|It’s Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts|
Over the last two weeks, I’ve made several visits to the Tenement Museum in New York City . The mission of this marvelous resource is to:
… tell the stories of 97 Orchard Street. Built on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 1863, this tenement apartment building was home to nearly 7000 working class immigrants.
They faced challenges we understand today: making a new life, working for a better future, starting a family with limited means.
The Tenement Museum preserves and interprets the history of immigration through the personal experiences of the generations of newcomers who settled in and built lives on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, America’s iconic immigrant neighborhood; forges emotional connections between visitors and immigrants past and present; and enhances appreciation for the profound role immigration has played and continues to play in shaping America’s evolving national identity.
Through tours and discussion groups, the historians who work at the museum have a lot to teach us about how to present history in a dynamic, interesting and relevant way. I knew I would learn a lot about how to better use photographs and artifacts in my teaching, and I was right. The museum also offers workshops, and I’ve just signed up for one in August which promises to open my eyes to new information and resources as well.
I had to spend time in the museums’ books shop, of course and while there picked up the following:
Marissa Moss is the creator of the Amelia’s Notebook series, which is a wonderful way to introduce and reinforce how to keep a Writer’s Notebook. Hannah’s Journal follows the same format – notebook entries, drawings, observations, asides and reflections – to tell the story of Hannah’s journey from a small Lithuanian shtetl to Ellis Island and New York City. Hannah records all she sees and feels, and her entries and drawings paint a detailed picture of what an immigrant’s life was like. This would be a great resource in our immigration unit.
I also picked up Russell Freedman’s Immigrant Kids :
First published in 1980, Freedman uses photographs to tell the story of the immigrant’s experience from the perspective of children – their lives at home, at school, at work and at play . The photographs, many by Jacob Riis, are amazing all by themselves – you can learn so much from studying their details.
But Freedman’s research also reveals fascinating information about how children adjusted to their new circumstances and surroundings, how they made do with extraordinarily challenging living conditions, and found ways to be children in spite of also shouldering work responsibilities. I like the way Freedman integrated the photographs with research and first person accounts – this is another great resource for my immigration unit.
Finally, I breezed through Jerry Spinelli’s Jake and Lilly.
My sixth graders love Spinelli – from Maniac Magee to Loser, we have all his books and many of them are also book club books (Loser, Stargirl and Wringer open up so many great avenues for discussion). When I see a new Spinelli book I know I’ll have to add it to our collection – and Jake and Lily is no exception.
Spinelli’s site offered this promising write up about Jake and Lily:
This is a story about me, Lily.
And me, Jake.
We’re twins and we’re exactly alike.
Whatever. This is a book we wrote about the summer we turned eleven and Jake ditched me.
Please. I just started hanging out with some guys in the neighborhood.
Right. So anyway, this is a book about
goobers and supergoobers
things getting built and wrecked and rebuilt
and about figuring out who we are.
We wrote this together
so you’ll get to see both sides of our story.
But you’ll probably agree with my side.
You always have to have the last word, don’t you?
Told in alternating voices, this is a story about kids learning to figure out who they are, even if there is someone else walking around who looks exactly like them. Both characters were well developed and their different perspectives on the same experiences were fun to read – I imagine my kids will have lots to say about this. As with all Spinelli books – the story moves along quickly, the voices are authentic and there are many details my kids will find hilarious. Another Spinelli success story!