A University of Arkansas at Little Rock professor has published a book chapter that will help elementary education students learn how to be allies to transgender students.
The chapter, “Trans*Forming the Middle Level English Language Arts Classroom: Reading George to Promote Ally-ship,” was published by Rowman & Littlefield in the 2018 book “Queer Adolescent Literature as a Complement to the English Language Arts Curriculum.”
Dr. Judith Hayn, professor of teacher education, was assisted in her research by 15 UA Little Rock elementary education students who took the ELEM 4301: Integrated Literacy and Language II class during the fall 2017 semester.
The students include Olivia Bing, Misty Carmona, Lindsay Connell, Keeley Dodson, Molly Faircloth, Christin Hall, Robert Jones, Erin Long, Sarah McPherson, Whitney Patton, Hannah Sanders, Cassy Siegler, Megan Tarvin, Lori Terry, Hollyn Townsend, Jonalyn Williams, Kaitlin Wright, and Kathleen Yeary.
The book chapter gives lesson plans on how elementary education teachers can teach lessons on friendship and tolerance through the book “George,” by Alex Gino to fourth- and fifth-grade students. The book is about a transgender student in the fourth grade who wants to play the role of Charlotte in the class production of “Charlotte’s Web,” but George’s teacher says she cannot try out for the part because she’s a boy.
“This is the first book written by a transgender author about a transgender student in middle school,” Hayn said. “For me, it’s a story of friendship. George has a friend who becomes her best friend ever by backing George’s attempt to play Charlotte in the school play. This book teaches young students how to be open, accepting, and tolerant.”
Having the students’ help on her book chapter was a serendipitous turn of events. Hayn, who does not teach elementary education, was not supposed to be teaching the class. She volunteered to substitute for a fellow professor who was out for the semester due to an injury.
“This was a good experience for young teachers who are going to teach in K-6 classes,” Hayn said. “I asked them if they could help me write a book chapter on how to use this book for fourth- and fifth-grade students. They read the book, and they came up with lesson plans, classroom activities, and all the sources the teachers need. The only horrible part is that the students didn’t get to see the book chapter because they have already graduated, but I thank them at the end of the article.”
The students came up with chapter summaries, discussion questions, reading comprehension quizzes, vocabulary activities, journal assignments, author studies, and other classroom activities to help teachers instruct their students on the book.
“I was quite pleased with the maturity of their work,” Hayn said. “By the end of the semester, the students were absolutely ready to go into any classroom with any book, controversial or not, and know how to teach a book to their students.”