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Saving Summer: Rethinking Themes, Essays, and Media

I’m about to do a dangerous thing: post a document long before it’s “ready.” It is not even close, and I think–that’s where it should be. A finished document would mean there is no room for growth or adaptation; it’s a sketch. Flipping my thinking around about the silo type of units, students would be better served if we took a gravitational, or centrifugal force idea. While we’re spinning, we stay connected and use metacognition to be cognizant of what draws us in. Choices are key, here, with a map for guidance. In essence, every UBD and essential questions demand a variety of genres and modes of texts. We think about big issues in a kaleidoscope way, not linear. I started thinking about units I’ve created in the past, and some of the theme topics, and came up with this document:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByKyQvl3l_F5QWxjM09NbzAyZjA/view?usp=sharing

Ethical ELA is a huge influencer, and sites such as

https://www.discoverartifacts.com/

https://www.commonlit.org/

Nothing should be off limits: essays, short stories, podcasts, films, novels, poetry, letters, texts, tweets, news, classics and modern re-tellings, pop culture, graphic novels, series: sources for texts and media are bordering on the infinite. If you can write it or read it, it belongs.

Oh, and for the curated list, a wonderful collection of essays that may come in handy:

10 personal essays that will teach you how to write

What big questions are ones you come back to again and again in your teaching? No matter how many times I watch Descendants, I see something new.

Descendants from Goro Fujita on Vimeo.

 

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Saving Summer: Amygdala and The Brain

Teaching is stressful, there is no doubt or debate. And it’s also joyous, satisfying, and filled with discovery and success.

But let’s get back to the stress for a moment so we can move forward with more moments of joy, satisfaction, and discovery.

My buddy Sharon and her Brainiacs are developing a PD session for SEL/Teachers/Students. Tangentially, I’m developing the digital curriculum, along with her and other colleague’s input. When we talk about preparing students for their futures, not our pasts, we must have a deep understanding or exploration of what is happening to our brains in the digital world. We must share this knowledge, so students can adequately reflect, practice mindfulness, and know when to take on that “big view.” Elena Aquilar’s post, “5 Simple Lessons for Social and Emotional Learning for Adults” was a deja-vu moment–my husband was just advising me of these ideas yesterday while we had street tacos at the local lunch truck. Take the big view:

“Lesson 4: Observe Your Emotions”

We are not our emotions. If we can practice observing them — seeing ourselves experience emotions from 10,000 feet above earth — we are more likely to make decisions that don’t emerge from them. We might notice that sometimes they’re powerful and gripping, and sometimes they’re lighter and less sticky. It helps to practice non-attachment to emotions. They’re just emotional states and they come and go — and remember that we have some control over these states. Sometimes I visualize my emotions as weather patterns: There are storms and calm skies, heavy rain, and light winds. They always change. I visualize myself as a tree experiencing these emotions that come and go.

An article posted in the New York Time’s by Lisa Feldman Barrett, “When Is Speech Violence?” walks through the key points of amygdala hijacking and the effects of chronic stress.

“What’s bad for your nervous system, in contrast, are long stretches of simmering stress. If you spend a lot of time in a harsh environment worrying about your safety, that’s the kind of stress that brings on illness and remodels your brain. That’s also true of a political climate in which groups of people endlessly hurl hateful words at one another, and of rampant bullying in school or on social media. A culture of constant, casual brutality is toxic to the body, and we suffer for it.”

A school year is a long stretch of ‘simmering stress.’ Whose job is it to maintain the physical and emotional safety of a building? In truth, everyone is a stakeholder. Building trust and relationships that can find strength in discourse and dialogue, strong respect and cordial working relationships are the desired culture of any building. And as the Stoics believed, it is not what happens to us that affect us, but how we view and control our thinking about events. What if we all pledged to think about the school stress as a means to practice our own care and mindfulness?

In the meantime, I’m reading a book my husband recommended to me a few months back, The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker, first published in 1973. Yeah, not exactly a little light summer reading, but it’s what I need right now: hefty intellectual grips by which to grab onto the rocky surface, and climb up. Getting a new perspective or two is a great way to get that higher view.

And though I can’t control others behaviors, I will strive to speak the truth, ask questions, seek answers and common ground.

 

 

 

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Saving Summer: Googling.

Recently a post on social media got to me to thinking: (well, overthinking? *shrug*)

After a thread and reflection, I am trying to answer some questions:

  1. Does context play a role in teaching (anymore)?
  2. Just about “everything” can be “Googled” – how do we navigate and help students find the correct information?
  3. What is the nature of teaching with abundant access to information and misinformation?

A post from the New York Times, “In an Era of Fake News, Teaching Students to Parse Fact from Fiction” discusses the challenges of teaching context.

One can, indeed, Google context about a topic. How deep down the rabbit hole should we go?

I get the statement: it’s intended to be for Depth of Knowledge Level One Yes/No kinds of questions, Costas’ level one knowledge, bottom rung of Bloom’s. However — these days the strata of misinformation abounds, and even yes/no questions can result in horrific results. And these days, it is life and death.

I needed my help from my friend Sharon to help ME get some context for this post, and she came to the rescue:

I tried a little experiment, suggested by my husband. I Googled “What are vaccines?”  and “Are vaccines good for you?” both level one questions that should result in facts or a yes/no.

Here is what I got with this first search statement:

(Note: most results are sound.)

 

Here is with search terms my husband tried:

This is when we start going to CrazyTown.

Questions, even with yes or no answers, can be inherently biased. People seek the answers their cognitive dissonance and biases want. “Google” Benghazi, Alex Jones, Pizzagate, etc. Heck, look up “president handshakes.” No, never mind. Don’t.

Google does its best to filter and promote factual information with its complicated algorithms and data. But Fake News is a violent, dangerous issue. I wish we could go back a decade at least when we could, with reasonable critical thinking skills, discern fact from opinion/fiction.

Here is something Sharon and I can fix, so look for a Part II. In the meantime

  1. Use DOK questions first to create an understanding and close reading of Google results. That way, when students are told to “Google it,” they must come away with a minimum of three credible sources.
    • Close Reading:
      1. Look at top searches
      2. Look at the date published
      3. Look at the publisher and media format: is it a credible news source? Blog? Credible Youtube channel or ‘just some dude?’
      4. Look at links and pingbacks
    • Know how search engines work
  2. Tap into the best Social Studies teachers you know — make sure any lesson on search engines include conversations about primary, secondary, and tertiary documentation and artifacts.
  3. Call upon the best ELA teachers you know to discuss point of view, perspective, fact, opinion, and truth
  4. Call upon the best Science teachers you know to help promote scientific research and how bias creeps in.
  5. Call upon your best Math teachers to discuss proving factual knowledge and a variety of algorithmic paths.
  6. Oh, and never forget Electives, PE & Health to talk about false and factual information that spreads on the internet. The arts and the curated effect of beautiful and lasting resources on the Internet for one and all.

So yes, don’t spend a lot of time teaching if it can be Googled. But teaching how Google works is teaching time well spent.

Oh, and I found this, and of course, can find its origins:

But don’t stop the nerd love:

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Saving Summer: Graphically speaking.

 

Back in April, my buddy Sharon and I went to the local National Consortium for Teaching About Asia weekend workshop, “Graphic Novels and Cultural Authenticity” class about graphic novels, and the Freeman Choice book award winner came to speak, too. It was a wonderful day, with some of my favorite people. All of the books except for Teaching Graphic Novels by Katie Monnin were included in the small admission price. I HAD to buy the Katie Monnin book after I saw the visual graphic organizer (see image) turn my head around about teaching theme.

Other titles to consider…
…and a few more.

The books:

Are You An Echo? The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko: Narrative and Translation by David Jacobson, Sally Ito, and Michiko Tsuboi, Illustrated by Toshikado Hajiri

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

We watched this TedEd talk, too:

Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle

The Little Monkey King’s Journey Retold in English and Chinese

Hearing the writer speak about Misuzu Kaneko’s life and her gentle, powerful work haunted me. One caveat: the writer said something about the poet’s life being ‘tragic.’ One woman in the group pointed out that her life was not tragic, but the circumstances surrounding her death were, caused by an abusive husband. (This LitHub article about Sylvia Plath reminded me of this tendency toward dismissing women writers as tropes, swooning victims that one ‘grows out of.’) Kaneko’s life was joyous, creative, powerful and beautiful. Her estranged husband’s behaviors were tragic and awful.

https://www.brainpickings.org/2017/03/03/are-you-an-echo-misuzu-kaneko/

The question of authenticity is framed as “cultural authenticity comprising not only of the absence of stereotypes but also the presence of values consistent with a particular culture and accuracy of cultural and historical details in the text and illustrations” by the NCTA facilitators, and it is through that lens that all teachers may consider when they approach diversity and voice in our classrooms.

For some other graphic novel resources, check these out:

http://www.npr.org/2017/07/12/533862948/lets-get-graphic-100-favorite-comics-and-graphic-novels

https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2015/nov/30/how-to-teach-graphic-novels

 

Graphic Novels in the Classroom: A Teacher Roundtable

 

 

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Series: Teacher Tombs (the great purging)

Many teachers around the country are out for their unpaid, too-short summer break. We’re not. Due to snow days and very cautious safety folks, we’ll be in until the 27th of June.

And yes: we have half-day that day.

Now, assuming you’ll be back next year, and in these days that’s a mighty big ‘if’ for many educators, what do you purge, prioritize, or plan for? How do you manage your ideas for the next year?

Elena Aquilar posted: How to Make Planning for Next Year Fun

Cult reposted Caitlyn Tucker’s fantastic suggestions. Click link.

Since my last post about the things I hoard, I’ve given a lot of thought to the methods of my madness. Yes, there may be hoarding, for sure, but like the Great Repurposing of Vinyl CD Covers of ’17, hoarding isn’t all bad. It is the art of finding potential in an object. However, going on my 12th year of teaching, it’s time. Some things just don’t fit anymore or can be amended to suit. (I am never getting back in that wedding dress: it did its job, but no need to unbox that baby.)

Here are some tips to how I manage the “next year idea bucket list:”

  • Cute, functional and sturdy journals and good writing pens handy.
    • The trick? Make a “date” with your notebooks and clean and out and highlight key thoughts.
  • I use Evernote and am starting to use Things.
    • The trick? Go through and use consistently.
  • Reorganize digital files: just like when you’re going through your closet, do the same for files. It is time-consuming, but sketch out a plan of attack:
    • Writing
      • Sub-folders per lesson
        • Folder for Grammar, Punctuation, etc.
    • Student Samples
      • Sub-folders per lesson
    • Reading articles/pdfs
      • Sub-folders for genres
      • Sub-folder for graphic organizers like the What It Says document
    • PowerPoints and other media for flipped learning
    • Tried-and-True:
      • Annotation Lessons
      • Argumentative Unit
      • Burning Questions Unit
      • Journey of the Hero Unit
      • Salem Witch Trial Unit
      • Horror/Fear Factor Unit
      • Zombie Unit (needs work)
    • Listening/Speaking ideas
    • Engagement Ideas/Ice Breakers
    • General forms, contacts, etc.
    • District curriculum information
    • Teacher Evaluation information
  • Create a year map: highlight some pitfalls or plan for times of fatigue. Things always look a little weird in January, so put a random event on a calendar to brighten your day.
  • Organize a list of links and ideas from things saved on social media or bookmarked for later.

But one thing — one very important thing — I suggest to all of my colleagues and administrators, please read this:

Knowing where we’ve come from helps us avoid future disasters. Teachers tend to be organized, creative geniuses. Right? Yes! We are the original “makers” in our “spaces.” Keeping track of hundreds of souls is not for the weak. And like the lady said, “Let those teachers go home!”

Almost there.

Almost.

There.

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