Teachable moment: Huzzah, Egypt!

I’ve been reading Laurie Halse Anderson’s CHAINS with my 7th graders as they study the American Revolution next door in Social Studies.  If you haven’t read it, it’s an amazing historical thriller full of great writing and topics for discussion — a perfect class read-aloud/read-together. We were all set to read Chapters 12-14 this afternoon, then review poetic devices like similes, metaphors, and personification and talk about how Laurie makes use of them in her writing.

But at lunchtime, I popped onto Twitter and saw the news from Egypt, tweeted far and wide.  Including this:


In the last ten minutes of lunch break, I shortened the poetic language lesson to free up some time so we could start class with live video from MSNBC…millions of people waving flags and cheering in the streets of Egypt.

We talked about what it might mean for the future of Egypt and United States foreign policy. We imagined the conversations happening in other nations’ presidential palaces tonight. We compared Egypt to Tiananmen Square of 1989 – a demonstration that ended so differently.  Could there ever be another Tiananmen Square, given how small and connected our world has become? We talked about the fact that this peaceful revolution is history happening, history that probably couldn’t have happened, couldn’t have come together the way it did, even five years ago, and we talked about why – 24-hour news, cell phones, the Internet, Facebook, and Twitter.

When I showed the kids Laurie’s tweet, they grabbed their books. "She wrote this!"  And we talked about Isabel and where she might have fit into all this, were she living in 2011 Cairo instead of 1776 New York.  Then we read our next installment of CHAINS with bigger thoughts about revolution and freedom and what it all means.

Huzzah, indeed.