In my reading classes, I'm talking about making personal connections to literature, how we're supposed to think as we read and how words, phrases, or ideas can set off a memory button and remind us of things that we've seen, heard, or experienced.
It's been a tough road, let me tell you.
When we read about Pompeii, my kids said, "But I've never BEEN in a volcano."
When we read about a train-traveling dog, they said, "But I've never SEEN a dog ride a train."
When we read about a giant Union soldier, they said, "But I've never GONE to war."
I think they're finally coming around, and in the process I am learning a lot about all of my students.
Yesterday and today, we read a story called "Coyote," about a Native American girl who, while visiting her grandfather's grave, scares away a potential relic hunter. I gave the class a list of words that appeared in the story and told them to write down whatever came to mind first. ("But I can't THINK of anything!") (Sigh.)
The first word on the list was coyote.
In every class, the majority of the students--boys in particular--told tales of shooting coyotes, of keeping coyotes off their land, of going deer hunting and killing coyotes they saw in the woods. They seemed to take great delight in besting each others' stories, until I grew tired of all the bloody rhetoric and went on to the next word.
As an example of how different backgrounds and experiences determine the connections we make with literature, I shared my own connection with the class. They hooted with laughter and flicked their hands in that gesture that means, "pshaw!"
Because when I hear the word coyote, I immediately think of this guy:
My students and I? We are VERY different.