Language arts teacher David Jefferies is listening to his eighth graders share family vignettes in front of their classmates:
“The story is the perfect combination of the head and the heart, where the two do not work at cross purposes as they do so often in our lives, but work together,” he says. “In studying the short story, we work with the concepts of structure, symmetry, and form. But we are also opening our minds to the thoughts and feelings of other people, sometimes a person much like us, other times to a consciousness that challenges us and makes us refigure our notions of humanity’s possibilities and perils.
“A culminating unit in the second semester of eighth grade is the Kinship Project, where students work not with the stories of Wiesel, Golding, or Lee, but with the stories that come from their own families. As an appetizer to a longer story paper, students first read and then perform a single family vignette. They tell a story. Head and heart. Form and content. Meaning and purpose.”
Later in the semester, the students and their families will share an evening of storytelling.