Tag Archives: Social Justice

Building Quests for Independent Learning: Classcraft’s New Feature

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I am so excited for Classcraft’s new feature that allows teachers to build quests for their students. Classcraft states, “Quests enable teachers to turn their lesson plans into personalized, self-paced learning adventures for students to embark upon in the game. Your entire curriculum can take the form of an interactive map — each point representing an activity or resource that must be completed to go further.”

I have just put together a reading quest based on a social justice book unit. Students have a choice to read I am Malala, All American Boys, or Warriors Don’t Cry. Since students are reading books in small groups, the quest feature allows all students to work at their own pace to complete different “checks for understanding” assignments that will highlight their thinking about the text.

Here is a breakdown of the Social Justice Quest:

The Story – Throughout history there have been moments when people have been called upon to stand up for what is right. They have witnessed injustice, hatred, intolerance, and have decided that they cannot stand aside as a bystander. Who are these upstanders and how do they change the course of history for all of humanity.
Mission 1 – Perception Reading Expedition

You have read the backstory, been introduced to the characters, and seen injustice presented in the text. Now, complete this mission to unlock the journey of a true hero.

Answer the questions on the google form related to your social justice book.

Warriors Don’t Cry https://goo.gl/forms/X5HoTnSFU29nl2S92

I Am Malala https://goo.gl/forms/Pc6S1uFiAs9zmo1Z2

These Google forms include 20 basic comprehension questions based on the first 100 pages of the books. Student responses will be assessed using the Google Add-On Flubaroo

Mission 2 – Alliances

We often look to models and mentors for wisdom. These people’s lives are a testament that being an upstander takes strength and perseverance.

What aspects of Mahatma Gandhi are a model and mentor for your main character?

Articulate how your main character best exemplifies the philosophies and practices of Gandhi.

To learn more about Gandhi’s beliefs and complete this task click here.

Again, students will write a short response for this task on Google Forms which will be evaluated by the teacher. 
Mission 3 – Evaluator Mission

When we get to the end of a story our mind is filled with questions, thoughts, connections, and reflections.

  • What surprised me? What did I wonder?
  • What did the author think I already know?
  • What changed, challenged, or confirmed my thinking?

Before you make it to the end of the Social Justice Vision Quest, you must complete the Evaluator One Pager Mission.

One Pager Task: Your task is to showcase your understanding of your social justice book in ONE PAGE. Please follow the guidelines and check off each box as you complete each step.

  • Use a sheet of blank, white computer paper(8 ½ X 11).
  • Make sure the title of the novel is located on your one-pager. The title should STAND OUT.
  • Include a graphic representation on the part of the book you are focusing on (drawing, magazine picture, computer graphic, a symbol)
  • Your one-pager must include color (markers, colored pencils). No pencil is allowed.
  • Answer three (3) questions (see below) regarding the book and include two or more textual quotes to support your response.
  • Personal Response: A comment, an interpretation, a connection, or a review. Please do not include a summary.
  • Fill up the entire page
  • Place your name in the lower right hand corner.
One-Pager Scoring Rubric Points
Answers three reflection questions with  specific textual quotes to support response. 10
Graphic Representation that ties to the quotes. 5

+5 Awarded for Original & Unique Artwork

Thoughtful, well-written response 10
Title clearly stated… stands out 5
Presentation: Fill page, uses color, no pencil. 3
Name in lower right corner 2
Total (40 Points Maximum)

 

All American Boys – One Pager Questions

  1. Describe Rashad and Quinn. What makes them dynamic characters?
  2. What is your impression of Spoony, Rashad’s brother? Do you find him to be a good brother to Rashad? In what ways are these two brothers similar? How are they different?
  3. Quinn states, “On Friday nights, there were only two things on my mind: getting the hell out of the house and finding the party.” Why do his responsibilities at home make him feel such a need to escape? In what ways has the absence/loss of his father impacted how the family functions? Are they in any way similar to your own? If so, in what ways?
  4. For what reasons do you think Quinn begins to feel connected to Jill? How would you characterize their relationship, and how does it change over the course of the novel?
  5. Guzzo states, “People have it all backward. They do . . . I’m sorry, but my brother did the right thing. He has to make tough calls.” When his brother attacks Rashad, Guzzo is around the corner from the store, so he doesn’t bear witness to the assault. Why is Guzzo unable to come to terms with the truth about his brother’s actions?
  6. Consider the variety of settings for All American Boys; name the three places you believe to be most important to the story.
  7. Jill tells Quinn, “I don’t think most people think they’re racist. But every time something like this happens, you could, like you said, say, ‘not my problem.’ You could say, ‘it’s a one-time thing.’ Every time it happened.” Do you agree with her assessment?
  8. Quinn states, “And if I don’t do something. If I just stay silent, it’s just like saying it’s not my problem.” How does this moment show that Quinn is actively choosing not to be a bystander? Though difficult, do you agree it’s the right decision?
  9. How does the discovery of the spray-painted tag, “Rashad Is Absent Again Today” change the dynamics about how students at the high school are able to deal with the event? In what ways does this initially non-spoken symbol become an avenue for reflection and conversation among both the student body and the faculty?
  10. All American Boys is told in a dual first-person narrative. How would the story be different if someone besides Rashad and Quinn were telling it? Do you think changing the point of view would make the story better or worse? If you could, would you want another character’s perspective to be included in the novel? If so, whose?

 

Warriors Don’t Cry – One Pager Questions

1. What are 2-3 ways different white students respond to integration at Central High?

2. What role does peer pressure play in how white students respond to African American students?

3. Melba says she feels both proud and sad when she is escorted into school by federal troops. What do these feelings say about who she thinks she is – as a citizen and as an individual?

4 What role does Grandma India play? Why is she an important to Melba? Provide at least three (3) well substantiated reasons to support your assertion.

5. Explore the role Link plays. Why is he important in the book? Provide at least three (3) well substantiated reasons to support your assertion.

6. Why is the book called Warriors Don’t Cry? Which character or characters is/are the “warriors” in this play? Explain providing at least three examples.

7. How does Melba change as the story progresses? Be sure to clearly state your thesis and explain fully the instances where her behavior or attitudes change.

8. Based upon your reading of this book, what role do you think religion played in the Civil Rights Movement?

9. In the context of Melba’s story, what does it mean to be a warrior? What qualities does a warrior in this story need to possess? Provide at least two direct quotes from the book to help explain your answer.

10. Melba’s experience at Central High School happened more than fifty years ago. Why is it important to discuss it now? What could happen if Americans don’t learn about the struggle of the Little Rock Nine?

 

I Am Malala – One Pager Questions

1. Would you have had the bravery that Malala exhibited and continues to exhibit?

2. Talk about the role of Malala’s parents, especially her father, Ziauddin. If you were her parents, would you have encouraged her to write and speak out?

3. How does Malala describe the impact growing Taliban presence in her region? Talk about the rules they imposed on the citizens in the Swat valley. What was life like?

4. Mala has said that despite the Taliban’s restrictions against girls/women, she remains a proud believer. Would you—could you—maintain your faith given those same restrictions?

5. Talk about the reaction of the international community after Malala’s shooting. Has the outrage made a difference…has it had any effect?

6. What can be done about female education in the Middle East and places like Pakistan? What are the prospects? Can one girl, despite her worldwide fame, make a difference? Why does the Taliban want to prevent girls from acquiring an education—how do they see the female role? *

7. Talk about the Taliban’s power in the Muslim world. Why do you think  it continues to grow and attract followers…or is it gaining new followers? What attraction does it have for Muslim men? Can it ever be defeated?

8. Malala witnesses her immediate surroundings change dramatically within a short time period. Describe the changes to both Pakistan and Swat throughout I AM MALALA. How does Malala experience and respond to these changes? How is Malala’s character influenced and shaped by her surroundings?

9. Discuss Malala’s relationship with her mother. What influence does she have on Malala? In what ways does Malala’s relationship with her mother compare/contrast with her relationship with her father? Did it surprise you to learn that Malala’s mother did not know how to read yet her father insisted that Malala be well educated and learn all that she can?

10. In Chapter 5, after Malala does not win the class trophy at the end of the school year, her father tells her “It’s a good thing to come in second because you learn that if you can win, you can lose. And you should learn to be a good loser not just a good winner.” What do you think about this advice? How do you think it builds Malala’s character?

11. Would you have been as brave as Malala at this point in the story? In what ways do you feel like you relate to Malala?

 

Mission Complete – Reading Ace

Social justice means moving towards a society where all hungry are fed, all sick are cared for, the environment is treasured, and we treat each other with love and compassion. Not an easy goal, for sure, but certainly one worth giving our lives for!

Medea Benjamin, co-founder Global Exchange and Code Pink

We know that within our world and throughout history that not everyone has had equal opportunities or access to resources that should be a given right. Books have the power to help us see the world for what it can be and stand up for what is right. You are a reading ace and now you must make choices that show what you have taken to heart from the stories you read.

 

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Empathy & Compassion: YA Titles to Build Bridges

The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that there are 917 Hate Groups in the United States. That means there are close to one thousand hate groups in the United States. Today in 2017.

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Photo from splcenter.org

The events that happened in Charlottesville, Virginia this past week are disturbing and upsetting.  At the same time, as a teacher, I look to current events to guide my teaching in middle school.  As a teacher and a human being I promote empathy, compassion, and understanding among ALL people both in and outside of my classroom.

For summer reading I requested students choose any book they wanted to read that had a theme of social justice. Social justice and Reconstruction are where we begin in September. Students will participate in many conversations about social justice and injustice based on events that took place this summer as well as in the books they read while on break. We will continue to address social justice throughout our reading and writing units over the course of the school year because teaching students to be critical thinkers and compassionate people is just as much as a learning target and goal as any Common Core Learning Standard.

In response to Frank Bruni’s op-ed piece in the New York TimesI Am a White Man. Hear Me Out” (8/13/2017), Colette M Bennett’s blog Used Books in Class writes,

Reading provides the reader the experience of seeing through another’s eyes. That is the definition of empathy. There is research that supports the link between the reading of stories and empathy.  Therefore, my response as an educator to Bruni is that the bridges he seeks can be bridges that are built by reading stories.

Reading is at the center of my middle school English classroom and reading and sharing books is key. In response to building bridges, conducting conversations about current events, and promoting tolerance, here are four YA titles worth reading.

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Midnight Without a Moon by Linda Williams Jackson (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017) takes place in Mississippi in 1955 in a town next to where Emmitt Till was murdered. The protagonist, 13 year old Rose Lee Carter, is living with her grandmother, working in the cotton fields and dreaming of a better life. The writing is powerful and gets into the heart and mind of a young African American girl struggling between what could be and the violence of what is. This book can be used parallel to primary sources about Emmitt Till, Jim Crow South, and Brown vs. Board of Ed.
Alan Gratz’s Refugee (Scholastic, 2017) tells the story of three different young people who escape their home country for a better life and for safety. One story is of Josef, a young boy living in Nazi Germany during the 1930s. Isabel is a Cuban girl in 1994 hoping to safely make it to America and Mahmoud is a Syrian Boy in 2015 looking to escape with his family after the ongoing violence and destruction in his homeland. The three young people are connected in the end but the journey they embark on is harrowing. 9780545880831_mres

 

The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas (Balzer & Bray, 2017) is powerful and poignant. After reading Jason Reynold and Brendan Kiley’s All American Boys (Scholastic, 2015), I did not think there would be another book as honest, raw, and gripping for young adults about police violence and brutality. Angie Thomas exceeds my expectations. The book gets at the heart of matter and puts down on paper the difficult questions many are asking about race, violence, and humanity. f043712f-4655-4c8a-b60f-fca1e4c6ca9f41mrnaqoygl-_sy344_bo1204203200_

 

 

American War: A Novel by Omar El Akkad (Knopf, 2017) is a post apocalyptic story about a divided United States after the Second Civil War breaks out in 2074 and leaves America fractured. The protagonists is young Sarat Chestnut, a tomboy who comes of age during this frightening war torn time. There are so many parallels to what is happening in our world today that will leave the reader with disturbing thoughts about the direction we are heading.

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Legends of the Hidden Temple Classroom Activities & Interactive Game

Legends of the Hidden Temple was an “action and adventure” gameshow on Nickelodeon in the 1990s. The game show required teams  of two to compete in a series of physical and mental tasks: The Moat, The Steps of Knowledge, Temple Games. and the final Temple Run. Through a process of elimination, the last remaining team entered the Temple to retrieve the ancient artifact and have a chance to win a grand prize.

The temple consisted of twelve rooms, each with a specific theme (e.g., the Throne Room, the King’s Storeroom, the Observatory, the Shrine of the Silver Monkey). The rooms connected to adjacent rooms by doorways, although some doors were locked, blocking a contestant’s progress into the adjacent room; the pattern of locked and unlocked doors changed each episode depending both on the temple layout and the artifact’s location. The unlocked doors were closed at the start of the round, but they could be opened by completing a specific task or puzzle within each room. One room in the temple contained the themed artifact. Three other designated rooms held temple guards. A contestant who encountered a temple guard was forced to give up a full pendant in order to continue. The team had three minutes to retrieve the artifact and leave the temple with it. If either contestant grabbed the artifact, all remaining temple guards vanished and all locked doors in the temple instantly opened, allowing the contestant to escape unhindered.

Check out the video to watch a thrilling episode.

My co-teacher introduced me this show online and I couldn’t wait to adapt it for the classroom.

Students are reading about social justice and courage for an independent reading unit and I took on the theme of courage to create “Legends of Hidden Courage” action adventure. I revised a few of the games (the moat) and all teams competed against each other, there was no elimination. Each challenge was worth different experience points (XP). Some challenges awarded points and A Pendant of Life — to be used in the future as a free Notebook Check Pass or Free Assignment Pass.

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The game began with the Steps of Knowledge. Students had read and analyzed poetry the day before on themes of social justice so we started with a QuizletLive on poetic devices.

Then, came the first physical challenge: Students had to take a picture of all their team members making a positive difference in the school and post on Twitter.

A physical and mental challenge was third. Students had to match images of upstanders in history with the correct names.

The Inspiration Challenge required students to reflect and write about a person in history or present day who they inspires and they aspire to for their courage.

The last challenge was the Minefield physical challenge.

It was an action packed class period and there are many different ways that this game show can adapted based on the unit of study.

 

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Critical Thinking Essential in Education Now

As the smoke clears post election most of the educational institutions that I am a part of have issued statements about their mission to “empower EVERY student by providing an exemplary educational foundation that includes critical and creative thinking, social-emotional learning, physical education, music, and the arts in a collaborative and inclusive learning environment.”

My children’s school even went further to state, “Whatever your political view, this is a time to pause and reaffirm our shared commitment to learning, to our discovery, to our diversity as a strength, and to our inclusive community as core values. We will continue to have zero tolerance for bullying or disrespect towards any member of our community, regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, or any other perceived difference. We will continue to promote kindness and empathy towards every one. Our mission and these beliefs will remain a beacon as we move forward in the coming months and years and will guide us in all decisions regarding your child’s elementary school experience” (Northeast, 2016).

Now as I watch and listen to the news, it has become more and more important that work I do not only focus on preparing students to be workers, college and career ready. My purpose is to teach critical thinking, caring, and social responsibility. Nel Noddings (1991) wrote that “caring should be the foundation of our curriculum, including caring for ideas, friends, family, the earth and its ecosystems, human made objects, and strangers and distant others.” Empathy and social justice are at the hear of my curriculum. The books we read, the stories we write, and the texts we discuss all address the essential questions:

How can one person make a difference and impact positive change?

How do/can our actions impact the world around us?

What is the connection between injustice and empathy?

How and why should individuals build empathy for others?

Here are three videos that address EVERYONE’S responsibility to critically question the texts we engage with and promote kindness and empathy towards everyone.  They can be used along side of great books. Each share similar messages about caring, acceptance, and accountability.

Grace Lin’s Ted Talk “The Windows and Mirrors of Your Child’s Bookshelf

 

Lin Manuel Miranda’s 2016 Tony Acceptance Speech/Sonnet for Hamilton

 

Christiane Amanpour’s 2016 Burton Benjamin Memorial Award Acceptance Speech 

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Using Social Justice to Teach Reading/Writing in the ELA/SS Classroom #Engsschat 2/29 7 PM EST

This upcoming Monday 2/29/2016 7 PM EST I will be guest moderating #engsschat. The topic is one that I am passionate about and a theme that drives my teaching and curriculum. Our twitter conversation will address social justice as a catalyst to teach reading and writing in English and social studies classrooms. My objective is to engage in a dialogue with other educators about literacy and social responsibility.

Below are the questions for the chat

Here are a few excellent resources for teaching and learning more about social justice and social responsibility.

Facing History and Ourselves

On their website, Facing History states, “the lifeblood of democracy is the ability of every rising generation to be active, responsible decision-makers. And we believe that inspired teachers and innovative methods are the key.” Facing History words with educators around the world throughout to improve their effectiveness in the classroom, as well as their students’ academic performance, historical understanding, and civic learning. Facing History has a number of incredible curricula and resources for teachers and students to critically examine history and the moral choices we confront everyday.

Teaching Tolerance and the Southern Poverty Law Center

Teaching Tolerance offers a magazine, curriculum materials and lesson plans, webinars, and professional development on topics committed to diversity and inclusion of  all people.

Zinn Education Project

The Zinn Education Project promotes and supports the teaching of people’s history in middle and high school classrooms across the country based on the lens of history highlighted in Howard Zinn’s best-selling book A People’s History of the United States The website offers free, downloadable lessons and articles. The Zinn Education Project is coordinated by two non-profit organizations, Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change.

Two excellent resources about teaching social responsibility include:

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Here is a middle school book list with titles that address social justice:

 

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Social Justice: A Young Adult Book List

Summer time allows me to catch up on reading and begin to plan for the ideas swimming in my brain for the new school year. Since I have moved around which core texts that I am teaching first in my eighth grade English class, and we will read To Kill a Mockingbird in the first quarter, I have decided that the first outside reading  assignment will focus on the theme of social justice.

Each quarter my students select an outside reading book to read independently and if students are aiming for honors English in the high school they read two outside reading books per quarter. The themes of the outside reading books change based on current events and genres. The most popular outside reading assignment this past year was graphic novels.

As students are reading the historical based text, To Kill a Mockingbird, I want them to be aware of the oppression and injustices that still exist in our world today.  I have carefully selected books that I have read and have been recommend to me that cover topics of racism, classism, homophobia, guerilla warfare in third world countries, and illegal immigration.  My over all theme throughout the year is community and empathy.  Below is the book list that I have compiled for September.

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