When Lynsey asked me to read this book, I skimmed the first chapter and fell in love with the idea of really listening to my students and the questions they have about their world.
I think that is really the heart of what Vasquez invites us to explore and observe our students during the school day. She says to pay attention to the things that bother them, things that make them happy , the questions they ask, their worries and their passions.
This year I heard kids asking things like...why don't the girls get to play soccer at recess? And, after reading aloud Lauren Castillo's Twenty Yawns with my first graders, a student wondered about how the little brown girl could have a white daddy. I responded to these questions by reading more books that allowed my students to have interactive conversations about gender and race. But , I feel like it wasn't enough. It wasn't enough because I feel like I was missing the action piece for my student. Vasquez writes:
...critical literacies are not just about disrupting, critiquing, or thinking deeply about texts: They also need to be about the active production and redesign of those problematic ways of being. p.4
So this year, we will be talking and thinking together about their curiosities and passions and I want to frame them in a way that they are actively thinking and leading the conversation. We will be creating a space for their questions, texts we read the work they do thinking about these questions and responding to them on what Vasquez calls an audit trail or learning wall. This Vasquez defines as the thinking that is meant to be visible not only to the people in the classroom community but to others in the school community as well. p.37
It seems hard to imagine at first... but I keep slowing myself down to envision it simply: starting with a question the classroom is interested in studying. Then taking photos of artifacts/ stories/ writings that grow the conversation and kids thinking about how one question can turn into the next question. Gradually placing the ideas publicly so everyone can watch it grow---this is what I imagine the learning wall unfolding into. (I know I likely oversimplified this but I need to feel confident about it all as the year begins to really stick with it!)
What I am appreciating about Vasquez's book is being able to read about a classroom wall she negotiated with her students. She shares their questions, how she responded with specific texts and how to respond and teach our youngest learners to think critically about situations with questions---What roles are given to males, females? Who are the powerful characters, weak characters? Do you know people in your life like the characters in the book? What are the things you know people can do that the characters in the book can't do? What can we do to change the story? Who is telling the story? Why might they be telling the story in that way? p.66
I'm still reading and reflecting on how Vivian Maria Vasquez's work will help guide and support our work next year. I've talked with Lynsey about documenting our wall digitally and figuring out how kids will explore topics their interested in, what those invitations will look like and thinking about the time we will have for this each day. I have to say I can't remember feeling so excited to start a school year even after 21 years of teaching. I feel renewed by reading this book and feel like my students now, more than ever are in need of a critical lens with which to view and think about their world.