#38: Murals and Metaphors

“The mural looks kind of dark,” I tell my students.  They want it urban, though, which means the buildings and the shadows have a colder look to it.

“It looks complicated.  Busy or something,” a girl adds.

“Maybe that’s how reading is,” a boy adds.  ”Maybe reading isn’t an easy task.  Just think about it.”

So we do.

I’m not shocked by this comment, either.  Earlier in the day, we watched the video of the slam poem “I Can’t Read.”  It led to some great discussions about identity and roles.  The students connected it to the questions of freedom from the American Revolution and the values of social compliance we had seen in the folktale “The Oxcart.”  A few brought up The Giver and a student from the “low” group mentioned survival in The Hatchet.

Reading is complicated.

For some of them, it’s automatic.  The fluency, the vocabulary, the predicting and the visualizing, the questioning and the inferences – those are natural.  Then the journey turns daunting again, as they realize that literature is more than comprehension; that it’s uncomfortable.

For others, the journey of reading to be just that  – a daunting journey. Each skill seems confusing and bizarre and foreign.  I watch them tackle words and wrestle with confusion.  I watch them cower in fear that they won’t get in time for high school or college or life.

One of the reasons I love painting murals with my students is that it provides a metaphor that helps them think through difficult concepts.  In this case, it’s about the struggle to read.

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