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Addressing the Theme of Power in Reading Workshop

By Rachel Elin-Saintine

The 2nd/3rd grade group has been exploring the social studies theme of Power through the lens of dynamic, powerful (or powerless) characters.  Our theme began during reading workshop, when students thought about how characters respond to difficult situations and complex relationships.

At the start, our group brainstormed what the word “power” meant to them.  The class collectively came up with quite an extensive list; ideas ranged from qualities of being passionate, having strength, being a leader, and having a clever mind.   We found characters in read alouds who used their strength to change their community, like in Something Beautiful.  We also discussed how powerful it can be to believe in yourself and try your hardest, like Grace did, in Grace for President.  We then looked within ourselves to think about a time when we as individuals felt powerful.  Powerful moments for students ranged from winning sports games, taking care of younger siblings, or even conquering an old fear.



The conversation continued into a debate between being powerful and courageous.  Some students felt strongly that courage and power were opposites, but others disagreed.  As student M explained, “they can’t be opposites, because in the end for both you feel like you can do something!”  Others argued, “but, courage is different because you don’t know you can do it from the start!”  It was wonderful to watch them tease out the differences as they respectfully discussed their experiences.  It takes courage to even speak like this within our group.

We then began analyzing more challenging characters – ones who were not necessarily powerful or powerless, but showed us signs of both.  Through reading A Chair For My Mother, our readers discussed how hard it must have been for their family to have lost their possessions in a fire. The group also realized that that wasn’t the whole story.  This family was able to save and work hard for a new chair, symbolizing a new start for themselves.  As Student E put it, “In the beginning the family was powerless because they didn’t have anything after the fire and they had to save money any way they could.  But, at the end, all of their hard work paid off and the family felt proud and powerful!”  Our 2nd/3rd graders paired off and shared experiences where they have felt similarly powerless and powerful within a given time.  Student S said, “when I first came to Miquon, I didn’t know anyone and that was really scary.  I felt powerless because I was in a new place and didn’t have friends yet.  But then I came back for first and second grade, and felt powerful that it didn’t feel as scary.

It’s been an exciting and meaningful beginning of the year for the 2nd and 3rd graders!  I can’t wait to see how these inquisitive, caring, and curious minds grow throughout the year!


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