As school boards, districts, and states pile on bans of teaching Critical Race Theory in the classroom without even understanding what they are censoring, others are substituting vague language in weak attempts to disguise these racist laws. I am not a lawyer or a history teacher, but I oppose any efforts to restrain students from learning the truth and exercising their own critical thinking on the lessons that could be learned from that truth. I also think it’s important to keep things relevant in the classroom, and that means that current events should not be ignored. Facing History has a free checklist for educators to use for planning purposes when considering current events. You will need to create a free account on the site in order to download this editable PDF, which also has links to reliable news sources as well as suggested strategies to use during student discussions. Armed with this and a list of the state standards you are addressing, you can be prepared to help students make connections between the past and the present, as well as to their own personal experiences.
I will be adding this post to my Wakelet of Anti-Racism Resources. Click on this link to find more!
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!
A couple of weeks ago, I shared some of the activities that I’ve done in the past with my students as the school year comes to a close. I decided to put them in this Wakelet so you don’t have to search for them. On Twitter, Susan Barber (@SusanGbarber) shared a fabulous activity she did with her high school seniors, and I asked for her permission to share. (My post, Blackout Poetry Maker, has been one of the most popular ones this year, so I thought this might be something my readers would enjoy!)
My students had 5 choices for an end of the year activity. One was a college admission essay blackout or whiteout. Love the final products! pic.twitter.com/KTHJj7WgjV
Of course, once people saw her examples, they wanted to know more about the project. It turned out the students had several choices in addition to the blackout poetry of college essays. She later tweeted this Google Slides presentation so people could see the options and examples. As you know, I am a big fan of choice and open-ended activities that allow students to show their creativity, so I am a big fan of Susan’s idea, and I hope you can use it, too!
Way back in 2017, I blogged about a new project I had backed on Kickstarter called Turing Tumble. The game is a mechanical version of a computer, and includes a book with stories and challenges that slowly scaffold the working parts of computers. My students and I liked it so much that I reviewed it on the blog and recommended for my Gifts for the Gifted list in 2018.
Paul Boswell, inventor of Turing Tumble, has a new venture on Kickstarter. The project is called Spintronics, and it is designed to help children (and adults) to learn how electronics work by building mechanical circuits. Like Turing Tumble, Spintronics includes a book of stories and challenges. Without having to risk hot soldering irons or engage in complicated mathematical equations, students can learn the basics and vocabulary of electronics as they build, experiment, and play.
I literally received the e-mail announcing the beginning of the Kickstarter today, and Spintronics is already fully funded – more than 5 times over! So, the good news is that you should be able to receive a kit if you back it. The downside is that you will need to wait until January, 2022, to start playing the game. However, as I learned with Turing Tumble, it is sure to be worth the wait!
To continue this week’s theme of year-end activities to use with students, I want to remind you of this blog post from 2016. We used “Whatzit Tic-Tac-Toe” quite a bit in my class to analyze and synthesize learning, and the open-ended prompts work very well for an end-of-year reflection for upper elementary students. The game comes from Critical Squares: Games of Critical Thinking and Understanding, a book written by Shari Tishman and Albert Andrade for Harvard’s Project Zero, but you can see what the Tic-Tac-Toe game looks like if you go to page 24 at this link. I explain how I used it for reflection in my 2016 blog post, but you will probably find that you can modify it for lots of curriculum ideas. It’s one more way you can still learn and have fun once the year begins to wind down.
Okay, Americans, you may have a different idea come to mind when you hear “short and curly,” but it may help you to know this podcast comes to us from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. In Australia and New Zealand, “curly questions” are ones that are difficult to answer; you know – like, “What is the meaning of life?” Short and Curly is an ethics podcast for kids and their families, posing a different “curly question” in each episode. For example, “Should we always be brave?” or “Can we build a world that works for everyone?” The episodes are about 22 minutes long, and have a couple of pauses built in for discussion. You can also download Classroom Resources for some of the episodes, and even purchase a Short and Curly book.
For those of you who read my post last week about Ethics in Bricks, you might want more philosophy resources for kids, and Short and Curly is suited for children in the upper primary age range. Also, don’t forget my latest article for NEO, Podcast Pedagogy, which will give you ideas for how to use these programs with your students.