I teach in a self-contained classroom at Edgewood Magnet School in New Haven. I find the neighborhood/magnet setting a rewarding environment, with students coming to school each day from a variety of home circumstances and with differences in academic levels. As a result of these variables, the children have differing levels of background knowledge and life experiences. The classroom is a mixture of ethnicities, economic strata, and social and different emotional dispositions. Collaboration allows all students at all levels to learn in an inherently differentiated environment, learning new concepts and experiences through hands-on practices. Throughout the school year, the Kindergarten curriculum centers heavily on social development, which is certainly appropriate for five- and six-year-old children. Our school mission and vision statements focus on equity and inclusion, acknowledging and including everyone in our learning environment.
This folktale unit will be in direct alignment with my responsibility to design curricula that help our students learn social and community responsibility. The storybook, African and Caribbean Folktales, Myths, and Legends, by Wendy Shearer, will serve as a foundation for this unit. This text contains stories from Africa to the Caribbean, re-told for young readers - from the trickster tales of Anansi the spider to the story of how the leopard got his spots; from the tale of the king who wanted to touch the moon, to Aunt Misery's magical starfruit tree.
This particular book contains very few pictures, which allows us to research various examples of how these characters were depicted through art, where in the world these stories take place, and what we can learn from them. They will learn to ask questions about how and why these stories exist, how they traveled across the Atlantic Ocean, and what they tell us about the cultures that created them.
The following questions will help guide the rationale and purpose for the stories the students will learn through this unit: What do I hope to accomplish in bringing these stories to my students? What do my students gain knowledge about them and how can they understand different cultures through these characters? What strategies make the most sense for this unit and age group (primary students)? How did the history of the Caribbean shape these folktales? How do the characters help define the region they represent? What is the synthesis between the region and the text of the stories?