Note: As I was looking up resources for this post, I realized that yesterday, the day that I introduced Guernica to my current 4th graders, was the 80th anniversary of its bombing. I’m sure I probably knew that somewhere in my subconscious, but it still sent a chill down my spine when I saw the date.
Every year my 4th grade gifted students study masterpieces of all types – literary, mathematical, and artistic. “Guernica,” by Picasso is one of the artistic masterpieces that we examine as we discuss the empathy that the visual arts often reflect on the part of the artist. It is a difficult piece to confront, particularly once you know the history behind it, but I think that it is important to study for many reasons. Picasso’s internal struggle as a man who disdained using art for political reasons but also a man who felt compelled to convey his emotions with every brushstroke make this painting into an engaging topic of conversation with my students.
Gavin Than recently created another one of his fabulous Zen Pencils comics dedicated to Picasso’s “Guernica,” illustrating a famous quote from Picasso about the piece. It would be a great way to start a debate in your classroom about whether or not the students agree with Picasso’s stance. Another philosophical discussion that stems from the painting is the love/hate relationship we have with technology, as symbolized by the light bulb in the center of the painting. The same technology that allows many people from all over the world travel to see this work of art by air also doomed the Spanish town to being blanket-bombed by the Germans.
One of the reasons I keep a blog is because I have a horrible memory. It’s nice to go back in time every once in awhile and look at the posts I wrote so I can rediscover some great resources. Luke Neff’s Writing Prompts site is one of those tools. I originally mentioned the site in 2011. Neff takes interesting images or quotes, and creates unusual, thought-provoking prompts for older students. I revisited the site yesterday, and found a prompt that really resonated. I want so much for my students to question and to use critical thinking skills. This prompt may activate some lively discussion in my class – which is what I am aiming for!
For my list of my favorite online writing tools in 2011 (before Google Docs existed!), click here.
It has been about 4 years since I first wrote about Spaceteam, and there have been a few changes since then. The app is now available on both Google Play and iOS, and there can now be up to 8 people involved in a single game. What hasn’t changed is that it is still fun!
When you play Spaceteam, everyone playing must be on the same wi-fi network. Once all of the players get past the “Waiting Room” in the app, each person gets a different dashboard with gadgets that usually have gibberish labels. In order to get to the next level, instructions must be followed. However, the instructions on your screen are usually for other players – so you must call them out. This means you will be shouting out ridiculous sounding directions such as, “Turn off the novacrit!” with the hope that the player who has a “novacrit” will hear you and turn it off. Not all of the commands are gibberish, however. It’s funny listening to someone impatiently yelling, “Darn the socks! Someone needs to darn the socks!”
Due to the unusual vocabulary, this game is best suited for 4th grade and up. The app has a 9+ rating, but I have not seen anything inappropriate pop up on the screens. The biggest danger seems to be that people might inadvertently pronounce something incorrectly.
Why play this app in your classroom? Well, it’s a great brain break. It’s also fun for team building. In addition, it can be the introduction to a great conversation about listening. One of the things my students learned was that, when you expect to hear one thing and someone says something else, you may miss it. (This happens a lot in Spaceteam due to differences in perceived word pronunciations.) They also learned that little can be accomplished when a lot of people are yelling, and that communication is definitely more difficult in high-pressure situations.
Spaceteam also has a Spaceteam ESL app designed specifically to help English language learners work on vocabulary. Again, there is a lot of shouting involved, but it beats memorizing word lists.
For many of us, the end of the school year is drawing near. If you are looking for novel ways to keep student interest, you may want to try Spaceteam.
Fish in a Tree, the awesome book by Lynda Mullaly Hunt that I reviewed here, has just come out in paperback. The paperback includes the main character, Ally’s, complete Sketchbook of Impossible Things. In honor of this, Hunt has launched a nationwide contest for students in 3rd-8th grades to create their own incredibly unique writing or artwork, photos of which must be received by May 12, 2017. You can find all of the details, including the list of prizes, here.
Also, if you have time, Mrs. Hunt recently did a live webcast for School Library Journal, and I think that you can view the archive by registering here. My 3rd graders and I watched it today, and found it very inspirational. Mrs. Hunt talks about her own learning difficulties, the many real-life models for her characters, and how her long-term goals helped to keep her on track. If you have spoken to your students about growth mindset and grit, then you will find her speech will really resonate with them!
As our school year begins to wind down, my 5th grade gifted students are attempting to synthesize all that they have learned by determining what they “know for sure.” While browsing the examples on Laura Moore’s TCEA Hyperdoc website (click here for my original post about her Hyperdoc presentation), I found this “Manifesto Project.” When I showed it to my students, they were excited about designing their own manifestos. We did a lot of brainstorming and discussion before the students started working on Canva. The examples I am showing you are just rough drafts (including mine), but I think they are off to a great start! Knowing the personalities of these students, I am very impressed by how the students were careful to choose words and designs that really reflect their values and beliefs.
I remarked that it might be fun to make each manifesto into a t-shirt, and the students got super excited about the idea. So, if anyone has done something like that before, please give me suggestions in the comments below!
If you are interested in more ideas for using Canva in the classroom, here is a link to their lesson suggestions.
I truly believe that it is not my job as an educator to tell students what they should think or how they should feel. Much of my job is to teach them how to think: how to analyze, how to problem-solve, how to be self-aware so they can choose the type of thinking that would be useful for them in different situations. My job is also to teach my students how to listen to and to understand other points of view, that our own perspectives can change, and that it’s important to be mindful and respectful of those who don’t agree with us.
With these things in mind, I have been collecting a few resources over the last couple of days that may help teachers in the light of recent events. For the students who are concerned or fearful, for the ones who are angry or defensive, we as teachers can give two things: empathy and information. Here are some resources you may be able to use as arguments about the recent immigration ban and the border wall dominate the news (You will, of course, need to determine which resources are suitable for your students.):
The Kuriositas blog recently featured, “Atomic,” a short video created by students at Columbus College of Art and Design. The students were tasked with creating animations of some of the elements on the periodic table, and this video is a compilation of some of the best. Learning about the elements and their symbols would have been vastly more entertaining when I was in high school if I had been given a similar assignment! In fact, there are a few elements in the video that I would swear I never heard of (dysprosium?), but now I will never forget them.