A Curated List of Hyperdocs, Playlists, & Choice Boards Presented at #ISTELive21

Playlists, Hyperdocs, & Choice Boards . . . What’s the difference?

Playlists are a series of activities focused on specific content and matched to student needs. The intent of playlist-based instruction is to differentiate instruction while providing students control over various aspects of learning, including path, pace, or modality. 

Hyperdocs are interactive digital documents where all components of a learning cycle have been pulled together into one central hub. Within a single document, students are provided with hyperlinks to all of the resources they need to complete that learning cycle.

Choice Boards or Learning menus as Kasey Bell of Shake Up Learning defines “are a form of differentiated learning that gives students a menu or choice of learning activities. It is simply a menu of choices from which students can choose. Student choice is the big idea behind learning menus and choice boards.”

Here is a list of different playlists, choice boards, and hyperdocs I have created in the past three years for middle school students (and showcase at edtech conferences). Feel free to make a copy of these and adapt for your own classroom use. Please be sure to credit those whose materials you are using, adapting, and borrowing. 

Humanities:

Anti Asian Hate Now & Then: Parallels W/Japanese Internment & WW2 

WW2 & The Holocaust

World War II Military

The History & Fiction of Hunters on Amazon Prime

19th Amendment Centennial

Literature & ELA:

Animal Farm Week One & Week Two 

Raymond’s Run Hyperdoc

Ransom of the Red Chief Hyperdoc

Poetry Choice Boards

Mystery Writing

Social Justice Choice Menu

Movie Viewing & Media Literacy:

Black Panther Origins (Pre-Viewing Guide) & Viewing 

Black Panther Movie Analysis Choice Board

Twilight Zone

Getting to Know Your Students:

Get to Know You Think Tac Toe (Choice Board)

Link to Slide Deck

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Multigenre Projects

In my book New Realms for Writing (ISTE, 2019) I introduce a multi genre project my students create based on a World War II topic, research, and historical fiction.

As stated in the book, “Why just box students into writing one genre per unit? There are limitations to teaching narrative, informative, argumentative writing in isolation. Each genre has its strengths and drawbacks. In fact, when we read essays and articles these genres are often blended together.  If teachers allow students to show their understanding and knowledge of a topic with a variety of genres there is choice and creativity. This goes beyond just allowing students to choose the genre or format to showcase their understanding, what if students could blend genres in one assignment to produce a multi-genre piece.  In this chapter I introduce  the concept of multi genre writing: the ability to write in more than one genre to present understanding and build new knowledge.”

Multigenre Projects are not new, educator and author, Tom Romano describes in, Blending Genres Blending Styles (2000),  “In short, multigenre projects entail a series of generic documents that are linked by a central premise, theme, or goal. They may forward an argument, trace a history, or offer multiple interpretations of a text or event. They are rigorous forms of writing, involving all of the elements of a traditional research paper: research and citation, coherence and organization, purpose and aim of discourse, audience awareness, and conventional appropriateness.”

As an end of the year project I wanted to create a multi genre project where my students were at the forefront. Since we just finished reading books and discussing themes of identity, I adapted a project I found online that focuses on our stories and identities. Students were to create multigenre project as a means of reflecting upon middle school and how that has shaped us into who we are today.

Here are the specifics: 

  • A title page with a creative title.
  • An introduction serving as a guide to readers.  This will introduce the event you’re reflecting upon and help us understand why this topic is important to you.  Likewise, it gives you an opportunity to explain how we should read your documents.  This should be ½ to 1 page long.
  • Three (3) separate documents from three (3) different genre categories:
    • The  Narrative Writing Category
    • The Persuasive Writing Category
    • The  Informational Writing Category
    • The Poetry Category
    • Visual Artistic Category

*You can add a fourth category and document for extra credit

  • An artist statement paragraph for each document at the end of your project answering the following questions in complete sentences:
    • What is the message of this document? 
    • Why did you pick this genre for this specific part of the story? 
    • How does this document show the larger theme of your story? 

At the end the year it is inspiring to see students write with gusto about topics related to friends, sports, uncertainty, grades, losing a loved one and procrastinating. One student even said to me that this was the best project they have worked on so far — that is something you do not hear often when it comes to a writing assignments.

As for the different writing examples within the genre categories, students had lots of choices.

As these final projects are turned in, I cannot wait to share some of the highlights.

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Where I’m From Book Assessment

I came across the poem “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon, an American author from Kentucky, who has published in many genres, including picture books, poetry, juvenile novels, and articles.:

Where I’m From

I am from clothespins,

from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.

I am from the dirt under the back porch.

(Black, glistening,

it tasted like beets.)

I am from the forsythia bush

the Dutch elm

whose long-gone limbs I remember

as if they were my own.

I’m from fudge and eyeglasses,

          from Imogene and Alafair.

I’m from the know-it-alls

          and the pass-it-ons,

from Perk up! and Pipe down!

I’m from He restoreth my soul

          with a cotton ball lamb

          and ten verses I can say myself.

I’m from Artemus and Billie’s Branch,

fried corn and strong coffee.

From the finger my grandfather lost

          to the auger,

the eye my father shut to keep his sight.

Under my bed was a dress box

spilling old pictures,

a sift of lost faces

to drift beneath my dreams.

I am from those moments–

snapped before I budded —

leaf-fall from the family tree.

The poem has so much vivid imagery. The moments are also metaphors and requires students to make inferences reading and rereading the poem. The reader gets a clear picture in their mind of the childhood farm George Ella Lyon grew up on in Kentucky. The poem highlights the role of family, culture and childhood help to develop ones sense of identity.

My students read the poem silently first and then I read the poem aloud. After hearing the poem and reading the poem students sketched an image that stood out from their understanding of the poem. Students shared their sketches with their elbow partner.

Students were asked to work in small groups to deconstruct the poem:

  1. Go back into the poem and count how many times the lines begin with “I’m from…”
  2. Find a sensory description with vivid imagery using smell, touch, taste, or sight
  3. Find a metaphor and decipher it’s meaning
  4. Identify the memories vs. present time
  5. What else do you notice?

After ten minutes we returned back to the large class to discuss our findings. We discussed how each of the choices that Lyon made when writing her poem were significant, small items in her life that helped to shape who she was. T.

Now I love the idea of students creating their own “Where I’m From” poems about themselves but since we have been reading choice novels about identity, I had students create an “I Am From” poem based on the protagonist in their reading book. Students were asked to think of significant items in the protagonists life, things that helped shape their identity, family beliefs that molded what they believe, and a description of their place within their family using figurative language. The results were awesome.

The first student example is based on Daniel Nayeri’s Everything Sad is Untrue:

I am from a land that no longer welcomes me

A country where I cannot return, despite all the people demanding I do

Surviving, not thriving, in a new land that is almost as welcoming

Stuck with a name that isn’t my own

Where it is normal for me to leave school bloody and beaten

Working with classmates who refuse to acknowledge who I am

Who continuously mix up my home country with another, collectively deciding to turn away and disregard the differences

I am from a mom who is stronger than any hero

A sister who’s as smart as a textbook, but as cold as my favorite ice cream

We don’t talk anymore, all that’s left behind are memories

And even those are fading

I am from a step-dad who beats my mom to a pulp, but also keeps us afloat

A biological dad who decided we weren’t worth the trouble

Who moved on without a second glance in our direction

I am from riches and wealth, turned to dirt and no lunch

I am from a wonderful childhood, cut too short

Forced to grow up too soon

Missing my culture that encourages respect 

Unlike my new home, where respect is scarce 

Trying to keep my light alive by cracking jokes, although they are always met with silence

I am from everyone I had to leave behind

Everything I couldn’t save

Everyone I couldn’t protect 

I am one with the stories of the past, only true to me

Built from the everlasting tales, allowing me to live and learn

I am from a jasmine house where the memories are fond and my life began

Reminiscing in the scent of flowers, swans, sapphire blue rivers, and chests full of gold doubloons

I am from everywhere, everyone, and everything

A mosaic 

A reflection

A montage of the past

A collection of moments

Here is another student example based on Elizabeth Acevado’s Poet X:

My family is from the small religious island of the Dominican Republic

Where my Mami fled for America

But I am from the city

Where nobody sleeps

The part of Harlem where creepy men lurk at every corner 

I am from a school just a train ride away

Where most students skip class and fool around 

I am from a town that sees me not as a person but an object to mess around with

My life welded to live invisible, trying to hide from all those demanding to play with me 

I am from a life in which I can trust only me to stick up for myself

I am from a family in which respect is nowhere to be found

From disappointed looks and lecturings parties

From church every Sunday and an Earth rotating around God

I am from a mother who resorts to violence at every given second and a father who seeks no part in my life 

I am from a safety net that is my twin brother by whom I am connected to by twin powers

Yet from a family in which my gay brother is unjustly unaccepted and my freedom seeking self is restrained by thick chains and barbed wire

I am long gone from the days of the ice skating rinks and peaceful church with Father Sean

No longer remembering the love my Mami and I once shared

I am from a suffering family through and through working to mend our knotted, beaten family back together 

I am a little girl inside a big body who seeks safety and acceptance yet gets met by hatred and harassment

I am a girl who wants everything she’s never supposed to have

Someone who wished for a boy but gets meet by misogyny 

I am from hours of being discriminated against and named a ‘cuero’ and days of questioning who I am 

I am from a tight ship revolving around strict rules

From a confusing and curious brain that goes against my family’s teachings 

And a girl who wishes to write poems peacefully 

From a life scarred by the appalling cent of my burning notebook filled with my problems I never solved 

I am from the secret poetry club restricted by my hate filled Mami and knees that burn from the rice buckets 

From the safe warmth of Ms. Galiano the only women who showed kindness and encouragement

I am from a world of great bravery learning how to express my pain and share my joy

A place in which I shall share my poems freely and safely to the world

I am a woman who shall honor and stay true to herself

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End of the Year Activities for Students

Here are five fun literacy activities you can use with your students to close out an interesting year of blended learning due to the pandemic.

1) Send thank-you emails

What better way to end the year than helping students learn how to craft notes of appreciation and sending them to faculty, staff, and other students?  Everyone has worked hard the last few months and could use kind words.  In times of quarantine, social distancing, and hybrid learning, taking time to stop and acknowledge individuals with heartfelt gratitude helps students realize both others’ impact on them and their impact on others.

2) Progressive stories

Begin a new document with a list of randomly-ordered student names with your class.  Write a starting sentence in the document and share the document with the first person on the list.  The first student has to continue the story with a sentence of their own, then share the document with the second person on the list.  Continue this sequence until every student has contributed.  For variation, start a couple of different stories with the list of names in different order.  See what creative and humorous stories emerge!

3) Found poem gallery

Students can use their mobile devices to snap a photo of an existing block of text (such as a page in a book).  Students can use an annotation tool to strategically and thoughtfully mark out words, leaving a small number of words uncovered that result in a poem.  Students can post their finished poems to Padlet or some other platform for others to comment on their creations.  You can see an example on Kate Hutchinson’s blog.

4) Six-word memoirs

Students can summarize their pandemic-shortened school year in six cleverly-chosen words.  You can read more about this project idea HERE.

5) Video & Film Challenges

Give your students a prompt to make a short video to close out the school year. Tim Needles @timneedles always has some inspiring video and art challenges from untraditional selfies to self portraits. You can find a lot more creative ideas on his YouTube Channel and the Jacob Burns Film Center Education Blog also posts different film challenges students can partake in.

Hopefully these five suggestions get you started thinking about other ideas you can incorporate. 

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Scope and Sequence of 8th Grade ELA

As the end of the school year is on the horizon, it is a good time to reflect on what worked well and where the curriculum needs some editing and attention. I teacher recently asked me the scope and sequence of the school year and I thought to provide all my readers with a look at the reading and writing units that are in my curriculum.

The course study for 8th grade revolves around themes of Standing Up for What is Right with a selection of texts and focus questions within the theme. The goal is the provide curriculum that supports students becoming strong independent readers, writers, and thinkers.

Our first reading unit was specific to the overall theme “Standing Up for What is Right.” Whereas some teachers and parents took concern with the topic of social justice, these books highlight people who speak up and stand up against injustice. These books include I Am Malala, Internment by Samira Ahmed, All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, and Melba Patillo Beals’ memoir Warriors Don’t Cry. In this particular unit students wrote a thematic essay at the end of the unit. This was the first reading and writing unit of the school year.

Students then began writing an investigative journalism piece related to science and grounded in research. Students created infographics of their research and then recorded podcasts of their investigative findings. We looked and listened to lots of models and mentors of investigative journalism articles and podcasts to help develop our own stories.

At the beginning of January Animal Farm was an all class read. This short unit was three weeks and set up some key elements of dystopian fiction which students then selected book club choices of contemporary dystopian texts: Traci Chee’s The Reader, Neal Shusterman’s Unwind and Scythe, The Giver by Lois Lowry. Students wrote a literary essay about their dystopian novel showcasing the modern day connections in the dystopian fiction.

March Madness brings about mystery writing and students participate in a writing contest to write their own creative mystery short story. Students have a choice of reading Maureen Johnson’s Truly Devious or Agatha Christie as mentor texts for their own original mystery story.

In conjunction with the social studies class learning about World War II, students participate in book clubs to read a historical fiction or non fiction text about World War II and the Holocaust. Book club choices include The Diary of Anne Frank, Irena’s Children, The Boys Who Challenged Hitler, Salt of the Sea and Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, The Book Thief, White Rose, Refugee, and Librarian of Auschwitz. While students are reading these novels and discussing the elements of the book, they complete concrete found poems, a one pager, and smaller formative assessments.

To end the school year, students are reading choice novels connected to themes of identity. Students are reading Poet X, Piecing Me Together, Everything Sad Is Untrue, Stars Beneath Our Feet, and The Truth According to Mason Buttle. To end this unit and the school year students will create a multi genre project as a means of reflecting upon middle school and how that has shaped us into who we are today. A Multi-genre Project presents multiple perspectives on a topic in order to provide a rich story and present a visually appealing product for an audience.

Here are the specifics: 

  • Students need to have a title page with a creative title.
  • Include an introduction serving as a guide to readers.  This will introduce the event you’re reflecting upon and help us understand why this topic is important to you.  Likewise, it gives you an opportunity to explain how we should read your documents.  This should be ½ to 1 page long.
  • Four separate documents from five genre categories:
    • 1 genre from the  Narrative Writing Category
    • 1 genre from the Persuasive Writing Category
    • 1 genre from the  Informational Writing Category
    • 1 genre from the Poetry Category
    • 1 genre from Visual Writing Category
  • An artist statement paragraph for each document at the end of your project answering the following questions in complete sentences:
    • What is the message of this document? 
    • Why did you pick this genre for this specific part of the story? 
    • How does this document show the larger theme of your story? 

Note that there is poetry, non fiction, video essays, and short stories included with each unit of study. I am putting together a document for students next year “The 100 Texts You Should Read Before Middle School” to update the battle of the books I created three years ago — I will share this on my blog soon. It will include all different titles and texts. I am also speaking with my science teacher about doing a collaborative unit on environmental justice and thinking about both sci fi titles or non fiction. Here are are few of the titles we are considering:

Pacifica by Kristen Simmons

Wargirls by Tochi Onyebuchi

The Silver Arrow by Lev Grossman

Orleans by Sherri Smith

Marrow Theives Cherie Dimaline

The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco


NonFiction:

Poisoned Water by Candy Cooper (Water)

Omnivoire’s Dilemma (Food/Environment)

Radium Girls (Chemistry)

Same Sun Here (Water)

What are the books and writing units that you teach? Do you offer book choices and book clubs or do all class readers? Are you able to change up books each year or are you still teaching the same books? I would love to know what other middle school ELA teachers are doing. Share your insights in the comment section of this blog. I am always looking to diversify and connect with other ELA teachers.

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Creativity and Social Emotional Learning (SEL)

The pandemic has brought to the forefront mental health of students and teachers. Social Emotional Learning. Research shows that creativity can be beneficial for mental health and can help build critical skills such as empathy and introspection. As Kathryn Fishman-Weaver writes in an article in Edutopia (2019), “Creating art is a practice in both communication and empathy that affects the storyteller (in this case, the student artist) and the person viewing the story (peers, teachers, and counselors).” Creative communication and expression elevates learning experiences and can drive social emotional learning (SEL). As the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning  CASEL notes, SEL –  “involves managing emotions and achieving personal and collective goals, showing empathy for others, establishing and maintaining supportive relationships, and making responsible and caring decisions – is an integral part of education and human development.

SEL is more than a buzz word, it is vital to students emotional, social, and academic success in and out of school. Here is is a lesson I do with my students to promote creativity, project based learning, and social emotional health.

Comic Creation & Script Writing Illustrating a Community Problem

Objective –  Students will be able to understand the elements of storyboarding and map out an issue in the community using storyboard and digital comic creation tools to inform and persuade others. Students create digital comics or storyboards to highlight a problem in their community and encourage positive social activism among students.

Description – This lesson encourages and guides students towards social activism. By asking students to brainstorm the problems in their communities they are embarking on an authentic challenge and project based learning  opportunity while using social emotional skills of communication, decision making, and social awareness. Students have a voice in the topics they care about. Students are taking charge of their own learning.  

The storyboard is a powerful tool in the classroom for meaning making. A storyboard is a road map and guiding influence for story making. Michele uses storyboarding for comprehension and creativity in her 8th grade English classes but this activity can be adapted for any content area. In this activity, students create a storyboard that highlights a problem in the community using comic creation tools like Powtoons, StoryboardThat, Bitmoji and BookCreator. 

ISTE Standards for Students

3. Knowledge Constructors – Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.

4. Innovative Designer – Students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions.

6. Creative Communicator – Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.

Materials – 

  • Short Documentary Films and PSAs
  • Storyboard Template

Procedures – 

Hook:  Post the following question for students to brainstorm and respond to: “What are the issues in your community that need to be brought to the forefront and exposed to seek change?”

Mini-Lesson:  Storyboarding helps filmmakers to outline a story visually before going to production.  Just like writers outline and use graphic organizers to map out the direction of their writing, before a film or even commercial begins production, the visual elements of the film are mapped out using a Storyboard. Studiobinder defines a storyboard as, “A visual representation of a film sequence and breaks down the action into individual panels. It is a series of ordered drawings, with camera direction, dialogue, or other pertinent details. It sketches out how a video will unfold, shot by shot.” Film producers might use a professional artist to help create the visual layout on a storyboard. Many storyboards are works of art themselves. The teacher should showcase examples of famous storyboards. This article from StudioBinder provides many). 

Today we are going to create our own storyboards to highlight a problem in our community you wish to change. Think about how you can effectively showcase this problem in a way that draws attention to this matter.   As a director, you have several elements to consider when preparing your storyboards. You first need to evaluate your topic and break it down into shots. Then, as you plan each shot panel, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is central to this frame?
  • What needs to be communicated in the frame?
  • What type of shot (close-up, wide-shot, establishing shot, and so on) do you need?
  • What is the shot’s angle (where the camera is shooting from)? Is it a high angle? A low angle?

Let’s get started. You might use the storyboard templates I have provided or feel free to sketch out your ideas in your notebook. 

Active Engagement : At this point, Students begin sketching an outline how they would present their topic and issue to others using a storyboard template (to be provided). As students are working on their storyboards they can also “research and gather information from multiple sources as they deepen their search for finding answers to their questions about the real world problem committed to.” (Laur & Ackers, 2017)

Allow students a choice to begin the storyboard by hand before moving to an online platform. This might take more than one class period. Allow students the necessary time to complete their storyboards and share with their peers for feedback and revision opportunities. If students are uncomfortable drawing by hand, using comic creation platforms like Powtoons, Storyboardthat, or Bitmojis and Bookcreator, students can create their own original stories in comic book form.  

Variations & Differentiation  –  Teachers can provide sentence frames or word banks to help students with the dialogue and writing. Utilizing digital storyboard platforms like Powtoons or Storyboard that provide students with templates and stock images depending on the needed adaptations. 

For an added challenge, students can follow up their storyboard by filming their ideas. Students can create a Public Service Announcement or Mini Documentary using iMovie or Adobe Spark to showcase this problem.   

Culturally Responsive Teaching Connection: As this activity hinges on students choosing a social issue in their community and world, a cultural connection is built in through the current issues from homelessness, endangered species, racism, and pollution. The topics are generated from the student and driven by student inquiry. Students take ownership of the issue and their project as well. 

Resources – 

Powtoons

StoryboardThat

Bitmojis & BookCreator

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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

Understood.org

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

Smithsonian

National World War II Museum New Orleans

PBS Learning Media

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