WW2 & The Military #Hyperdoc

This year I have created three different playlists or hyperdocs specific to aspects of World War 2. I want my students to understand about American history in order to be reflective of our current social and political climate. The first hyperdoc in this series focused on Japanese Internment and made connections to Anti Asian Hate today. The second hyperdoc focused on the Holocaust and shared data on anti semitism that is prevalent today. The final hyperdoc highlights race and gender among military members who served in the armed forces. Many Black Americans, Native American Indians, Japanese Americans, and Women were discriminated yet still participated in the War efforts.

I began with a National Geographic documentary about a 92 years old, World War II paratrooper Les Cruise is one of the last surviving veterans who parachuted into Normandy on D-Day.

After viewing the short documentary students answered these questions in their ELA Notebooks

Although the United States Armed Forces were officially segregated until 1948, WWII laid the foundation for civil rights and women’s rights. American minorities felt a contradiction in the wartime experience. While they were fighting overseas to save democracy, freedoms at home were still limited for people of color. Strong racial prejudices, centuries old, still existed in the United States, and racial conflicts on the home front escalated during the war years. The hyperdoc addresses these concerns and highlights the contributions of Black Americans, Native American Indians, Japanese Infantry, and Women’s helping hands on the Homefront and overseas.

This 14 slide hyperdoc has four different chapters to help students understand the role of minority military personnel. Grab a copy here. Students have choice readings, videos, and web explorations about Navajo Code Talkers based on an online exhibit from the National Museum of the Native American Indian and a web quest on women’s contributions to the American Armed Forces.

Let me know what you and your students learn.

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Executive Functioning for Everyone

Harvard University Center on the Developing Child identify “Executive function and self-regulation skills are the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully. Just as an air traffic control system at a busy airport safely manages the arrivals and departures of many aircraft on multiple runways, the brain needs this skill set to filter distractions, prioritize tasks, set and achieve goals, and control impulses.

More and more parents are telling me their child struggles with executive functioning skills. Teachers are expected to help students with these skills and provide scaffolds and supports for students to develop these skills and habits.

Here are some places to start

  • Creating a Clean and Organized Workspace is central for homework and remote learning. This space needs to be organized which can be a challenge with executive functioning. This requires getting rid of distractions and having materials accessible when needed. If the phone is a distraction using Do Not Disturb or similar apps are helpful. Stay Focused App or SelfControl App increases your productivity by limiting the amount of time that you can spend on time-wasting websites.
  • Focus, Sustaining and Shifting Attention to Tasks requires a student to ask themselves What is important now? What should I put away and what do I need to complete this task? An organized space can help with focus. Have the students complete one task at a time and then take a break. Using a timer can be helpful or rewarding oneself when the task is completed provides some motivation. I am a huge fan of checklists to make sure I am on track and getting things done. This action of self monitoring and self regulating is key.
Figit Toys can help students with focus and sensory processing
  • Break Down Larger Assignments and taking one task at a time helps with focus. What is the process to get this done and what steps do I need to complete this? Breaking down assignments or create a task list/to do list for the project helps to scaffold the assignments. It is easy then to tell oneself to work on Step 1 first then Step 2 next. I am also a fan of false deadlines and getting things done before I have to so I can give myself more time for revision or just get it done and move forward.
  • Managing Frustration and Modulating Emotions is important because if we are angry or sad, it gets in the way of us doing our personal best. I keep focus music on while doing work and know when I cannot focus I might need to exercise, go for a walk or figure out what is getting in my way. My daughter has a box of fidgets she uses while she is doing remote learning and on the computer for a long time. Meditation and mindful exercises help regulate emotions and frustrations. Calm and Headspace are great apps for mindfulness and meditation. Breathing Zone provides family yoga classes online.
  • Agendas are so helpful for students. I post a weekly agenda that shows all the work that is due for students that week and sometimes a space with upcoming dates if they want to get ahead. Even on a daily basis, providing a daily agenda or mindmap of the class procedures can clarify expectations and requirements. This visual support can help with routines and transition. I strongly recommend that my own students keep an agenda on paper or a digital agenda so they know everything they have to do for each of their subjects and studies.

Additional resources

Augsburg University Assistive Technology Website

James Madison University Study Skills & Learning Toolbox


Executive Functioning

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Marvel Comics As A Teaching Text

Marvel’s The Falcon and Winter Solider mini-series on Disney Plus has kept me watching for the past six weeks. This Marvel spin off introduces the backstories of Captain America’s two friends Sam Wilson, the Falcon and Bucky Barnes turned White Wolf, turned Winter Solider. Both of these characters have minor roles in Avenger’s Infinity War and Endgame, as well as all the Captain America movies. There is lots of action and then there are many subplots throughout the series that address American’s past involvement in war, medical experimentation on African American soldiers, racism, and the world’s responsibility to refugees.

Every episode I watched I thought how can I bring this into my classroom as a teaching text. The ethical questions raised in the series are current controversial topics that connect to history, civics, and global issues.

What are the symbols of America and what do they stand for?

What are the benefits and consequences of taking (or giving people) a super solider serum?

Who’s responsibility is it to take care of refugees?

What does “one world and one people” mean?

We cannot ignore the fact that the series took on some of these tough questions all the while Sam’s journey of becoming the next Captain America. Erik Amaya writes for Rotten Tomatoes, “But for all those interesting global issues, the series really revolved around Sam’s emotional journey to accepting the Captain America identity. From the financial struggles Black people face on the regular to the way they are used and tossed aside by the military, the series constantly introduced reasons why Sam might not want to wear the U.S.” 

Erik Deggans reports for NPR, “But having a Black man step up to be a symbol of America at a time when police brutality and systemic racism are front-page issues couldn’t be a simple matter.”

“Every time I pick this thing up, I know there are millions of people out there who are going to hate me for it,” Wilson says in one poignant speech in the season finale. “Yet I’m still here. No super serum. No blond hair or blue eyes. The only power I have, is to believe we can do better.” Deggans responds, “At a time when average people are risking their safety to protest police brutality, putting so much on the line for the belief that America can be made better by the hard work of earnest people, that kind of speech feels like a rallying cry.”

So where does this fit into my curriculum?

My students are currently working on an independent reading unit on World War 2. Last week I introduced a side quest or call it a slide deck I created about Marvel tackling WW2 starting with X-Men and then looking at Captain America and The Falcon and Winter Solider — or should I say Captain America and the Winter Solider.

The slide deck introduces students to X-Men’s Magneto and his origin story as a Holocaust survivor in comics and the movies. Students learn about the Nuremberg Laws, Auschwitz, Dr. Mengele, and Sonderkommandos. The slide deck also gives the history of Captain America’s first comic, the connection between Red Skull, Captain America’s Arch Enemy and his connections to Hitler. There is the topic of super solider and eugenics that a connects with the current series of The Falcon and the Winter Solider. At the end of the slide deck I include two different Roll the Dice Activities based on whether students are Marvel fans or not.

If you have ideas for using Marvel in your classroom, share your ideas in the comments section of this blog. I would love to get more ideas and even collaborate with others.

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Japanese Internment Lessons & Resources

For the past two weeks I have been teaching Japanese Internment as an entry for my students to understand World War II. The essential question that guides this unit of study asks:

What lessons from Japanese Internment, the Holocaust, and WW2 can we learn in order to stop the hate and violence that is dominating our current cultural climate?

I wanted to provide all the resources here for teachers who have requested these documents and lessons that I created in one place. Here you can find assignments, hyperdocs, and additional resources for teaching this time period.

Japanese Internment Hyperdoc

Japanese Internment Digital Gallery

Japanese Internment Active Learning Station Rotation

World War II & The Holocaust Hexagonal Thinking

Additional Resources:

The New York Times

The Library of Congress

Zinn Education Project

Facing History and Ourselves


National World War II Museum New Orleans

PBS Learning Media

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NWelearn, NWMET, eLearning Consortium of Colorado 2021 VIRTUAL CONFERENCE

The eLearning Consortium of Colorado (eLCC), the Northwest Managers of Educational Technology (NW/MET) and the NW eLearning Community (NWeLearn) eLearning conference 2021 is a free three day virtual conference with over 100+ sessions addressing educational technology trends held April 7-9, 2021.

Registration is free and includes access to all three days and 100+ sessions. Be sure to Register for the 2021 conference and gain access to the amazing presentations.

Preview the slide deck from my session on creating podcasts with students:

Creating podcasts with students is about sparking active listeners, thoughtful creators, and engaged citizens.

When students are listening to podcasts they are able to:

  • Listen, comprehend, & analyze audio texts
  • Critically response to audio texts as a collection of choices that create meaning and emotion
  • Apply language, techniques, and vocabulary of podcasting
  • When students create podcasts they are able to:

  • Celebrate self expression and imagination
  • Make intentional choices that support current vision
  • Utilize technology with imagination and confidence
  • Participate in reflective process that welcomes feedback
  • Students make connections when listening and creating podcasts and then are able to:

  • Welcome the diversity and commonalities of perspectives, stories, & experiences
  • Practice empathy and communicate with open minds
  • Become thoughtful and curious media consumers
  • Share and receive new ideas
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    Virtual Field Trip to Emily Dickinson Museum

    One of my graduate students has been doing an author study of Emily Dickinson for our Writing and Thinking class this spring. Through his work I have been drawn to his discoveries and sharing about the unique poetry written by Emily Dickinson. Her poetry, as he describes is “more than a piece of writing to be studied, they are pieces of timeless art.” Using Dickinson’s letters and even her gardens helps to understand her poetry more deeply, her revision process, and the power of her words.

    Emily Dickinson was born December 10, 1830, in Amherst, Massachusetts. During her lifetime, Emily Dickinson published less than a dozen poems. All of them were anonymous. By the time Dickinson turned 35, she had composed more than 1100 concise, powerful lyrics that astutely examine pain, grief, joy, love, nature, and art. She recorded about 800 of these poems in small handmade booklets (now called “fascicles”), very private “publications” that she shared with no one. After Emily’s death, a hidden trunk was found by her sister containing almost 2,000 poems. Emily Dickinson’s experience as a gardener helped develop several of her poems about nature.

    Take a virtual tour of the grounds and landscape of the Emily Dickinson Museum

    Through her windows, Dickinson would have viewed a sweeping meadow and The Evergreens’ picturesque landscape. She was a passionate amateur botanist, as a teenager collecting more than 400 specimens and pressing them into her Herbarium (also at Houghton), and a lifelong gardener. Her father built her a small conservatory on the side of the house, where she tended calla lilies, gardenias, and inland buttercups. Nature, as The Gardens of Emily Dickinson, by Judith Farr, indicates, lent vitality and endless inspiration: one-third of Dickinson’s poems, and half her letters, mention her favorite flowers. Often, she records the most precious, minute observations: “A Bird, came down the Walk -/He did not know I saw -/He bit an Angle Worm in halves /And ate the fellow, raw,/ And then, he drank a Dew/From a convenient Grass -/And then hopped sidewise to the Wall/To let a Beetle pass –….” [This Dickinson text—#359—and #1696 and #1091 below, are from R.W. Franklin, The Poems of Emily Dickinson (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1998).]

    Dickinson found great joy in exploring the mysteries of nature, and some of her poems read like riddles. A concise and complex poem like the one below forces the reader to slow down and consider each word and image. Can you figure out what this poem is about?

    A Route of Evanescence, (1489)

    A Route of Evanescence,
    With a revolving Wheel –
    A Resonance of Emerald
    A Rush of Cochineal –
    And every Blossom on the Bush
    Adjusts it’s tumbled Head –
    The Mail from Tunis – probably,
    An easy Morning’s Ride –

    On the Museum’s webpage about the Major Characteristics of Dickinson’s Poetry it states, “One of Dickinson’s special gifts as a poet is her ability to describe abstract concepts with concrete images. In many Dickinson poems, abstract ideas and material things are used to explain each other, but the relation between them remains complex and unpredictable.”

    Although the museum is currently closed due to the pandemic, teachers and students can still go online to view the museum, galleries, and tour the grounds. Additionally, the museum website offers lesson plans, resources, and extensive historical biographical information about Dickinson and her family.

    Looking for more about this elusive poet, Apple TV’s Dickinson is an American comedy streaming television series about Emily Dickinson, created by Alena Smith starring Hailee Steinfeld. This retelling of Dickinson’s story draws attention to the parallels between the 1800s and our world today. The second season was released in January 2021.

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    Hyperdocs Spark Deep in Our Classrooms About Current Events Today

    We must allow for space and time in our classrooms and around the dinner table for conversations about dismantling racism, hatred, anti-semitism, violence, and xenophobia.

    Social justice and standing up for what is right is a year long theme throughout my 8th grade English Language Arts curriculum.  In my own classroom, crafting hyperdocs has allowed opportunities for deep conversations to address student questions about racism, anti semitism, xenophobia, and hatred. Throughout the school year my students read choice novels based on topics of social justice, dystopia, identity, WW2 and the Holocaust that coincide with our year long investigation what it means to stand up for what is right.  

    Hyperdocs are digital documents—such as a Google Doc—where all components of a learning cycle have been pulled together into one central hub. Within the document, students are provided with hyperlinks to all aspects of the inquiry unit—videos, slideshows, images, and activities—for the student to complete and gain understanding. Students have multi-modal opportunities for learning;  there is less lecturing at the front of the class. 

    Hyperdocs, which allow students to work at their own pace.  offer a road map for student learning. Depending on the Hyperdoc the teacher makes, differentiated activities and technology-rich assignments can help students learn and show their understanding as they complete engaging activities. Teachers might have students complete only a certain number of activities on the Hyperdoc or require students to complete them all. 

    In New York State, the Holocaust and World War II are part of the eighth grade social studies curriculum. English and social studies lend themselves well for collaborating when addressing topics with enduring issues like human rights, injustice, and inequality. 

    Essential Question: What lessons from Japanese Internment, the Holocaust, and WW2 can we learn in order to stop the hate and violence that is dominating our current cultural climate?

    There are many wonderful historical novels, poetry, and nonfiction texts written about these issues that teachers might already be using in their curriculum. In social studies classes primary documents, photographs, films, and documentaries are used to teach history today. Students can read and explore diverse types of  texts for a deeper understanding of the history and impact of World War II and the Holocaust on the world. Book choices include titles include but are not limited to: Farewell to Manzanar, The Diary of Anne Frank, Refugee, The Boys Who Challenged Hitler, Irena’s Children, and Librarian of Auschwitz. Utilizing diverse texts in conjunction with hyperdocs promotes critical thinking, understanding, and empathy. If we want our students to become critical citizens who participate in civic and digital life in positive ways, learning must be driven by inquiry rather than rote memorization of facts. Allowing students to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate historical text  that are primary and secondary sources in multi-genres formats allows students to see the depth of history through personal accounts.

    In order to build an accurate image in students minds Anne Frank and her family’s secret annex students took a virtual tour of the annex in Amsterdam and then shared their thoughts and reactions on a Flipgrid. Each week, the hyperdoc included at least one virtual trips to a Holocaust museum or memorial like Yad Vashem in Israel and the United States Holocaut Museum in Washington, DC.  With each digital field trip there are opportunities to reflect and draw connections. Students read letters from people sent away to Concentration Camps and listened to survivor’s stories. These virtual experiences built empathy and understanding that history is living and breathing. Throughout their exploration, reading, and reflection.  Students act as researchers and writers using higher order thinking and comprehension skills, while at the same time meeting 21st century skills as digital citizens and creators. Students utilize technology for research, reading, and writing to  present their understanding and learning  of WWII and the Holocaust. 

    Due to the current violence against Asian and Island Pacific People with COVID, I am using Japanese Internment and the racial profiling during WWII as the starting point the unit. I want students to recognize racial profiling relies on harmful stereotypes that are rooted in racism and discrimination.

    During World War II, Japanese Americans were profiled based on their ethnicity. The U.S. government suspected that they might be disloyal to America and working for the Japanese government, even though there was no real evidence of espionage or sabotage. As a result of these suspicions, Japanese Americans were rounded up and forced into incarceration camps for years.

    Asian Americans Advancing Justice and The New York Times Learning Network have a collection of lessons and resources for educators to use with students. One key point with both these resources is that “informed and engaged citizens of a democratic society should know that a time of crisis requires solidarity, humanity, and hope, not hysteria or hatred.”

    The hyperdoc I have created for this unit is still a work in progress but you can view the entire hyperdoc and digital notebook HERE

    Writing and discussion help to deepen students’ understanding of what they read, see, and hear. There’s a synergy between two vital practices: writing about text helps students understand what they read as knowledge constructors and discussion helps them develop their ideas to be creative communicators. By middle and high school the conversations and group work should go beyond the “turn and talk” or “think pair share” to provide opportunities for students to present information in small groups and large audiences, in socratic seminars, and through student-led discussions. Screen-casts, podcasts, and video projects are all great venues that allow students to utilize speaking and listening skills. Students can utilize technology to podcast or video their presentations to practice speaking and build their communication skills. 

    The learning experiences we provide should show students the world, not just tell them about it. Our curriculum needs interactive learning experiences with playlists and Hyperdocs that include reading, writing, reflections, role plays, simulations, debates, formal speeches, and demonstrations. Our job is to excite students about the world, to help them see the role that they can play in making society a better place, and to express their ideas powerfully. We must show our students that our content area is about real world problems, issues, and possible solutions.

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    do ed tech 2021

    DO Ed Tech – Calm, Connected, Compassionate is an annual conference sponsored by NYSCATE. This year’s virtual conference hosted over 50 sessions on topics including District Leadership, Next Gen Learning Standards, SEL, STEM, Digital Fluency, Family Engagement, Career Development, IT Services, Community Resources, and many others. The keynote speaker was Dr. Monica Burns, ClassTechTips creator. I was honored to present a session on Building Epic Hyperdocs, Playlists and Choice Boards Peloton Style. Call it a Playlist, Hyperdoc or Choice Board – they are similar in their objective: to allow teachers to organize a unit or lesson in a clear fashion, front load student work so students can work at their own pace and even choose their own learning adventure. Participants learned how to build awesome playlists that support diverse student learners for in-person and remote learning.

    Here is a link to my presentation slides and below I link all the hyperdocs I shared throughout the session.

    19th Amendment Centennial Hyperdoc

    Poetry Choice Board

    Social Justice Differentiated Choice Board

    World War II Playlist

    Black Panther Playlist

    Hyperdoc Template Created by Web2.0Classroom

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    Podcasts Are Mentor Texts Too

    According to Iowa Reading and Research Center, “Mentor texts are written pieces that serve as an example of good writing for student writers. The texts are read for the purpose of studying the author’s craft, or the way the author uses words and structures the writing. The goal is to provide students a model they could emulate in crafting their own piece.” Mentor texts are samples of writing for students to model and emulate for their own writing. As a teacher, I am always reading and collecting mentor texts that I can utilize in my classroom for teaching all types of reading moves from sentence structure, vocabulary, voice, and even punctuation. An effective mentor text is one that we can read and reread to unearth the beauty in the writing.

    Who is to say that a podcast can’t be a mentor text. My students are currently writing original mystery stories and when I came across Lethal Lit: A Tig Torres Mystery, I was enamored with this engaging mystery that blends Serial Podcast content with Riverdale teen drama. In the podcast series, teen detective Tig Torres returns to her small hometown of Hollow Falls, where her aunt was framed as a serial killer ten years earlier. With help from her new friends, Tig investigates the twisted mystery. But as she gets closer to the truth, the killings, each based on murder scenes from classic literature, begin all over again…with her as the final target. The podcast is six episodes, each episode under 30 minutes.

    I introduced the podcast series to my students during a mini-lesson on Mood and Tone when we listened to the first episode together to understand the mood and tone in the show’s exposition. Students constructed interpretations about the setting of Hollow Falls and the people who inhabit it. I provided students with a listening guide to help catalogue the murders, clues, and suspects throughout the entire series.

    Listening to the podcast the dialogue is riddled with pop culture allusions that can be another mini-lesson and the voice of the protagonist, Tig Torres is worth re-listening as students create their own characters with distinct and unique voices. In using this podcast as a mentor text, I want to “help students to take risks and be different writers tomorrow than they are today. It helps them to try out new strategies and formats.” (the National Writing Project).

    Students will complete a choice project based on their listening of the entire series too.

    A mentor text does not just have to be a piece of writing, it can be a visual text like a movie or image, it might be a song or poem, and even a podcast. Mentor texts can be ones that students can read independently as well as with teacher support. Think about the texts that you use as mentor texts for your students, what are the lessons that can grow out of these texts and how they might inspire our students to be stronger and more effective writers.

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    Get Your Students Creating Podcasts — ISTE Blog

    The following post was a guest blog post I wrote for ISTE this past week. You can read the entire post on ISTE’s Blog.

    Tai Poole is a ninth grader in Canada and has been hosting the podcast series Tai Asks Why? with the Canadan Broadcasting Company (CBC) since he was 11. Each episode is under 30 minutes and delves into thought-provoking topics: How much is too much screen time, what is love, and what’s happening to my teenage brain with insight from Tai’s family members, experts and scientists. Tai is one of many young people starting their own podcasts, building an audience and brand around them. 

    Why not get your students in on the podcasting action?  You don’t need fancy equipment to get started. Just an idea. Producing a podcast requires students to articulate an idea, as they showcase their understanding and learning. Students can create them independently or in collaborative groups. The content can be serious or light hearted, fictional or grounded in truth. Podcasts cover a wide variety of subjects including science, current events, history, fan fiction and storytelling. If they aren’t sure where to begin, they can listen to published podcast examples to help determine the direction and format.  

    Podcasting builds skills

    When students produce a podcast, they become problem solvers and enhance their technology skills. The ISTE Standards for Students call for students to express themselves in a variety of formats and platforms. Throughout the podcasting process students apply research,  writing  and verbal skills to communicate a message. When students create their own podcasts, they act as knowledge constructors and empowered learners. 

    Here are three more reasons to create podcasts with students. 

    1. Empower learners

    Most of the information students receive is in multimodal formats: digital, print, visual and audio. Podcasts are tools for learning information and content. Podcasts come in a variety of formats and topics. My students are currently listening to the murder mystery podcast series Tig Torres: Lethal Lit as a mentor text for their own mystery stories they are creating. 

    1. Initiate global connections & collaboration

    Creating podcasts for a wider audience is engaging and authentic. The New York Times and National Public Radio both host annual podcasting contests for teens to create and record original audio material under 10 minutes on any topic. Sharing student-created podcasts with the world enriches the learning experience for the listeners as well as the podcast creators.

    1. Apply Digital Citizenship 

    Sharing podcasts with local and global audiences requires students to create a positive, safe, ethical and legal digital behavior. Producing a podcast requires students to record and edit digital content. Students are required to choose sound effects, record interviews and include sound bites from experts to add engaging features that draw the listeners attention. Podcasting depends on creative communication. 

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