burning campfire with bright flames in nature

Battle of the Banned Books

How about that Central York School District in York, Pennsylvania where the all-white school board has “frozen” forty books and multimedia materials from being circulated in the district “until they can be reviewed?” This process began in October of 2020, yet in a virtual meeting that was held this past week on 9/13/2021, the board has doubled down and continued the prohibition of these resources. The list includes incendiary items such as a Sesame Street town hall episode about racism and biographies of Rosa Parks and Malala Yousafzai. According to parent Matt Weyant in a quote for The Hill, “I don’t want my daughter growing up feeling guilty because she’s white.”

Students in the district, which is 82% white, according to this article in the Daily Mail, seem oblivious to this horrific threat to their psyche, and are actually (how dare they!) saying things like, “‘I want to hear all of it. I don’t want everyone to be worried about how we feel because no one was worried about how BIPOC members of the community felt.’ Olivia Pituch said.”

Those naive youngsters! Don’t they know that adults are so much wiser than them? Especially white adults who have experienced the crushing tyranny of guilt all of their lives?

Fortunately, the American Library Asociation knows how to combat these gullible teenagers and any ignorant adults opposing these actions that are being taken for their protection by scheduling a Banned Books Weeks from Sept. 26-Oct. 2. Now we can celebrate the eradication of all of the evil books like the one below.

While you are holding parades in honor of the Book Banners protecting our freedom, be sure to avoid any routes with Free Little Libraries because they are about to be inundated by these nefarious books after author Brad Meltzer started a Twitter campaign so he could earn himself millions of dollars.

And be extra vigilant so your teenagers don’t surreptitiously enter the contest to join author Jason Reynolds on Facebook Live on September 28th where they can ask him anything about banned books.

If you are avoiding this battle, don’t you dare call yourself an All-American racist. You and that blue-furred illegal alien who has somehow managed to avoid imprisonment despite all of these years of blatant cookie stealing can go back to where you came from. Otherwise, get those backyard bonfires going and start raiding the libraries for tinder. It’s time to pretend America is great again!

texture addiction ball game

The Rich Potential of International Dot Day

As some of you may know, I updated my Dot Day resources in August. Depending on your cup half empty/half full point of view, you could see that post as a little late (since I was updating a post from 2014) or a little early (since Dot Day is every year on September 15-ish). I will be adding this e-book link to that post. The Rich Potential of International Dot Day is a free e-book available from Apple Books. Created for this year through a collaboration by Apple Distinguished Educators, the book begins with a quote from The Dot author Peter H. Reynolds, “When the going gets tough, the creative get going! Cheering on educators and parents — everyone who will help kids make the most of this school year!” There are 5 sections of activities in the book: Drawing, Sound & Music, Photo, Film, and AR (Augmented Reality). The creative suggestions are designed to be used with iPads, though there are ways many of them can be adapted using different devices. For example, there is a “Your thoughts in dot” time lapse activity suggested by ADE Miriam Walsh using the Pages app that could also be done with Google Slides and Screen-Cast-o-Matic, and “The Ripple of Your Actions” from ADE Simon Pile merely requires milk and food coloring. Altogether, there are over 30 innovative suggestions in the book for ways to celebrate International Dot Day this year. Whether you are at home or at school, take advantage of one of these opportunities to make your mark on the world.

woman covered with polka dot lights
Photo by Aleksandar Pasaric on Pexels.com
assorted books on shelf

Two More Anti-Racism Resources

I wanted to let you know that I’ve added two more resources to my Anti-Racism Wakelet. One of them is a link to a HyperDocs blog post, where Sarah Landis shares resources that include a set of Hyperdocs for teaching students about identity. The resources are based on the Social Justice Standards from Learning for Justice, and would be a great way to begin the school year.

The other link I just bookmarked on the Wakelet is the Diverse BookFinder Tool, which was recognized as the 2021 Best Digital Tool by the American Association of School Librarians.

photo of woman reading book
Photo by Polina Zimmerman on Pexels.com
Two faces looking at each other

Chatter by Ethan Kross

During the last few years, the voice inside my head has been vehemently berating me and informing me that I am a failure. Despite over a quarter of a century of teaching experience, I felt less confident than my first year of teaching. Though the logical part of my brain argued against this critical inner voice, it was difficult to overcome. I knew I wasn’t alone in feeling inadequate, but that didn’t make it seem any less real.

Ethan Kross, psychologist and director of the Emotion and Self Control Laboratory, calls this mental self-criticism “chatter.” He has written a book by that name on what he and other scientists have learned about how to “harness” the judgmental thoughts that cycle through our heads so we can make them less destructive and more productive. Interspersed among the tales of athletes, scientists, and others, there are psychological studies that have informed researchers about chatter, and Kross offers suggestions for tools we can easily incorporate into our daily lives to leap out of those negative feedback loops.

One such tool is called, “distanced self-talk.” When I tell you how simple it is to do this, you will most likely doubt its effectiveness, but Kross has quite a few examples to back it up. The idea is to mentally advise yourself in the third person, as though you are an outside observer rather than the subject immersed in the situation. You can also temporally distance yourself by imagining that you are looking back on the circumstances from a time in the future.

In the chapter, “The Power and Peril of Other People,” Kross surprised me with the fascinating work of Bernard Rime, who found that “talking to others about our negative experiences doesn’t help us recover in any meaningful way.” In fact, what we often think of as venting can make our chatter worse. (Does this make anyone else think of Teachers’ Lounges?) He goes on to explain how this can be avoided when, “The interlocutor ideally acknowledges the person’s feeling and reflections, but then helps her to put the situation in perspective.”

I won’t give away all of the tools because I think Kross explains them best. (He includes a chapter at the end that recaps all of the tools mentioned in the book and offers suggestions for how to use them in different situations.) I will say that if you are experiencing the deleterious effects of Chatter, that you will find this book enormously helpful. If you are someone who teaches, parents, or in any way supports a person who battles anxiety, depression, or self-hatred, you will find this book enormously helpful. If you somehow managed to survive a traumatic event, a natural disaster, or a worldwide pandemic, you will find this book enormously helpful. And, even more importantly, you will find this book hopeful. I think quite a few of us can use a bit of that right now.

Click here to learn more.
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Journey to City X: Adventures in Engineering for Kids

About 6 years ago, as people who are excited about learning new things can be wont to do, my colleague and I emphatically agreed to piloting a 3d printer on our elementary school campus without actually knowing a single thing about 3d printing. There was a huge learning curve just trying to figure out how to get the darn thing to print out one of its pre-programmed examples. Once we accomplished the extraordinary feat of coaxing our printer to spit out a plastic bolt that we could use for pretty much nothing, we realized that we needed to figure out what meaningful objects we could fabricate – and how to design them. Our research was frustrating. Other than mass producing keychains and other items with school logos, no one seemed to have any idea about what elementary students might be able to do with a 3d printer. (By the way, if you are thinking of purchasing a 3d printer for your classroom, or doing a Donors Choose request, here is an article I wrote on some considerations you should make before you commit.)

That’s when we stumbled across City X. And Design Thinking. And Tinkercad.

And that’s when we learned that we didn’t need a 3d printer.

Don’t get me wrong. They are nice to have, and students love holding their own designs in their hands. But the most valuable part of the learning is the Design Thinking process.

The free toolkit from City X helped us to walk our students through the design process. The premise of the program is that humans have started a new settlement called City X on another planet, and the citizens need help with different challenges they are encountering in this novel environment. You can read more about how my colleague and I used the program here.

The toolkit includes a lot of resources, and was a true blessing for the two of us, as we discovered a way to really engage children while helping them to learn about empathy, problem-solving, and multiple other lifelong skills.

Now there is a City X book (thanks for letting me know about it, Amy C!), written by one of the co-creators of the original project, Brett Schilke. Journey to City X: Adventures in Engineering for Kids begins with the same idea as the original project, that the mayor of City X is asking for your help with various problems. In this book, however, there is more detail on how to embark on the design adventures as members of “The Irresistible Futures Agency.” It includes 35 challenges in the areas of transportation, environment, communication, food, health, safety, and energy. Each challenge walks students through solving problems for the fictional planet as they make connections to our own, real-world. There are still choices when it comes to who their “clients” will be and what their final solutions entail, but there are additional activities and recommended explorations in each chapter that are perfect for students new to the idea of Design Thinking.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have a 3d printer. Students can prototype and test with any number of easily accessible materials such as cardboard and clay. Also keep in mind that the broad categories of each challenge make them relatively easy to integrate with science or social studies curriculum.

Once students experience the City X project, they will be ready to do “real-world” designs using the same framework.

For more of my posts on Design Thinking, click here. Also, this is one of the professional development sessions I offer, and it includes a ton of free resources.

“Foolsball”: a new game you can play in City X

Plotting Plots

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!