In Ms. Shade’s 5th grade language arts classroom, students fidget with excitement in their chairs as Maria Broom, actress, dancer, and children’s book author engages everyone in an animated discussion centered around a “love bell”, a small metal bowl that was passed around to each student who took turns sending love, prayers, and support to someone of their choosing.
Afterwards, Maria led the class in a song using sign language and lyrics that spoke of love, peace, and happiness followed by an upbeat collaborative song and movement activity that had the children asking each other, “Who are you and what can you do!” The song’s meaning seemed to aim at building confidence and camaraderie expanding on the narrative of a story she was about to share. This was Ms. Broom’s last visit with these students so by the time she began to read from her book “The Village Bully”, which introduces an old African practice of encircling the person who causes trouble and saying truthful positive things about him to remind him who he really is, they were able to read along from memory by helping to finish each sentence of the story. “Keep it on the beat!”, she enthusiastically encouraged students as they all recited the story verse by verse, thus testing their listening skills, comprehension, and memory of sequential events.
“Who are you and what can you do!”
As was done in the book, a circle of love and positivity was then created by the students as they each took turns giving words of praise to their peers while Ms. Brown reminded everyone that they should practice this outside of the classroom and to think of others and the hardships they may face. Through these activities, Maria Broom was able to take basic elements of literature and find creative and engaging ways to activate discussion and participating in Ms. Shade’s language arts class leaving the children with valuable life lessons while developing their reading, listening, and speaking skills.