Identity through 'mirrors' and 'windows'

Emerald Connection: October 3rd, 2023

By: Jen Fruend

Understanding the question, “How do you relate to Ramona?” is a much more interesting and complex question than “What does Ramona do that makes her brave?” Both inquiries assess the reader’s comprehension of a book, but the former involves high-level thinking and association. In their English/Language Arts class, 4th grade students have delved deeply intothe concept of identity. Exploring how we construct our own ideas of ‘self’, and define ourselves in relation to others.

During book club, students have chosen to read, “Bud, Not Buddy” or “Esperanza Rising,” both realistic fiction stories that follow the ups and downs of characters who go through struggles in their lives and have to learn and accept their identities. While reading, these 4th graders are looking for ‘mirror’ and ‘window’ moments within these stories. Mirror moments involve empathy– how do the character’s feelings and actions remind you of something you have experienced? Window moments encourage sympathy and compassion– how does the character’s experience teach you something new that you had not thought of before? The key to this exploration is authenticity, as students are encouraged answer these questions honestly, rather than arriving at pre-loaded responses. 

In addition to exploring rich literature, students were asked to create something that shows the world who they are, as part of their first Project-Based Learning (PBL) unit. Students brainstormed ideas and had individual meetings with Jen and Claire to help focus their project. Once the projects were completed, students learned about critique through the video, “Austin’s Butterfly” and then worked on how to verbally give  feedback when they were practicing their identity presentations.  We will culminate our unit when the 4th graders present their projects to the 7th grade class this week. 

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