Fort Dearborn Elementary School: Dwayne Sanders & bAnanasi Knowbody, Grades 3 & 5

Evolving Through Introspection and Gaining Empathy.

How can writing and telling our own stories help us to better understand and know ourselves and others?

–Fort Dearborn Elementary, Teacher Dwayne Sanders and Teaching Artist bAnanasi Knowbody, 3rd & 5th grade

This was our second time collaborating …

…and while we decided to stick with the same Big Idea and Inquiry Question, we chose a different approach than what was previously tried. Mr. Sanders had the idea of incorporating Kamishibai, a form of Japanese street theatre and storytelling. Story tellers use illustrated boards to narrate a story, scene by scene changing each image. 

The idea was that students would learn the concepts through class discussions, and then relay them through stories they produced themselves. We began our project by introducing our class to the words introspection and empathy. It was evident early on that these words were foreign or abstract ideas to them.  

We decided that we needed to spend some time focusing on the concepts separately. We held a few sessions where we would explore the meaning of the words. Students learned the definitions and then were separated into groups and tasked to come up with examples or scenarios in their lives when they were witnesses to acts of introspection or empathy.

–Mr. Knowbody


We started the project with fifth graders and then included the third graders. Unfortunately, shortly after regaining our bearings, and having been apart previously due to the teacher strike, schools were shut down before we could get into the meat of the project.

–Mr. Sanders


We were able to introduce the idea of storyboarding to  get the students started. Some of the 5th graders were completely engaged, they wrote well  thought out, simple stories. Students had to complete their stories within the established guidelines before they were given the green light to go further.

Students learned how to break their story down into scenes, and emphasize the details illustrated in the final product. They took the scenes and depicted each sequence of what was taking place in their stories using the screen storyboards.

We only met on three occasions before school was cancelled.

It was difficult getting students to sign in virtually. We received about five stories but very little artwork for the project. Several students never had the technology to get on line, which seemed to be the major issue facing students. The few who received computers were given flawed technology that did not work with Google Classroom.

“I feel like I learned more about equity in communities when it comes to technology and parental involvement and how this will hinder communities in specific areas from receiving adequate learning.”

– Mr. Sanders

‘“I learned that young people, specifically in economically challenged educational environments are either not given an opportunity or encouraged to think about themselves and others in relation to the world at large. This lack affects their big picture perspectives and can be very limiting and disengaging.”

— Mr. Knowbody