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Think Again

I know that it’s hard to imagine doing anything “extra” after this crazy school year, but some schools like to do book studies over the summer – and some teachers, like me, get reinvigorated by reading professional books. I’d like to toss this one out there as an idea for those of you searching for a book for one of those purposes or even as just as a non-fiction book to read for enjoyment.

Think Again is by Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist and professor at Wharton. I received this book as one of three that arrived in this quarter’s Next Big Idea Book Club subscription box. When I read the intro on the book jacket, I thought this book was ideal to read given the current state of our world. “The bestselling author of Give and Take and Originals examines the critical art of rethinking: learning to question your opinions and open other people’s minds, which can position you for excellence at work and wisdom in life.”

Before you read, you may want to take the free quiz to find out which type of thinker you most resemble: Preacher, Prosecutor, Politician, or Scientist. This tends to influence the methods you use to open the minds of others when you disagree.

If you have never read a book by Adam Grant, I can assure you that he is a talented writer who engages the reader with anecdotes sprinkled with relevant facts. I was prepared to find some good nuggets of advice in Think Again, but didn’t realize I would use up all of the ink in one of my highlighters as I turned each page to discover more and more guidance that would be helpful in my everyday life.

Even though the entire book is valuable, I want to summarize some takeaways from one specific chapter because it addresses “teaching students to question knowledge.” As this is primarily an education blog, “Rewriting the Textbook” is probably the most pertinent to you, the educators who read this blog.

Grant discusses the importance of questioning information no matter the source, being willing to take risks and accept being wrong some of the time, and students taking ownership of their learning – all precepts that I have also encouraged in my classroom and on this blog. He, of course gives evidence to support why these are vital skills and interesting examples of teachers (including himself) using student-centered techniques that encourage this type of thinking. One of the observations he makes from a collaborative lesson he taught in his college classroom is that the Straight-A students often struggled on the open-ended project, quite possibly because the obsession with being “right” was interfering with any inclination to take creative risks.

Among the teachers Grant showcases in the chapter, he mentions Ron Berger who worked summers as a carpenter and during the school year as a public elementary school teacher who “devoted his life to teaching students an ethic of excellence,” which includes “constantly revising our thinking.” I liked reading about Berger’s habit of posing “grapples” to his students that were multi-phase problems rather than beginning every lesson by presenting information. As Grant described more of Berger’s unconventional methods, I was impressed by the iterative mindset he instilled in his students, prioritizing revision and increased mastery rather than racing to completion. It should not have surprised me (but it did) that Berger became the chief academic officer of EL Education, one of the schools in which the famous video, Austin’s Butterfly, was filmed.

From the Black musician who confronts members of the KKK to an epilogue that analyzes the communication of leaders during the pandemic, Think Again is a book that parents, educators, leaders, and followers in all walks of life would find meaningful and timely. I plan to thumb through those pages often to remind myself of the power of re-thinking.

Think Again, by Adam Grant

Origami

Origami is an activity that strengthens several skills. Two of the most important are spatial reasoning and using a growth mindset to work through difficult challenges. In this video that was featured on the Kuriositas blog, a young man’s grandfather creates a beautiful origami dragon and tasks the grandson with making one of his own. The boy quickly gives up, but a fantastical sequence follows, taking him on a journey of imagination. The short animation (around 8 minutes) is a gorgeous masterpiece, and could easily lead to discussions about the history of origami, growth mindset, the cultural threads that connect generations, and much more. It might be difficult for young students to interpret, but they may be engrossed in the magical appearances of some of their favorite origami shapes.

For some previous posts that I’ve done regarding using origami in the classroom, click here. You can also learn more about practicing spatial reasoning skills in this recent article I wrote for NEO. Also, I’ll be adding this post to my Pinterest Board of Growth Mindset resources.

crop man putting orizuru on plate
Photo by furkanfdemir on Pexels.com

Art Together Now

I’ve written about the OK Go Sandbox before on this blog. For STEM and STEAM teachers, this is a fabulous website provided by the incredibly creative and gifted band, OK Go, to suggest lessons inspired by their music videos. Those videos – masterpieces of science, music, and cinematography – are fascinating to listen to and watch in and of themselves. But combine them with hands-on activities designed to explore topics such as physics and color theory, and you have lessons that are sure to engage your students.

Somehow I missed the band’s release, last year, of their “All Together Now” video, produced near the beginning of the pandemic as each of the members remained isolated in their own homes. They dedicated it to the healthcare workers on the frontlines, and paired it with a challenge to create collaborative art to express gratitude for someone. Curated under the hashtag, #ArtTogetherNow, the art would be posted to this website gallery.

The lyrics of the song mourn the loss of what we had come to expect in our world, but offer hope in the chorus that we will eventually emerge from this crisis transformed – perhaps for the better.

Podcast Pedagogy

In my latest post for NEO, “Podcast Pedagogy: Leveraging Audio Programs for Learning,” I talk all about the power of podcasts in the classroom – listening and responding to them, as well as creating them. This industry has really become popular in the last few years, and there are so many free materials out there that you and your students can take advantage of for learning and creativity. One fun new app that I mention in the article is “That Part,” which I have enjoyed using to save snippets of podcasts that I want to remember. It’s currently in beta, so there is a glitch every now and then, but it has been great to just take a screenshot of a podcast while I’m walking my dog, and using the app later on to share out the moments of inspiration I think family and friends will appreciate. One resource I don’t share in the article (because I discovered it after the article was submitted) is this awesome free podcasting template from SlidesMania.

If you’d like to catch up on my previous articles for NEO, here’s the list: Six Ways to Support Spatial Reasoning Skills Online, Let’s Talk a Good Game: Mining Talk Shows for Classroom Engagement Ideas, How to Do More with Less Screen TimeHow to Facilitate Meaningful Discussions in Hybrid or Virtual ClassroomsTop Ed Tech Tools for DifferentiationFrom Normal to Better: Using What We’ve Learned to Improve EducationApplying Universal Design for Learning in Remote ClassroomsHow Distance Learning Fosters Global CollaborationHow to Use Design Thinking in the Classroom, and How to S.T.E.A.M. Up Distance Learning.

black and blue corded headphones
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LatiNext Poetry Project

April is National Poetry Month in the United States, and it is not too late to celebrate! You may remember when I posted about the Teach Living Poets site way back in January right after being blown away by Amanda Gorman’s recitation of the poem she wrote for the Inauguration. Scott Bayer (@LyricalSwordz), who contributes to the Teach Living Poets site, tweeted out this amazing interactive Google Doc of poetry and accompanying lessons for Latinx poets featured in the publication, LatiNext, from Haymarket Books. Next to each of the eleven poets’ portraits, is a link to a detailed lesson plan, and a link to an interactive image made with Genially that provides even more resources. Kudos to Scott Bayer and Joel Garza (@JoelRGarza) for putting together this excellent compilation of meaningful activities submitted by participants in #TheBookChat. In addition, thanks to the @breakbeatpoets editors, @_joseolivarez @WilliePerdomo and @writeantiracist!

For more Poetry links, visit my Wakelet here. I also have Wakelets for learning about Amanda Gorman and Anti-Racism.

Adobe Social Justice Materials

The Adobe Education Exchange has a page of materials that have been curated to “Learn and Create for Social Justice.” (You may need to log in to Adobe in order to access this page.) Some of the resources are from Adobe for Education, and may be designed for Adobe products such as Adobe Premiere, but there are others that come from outside organizations. Even if your district does not use Adobe, you can get ideas and adapt lessons to suit your available resources. There are also several activities for which your students can use the free version of Adobe Spark.

Creating for Social Justice is one way to empower students to take a stand against racism, bringing importance and relevance to your curriculum. For more ways to give students a voice and educate them about what can be done about inequality in our world, please refer to my Anti-Racism Wakelet, which I update weekly!

woman in white t shirt holding brown wooden board
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