“Shonesty, do you want to go outside and film with us?” I asked with too much hesitancy, not expecting a positive response.
She nodded silently.
I gathered up my group of fifth graders so we could go outside and film each of them playing a role related to the narratives of the ex-slaves they had been studying in the Stories from Stagville Project. I just assumed Shonesty would not want to join us because she had been relatively quiet and reluctant to participate throughout the early stages of the project. Even her teacher had told us the very first day that she probably wouldn’t want to do the project and hadn’t included her in the group assignments.
She followed the rest of the kids outside silently and when it was her turn to be filmed, I asked if she had drafted what she wanted to talk about, sort of trying to feel out her progress and intentions for the video. Still silent, she held out a piece of lined paper in front of her. I glanced at it and saw a full page of writing. I was stunned! She had been working and involved the whole time, without anyone really noticing.
“Alright, whenever you’re ready,” I indicated after we set up the camera to capture her preferred frame. She started and went on for a full two minutes with minimal pauses. She spoke with words of power and eloquence. She had transformed from an overshadowed silent participant, to a dazzling artist and student, setting the bar high for the rest of the group.
“The Yankees came and slapped my mother if she didn’t obey what they said…Old Abraham Lincoln came and stopped slavery…he died a hero to stop slavery and free all the slaves…after that me and my mom got to have our own lives and didn’t have to listen to anybody.”
The final product was compelling and touching, given how she exceeded my expectations. It was clear that the LTP process had brought Shonesty out of her shell and led her to transform, to learn, and to shine! She proved our judgments of her and her work to be completely false, and taught me so much about how the personalities, needs and learning styles vary greatly from child to child. LTP can truly encompass and include any child by incorporating a multitude of skills, opportunities, and disciplines.
The power of this curriculum is within each individual. There is absolutely something in it for everyone—children and adults, students and teachers alike. It comes through in various ways at various stages, person-to-person; but one thing that seems to be the same for everyone, is its ability to have long-lasting positive impacts. Shonesty went on to be more and more proactive and involved in the later stages of the work. She stated her preferences in the storyboarding and editing stages, she created a beautiful, expressive drawing to include in the final project, and she was a quiet but consistent leader.
Shonesty drew this to be scanned and included in our final video project.
LTP stands for Literacy Through Photography, but it can also mean many other things. Others have defined it as Learning Through Participation or Learning Through Pictures. My time with Shonesty and all of the other students at Club helped me to redefine it once again, to describe succinctly the LTP process and my experiences with it over this past semester…
…Lasting, Transformative, Powerful