Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I Think I Unwittingly Encouraged a Class of Third Graders to Become Hobos

I wanted to get my kids invested in the story out of the reader this week. The story is called Leah's Pony. It is a story about a little girl living in farm country during the Great Depression, and it is written by Elizabeth Friedrich.

"It can't be that hard to help these kids connect the Great Depression with life today," I thought to myself. So, we started out by talking about what the phrase "hard times" means.

"Hard times means having no money," one of my students declared. "It's like the other day, my mom said, 'You can't just buy gum anymore these are hard times.'"

"Okay," I said, "What else does it mean?"

"No jobs."
"Smaller houses."
"No food."

I thought things were going pretty well, because usually Historical Fiction takes a lot more work. I was excited to show my kids a few video clips I scouted out on the internet. First, we looked at some stuff on the Dust Bowl. My kids were quite certain, no matter how much I told them that the Dust Bowl was worse, that the Dust Bowl was exactly like the dust storms we have here. "Well, these pictures look exactly like a dust storm," said one of my students looking at me skeptically. I decided to move on, figuring that they had a vague notion of what the Dust Bowl was. Next, we watched a couple of clips on bread lines, hooverville, and the Great Depression in general.

I was hoping the kids would get a feel for the hard times this story is set in. What did they actually pick up from the movie? Lots of people used to be hobos.

As soon as the video was over hands were up all over the room.

"So, hobos didn't do any work; they just rode around on railroads?"
"They slept outside?"
"Were they all friends?"

They were all really intrigued about hobos.

I was hoping my students would be really invested in the moral of this story. I was hoping they would see how important it is in our hard times now that we help each other out like the characters in the story. Instead they are all considering becoming hobos. I'm going to board my room up on Career Day!

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