“OK, today in focus we’re going to read Grandfather’s Journey together. We will find new words on each page, talk about vocabulary and meaning.”
“Me! I know!” Marshall waved his hands. “It is….the father of your father.”
“Also the father of your mother, right?” Charlotte asked.
“Abuelo?” Kit looked to Marshall.
“Yes, abuelo,” I nodded. “But what about journey?”
“I think it means hat,” offered Julian.
“Sombrero?” Kit was surprised.
“No,” I shook my head. “Journey means ‘trip’. It means…to travel. To go somewhere else.” Blank looks. I grabbed a white board and drew–badly–what I call in my history classes the Great American Porkchop with an airplane, also rendered poorly.
“Ahhh!!” Comprehension. They didn’t laugh. So don’t you mock my artwork.
Charlotte said, “So I took a….journey from the Congo?”
“I took a journey to India?” asked Amit.
I pointed to “Here” on my sketch. “In a journey, your beginning point is from. Your end point is to.”
“So I came from China to America?” asked John.
“OK. I took a journey from China to here.”
“I…journey from Mexico to America.”
“took a journey,” said Charlotte.
“Either. I journeyed from Mexico to America is good, or I took, or I made, a journey” is good. Kit?”
“I….took journey from Mexico to America.”
“Sebastian, put the phone away or you’ll lose it.”
“I journey from China to…here.”
Fun, clear learning, but five minutes had gotten me through two words.
“My grandfather was a young man when he left his home in Japan and went to see the world. He wore European clothes for the first time and began his journey on a steamship.”
“Look at the difference between Grandfather in the first picture and then on the steamship.”
“He is not wearing…same clothes.” from Amit.
“Oh! He is dressed like he is from Japan!” said Julian, “and now he is dressed like an American. Why is that European?”
“So does everyone see what Julian means? He is dressed in what we call traditional clothes. This story is about the past, yes? About a long ago time?” Nods. “Well, in this long ago time, Europe was more well-known than America. Today, Julian thinks of America before Europe. Today, probably the best word to use for this sort of difference is ‘Western’. Why would he want to dress in different clothes, Kit?”
Kit is quiet, particularly compared to Marshall, whose American aunt is really helping him develop skills. He paused. “He…belong?”
“He won’t be strange,” offered Charlotte.
“Yes, he wants to fit in, or assimilate. Good! Back to the book. The Pacific Ocean surrounded him.”
“Océano Pacífico!” Marshall beamed. “That’s here.”
“Yes, and now we know the first part of his journey,” I walk over to the large wall map. “He left from Japan” (points) “and traveled across the Pacific Ocean. Where will he end up?”
“AMERICA!” chorused from all six.
“What does surround mean? Sebastian?” Sebastian tried to check with Julian in Chinese, but I stopped him. “He is on a boat, yes? In the Pacific Ocean? What would he see?”
“Amit, would he see land?” Amit was puzzled. I went back to the map, showing the trip. “He would be here. Would he see land?’
“No. Only water.”
“Yes. Surround means that everywhere you look, you see only one thing. It could be water. It could be people.”
“So what does ‘surround’ mean, Kit?”
“All around.” Sebastian.
“For three weeks he did not see land. When land finally appeared, it was the New World.”
“Kit, we just talked about days of the week. How many days in the week?”
“Seven,” jumped in Amit.
“Is that right, Kit?” Kit nodded. “So if the grandfather traveled for three weeks, and each week is seven days–and this is only for Kit–how many days did he travel?”
Kit clearly knew the answer, but needed time to put it in English. I held back everyone else with my hand, giving him time. “Vienti…no. Twenty. Twenty one.”
“Twenty one days on a boat?” Charlotte was skeptical.
“It was a steamship, which would be faster than sailing.” I googled up an image on my cell phone and held it up and walked around to give kids a look.
“Oh, so he didn’t fly on a plane,” Julian. “Twenty one days is a long time.”
“Yes. We can travel more quickly these days. That changes everything. Think about how different you would feel if you had to travel for twenty one days.”
“Please–I would travel more, yes?”
“Longer, not more. Yes, it is a longer journey from India.”
Sebastian was puzzling over the second sentence. “What is New World?”
“America,” Marshall offered.
“Yes, all America. North and South. Mexico is part of the New World. So is Canada.” Back to the map. “All of this.”
“He explored North America by train and riverboat and often walked for days on end. So a riverboat is a boat that travels on a river, yes? Who can tell me what a river is? Kit?”
“Yes. Like the Mississippi, here on the map. It’s a…long.. you know? It’s long, but much skinnier than an ocean. Also, ocean is salt water. Rivers are in countries and are not salty.”
“Rio Grande!” from Marshall.
Amit looked confused. I googled “Punjab rivers” and then brought up an image of the Chenab to show him.”
“Oh! Yes. Rivers. Big. Punjab has many rivers. Five.”
“Charlotte is from Africa, which has the Nile,” said Julian.
Charlotte snorted. “The Nile is in Egypt. We have the Congo River.”
“What does explore mean?”
“Aagh!” Marshall smacked his head. “No sé cómo decirlo en Inglés (at least, that’s what Google says he said.) Uh, he looks at. No. Looks…deep.”
“Explore means to learn about…to study. No…is that it?” said Charlotte.
“Yes, Marshall and Charlotte have it right. Explore means to learn about a new place, a new idea–or maybe something you already know a little bit about. Marshall says ‘deep’, to go deep into a subject. Good work! Now, think about that with journey.”
Julian said, “So you go on a journey to explore.”
“Outstanding. Let’s put it in the story terms. We are reading a story about the author’s grandfather, who has crossed the….”
“Pacific Ocean” they chorused.
“Good! Deserts with rocks like enormous sculptures amazed him.”
“What is ‘amazed’?” asked Charlotte.
“I don’t know. What is a sculpture?”
“it’s art formed out of a hard material–rock, or metal.” I googled “rock formations America” and held up the results one by one. To a kid, they all gasped in…
“Yes. You see that feeling? That is amazed. See how you are all thinking oh, how beautiful. How you didn’t know about such beauty. It’s when you see something good…or bad..or just different. But something you didn’t expect. So when you came to America, what amazed you?”
“The food,” offered Charlotte instantly. “I was..amazed at how much food. How much you could eat..how much you could have. It is wonderful.”
“I was amazed that you can take cellphones to class. But mostly that you can ride bikes on the road, with cars,” from Julian.
I chuckled. “Yeah, that’s a quick way to die in China, huh?”
“Here the cars have to stop!”
“See Julian’s behavior, guys? He is acting amazed. Sebastian, what amazed you about America?” Sebastian clearly understood the question, but said something in Chinese to Julian.
“Oh, that’s true,” Julian turned to me. “He said..oxygen. You can’t see it here.”
“The air! Yes, the air in America is so much cleaner, so much clearer, is that it?” Sebastian nodded. “So can you put that in a sentence?”
“I was amazed at the clean air in America.”
“Good! Back to the book. The endless farm fields reminded him of the ocean he crossed. Endless? Kit?”
“Keeps on going.” said Marshall. “But what is field?”
“A field is an open space, a big one. A farm field is an open space used to grow food.” I googled corn fields and wheat fields . We determined that the grandfather was seeing wheat fields in this picture.
“So the author is making a comparison. Just as he traveled across the Pacific for twenty-one days, surrounded on all sides by water, so too did these fields seem to go on forever.”
“Like an ocean,” said Max.
“Yes. See how the author drew the fields to look like an ocean, surrounding the grandfather? Huge cities of factories and tall buildings bewildered and excited him.”
“Who can tell me what bewildered means?”
Amit, galvanized, pulled out his phone, looked at me for permission. I nodded, and he handed me the results.
“Ah!” the class chorused. They all got it at once.
“So bewilder means to confuse you, to see or experience something that fills you with questions. Nice job, Amit.”
“I…feel bewildered a lot.” Amit replied, and everyone nodded.
“Welcome to America!” laughed Chancelle.
“He marveled at the towering mountains and rivers as clear as the sky.”
“But ‘tower’ is like a building,” puzzled John.
“Maybe the mountains are big, like tower,” offered Max.
“Yes, that’s it. Like a tower. He’s comparing the mountains to a tower, like this.” and I googled some towering buildings. “See? What does marveled mean?“
Kit muttered something.
“What? Could you say it again?”
“Ah, yes, like…” Max, like me, uses his hands to fill in blank spaces.
“Would you say marvelous is like amazed?”
“Yes!” Charlotte beamed. “They mean the same thing!”
“Close to it. So notice, let’s page back. The author said his grandfather is amazed, excited, and that he marveled. All of these words have similar meanings. So the author is creating…making a mental image for you.”
“The grandfather is seeing many things that surprise him but…they are good things,” Julian nodded.
“Please–the words mean the same?”
“Not every word, Amit–but amazed…do you see, go back? Amazed and now to the cities page. Excited and now the mountains page…marveled. Everyone see those words? They all have very similar…very close meanings.”
“But not ‘bewildered’.”
“Good! Bewildered is something different. That’s why the author writes yet .See that small word? Yet means that he was confused but still feeling…”
“He is confused but happy he is seeing all this.”
“Exactly! Going on: He met many people along the way. He shook hands with white men and black men, with yellow men and red men. In Japan, would he have seen only other Japanese people. Julian, Sebastian, did you see people who weren’t Chinese before you came to America?”
“No,” Sebastian shook his head. “Only…movies.”
“Only in movies. Charlotte, Congo is mostly black people, but there are some white people there, too, right?”
“Yes, also Chinese. Not…many. But some Chinese.”
“Chinese people in Africa?” John couldn’t believe it.
“Yes, Chinese people are starting to build businesses in Africa. Asia and Africa are less diverse–they are mostly one race. Well, not North Africa.”
“Yeah,” Charlotte nodded emphatically. “Egypt, Libya, they… have more types. More races. More…mix.”
“Mexico, too,” said Max, and Kit nodded.
“Yes. North and South America have had more than one race for many years–because we’re the New World. Many people from different places came here. Mostly white in North America at first, but still blacks and Hispanics, and even some Asians. But Asia, particularly East Asia, doesn’t see many differences.”
“India has many types,” said Amit.
And the bell rang. Nine pages.
Debrief and other thoughts soon.
September 29th, 2016 at 7:05 pm
I don’t know what was more painful, reading the discussion or the “Focus” document.
I know kids like that who were born here. Oh boy.
September 30th, 2016 at 2:51 pm
What do you think of Saxon algebra? Supposedly the testing all shows better performance, even with same teachers and student population.
But ed schools (perhaps you too) don’t like how mechanical it is.
September 30th, 2016 at 3:37 pm
No, Saxon is for smart kids. Don’t know of any low ability kids benefiting from Saxon.
October 1st, 2016 at 2:47 pm
http://newsok.com/article/1993404 (I would links to other studies, but worried about your spam filter)
I’ve heard the opposite complaint. Saxon is too much slanted towards low ability kids! Which is it?
One of the things that you mention a lot: the teachers DO teach the not understood concepts, even remedially, but the kids don’t remember it. I would think Saxon (with 75% of the homework as continuous review) would be a great approach for that problem.
Of course it does reduce the importance of the sage on a stage. But then again, this is not English class talking about the Globe theater or movie appreciation. The way to learn math is by doing it. It is more like music or sports. Practice is the key.
October 2nd, 2016 at 12:06 am
I go back and forth on that. I agree practice is the key, but since kids won’t practice, what else can they get from it?
October 2nd, 2016 at 2:56 am
Just look into it.
October 1st, 2016 at 2:19 pm
Wow. Talk about starting from first principles. I commend your patience, attempting to bridge language, place and time. What a beautiful book, by the way.
Surely, for your next lesson you should ignore the class and just look at your iPhone, texting your friends or writing your next blog post?
October 1st, 2016 at 2:27 pm
hahaha. It would get me more blog posts, that’s for sure. This has been a busy month, as the next entry (hopefully soon) will show. And thanks!
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