Thursday, March 8, 2012

Fantasy: an escape!

Last year I attended the annual conference sponsored by The Reading and Writing Project at the Teacher's College  of Columbia University. Every year it's held in New York City and I was so fortunate to have the support from my school and the chance to go with my mom and her coworkers. While at this conference I went to a presentation that inspired and moved me. It moved me so much that I made the next unit I taught fantasy.

Below you'll find the notes I made while in the presentation:

Presenter: Mary Ehrenworth
Session Title: Epic Books, Epic Readers: Coming of Age as a Reader of Fantasy
When you introduce a genre study it is important that you tell your students: what, why and what it will look like.
Why fantasy?
    1. Unleashes imagination
    2. Coming of age- How to be better? Events and issues that can be found in our everyday lives.
    3. So beautiful (worlds, escape from reality, characters, discoveries, etc)
    4. Preteens yearn to be extraordinary or more than they are. They yearn to transcend the ordinariness of their lives. We all yearn to do this. Fantasy allows this to happen through escaping into a story and its world.
    5. Fantasy can be used to lure children into life-long readers
    6. Vocabulary is advanced in fantasies (Tier III vocab) For example: hungry vs. ravenous (fantasy)
    7. Realistic fiction can often be inappropriate, as far as the content, but the reading level may match that of the student. Fantasy does not get inappropriate.
    8. Fantasies have complicated plots with cause and effect. People may die, but they are not inappropriate (Golden Compass- people die)
Fantasy Unit: Three components: volume, density, and complex comprehension

What’s been discovered is when kids WANT to read --------> they READ!!! (Example: Harry Potter series)

That was just a very small section of my notes, but the list has stuck with me for almost a year now. And the novel that we started? Yup, it's a fantasy novel; we're reading A Wrinkle in Time. What a classic, brilliant children's novel!

As I've been reading the novel during the past two days, I've realized that I've begun a journey with my students. Each day we are traveling into this story, into this world, and we are escaping from reality, as it says in number three above. No matter what's been going in in our lives, we get to escape for at least 30, sometimes 50 minutes of our day. It's not just the kids who really need to escape this year, it's me too. In those minutes, I finally get to forget my pain and recovery period and become active again.

And just as preteens yearn to be extraordinary and more than they are, this year I want it more than ever, too. In reading we can transcend the ordinariness and become magically cured for a time.

Fortunately, I teach three classes for 90 minutes each and so I get to escape during all of my class periods. There's no place I'd rather be than in the Murry family kitchen and watching/listening to Charles Wallace, a five year old, be the mother or father figural archetype! (I was so excited when some of the students pointed that out today!)

A Wrinkle in Time take me away! 


The headache continues to run strong, even though I sit in a swivel chair in the front of the room. The students are amazing and so are the teachers and aids who swoop in to take care of all of the walking and prompting tasks!

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