Oh how we love representation, it is so essential and of course, it benefits all of us. As we typically note, designated 'months' for any given demographic of humans is not something we follow-- every day is a day to learn about communities and cultures you do or don't belong to! However, we do appreciate the added push for elevating underrepresented voices and perspectives!
Representation was our focus this month, ensuring that as many API perspectives were integrated into our daily learning as possible. Here are a few resources that our students especially loved during "API Heritage Month"!
Representation through awesome characters:
Aru Shah and the End of Time and The Serpent's Secret (both pictured above) are both great adventure novels were tons of fun, and both were packed with mythology and had bright heroines! We felt like we learned a lot and the world building in both was strong and captivating.
The Alvin Ho series (first book also pictured above) is one that we have come love and deeply appreciate as elementary educators. It is at the right level for so many of our readers, it has solid representation of a Chinese family, strong girls characters (We love Flea and his little sis Annibelly!), and it talks openly about Alvin struggling with anxiety, talking with a therapist etc. Of course, it is also goofy and appeals to 'boys' so Alvin runs away from his piano teacher, tries to miss school, and tries out Shakespearean curses on his therapist. We'll take it for the way it brings our students in, and the conversations we have been able to have through it. This one is great to unpack with students and led to some thoughtful conversations about gender and mental health in our classroom. It's exciting that this is a series because a few of our reluctant readers can't wait for the next one, which is the perfect way to send them off to the summer (prepped for their next book!).
There are also of course other great resources besides fiction, like Newsela's API Text Set that can provide some great resources for continuing learning and staying up to date!
2. Representation through music:
We love starting the morning calm and and centered and we always have music playing. It has been especially fun to play all sorts of different music from different countries in Asia. We have been more partial to Chinese music we've found, likely because we have both been there and we have been able to find some really calming pieces. It's also likely that my (Gabby's) attempts at learning Erhu and Guzhen make it even more exciting to share with the students! They love looking at the different instruments, learning facts (like how the guzhen has a history that is over 2,500 years old), and comparing it to instruments that they may play or know (the guzhen was compared to a sliding guitar so we did some compare and contrasting the other day!).
3. Representation through Images:
We always start the morning off with a projected image. This gives us the easy lean into a conversation we may want to have with students, or a way to pre-assess and see what they know (or are excited about). This month, all of our images were pictures from different Asian countries. Be warned, these images made us all yearning for some serious travel! The students always wanted to know where the pictures were taken, and it always got us talking, which leads us to….
4. Representation through maps, statistics reminders:
The morning images usually brought us to looking at the given country on a map! We would talk about where it was nearby (if we had already discussed a neighboring country) and it got us thinking about population, too. We love to remind students (not just in May!) that the continent of Asia has over half the world's population (we are talking over 4 billion humans!!!). We love this video if the world were a village of 100 people, because we think it helps bring some perspective!
5. Representation through…. GIFS! (because we are oh-so trendy and cool!).
James Curan's Tokyo Gif-a-thon has hands down been one of our student's favorite activities and breaks this month. We earn it (sly teachers!) by getting cleaned up early or having an extra moment before we need to start the next class. We love doing the reveal of the next gif, and then we all stare in wonder at what he created. The students have endless (actually endless, the DETAILS they notices surprise us all of the time!) observations of how he made the gif, why he made it that way, and the most miniscule details within the art. As the reveals and months go on, they are able to make more and more connections as to what he might be referencing about Tokyo. We've been to (and love!) Tokyo, so this is also fun for us to share additional background information about why he made certain gifs and what it might be connected to in the city. We were especially intrigued about how the conversation about cherry blossoms ended connecting us back here to where we live-- DC!
These are just a few of the ways we try to infuse additional representation into our classroom (we've also had a ton of fun with languages this month!), but it never ends and we are always thinking of how to do more, and do it better. If you have ideas or other things you've been trying out, we'd love to hear!