Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Inauguration- A First Grade Reinactment

Originally, I was really bummed that my school was going to make ZERO attempt to show the inauguration to our children. All I heard was that we have space issues with the other two schools in the building, our internet is not stable enough, and something about a DOE TV channel that I'd never even heard of. Anyway, I couldn't help but feel that my students were being completely shorted of one of the most important moments of history, possibly in their lifetime. I wanted them to have that feeling that I had when my mother called me frantically to watch the TV with her as the Berlin wall was being torn down live. She told me that I probably wouldn't understand it now, but I would realize its importance later. She instructed me never to forget the images I was seeing, and I never did. There is something about seeing it in the moment and experiencing a real moment in time that I wanted my first graders to be a part of. If I could have done it all over, I would have arranged a field trip for that day to watch the inauguration at the University close to our school or another viewing place, but by Tuesday morning, I realized it was too late for that.

I surveyed my options. I could sneak a small TV into my class and set it with rabbit ears, but that would require taking a taxi to school which would be quite a bit of money. Plus, I figured with all that talk of the DOE channel, I probably wasn't allowed to show regular TV to the kids. Option 2 was the radio. I have a radio tape deck in the classroom. I decided that this was my best option. The kids would simply have to practice using their envisioning skills to be a part of the moment. I cut out a big picture of Barack Obama, a picture of the Lincoln Bible, and posted them next to the radio.

All morning, I talked to my class about how important the inauguration of Barack Obama was and several kids had brought newspapers that we also looked at. We talked about what it meant to take the oath of office and what it would sound like. We practiced some of the language, "I do solemnly swear.." and talked about how it was okay not to understand everything but to hear the voices and feel the moment.

After a morning of regular work amidst talk of the inauguration, I took the kids down to lunch. They didn't know they were'nt going to hear it live, but I knew I would have to tape it for them since they would be at recess during the exact time.

When we came back up from recess, the kids were really excited. They sat quietly on the rug and I called for 2 volunteers. One would be the justice holding a homework notebook (our stand-in for the bible), and the other student would be Joe Biden. The child playing Joe Biden had to put one hand on the book and one hand in the air. I played the swearing in of the vice president. When the children heard the announcer say "All rise," they stood up. They were silent as they listened to Joe Biden taking the oath of office.

We then listened to the orchestra piece that was played. The children sat quietly pretending to play violins, cellos, pianos, and clarinets. When it was finished, I called for two more volunteers. One for Justice Roberts, and the other for Barack Obama. I could see visible excitement in their faces as they watched their classmates acting out the oath of office. Again, one child held the homework notebook (that we labeled "Lincoln bible") and the other one put one hand on it and one in the air. We listened as Barack Obama became the next president and the children followed the crowd on the radio chanting "Obama, Obama, Obama," when it was over. I played them a couple of minutes of Obama's speech so they could hear his voice, but faded the volume and turned off the radio when I knew I they were probably lost in the moment.

It turned out to be a meaningful experience for me and the children. I'll never forget where I was that day (with my kids in my classroom). They promised me they would never forget it either.


Bonnie said...

I want to applaud you for creating this moment for your students. How lucky they are to have a teacher who cares: ) How sad that in this day and age your school couldn't manage to provide its students a connection to this historic occasion!

miss brave said...

That is so WONDERFUL! At our school, only the fourth and fifth graders got to watch. I thought that was unfortunate because the rest of our students were totally into it, too. Even our kindergarteners knew that Barack Obama was the new president, and they were all really stoked about it :)

J said...

WOW. what an incredible way to bring the inauguration to life! your students will surely never forget such a powerful experience.