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Media Festival: Go West, Teacher! (Part 1)

Change of plans! Out of the Comfort Zone! Moving away from deep skills and content knowledge for 8th grade…and into the great semi-unknown! Yes, next year excited to be teaching 7th grade Humanities in a deeply connected 1:1 environment. So, in an effort to begin to collect and curate resources, this is a start to support the social studies portion of the content.

Washington State/Pacific Northwest

New Found Land by Allan Wolf – rich study of the Lewis & Clarke told from multiple points of view

Sacagawea – PBS production

Sacagawea – Joseph Bruchec – alternating points of view

Note to self: I am planning on creating a Box of Destiny (c) role playing project for these periods…it works great for Greek Mythology and Ancient Roman citizens…

 Early U.S. History

I am sketching out an enduring understanding – bear with me – the concept that though explorers ‘discover’ something, how do the indigenous people endure, or not? The essential questions: does it matter who gets ‘there’ first? What impact do the explorers (which sounds romantic) have on the discovered, and how does that influence power or loss? Teachers: if you think of a way to phrase this essential question in a clearer manner, please add your thoughts.

Years ago I read this picture book: Encounter by Jane Yolen: who loses and gains power as conquerors invade?


Do I look at early American history, or rather include in the content of early U.S. history a kaleidoscope of perspectives? Pochohantas’ story has always fascinated me…so a lot of work to be done there.

Jamestown and its archeological findings never cease to pique my curiosity, either.

A Religious Mystery is Found Buried at Jamestown

Is The American Revolutionaries: A History in Their Own Words by Milton Meltzer worth the read, or Woods Runner by Gary Paulson?

Staircase Group
Staircase Group

And what about the writers and artists of this time? The wide landscapes of the Hudson River School, or the earlier legacy of the Peale family?

Civil War

The tragic events of Charleston, and the taking down of the Confederate flag will be viewed and discussed. History never really leaves us, and its relevance and impact on our lives must be critically reviewed.

O Captain! My Captain! (and looking to rediscover a unit my mentor created about this piece with multiple texts…oh I know good people…!) What happens when we destroy what saves us?

And my bigger questions: texts from multiple perspectives – race, gender, nationality: the enduring understandings of our nation’s history, complicated, violent, and moving. My question to my colleagues, no matter your experience or familiarity as a teacher or with this content, but in your experience as an American – what do you think is most important? 


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Media Festival: Story Unit

Cueva de las Manos, Río Pinturas
Cueva de las Manos, Río Pinturas

Cueva de Las Manos

This is a exploration of early human connections and storytelling.

Signing, Singing, Speaking: How Language Evolved

Music and the Neanderthal’s Communication

The Discovery of Fire: Two Million Years of Campfire Stories

How Conversations Around Campfire Might Have Shaped Human Cognition And Culture

Campfire Tales Serve as Human Social Media

Campfire Stories May Have Lead to Early Societal Learning


When Fire Met Food, The Brains of Early Humans Grew Bigger

What kinds of stories…

In 12,000 Year Old Grave, A Shaman Shares Her Tomb with Animal Totems

Origin Myths: Definition and Examples

Myths and Legends

Origin Myths (NCSE)

Potential Writing Prompt:


Scientists have discovered many ancient graves of our earliest ancestors. These graves not only have the remains of those who died, but important artifacts that must have some significance. Create an historical fiction piece about a early human, male or female, and what happened, and what he or she was buried with. The narrator in the story might be either the one who died, or the person who buried them. Establish a relationship. Do some research to add authenticity. (You don’t want some anachronistic, meaning not of the right time. Your character was NOT buried with a cell phone.)

Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.
Engage and orient the reader by establishing a context and point of view and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally and logically.
Postscript: For the past 3 or 4 years, I’ve done a ‘Cave of Hands’ lesson where the students create their own hands, and draw symbols of their values and culture. All the hands are cut from construction paper, and displayed on crumpled brown paper to resemble a cave. This is how we start our year. I don’t have a sample ‘handy’ but trust me — powerful stuff.
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Media Festival: Fear Unit

Note: Working on curating a variety of media and text(s) for thematic units. Bear with me, this is the best place, this blog, where I can archive/collect these materials.

I am crafting and revising a ‘fear’ unit–why do we fear, what is fear’s purpose, and how do we overcome it are the essential questions.

Mean Teddies from Tyler Novo on Vimeo.

Brent Sims’ Grave Shivers from Sims Films on Vimeo.

“Brent Sims’ Grave Shivers” is a short sci-fi/horror anthology that weaves three tales of monsters, killers, and things that go bump in the night. Recent winner of the audience award at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Los Angeles. The project has been featured on io9, dread central, and on moviepilot. The film has been view more than 550k and called an “Anthology of Awesome,” by dread central.

Lights Out – Who’s There Film Challenge (2013) from David F. Sandberg on Vimeo.

For all our ~3 min horror films:
Winner of ‘Best Short’ at Bilbao Fantasy Film Festival 2014
Winner of ‘Best Director’ in the
Breakdown of the last shot:
Shot on the Blackmagic Cinema Camera with a Tokina 11-16, F2.8.


World with No Fear-NPR

A Life Without Fear – NPR

Short Stories:

The Monkey’s Paw

The Tell-Tale Heart

(More to follow: if you have suggestions, please share!)

Some ideas for other film resources:

The H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival
Chinese Theatre Screening – Hollyshorts
Los Angeles Movie Awards (Fall)
New Orleans Horror Film Festival
SoCal Film Festival
IFFCA (International Film Festival of Cinematic Arts)
Eerie Horror Film Festival and Expo, Erie, Pa.
Thriller! Chiller! Film Festival Idaho Horror Film Festival
Austin’s Housecore Horror Film Festival
Dia de Los Muertos event at Crafted Port of Los Angeles
Science Fiction + Fantasy Short Film Festival 2015, co-presented by EMP Museum and the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF)
RadCon SciFi and Fantasy Convention; Pasco, WA
Seattle Crypticon Horror Convention; Seattle WA
Sasquan International Film Festival / Worldcon; Spokane, WA
Tri-Cities International Fantastic Film Festival; Richland WA
The Big Easy International Film Festival
Dark Matters Film Festival, Arizona
Mindf*ck Film Festival (Santa Monica, Vidiots Foundation Screening Room)
Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival
“Galaxy Theater,” Santa Rosa’s Northbay TV sci-fi program
Pasadena International Film Festival
Nashville International Film Festival
Crimson Screen Film Festival
Bonebat (Comedy/Horror) Film Festival
SoCal Creative and Innovative Film Festival
Oceanside International Film Festival

For more information visit

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WIHWT: How It Went Down

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon, Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book, 2015
How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon, Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book, 2015

This Wish I Had Written That (WIHWT) moment comes to us courtesy of a wonderful librarian.

This librarian loves books. I love books. We get along.

This past spring, she had time to come to my classes and do some book talks. Several of these piqued my interest as a means to update/refresh some thematic units. (Units do need to be polished and updated now and then, and then summarily tossed when no longer speaking to any part of the human condition.)

What Happens:

A racially charged shooting reveals the complicated relationships that surround a popular teen and the neighborhood that nurtured and challenged him…..As each character reflects on Tariq, a complex young man is revealed, one who used his considerable charm to walk the tightrope of life in his neighborhood. Magoon skillfully tells the story in multiple, sometimes conflicting, voices.


These damn kids. They never learn. As a black man, you have to keep your head down. You have to keep yourself steady. You have to follow every rule that’s ever been written, plus a few that have always remained unspoken. How hard is that to understand?

Magoon, Kekla (2014-10-21). How It Went Down (p. 42). Henry Holt and Co. (BYR). Kindle Edition.

Why It Matters:

All we need to do is say the synecdoche of “Ferguson” to understand how this novel fits with our national conversation about race, poverty, incarceration, and racism.

Ideas and Questions:

The chapters are titled by each different characters’ points of view. Each character brings potential for a personal connection as well as demonstrating the importance of connections (positive and damaging) within communities.

My heart, at the moment, is racing away from me, in hot-pink sneakers, looking both ways before crossing each street, like she’s supposed to. The knot in my chest eases when Tyrell catches up with her. He holds her hand, and she lets him, which is a bit of a surprise. When he talks to her, she answers. I keep my distance.

Magoon, Kekla (2014-10-21). How It Went Down (p. 319). Henry Holt and Co. (BYR). Kindle Edition.

It’s about choices, and those choices reflected by our character and surroundings. What we most want, and what we can’t have.

I can’t— I won’t— believe Brick when he says that kind of thing. I knew T better than anyone. He would never … My heart flutters, unexpectedly flooding me with doubt. He would, though. T always stepped up, never back. If it was me who had died, Tariq would lead the charge for revenge, I know that much. He looked out for me. No boundaries to that devotion, at least none I ever saw. So, would he want me to do the same? It’s the least I can do, isn’t it? Brick holds out the knife. I imagine it slitting my throat. Severing my spine. Stabbing through my heart. But I move anyway. I don’t know who Tariq really was— if he was the way I see him, or the way Brick does. But I know who he would want me to be.

Magoon, Kekla (2014-10-21). How It Went Down (p. 308). Henry Holt and Co. (BYR). Kindle Edition.

The pacing is fast: there is some language; if students are 13+ and if granted parent permission, it should be rated PG-13. Some sex implied. Discussion moment: does the author’s use of ‘language’ help or distract from the main message of the story?

The novel provides opportunity for discussion on statistics: how do statistics inform our truths?

Seventy-five percent of black men in Underhill join up. If Tariq was in, then it gives me that much more chance to stay out. If Tariq wasn’t, then he’s still the guy I thought he was, but it makes it that much more likely that I’m gonna cave, now that he’s gone.

Magoon, Kekla (2014-10-21). How It Went Down (p. 274). Henry Holt and Co. (BYR). Kindle Edition.

The narrative lends itself to ambiguity (it doesn’t answer all questions, just like ‘real life’). No spoilers, but this is not a murder mystery. It lends itself to discussing how the media influences each of our own perceptions and truth, and how we reflect back to each other. The plot structure is simple and direct, and for some characters’ paths that lead are truncated, and others move onto the endless horizon: why and how does the plot structure affect our understanding of its themes?

I’d be interested to know your thoughts.

Postscript: “Almost Another Dead Black Male: Remembering a Traffic Stop That Got Ugly”

Next on the list:

(Realistic fiction = character focused)

(Journey of the Hero: focus on quest, and there is usually a map at the beginning!)

(Historical Fiction: time and place)

Red Rising by Pierce Brown (thank you, Mr. Crew!)

The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O’Brien

The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters



Tiny thinking bubble: I learned what ‘metonymy’ is, too.