"Textbooks dare not speak of"

I've written a number of posts about designing curriculum and instruction that allows students to construct their own meaning and make real connections to what is being taught. One student of mine wrote this in a reflective piece after concluding a unit based on the book The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. Students wrote poems and letters from one character to another. They also had a choice between visual art pieces, musical pieces and any type of project that utilized one or more art modalities. They were also required to write short reflective responses to different lessons that got beyond the head and into the heart and gut. At the end of the unit, they were asked to write a reflective essay on the entire experience. Here is the excerpt:

"The unit on Vietnam that has been covered in class is unlike anything that I have ever done in English class, and perhaps school in general. We, as a class, were able to feel some of the more emotional aspects of war that our textbooks dare not speak of."

This student was able to connect with the material on a level that was very personal and powerful and transcend the normal experience with textbooks. He states that he was able to "feel" what was being learned, which by his own admission is an experience he had not had previously in school. We should try to get all of our students to connect in such a way.


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