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A new book and a new strategy today...
Viola Desmond Won't be Budged is a picture book about a black Canadian woman who "sat down for her rights": Asked to move to the "coloured section" of the segregated movie theatre where she had bought a ticket to enjoy the show in Nova Scotia in the 1940s, Viola resisted, and was thrown in jail overnight for her efforts.
I am currently participating in an online book talk, about ETFO's Social Justice Begins with Me kit. In our last session, we read an article by Kathy Bickmore, which included a number of practical strategies for taking social justice teaching to the next level. I'd like to try two of these for this lesson: "hypothetical scenario" and "listen and paraphrase".
Introduce key vocabulary: segregation, discrimination, respect, and rascism
Read aloud up to the part where Viola is asked to leave the theatre. Stop and ask, "How do you think Viola is feeling? Why?"
Then, give students a hypothetical scenario: "how would you feel if you had just settled in and gotten comfy on your sofa, to watch your favourite TV show, and your brother/sister/parent -- with whom you had recently had a big fight -- came along and told you you had to move?"
After participants share their responses, these can be categorized as fight (violence), flight (avoidance), and alternatives (assertive nonviolent options). Then, take some time to predict the consequences of each response.
(In a full class -- remember, I only have two "students" this year -- I'd probably have each student write her responses on a sticky note. Once categorised, I'd ask students to do a "think-pair-share" with a partner, choosing 2-3 responses to discuss before having a whole class conversation.)
This activity can be repeated, now, returning to the story. "What would you do if you were in Viola's situation? Why?"
Continue to read the book, up to when Viola returns home. ("The story made them angry, too.") Ask students: "What are some ways in which the community might respond? What do you think they will do next?"
Finish reading the book.
Ask students to work in partners. One partner share her responses to one or more of the following questions, and the other partner listens, waits, then paraphrases what she thinks her partner has said. The first partner can clarify if needed. Then the partners switch roles.
- Do you think Viola made the right choice by resisting?
- How do you think Viola felt while she was sitting in Jail? What might she have been thinking about? The story says she "tried to keep her spirits strong" -- how might she have done this?
- Why do you think the judge decided to charge and fine Viola?
- Why is "...who sat down for her rights" and effective choice of words?
- Do you think Viola is a hero? Why or why not?
- If you could ask Viola one question, what would it be? The usher? The police? The judge? (How might each person answer?)
2. Writing in Role
Have students write the story from 2 or 3 perspectives: Viola's, the theatre manager, the police, the judge. How is each perspective different? How much one convince each person to adopt a different stance?
3. Writing - Blog Post
Have students write a blog post about the process of listening to and paraphrasing their partners ideas, or about the process of being listened to. Alternatively, they could write a reflection about the book itself.
Finally, summarize the story, and post the big idea, along with the book cover, on the rich mentor text board in your classroom.