Among the Hidden

Among the Hidden is one of my FAVORITE novels we teach in the fifth-grade.  This year we had an issue come up with the book that I wonder if other schools have run into and if so, what are you going to do about!

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Among the Hidden is a novel about a young boy that is the forbidden third child.  His family has to hide him, as the country where there are living has a law against having more than two children.  The book also has Population Police that search for and arrest families with more than two children.  Luke, the main character of the book, wrestles with the fact that he is an illegal third child and looks for ways to gain freedom.

A situation that we are needing to address in our school is the students that are in the United States because of a policy, like the one in the book, in China.  Many children (mostly girls) have been adopted from China by families in the United States.  A lot of those children are given up for adoption because of the population laws in China.  We have several children in our school that have been adopted from China and we are trying to be sensitive to those students developmental needs.  When is the appropriate time for these children to wrestle with their adoption history.  Does, Among the Hidden, present a history that children are not able to cope with appropriately in 5th grade OR should we view this as a time for children to deal with an issue that is going to impact them and have the ability to frame the issue for the students?

One key theme that we have played on throughout the book is the population control.  In my fifth-grade class we have a debate over Population Control.  The students are always stunned when they find out that population control actually does exist in our modern society.  We have the students research, using heavily censored resources that we provide (NO GOOGLING ALLOWED in this research project).  The students are assigned sides and they have to debate population control.  Going forward we are going to edit this part of our unit of study out because this is too much for a fifth-grader to be able to process if they are actually a product of the law.  You can find my debate materials and my entire unit plan here. 

We, as a school, are still trying to research our options in regards to this book.  I have spoken with our school counselor and she thinks 5th grade is the appropriate time to deal with these issues.  We also called in the parents and discussed the issue with them.  Their opinion was that it was the appropriate time as well (as long as population control materials were deleted from the plan), although they were understandably nervous! I am going to call the adoption center at UAB (University of Alabama, Birmingham) and ask their opinion on the issue as well.  We are still trying to work out what we should do to protect the interest of these students, but for now our plan is to read the book and be sensitive to the needs of our students at the same time!

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Blogging mistakes

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This blog is my first attempt at a blog and I am still working on figuring out all that goes into a blog and exactly how to use a blog.  Early this year, I entered my class in a blogging challenge.  I forgot that I had entered us into the challenge until we started getting hits to our blog from the challenge website.  The challenge is all about teaching our students to be better bloggers!  What a great concept because the reason we use blogs in the classroom is the help students understand that we are part of a global community and to really harness the power of Web 2.0 – the collaboration web.  I want my students to understand how to blog and why blogging is important.  Blogging isn’t important just to say that we have technology in our classroom, it is a discussion starter!  So the blog challenge is teaching students how to make their blogging a discussion and how to harness all the power we have in the internet into our posts and make them more interesting and promote discussion.

The challenge for week 5 was to have students insert links and pictures into their comments.  I must confess, I am still a little confused on this part.  It took me a bit to understand that when commenting on a blog post the students couldn’t just hyperlink, they actually had to write html code to insert the link!  I love the idea of the students learning html in fifth-grade, but I must admit my fifth-graders are having a difficult time figuring it all out.

I also told they students in my original post that they had to insert a picture into their comment.  I am still working on this issue but now I am learning that inserting pictures into a comment may not be possible.  In the original post students may put pictures but I am still researching if students can put pictures in a comment.  If you know the answer would you please pass it along?  I had to go in and edit my post to my students and remove the picture portion of their blog requirement this week because I am still trying to figure pictures out!

I am sure that I will make many more mistakes with regards to our class blog, but I am having so much fun learning about how to have my students effectively blog!  My students love being part of the web and web based discussions.  Their writing skills are improving, the only thing missing is a true debate or discussion.  Maybe that will be my focus next!