Day 7 – The Trial
“Changes” 2Pac Connect the song to the novel (themes of racial injustice)
This lesson is sort of a Ms. Minto Specialty because of my cognitive science education- I will relay (as best I can) what I did and said to the kids this day; it is the most “lecture”like lesson of the unit.
I should note, at this point in the unit, students are finally about to read Tom Robinson’s trial.
After students made connections between a Tupac Shakur song and To Kill A Mockingbird, I gave a lesson about how learning is all about making connections, like, literal connections in the brain.
I tried to illustrate the concept on the whiteboard but I am notoriously terrible at drawing.
Electricity travels through neurons in your brain, and when you learn a new concept, or practice a new skill, or have a new thought, that electricity leaps across a gap between neurons called a synapse. Learning is all about making connections between neurons. It is a concrete thing happening. Furthermore, the more you practice a skill, or think a thought, a thin bit of material called the myelin sheath forms between the involved neurons, which helps the electricity to travel faster; it almost acts as a bridge. When a toddler tries to pick up a penny off of the ground, it is tricky. The first time they do this, electricity has to, in effect, try hard to make this new connection between neurons. A new leap. The more the toddler practices, the easier the leap becomes, until it is second nature. The neurons fire and tell the muscles in the hands what to do. It’s pretty neat. And I love the idea that learning involves making lasting connections in our minds both literally and figuratively.
Because learning involves making connections, I challenged myself to connect as many things as I could to the section of the book we were about to read. This is where I showed those things.
But first, we watched the trial scene in the film version of To Kill a Mockingbird.
First: Remind them of the Poems-A-Day so far in the unit.
Second: Making a Murderer trailer (legal injustice)
Third: Legally Blonde court scene where Elle Woods pulls and Atticus Finch (with the left arm/hand thing)
** I just heard this news story on NPR about mandatory sentencing… very interesting connections. The list goes on. Pull things that are timely when you teach the unit if any of these materials make you uncomfortable. The purpose is to get students thinking critically about justice, and sadly, injustice — a prominent theme in the book.
Students were disappointed when the bell rang for this lesson. In. Every. Class. It was a winner. I assigned chapter 19 for homework.
I have to note here that some amazing conversation came out of this lesson. One student wondered out loud: Maybe the myelin sheath solidifies racism. Maybe you could wear down your own myelin sheaths over time by rejecting your own racist tendencies or thoughts. Very interesting thinking and learning happening.