This week I am sharing a post I wrote for Kasey Bell @shakeuplearing. Check out the post on Kasey’s website CLICK HERE.
We ended 2020 with promise and possibility. A vaccine for the Corona Virus, a woman of color to be our next Vice President, Black Lives Matter at the forefront, a congress and senate that is diverse and representative of our nation. And then on Wednesday January 6th, 2021 a mob of pro-Trump people stormed the State Capital following a rally where President Trump “falsely claimed of widespread voter fraud.” The New York Times reports, “Hundreds of people barreled past fence barricades and clashed with police officers in an attempt to disrupt the certification of the Electoral College results.” The mob smashed windows and broke through the main doors moving freely throughout the building, some vandalizing statues, carrying confederate flags, and taking pictures of their endeavors. The images displayed through social media and presented on news evoked feelings of terror, embarrassment, and appal.
Reactions around the globe are of disdain, dismay, and doubt of the stability of the United States Democracy. It was the War of 1812 when the British set fire to the Capital building. And now in 2021, a collective of Pro-Trump Americans inciting violence and treason stormed the capital building. History is being made everyday.
How do we as history and English teachers address these events in a ways that promotes conversation, not division and greater divide?
Depending on the age level of your students, here are some possible avenues to engage in conversations in our classrooms relating to yesterday’s events.
4. Read a Dystopian Text. Right now my students are reading Animal Farm and although Orwell wrote this book to parody the Russian Revolution, there are so many passages that connect with our political parties today. Whether addressing propaganda or rebellion, revolt, and revolution, these fiction tales of dystopian communities are a mirror to current events. Essential questions can address, Does power have to corrupt? and Can we protect ourselves from manipulation?
5. Parlay, a discussion based platform and learning tool, showcased two lessons reflecting on January 6, 2021. Both addressing topics of government and civics. In one discussion prompt students respond to the provided questions or post a question of their own. The following sources are used to kickstart the discussion:
2020 has been a challenging year for many of us. From health, schooling, financial, and social emotional highs and lows; we have all faced hurdles. My heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones and are struggling right now.
Schooling made tremendous shifts with technology and teaching. The learning curve was huge for families, students, and educators. For me, we went 100% remote in the spring in the matter of a weekend only to go back in a hybrid setting this fall. I saw my students take the lead and others completely shut down. I have learned that there is no perfect model and every student is unique. The debates continue to address whether standardized testing is necessary during a pandemic (NO!), should we compassionately grade our students (Still, undecided), and what will the future of school look like post COVID-19.
At the same time I was teaching, I did not stop writing and sharing insight from my own classroom learning. I published a Jump Start Guide with ISTE on Podcasting with students this fall highlighting tools and tips for helping students become creative communicators. I love offering my students alternatives to the traditional English assignments.
I am grateful to be a guest on a number of educational podcasts. These were all personal highlights:
In early December I spoke with Dr. Monica Burns of Class Tech Tips about creating podcasts with students. Her podcast show and weekly newsletters offer so many great tips for teachers.
This fall I was also featured on BAM! Radio Network with Carl Hooker sharing ways to inspire students to love writing. I highlighted tools and strategies that have the ability to turn reluctant writers into writing enthusiasts.
There were virtual conferences galore to support educators and best practices for blended learning. I was honored to present at edtechteam’s virtual summits, ISTE20, and NYSCATE. You can visit my resources page on this blog to access the slide deck for each of these presentations.
What I am looking forward to the most in 2021 is the possibility of getting a COVID vaccine and being able to see my family and friends again. I hope that we will be able to attend conferences in person and I can see a Broadway show in the new year. There are more books to read and great movies to watch. As every year, I wish for peace on earth and everyone healthy and safe. I think of the mentors and models around me who inspire me everyday and think about what James Clear, author of Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones said,
“All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision. But as that decision is repeated, a habit sprouts and grows stronger. Roots entrench themselves and branches grow. The task of breaking a bad habit is like uprooting a powerful oak within us. And the task of building a good habit is like cultivating a delicate flower one day at a time.”
Pear Deck seems to be calling me this fall. In an online workshop on Hybrid teaching with Emma Pass @emmabpass she raved about Pear Deck being one of her favorite edtech tools. Additionally, the technology specialists at my school offered two workshops on Pear Deck integration into our hybrid model. My science teacher now says it has changed her teacher life for the better. Due to the universe pointing me in the Pear Deck direction, I decided to update a few activities with Pear Deck and see for myself the benefits of using this digital platform.
Pear Deck is awesome because of the ability to directly add interactive questions (multiple choice, short answer, drawing, matching) into Google Slides (or Power Point). This capability makes it easy to collect formative assessment data when delivering a lesson synchronously remote or in person. There is also an option to make the lesson “self-paced” so students can move through the lesson independently and interact with materials, follow links, and answer questions. Here is a video that provides a little overview:
Here are some additional benefits to using Pear Deck:
I am currently teaching in a Hybrid learning model with half of my students remote and the other half in person. Taking a teaching idea I found on Teachers Pay Teachers of “Figurative Language Truth or Dare” I adapted the questions onto Google Slides with Pear Deck for a live game of Truth or Dare. Students were given options to respond to a truth or a dare question/activity. Most students told me they enjoyed the choice and were able to review figurative language in an engaging way.
Need more reasons to use Pear Deck with your students? Matt Miller of Ditch That Textbook created this video on teaching lessons remotely with Pear Deck and he offers a dozen or more ideas how to use Pear Deck with your students on his blog:
Pros – Students will appreciate the interactivity of the slideshows, which get them drawing, writing, and responding to teacher-created prompts and polls. Slideshows peppered with interactive assessments can support students’ understanding and retention.
Cons – Some students might use the slides to write what ever they wanted. For example, one of my students during Figurative Language Truth or Dare decided to draw a ladybug instead of matching the similes and metaphors – it was clear that he wasn’t engaged in the lesson.
Favorite YA Titles of 2020 . . .
I fell in love with Daniel Nayeri’s book on the first page. Like Sheherizad and the one thousand tales who tells a story every night to help stay alive, a young Daniel tells the story of his journey to America to find safety with his family to keep his memories alive. His tale is one of intrigue, adventure, destruction, love and sadness that takes your breath away. Nayeri weaves Persian mythology and folklore as it parallels his own awakening and understanding of the complexities losing one’s home and family after leaving Iran, detour in Dubai and Italy before coming to Oklahoma. But most people are not welcoming towards him, his family or refugees. as you know. This story will have you laughing and crying all on the same page. His adolescent insight ranges from detailed imagery of Persian food, American culture, and even poop. His stories engage readers as well as his classmates in Oklahoma who see him as an outsider and bully him constantly.
When I read Stamped back in May I knew that this book would be included in my curriculum. It was part of a summer book club with students and teachers in my middle school because it is a powerful nonfiction text. Reynolds states repeatedly throughout the book that is is not a history book but rather a “primer on the historical roots and present-day manifestations of antiblack racism in America. In five sections, Reynolds’s conversational text discusses the influential figures, movements, and events that have propagated racist ideas, beginning in 1415 with the publication of the infamous work that laid the groundwork for subsequent religious justifications of enslaving African peoples and continuing through the “war on drugs” and #BlackLivesMatter.” (Publishers Weekly) So many of my students spoke about how the information in the book was never taught to them before 8th grade and it made me audit the authors and texts students read prior to 8th grade so that we can provide students with more diverse voices.
Budding Chefs . . .
Milkbar: Kids Only is for families who have taken cooking in quarantine with gusto. I have been obsessed with Milkbar since I first saw their compost cookies on television with everything from potato chips to pretzels, chocolate chips and anything else that you have around the kitchen (You can access the recipe HERE) Tosi is a genius and whether you want to perfect dessert or your mouth begins to water with apple pie waffles, this is the cookbook to get for a budding chef.
If we are going to talk about cookbooks, I would be remiss to not to nerd-out with these two geometry inspired cookbooks for the mathematicians in your life. Ko is not a trained chef but a self taught baker and created an Instagram account with her amazingly beautiful pies that led to a huge following due to the artistry she presented in color and geometric shapes. Kenedy, on the other hand, is a trained chef who provides insight into more than 300 different shapes of pasta based on the region in Italy and the perfect sauce to pair with the pasta.
Picture Book Love . . .
The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read by Rita Lorraine Hubbard – Thank you to Colby Sharp for this recommendation because my students loved listening to the story and learning about Mary Walker. Walker was born a slave and did not learn to read until she was 116. Yes, Mary Walker actually was a real person and her story shows perseverance and the power of literacy.
For Your Teacher Friends . . .
A Perfect Blend by Michele Eaton
This book does not come at a more perfect time. Hyperdocs, choice boards, flipped lessons – Oh My! Readers will learn how to create effective blended learning experiences for their students. Rather than focusing on finding and implementing a specific established model, author Michele Eaton shows teachers how to embrace the flexibility of blended learning to take an active role as a designer of learning and, in the process, help students become advocates for their education.
I teach a media literacy course to middle school students. Throughout the semester students are studying elements of film and creating their own films including short documentaries and creative films to showcase their understanding of the craft and structure of visual storytelling.
I wanted to take some time to closely examine a popular film and look at not only basic comprehension of the storyline but the nuances of craft and structure to help convey themes and ideas about deeper socio-political and historical topics. I selected Marvel’s 2018 Black Panther knowing that it is rich in African American history, culture, and commentary. When my students are in class, we watch the movie and then when students are home and learning remotely, I have created a viewing guide and hyperdoc to guide their viewing of the text and even reread significant scenes.
The first hyperdoc contains background information on Black Panther the comic and how the movie came to fruition. Thanks to history teacher Amanda Sandoval for her Frayer Model Vocabulary slides.
The second hyperdoc is for students after viewing the first 30 minutes of the film. Students will analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.9-10.3) and Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.9-10.1)
An additional resource from the New York Times to address craft and structure feature so the film is their Anatomy of a Scene series. In this particular scene director of Black Panther, Ryan Coogler narrates a sequence from his film featuring Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, a.k.a. Black Panther. If you are not familiar with this online series from the New York Times, it is a great resource where film directors walk viewers through one scene of their movies, showing the magic, motives and the mistakes from behind the camera.
With the unfortunate passing of Black Panther star, Chadwick Boseman this past summer, teachers might also use his commencement speech at Howard University in 2018 or his acceptance speech at Screen Actor’s Guild Awards in 2019, two powerful speeches that showcase his grit, perseverance, and resiliency.
The lessons are endless that stem from this movie and I am not finished in creating this unit. It continues to evolve. How do you use popular culture to teach literacy, history, and lifeskill? Share your ideas in the comments section on this blog.
#NYSCATE Annual Conference is virtual this year. NYSCATE stands for New York State Association for Computers and Technologies in Education and every year at this time the annual conference is held in Rochester, New York. This year the conference was complete virtual with 120 presentations delivered by educators and technology experts over the four-day period. Key note speakers included Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Chief Accessibility Officer, Microsoft and Jay McTighe, educational author and consultant. Additional speakers include Carl Hooker, Tim Needles, Monica Burns, and Tom Murray to name a few.
I led two workshops during the conference and you can view the slide decks below. If you have additional questions do not hesitate to contact me directly. Many of the templates in the slide decks can be accessed on the Resources Page on this blog.
This week’s blog post is a guest blog post that I wrote for Classroom Q&A With Larry Ferlazzo – Education Week Teacher as part of a four part series: “Give Students Choice When It’s Time to Read” with additional insight from Laura Robb, Pam Allyn, and many more.
I have reposted the post I contributed below but you are going to want to read the entire blog series on teaching readers and reading on the Classroom Q&A With Larry Ferlazzo – Education Week Teacher webpage.
There is nothing like a great book to engross the reader, travel to another time or place, offer a new perspective on history, provide another perspective, bring new awareness, and hold up a mirror to one’s own life. As an English teacher, reading is a passion and pastime for me. But it wasn’t always this way. When I was in middle and high school, I was a reluctant reader. I disliked so many of the assigned books I read in my youth. The classics and canonical texts filled the reading lists. I found myself procrastinating summer reading requirements until days before school would begin again only to be faced with more required reading of people I did not connect with.
Today, it is the complete opposite in my own classroom. Students are given choices when it comes to school reading. Whether independent reading or working through our thematic units of instruction, students have book choice, and this leads to an increased motivation to read. To help them choose a book that piques their interest, I read aloud excerpts from books, share book trailers, and play audio selections of popular and poignant books I want to share with my students with the hope to match the right book at the right time with a reader. I share with my students books I am reading, listening to, and that comprise my ‘To Be Read List.’ Students have time to read every day in our English classroom. My classroom library is bursting with advanced-reader copies (ARCs) I collected at conferences like NCTE, ILA, and NerdCamp. Plus I am always purchasing books on Amazon after I read a new book review and get a recommendation from my professional learning community.
Educator and author of BookLove (Heinemann, 2013), Penny Kittle states that to motivate readers, students need choices, book talks, time to read in class, book clubs, access to books, and to see teachers passionate about reading. Literacy is a schoolwide initiative. When students see the adults in their life reading, talking about books, and share their reading life, they have positive reading role models. Similarly, carving out time in our classes for reading is key. When we flip reading time during class time rather than assigning reading outside of school, we allow students to practice reading in real time, promote discussion, and apply reading in the classroom. If we are going to help cultivate students who are avid readers of text—print, visual, digital, audio—then it means we are intentional about creating a culture of reading in our schools and classrooms.
This week my school quarantined due to a COVID outbreak. As a result, the next two weeks we are teaching synchronous lessons remotely. Students and teachers are online from 8AM – 3PM; that is A LOT of screen time. How do you keep students engaged in live online lessons?
This semester I have found Google’s Jamboard to be a great chameleon-like tech tool for any content area teacher to utilize. Here are ten suggestions how you can use Google’s Jamboard for collaboration, classroom hooks, showcase understanding, exit tickets, and even assessment. What is even more awesome, you can open or create a Jamboard right in Google Meets.
Now this tool is not all cotton candy and rainbows. An important thing to note is that just like any of Google’s other collaborative tools, once you share a Jam with your class they have full editing power, meaning they could write on any and every sticky note provided for the class (or do a number of other devious things. So, setting clear expectations with students is imperative.
Before Jamboard I used Padlet and I still am, but as a paid platform I am limited in the amount of padlets I can create using the free version. With Jamboard, I can create unlimited Jamboards and allow for similar collaborative features that Padlet provides. Plus, teachers are getting even more creative using Jamboards for blackout poetry, games, and 6 word stories and more. Perusing social media and Pinterest, you can find lots more ideas to adapt for your own content and students learning.