From the Community
These students from Danae Boyd and Janelle Bence’s Coppell High class, created a spoken word poem about climate change. Can humans rise above our own selfish needs to make decisions for the planet? As you watch this, what are some ways you might encourage students to address the next president in a spoken word poem about this or other STEM issues?
KQED provides this Spoken Word Media Make resource to get you started!
KQED News created an issues box for the 2016 election. Click on each box to learn more and get a sense of where others stand. Students can use this to get started thinking about their issue, how it relates to STEM, and what they hope the next president will do to make changes.
Then, check out the What’s My Issue KQED Media Make. Get creative and get the word out about what STEM issues deserve attention and action.
As an English teacher, when I say the word literacy to my non-English teaching colleagues, their eyes glaze over. They’re no doubt thinking about reading a textbook and answering questions, and they’re bored by the thought of it. But in today’s world, the definition of literacy has changed. It is no longer acceptable to only teach students what I’ll call classic literacy skills. Of course, these are important, but if we as teachers focus solely on these, we are leaving out a large chunk of literacy skills that are necessary in today’s society, the so-called new literacies. But, what are new literacies? The National Council of Teachers of English (2013) defines 21st Century literacies as the ability to:
● Develop proficiency and fluency with the tools of technology;
So, consider me intrigued ... I just re-discovered the MediaBreaker tool by The Lamp as part of the Letters to the Next President campaign. MediaBreaker is like the old Popcorn Maker (I still miss you, Popcorn!) by Mozilla, in that you can layer media and text on top of video content. In this case, the idea is to make commentary on top of political videos.
[Cross-posted on Edutopia]
There is a sad truth about the way that most students learn to write: They become boring writers. To write with clarity and insight involves struggle (regardless of age). When faced with this challenge, many students are taught to detach from content, to analyze with sterile language, and to develop ideas within a narrow formula.
Structure is helpful, but if not implemented strategically, it can stifle creativity and require students to go through motions rather than investing themselves in creating something. Many of our attempts to help young people develop writing skills actually deter them from the joy and power of developing a unique, insightful writing voice.
New Ways of Understanding the Writing Process
For three months in the fall my 12th grade students designed their own learning. Each plan culminated with a project. In the fall I wrote about the fear I felt when I began to step back. There is a lot I learned from this process (and I plan to write more about it in the future.)
Designing learning in this way meant students were able to pursue topics they felt passionate about and many did so by embarking on complex projects. The result is a collection of products that go beyond traditional ideas of school work and instead speak to the abilities of young people to create work that has meaning in the world.
But, you shouldn’t trust me. Go and judge for yourself!
Radio pieces made in collaboration with Jeanette Woods at WHYY:
So, I have been having more fun that I have a right to have by making political-themed distorted graphs that have no data correlation whatsoever. I don't even think or consider any numbers when making these. Who cares about data when you have cool graphs in a misinformation campaign!
My teaching load increased this academic year, for the second year in a row. I am not alone with this struggle, but it doesn’t make it easier to cope. There might be content areas where this is easier to handle, but writing is not one of them. There might be groups of student that make an increased load workable, but first-generation, first-year students is not one of them. However, after weeping, wailing, and gnashing my teeth for a while, I remembered a key tool that could help me serve my students’ unique and varied needs while providing the support they need to grow as writers (and readers and thinkers). This magical tool is the workshop. Two weeks into the semester and I have fallen back in love with the workshop. I’ll share my love letter to the workshop in a future blog post, but this Notable Notes will share some thoughts about workshop to inspire your thinking and teaching.
One of my goals this year is to provide writing experiences that encourage young people to identify as writers and thinkers. My own school writing experiences (many of which were unmemorable), my opportunities to write in non-traditional ways (thank you Mr. Gross and Susan Lytle,) and knowledge I gained from my spouse via her time working with Pat Hoy in the Expository Writing Program at NYU, all helped me develop a structure for what I call Advanced Essays. I wrote about the details of the writing process for our 11th grade Advanced Essays elsewhere but right now I want to gloat.
In my classroom, math is organized into three stations. Generally, one is captained by me (A) and is the focus lesson for the day, another (B) is based on pencil and paper review/games/problem solving, and the third (C) is computer based using various websites designed for practice or review, such as www.xtramath.org, www.tenmarks.com, and www.everydaymathonline.com. This week, station “B” centered on the next phase of our inquiry project. Over the past couple of weeks, students have played the game we “invented,” given me feedback through their performance and conversation, and the game has been modified. Our conversations centered on making the game more fun, even though they seemed to be having a pretty good time already! Based on their input, we discussed the attributes of a “good” game. According to them, games need to seem like a challenge, yet...
A pop-up, unofficial, experimental #clmooc make cycle
To Teach Digital Writing, You Just Have to Color Outside the Lines
It used to be easy, neat, and contained. Like an old fashioned coloring book where you knew to stay inside the lines. But staying inside the lines is hard. And every time you strayed outside those lines, you swore not to the next time. But deep down you knew that to express yourself effectively, to make the most of what you needed to say, to make your message and meaning clear, you had to go outside the lines. And it would be messy.
I recently wrote a blog post sharing my reasons for assigning infographics, but the more I think about teaching with infographics, the more I realize there are a wealth of advantages for every level and every content area. So this week’s Notable Notes will be devoted to what others have to say about using infographics to support learning in classes from social studies to science and so much more.
In “Navigating in the Age of Infographics,” Troy Hicks points out that in today’s world visual literacy is important to teach, learn and understand as well as describing ways that infographics can be used for personal, professional, and creative expression.
I learned something new this week. Yet another reason why teaching is such an awesome job. Actually, I learned lots of things as my students are wrapping up their class projects, but one thing I learned is specific to teaching and that thing made me think again about how and why I grade with badges.
I currently have two classes of first-year college students working on a service learning project with a local middle school. This is my second year (third semester) using service learning in my classes. You can read more about why I like service learning in The Benefits of Service Learning.
I want to devote this Notable Notes to what others have to say about the benefits of service learning beginning with Erin Bittman’s great post “Service Learning Is Essential for All Kids—Here’s Why.” In her post she offers some great ideas for service projects for students at a variety of levels. I love the ways that young students can create service learning projects.
Reflection is a major component of my classes and I often use some fun, creative writing exercises as well as more traditional reflection. Last year I used a combination of slam poetry and praise poetry, but I’m not certain this approach will work as well with my classes this semester. So I have been thinking about the various tools on my belt and then a member of my PLN shared this awesome video from PBS Digital Studios. They have a whole range of “Art Assignments” you should check out (warning: wormhole), but the video that inspired me was called “Fake Flyer” featuring Nathaniel Russell.
This reflection was inspired by a recent departmental debate about a mandatory final in our first-year writing class.
There has been a debate raging in my department about the form and function of our Writing I and Writing II classes – those core “composition” courses that all students are required to take. This requirement is a good thing. It is essential that our students learn to be good writers, and readers and thinkers, which is why I have always maintained that these are among the most important classes students take in college. The debate centers on the focus of these classes. Will the classes be research-based or argument-based? What kinds of texts will be read and/or studied to support the writing? Will there be a final exam and what form should it take?
I recently read an article by Ken Goldstein about why we should move away from performance reviews toward coaching and mentoring (see 3 arguments against performance reviews). This idea resonated with me for two reasons. First, the only feedback I receive is a brief performance review letter (not even a personal session such as the one described by Goldstein) and the only coaching and mentoring I receive is something I must seek on my own. Second, as a National Writing Project site director I hear a lot about professional development fails (usually in contrast to whatever Morehead Writing Project event the teacher recently attended).
“You step outside, you risk your life. You take a drink of water, you risk your life. Nowadays you breath and you risk your life. Every moment now, you don’t have a choice. The only thing you can choose is what you’re risking it for.”
~ Hershel Greene (The Walking Dead Season 4 Episode 3)
I was recently challenged to think about a quote that was meaningful to me as a teacher and/or writer (for the Write Now! MOOC). I mulled over many options as I am a bit of collector and love it when people share great quotes with me. However, one idea kept resonating with me and so I chose to share the awesome quote from The Walking Dead above.
I'm past 20 now. Twenty-odd daily comics for The Wild West Adventures of the Internet Kid, an idea that was sparked by my participation in the open Western106 story adventure. I thought I would take a breather here to reflect on how it's going for me, the writer (I make an appearance now and then in the comic, usually for criticism for not writing better comics or not paying attention to equity issues. Guilty as charged!).
Well, breather, plus today's comic:
I have only been assigning infographics for about a year, but I am in love and here is why you should teach with infographics too. First, a quick explanation for how I got here. I first assigned infographics for my professional writing students, because I thought it would be a useful form for them to learn and I wanted a digital presentation format for our group learning document assignment. The infographic assignment fit the bill perfectly and did so much more. I now use infographics in my other classes as an alternative to traditional presentation tools (down with Powerpoint!) and I strongly encourage you to think about infographics in your classroom for these three reasons.
One of the student learner outcomes for Morehead State University’s First Year Seminar is to articulate the ethical consequences of decisions or actions. I have always loved our discussions about ethics, because the theme for my particular FYS is “From the Walking Dead to Superheroes.” I find that comic book characters offer a lot of opportunity to discuss ethics and over the years my students have explored a variety of ethical questions from the death penalty to vigilantism to corporate greed. Of course, that last may be inspired by the fact that one of the ways I introduce ethics uses this video about Monsters Inc, but then it might simply be that a lot of comics feature that theme (Batman, Green Arrow, Flash, etc.).
This Notable Notes was inspired by Irvin Peckham’s blog post “Writing What I Think.” It is a short post that I will simply include it in its entirety here:
I had a student say after posting her firsthand portrait: This is so different from high school writing: I can write what I think instead of writing what I think the teacher wants to hear.
This was originally posted as a blog for Making Learning Connected 2014, otherwise known as CLMOOC. These reflections and connections come from the fourth week's Make Cycle focused on Hacking Your Writing by Erica Holan Lucci and Mia Zamora of the Kean University Writing Project.
This was originally posted as a blog for Making Learning Connected 2014, otherwise known as CLMOOC.
I teach an elective course at Glenbrook South High School, in Glenview, Il, called Media Collage. The course gives students a chance to explore how to use the internet, social media, and digital technology in positive, creative ways--how to be a producer instead of simply a consumer. And it is definitely student-centered regarding projects. In fact, this past semester, students were really interested in trying out different video editing tools: YouTube Editor, WeVideo, iMovie. After working on a number of different videos, the class decided they wanted to try one final group video project. My main requirement was that the projects needed to revolve around one of our big concepts: having a productive digital routine, crafting a positive online identity, using social media to be generous, kind, and thoughtful.
This was originally posted as a blog for Making Learning Connected 2014, otherwise known as CLMOOC. These reflections and connections come from the first week's Make Cycle focused on creation of How-to Guides by Chris Butts and Rachel Bear of the Boise State Writing Project.
Rikke Toft Nørgård, Assistant Professor at the Center for Teaching Development and Digital Media at Aarhus University in Denmark, practices something she calls "gelatinous pedagogy" in which she tries not to enforce a detailed curriculum from a fixed syllabus and rubric for all students but acts, in her words, "more like a jellyfish that's adjusting to the students, rather than making the students adjust to my teaching."
Building on my experience as a parent, I realized how important it was for me to work with kids with learning disabilities. As a mother of two children, one with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity and the other with Attention Deficit Disorder, I found raising them was both rewarding and challenging. I have first hand experience with the frustrations that children with learning disabilities face on a day-to-day basis. I know I cannot save all of the kids in the world, but by planting the seed and providing it water we can make that difference in a child’s life. Creating a stable and nurturing environment was a high priority for myself not only as a parent but as an educator. I was not aware of the multitude of resources that were available to parents in situations similar to mine that would help with these real- life struggles.
This is my first year teaching at 6th grade science at E. B. Aycock. E. B. Aycock is a Middle School located in Greenville, North Carolina. The demographics of the student population is 64% African American, 25% Caucasian, 5% Hispanic, 3% Biracial, and 2% Asian. Sixty-four percent of the students receive free-and-reduced Lunch. My classroom demographics really reflected the schools' overall demographics. My classroom also was very diverse in academic abilities. Each class averaged about five AIG students. I also had two classes that were designated for EC inclusion and one class was Autistic inclusion.
Bloodshot eyes. Deadpan, drooling faces. Communicating in shrugs, grunts, and moans. This is not a scene from the popular AMC zombie-drama “The Walking Dead,” but a typical scene from many classrooms across the country. In the technological, fast-paced, ever-changing, social media-based society we live in, educators are constantly struggling to keep students interested in what is happening in the classroom. How can we change what we do in the classroom to get students excited about their work? Before we examine how I came to try conquering the challenge of creating interest-driven projects, let’s look at how I got here. (We will come back to the idea of zombies later!)
I was involved in the Tar River Writing Project Connected Learning MOOC (#trwpconnect) beginning in February 2014. I was excited to learn both what it was and what we would be doing together. The first thing we "made" as part of this experience was a user guide that helped the other participants see who we were and how we best learned. We had the flexibility to make it using any technology or using any medium we chose which was hard because I am used to a defined assignment. Like most teachers, I like to do things right, and I was worried I wouldn't meet the facilitators' expectations. That, coupled with my own lack of computer knowledge made it much more time consuming and uneasy for me to complete this make. This is when I began to reach out to others and understand the value of peer collaboration or peer-to-peer networks, as they are called in Connected Learning. In the end, I got by with a little help from my friends.
In the first month of school, I was wondering how to introduce connecting learning in my classroom. Do I start with informing them of the concept, or do I let them explore at their own risk?
Our students need activities that mean something to them. Whether they relate to their experiences, interests, or simply their peer culture. I enjoy implementing activities that I feel that my students are highly engaged in and actively participating in. I have noticed that teaching with inquiry captures the students attention and allows them to utilize their higher order thinking skills.
As a first year teacher, still enthused about the idea of teaching language arts to a group of 100+ eighth grade students, I was quickly saddened by the lack of interest that the students seemingly shared with each other. At E.B. Aycock Middle in Greenville, North Carolina, we serve students who come from two completely different ends of the socioeconomic spectrum. We certainly have our share of gifted students, but we also have our share of students who are simply doing well for themselves just to get to school everyday. And as a first year teacher two months after I graduated, I was positive that I was going to come in and effect positive change in the lives of these students whom I had not yet met. I was eager, excited, confident, and completely naive.
Which came first? Visual Art or Literature? I relate more to a cave man drawing on the walls than Shakespeare writing a sonnet. But both tell a story. Stories throughout history have inspired visual art (Ex. The Last Supper). But how many times have I asked my students to create a visual art piece that is an interpretation of a piece of literature? Not very often.
This project was successful because it tapped into not only student interests, but peer culture as well. They were able to examine events and people who lived hundreds of years before them and bring them to life in the present. Had I attempted to lecture about this information, I likely would have put them to sleep because of how “boring” it was, but allowing students free reign to create their own product allowed them to present what they perceived as “boring” information in a fun, creative, and new way. My experience in the #CLMOOC and #TRWPconnect made me realize that it is not important to have explicit instructions.