One of the sources I cited in last week’s post on Critical Race Theory as sketch-noted and outlined by Sylvia Duckworth was Dr. Kate Slater. You can learn more about Dr. Slater’s work here. I find the Anti-Racist Roadmap by Dr. Slater and Mira Stern to be very helpful as it breaks down the goals for your own Anti-Racism journey into five impact areas (such as the workplace and community) and a mission statement. I sometimes feel like what needs to be done to eradicate racism in our country is so overwhelming that I can’t even find a place to begin, but this organizer is incredibly beneficial. It includes examples and resources, as well as space to type the specific actions you would like to take in each impact area. Other important elements are to consider what you will do to learn more, and who you will rely on to hold you accountable for these goals. Personally, I feel like this roadmap can help me to spend less time feeling guilty for what I haven’t done, and more time taking action. In fact, I realized that I haven’t been completely idle (though I want to do more) as I have been using my “Talents and Skills” to write these weekly anti-racist blog posts and create this public Wakelet where I have been collecting resources. If you want to do more anti-racism work, and you aren’t quite sure how to help, the Anti-Racist Roadmap could be your first step.
With most schools out, and many states opened up after a year of pandemic lockdown, I’ve been seeing a lot of pictures on social media of people enjoying vacations, especially outdoors. We were fortunate enough to visit Colorado in early May and spent some time in The Garden of the Gods and Rocky Mountain National Park. After that break, I wrote about our fabulous visit to part makerspace/part game store, PlayForge, in Littleton, Colorado. While we were there, we purchased a couple of things, and one of them was National Parks Scrabble. My daughter and I are Scrabble fiends, and we were curious to see how this could converge with our adoration of National Parks. I did not expect how much we would enjoy the game! It includes cards that name different national parks (many that I had never heard of!) and a little bit about each one. The fun part is that you can use the cards to do previously prohibited actions in Scrabble, such as spell a word backwards or make any tile on your rack into a blank. It really makes the game far less predictable, and way more fun. If you are anywhere near Littleton, Colorado, head over to PlayForge and get this game. (Also, check out their Maker Camps!) If you are not near PlayForge, find an independent store near you to see if they carry it. As a last resort, you can get it online, but do your best to support an indie store if you can.
Think you know something about the United States National Parks? Try this quiz to see how much you really know!
While we’re talking about vacations, remember the Virtual Vacation website I mentioned back in March? I focused on the City Guesser game (btw, Esther Park has a free template you can use for this game — go to this link and look for the “Travel Around the World” template), but there are several other virtual vacation activities on there, including VidEarth, where you can click on a blue dot anywhere in the world and watch a video that was uploaded, and my personal favorite, Virtual Window, where you can get a “window” view of places.
For some ways to enjoy the great outdoors while learning, scroll down a bit on this page for the 4-Week Summer Camp Guide from Nature Lab. It includes hands-on activities for families. While you’re outside, encourage children to take amazing nature photos with these tips from National Geographic. Or, adapt some of these ideas from their Planet Possible Challenge.
No matter what you decide to do during vacation, don’t forget this wonderful message from Kid President way back in 2015!
If you have a fascination with literature and graphs, you may have seen LitCharts, which I wrote about back in 2016. LitCharts includes an interactive Theme Wheel for each of the works of prose covered on the site, such as this example for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I enjoy the meaningful conversations students have as they analyze such charts, often giving me many new understandings about the books from their perspectives. “Plotting Plots” is a website that also aims to give you alternative visualizations of books, though its “library” is not a comprehensive, yet, as the one you will find on LitCharts. Tom Liam Lynch is open to suggestions for new books to add as well as any other feedback from users. On this site, you choose a book, then select up to four words from the book that you would like to see plotted on a graph. The graph shows you the chapters where you will find those words and their frequency. For example, here is a graph I made for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone:
I would ask students to do a “See, Think, Wonder” activity with this graph to find out what they already know about the book, what assumptions they might make based on the numbers, and what questions this prompts. I would say, having read the book a few times, that I think Chapter 5 is right around when Harry comes face to face with blatant displays of magic for the first time, and I would wonder why friendship does not appear very often in the book despite the relationships he develops with Hermione and Ron.
The blog posts on the site are equally intriguing, such as this one on The Hate U Give, where Lynch gives us some insight into his realization that the parents play a more important role in the book than he initially assumed.
Because I love seeing the way different people can find to creatively use graphs and infographics for deeper understanding, I have this new Wakelet to share with you. As you will see, graphing is not just for math!
I really like this video from Ethan Hawke about giving yourself permission to be creative. I’ve noticed a few things in student-centered learning when it comes to being creative: students have a hard time figuring out what they really love, students compare themselves to others far too often, and students are afraid of appearing foolish if what they create is not good enough. As Hawke points out, children don’t start out with those inhibitions; our societal “norms” produce them. I believe that is to the detriment of our community. While I don’t think education needs to become a free-for-all, allowing students to do whatever they want, I would like us to spend more time in schools helping students to find out what children truly love instead of focusing on their weaknesses. And, as the late, great Sir Ken Robinson also advocated, we need to stop diminishing the benefits of creativity in our schools.
First, I want to think my colleagues in Arkansas for a great session last Thursday! I presented “From Jaded to Joyful: Galvanizing Students with Genius Hour,” and the participants could not have been more welcoming and gracious. (Here is my new link to some of the PD sessions I’m offering. More sessions are being added!)
As I mentioned last week, I am doing some updating on my Genius Hour Resources. I’ve taken some of the free downloads down from the website that had broken links and other issues. But I also added something new, which is the Teacher Planner. I want to thank Joy Kirr, who is the amazing person behind the Genius Hour Livebinder for sharing that resource on social media and commenting on the post with an excellent suggestion to read a post that she wrote — the perfect companion to the Teacher Planner.
Over the weekend, I began to redo some of the Google Slides files that I had originally created to help guide my own students through Genius Hour. The first set is now ready to go. Feel free to make a copy and use it with your own students. I developed “Genius Hour Research Notes” because I wanted to help my students keep a digital record of their process from the beginning, and to give them a way that they could work on Genius Hour independently. Also, they were having a hard time separating their learning from their presentation of their learning. My plan is to have the next slide set, which students use to plan their presentations, updated and ready next week.
One more note: I was listening to the Smartless podcast with this week’s guest, Jose Andres, and he made a comment about the way they plan their World Kitchen pop-ups at disasters and other locations that need them that I thought was a good way for teachers to look at things, especially during projects like Genius Hour. In fact, I think it’s a skill we should teach our students, too.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article that collected some thoughts on Critical Race Theory as part of my weekly anti-racism series of posts (which you can find in this Wakelet collection). Since then, I found this excellent CRT Breakdown that Sylvia Duckworth posted on Instagram. You can also access a Google Doc with the information here. I will be adding this to my original post, but want to bring attention to it for those of you who don’t happen to go back and read that one. Sylvia’s document is definitely a great place to start if you are confused about Critical Race Theory, which is often explained in complex academic language or inadequate click-bait headlines. Learn more about why teaching with this lens will help our students to analyze the past in ways that will help them to create a better future.