriate manner. I watched this documentary film before I taught the unit for the first time, and honestly, it really helped me to better understand the conflict in the region.
This is a sensitive issue. And I tell students this before we begin our brief discussion, which is hopefully based mostly on research.
Then we dive into the reading portion. At each table, there is a stack of novels.
Students are told that today we'll begin a new unit. This unit consists literature circles, all with books set in the Middle East or Asia.
Little Piece of Ground
Beneath My Mother's Feet
Words in the Dust
I try to get kids excited about these texts in a couple of ways:
1. I have book talked the texts before, mentioning why I love so many of the novels. I find having and then sharing a personal connection to some of the texts is an effective way to get kids excited about the unit.
Did you know that Words in the Dust reminds me a ton of Cinderella, wicked stepmother and all?
Can you imagine not being able to leave your own house without your dad or brother as an escort? Well in The Breadwinner, our protagonist is trapped!
I make sure to mention the war backdrop in many of these novels. Kids can't imagine what it must be like growing up in a place where bombs and shootings are daily happenings.
GoogleBooks is a great resource for finding out more about each of these novels, as well as having the kids dig deeper into previewing these texts.
By the end of the day: students should have filled in a sheet Ranking Books for the Unit, which you will use as a guide when making the literature circle groups. I always add, please don't be disappointed if you don't get your first or even second choice. You can always read any of these books independently--and you never know, a novel might surprise you. All of these texts are rewarding in different ways.
At the end of the period today, we continue watching the documentary "Promises," which we'll continue in small chunks for the remainder of the unit.
"Promises presents a powerful portrait of seven Palestinian and Israeli children who live in and around Jerusalem. As filmmaker B.Z. Goldberg, who was raised in Israel, notes, They live no more than 20 minutes from each other, but they are each growing up in very separate worlds. The children include Mahmoud, Shlomo, Sanabel, Faraj, Moishe, and twins Yarko and Daniel."
-taken from topdocumentaryfilms.com
The purpose of watching this documentary is so kids can build background knowledge on a part of the world that many know very little about.