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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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Out of context: Language barriers.


Has anyone ever called you “thick” before?

Well, according to more updated slang, it doesn’t mean stupid or dumb.

We (teachers) know there is power in words and word choices. What I think we forget sometimes (and perhaps I am just speaking for myself) is that we adults lose the magic pixie dust power of invented language. Adolescents will always create new uses of words to suit their own time and needs. They have their own codes.  By the time we grown-ups start to use the word in our everyday vernacular,  that word or phrase has disappeared in a puff of smoke.

It’s not attractive or necessary for anyone over the age of 30…35…40…to keep up with current slang, per se. It doesn’t seem natural or dignified; in fact, it’s somewhat dorky and awkward. But if you live in that world, how do you negotiate the language of youth? Think back to when you were a teenager, using slang and code to create a communication barrier between you and your parents, and how quaint and cute you may have thought your own parents to be when they tried to use a word/phrase? I have become that doddering old fool.

In the past week, I have misused or misunderstood the following:

“QQ” – means crying eyes

“Thick” – means a Rubenesque feminine beauty (and kids — if you don’t know what Rubenesque means – look it up — got one on you!)

Zerg: Means a bee-like swarm

One word I have an issue with is students’ use of the “n” word. And now a publisher has sanitized Huckleberry Finn so as not to “offend” and get that book back in the hands of high school students. Slang can be hateful, and isn’t always a barrier. Sometimes it’s crystal clear what someone is saying: the slang is a racial, religious, or ethnic slur. And it’s our job to make those reasons clear, and expose the hate. When a student uses that word as slang, even in an affectionate, friendly context, I ask: 1. Is that even possible, and 2. Does that take the power out of a word, more or less effectively, than a nanny-mother hen publisher?

I don’t have any simple answers – just more questions. In the meantime, I’ll try to swallow my own pride and keep referring to Urban Dictionary or asking my own sons and students. Even if they laugh at me, (which they have) at least I’ll know.

Because ignorance is even less funny.

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Books You Should Read:



Chapter 20: Dying Languages

Speaking, writing, and signing are the three ways in which a language lives and breathes. They are the three mediums through which a language is passed on from one generation to the next. If a language is a healthy language, this is happening all the time. Parents pass their language on to their children, who pass it on to their children … and the language lives on.

Languages like English, Spanish, and Chinese are healthy languages. They exist in spoken, written, and signed forms, and they’re used by hundreds of millions of people all over the world. But most of the 6,000 or so of the world’s languages aren’t in such a healthy state. They’re used by very few people. The children aren’t learning them from their parents. And as a result the languages are in real danger of dying out.

When does a language die?

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You don’t say?

Noah WebsterFrom The Writer’s Almanac, April 14, 2010:

But then two brothers from Springfield, Massachusetts, stepped in: Charles and George Merriam. They bought the rights to the dictionary and the unsold copies, sold it at a low price, and changed the company to “Merriam-Webster” because Webster had such name recognition. They printed the first Merriam-Webster dictionary on September 24, 1847, for a cost of six dollars.

But nothing deterred Webster, and he spent almost 30 years on his project. It took three years for the dictionary to be set into type, and finally, on this day in 1828, it was published. The criticisms of it had diminished, and it was greeted with great respect. But unfortunately, it cost 15 or 20 dollars, which was a huge amount in 1828, and Webster died in 1843 without having sold many copies.