A Slice of Life

Subjects: English / Language Arts, Social Studies
Grade Level: 6-8
Source: Cable in the Classroom

For 30 years, Linda Coates has been teaching literature to junior high school students as well as mathematics at the junior high-, high school-and college-levels. She is being recognized for her innovative literature curriculum, To Know Me You Must Walk in My Shoes, which exposes students to novels and memoirs covering topics such as racism, prejudice and intolerance. Her students "become" literary characters, allowing them to learn respect and empathy for different generations, cultures, religions and races. Partnerships with nursing homes, businesses and theaters allow students to interact with people who may be similar to the characters in the novels they are reading, so they may better understand the lives of the characters. Each unit has activities which involve the students and make the characters real, so they can "walk in their shoes," by emulating their character's struggles or celebrating their triumphs.

Coates' program started with the Harper Lee classic, To Kill a Mockingbird. Since the main character is trying to understand the older generation, her students visit with residents from local nursing homes every month throughout the school year. Students study the great depression and black history through videos, speakers and a research paper. The world of Atticus Finch is experienced first-hand with a trip to the courthouse where students witness trials and meet with lawyers and judges. Later, students change into costume and reenact Tom Robinson's trial in one of the courtrooms. Research, personal experience, art and musical theater are used to get the students personally involved as they read other classics such as The Lord of the Flies, The Diary of Anne Frank, Greek mythology

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