Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Martin's Big Words - Doreen Rappaport

*I hope that worked!! If not, the link to that amazong page is,

Martin's Big Words, by Doreen Rappaport

Summary: This is the story of Martin Luther King, Jr. growing up in the South, seeing things he did not like (for instance, a 'Whites Only' sign), and deciding to change it. Very biographical, and shows students what a difference one person can make. Except for the ending, I think this is a great book to have in your classroom.

Social Justice Education
Touched upon many of the levels of Social Justice Education we have been speaking about. I would venture to say it hits all 5: Martin's mother telling him he was just as good as anyone else, Martin telling people to use their voices and not their fists is respectful of others, and the entire Civil Rights movement explores social justice and change. Clearly, through things like the Montgomerey Bus Boycott, and the ending of Segregation in 1964 at his hands, students can see how one person can make a difference.

Curriculum/Units the book touches on
The ideas of Slavery, Segregation, Integration, Civil Rights, Social Action, Social Justice, Inequality, Racism, Racial Relations, the Power of the Individual, Violence, Non-violent Protest, and the Power of Words come to mind instantly. Showing students how much they can accomplish with a dream and hard work - that it ISN'T up to someone else. They could be that someone who makes a great change in our world that is in such desperate need of change, which would be great for self-esteem and empowerment. It is also important for them to reflect on the fact that he, like Ghandi, refused to give in to the temptations of violence, finding other creative ways to solve the problems he saw around him. His story shows the power of believing in yourself, and being a good leader. It will also inspire students to think of things in their communities that they don't like and want to see change; and then can try to think of how they can help start that change today.

Other Notes on the Book

Personally, I think the pictures are gorgeous, and I like the illustrator (Bryan Collier)'s use of fabric-looking pieces to make up backgrounds and articles of clothing They are detailed and gorgeous to look at. It's not typical illustrations, and I think students will appreciate how interesting the pictures look, and may want to learn how they can emulate this in their own publishings (of course, it's no photocopies-and-cray-paz work, but it will do).

As I mentioned earlier, my biggest complaint is the abrupt, somber ending. It is the truth, that he was shot and that he later died from it, but the rest of the book was worded so beautifully, I felt a little more tact could have gone into the last thing the students will remember of the book. I guess that could have been the author's intent, a shock-value, but if I was reading this to a younger class, I would think of my own way to say it.

Jumping back to the positives, the book is entitled "Martin's Big Words", and on each page, we get a small snippet from all of Doctor King's famous speeches, which really shows the power of his words, and give a glimpse to how wonderful this man and his ideas really were.

Also, at the back of the book, it gives a substantial listing of other books and websites that can be visited to learn more about the life of Doctor King. Here are some of them (sorry, I don't know how to do this link thing yet!)

A Picture Book of Martin Luther King Jr. - David A. Adler
If You Lived in the Time of Martin Luther King - Ellen Levine
My Dream of Martin Luther King - Faith Ringgold
My Story - Rosa Parks and Jim Haskins
He Had a Dream: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement - Flip Schulke *this one says it has thematic lessons on it*

1 comment:

  1. Emily did a nice job summarizing Martin's Big Words. Doreen Rappaport explains the life and actions of Martin Luther King Jr. in rather simple terms. By combining this biography with the real words of Dr. King, children are able to learn some of his messages and understand the impact of speech. I also agree with Emily that this book touches on all five stages of social justice education. The teacher can chose to focus on a variety of different topics and the book would be good for launching a discussion on any of the stages.

    Emily discussed the many units this book may be part of. I observed this book used in a music class. This story was the only mention of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in my student teaching placement. None of my students could recall any information about Dr. King before this story. While I don't think it is a good idea to teach about Martin Luther King in isolation and not study the issues surrounding his life, reading this story was at least a step in the right direction.

    In terms of Emily's concern over the abrupt ending, it did shock my students a bit. A couple even asked, "that's the end?". While it was shocking, I think that students should be told the truth and it was what happened. In fact, saying that he died is less harsh than telling the students he was murdered. Students all participated in a conversation about the book, and I think they may have been engaged by the ending.

    Because of this book's richness, there are a variety of lessons that can be connected directly to it. Some of these idea's include students making mosaics (to mimic the book's illustrations) about peace, diversity or another related topic. A class could write poetry by cutting apart Dr. King's speeches and rearranging his words. Students could also relate the book to their own lives by writing about their own hopes and dreams.

    This website includes more specific suggestions on implementing the lessons I mentioned:

    This is a link to Martin Luther King Jr's "I Have a Dream" speech:

    This lesson encourages students to investigate their own dreams:

    Hope this helps and is a good place to start looking at the numerous lessons on Dr. King!