Gifts for the Gifted — Aaron Slater, Illustrator

Several years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually (except for 2019) on every November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, including my 2021 list, you can visit this page. I also have a Pinterest Board of Games and Toys for Gifted Students. 

Aaron Slater, Illustrator is yet another fantastic book from the writer/illustrator team of Andrea Beaty and David Roberts. Ada Twist, Scientist (don’t forget you can now watch this series on Netflix!) was a recommendation I made on my 2016 list, and I could really have included all of the succeeding books from this duo in lists since then, but I didn’t want it to look like I was playing favorites 😉 I think that I find Aaron Slater particularly special because the main character is dyslexic, and I have taught so many amazing children with dyslexia throughout the years. At the end of the book, it’s explained that the typeface is a font called, “Dyslexie,” which was designed for people with dyslexia, and the “Illustrator’s Note” explains that David Roberts, too, experiences problems with reading and spelling. Another thing I applaud about this book is that Aaron Slater’s problems don’t immediately get rectified even once he encounters a teacher who recognizes his struggle. I also love that Andrea Beaty named her character after artist Aaron Douglas, who was an African American who contributed largely to the Harlem Renaissance.

As you may know, I am trying to support independent stores as much as I can now on my blog. You can purchase Aaron Slater, Illustrator from Black Pearl Books in Austin, a Black-owned bookstore. Here are some more Black-owned independent bookstores. You can also go to Bookshop.org to search for independent stores.

Bookversal

If you are looking for a way to make your home or school library more diverse, Bookversal is a tool created for just that purpose. Aleksandra Melnikova and Laura Hobson are the women who designed the site, and they are based in the UK. This means that many of the links will take you to BIPOC-owned UK bookstores, but you can, of course purchase them wherever is most convenient for you. (Here is a list of BIPOC-owned US bookstores for readers in the States.) There isn’t a gigantic selection so far, which is kind of nicely not-overwhelming. There is a link for making suggestions for additions, and I really like that you can jump to the different sections you see below.

Sections of Bookversal

Of course, if you want a really comprehensive shopping list, you can always select your books from the 850 that Texas State Rep. Matt Krause wants our school districts to review for “objectionable content” including human “sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases, or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), sexually explicit images, graphic presentations of sexual behavior that is in violation of the law, or contain material that might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex or convey that a student, by virtue of their race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.” (You can read this article for more info.)

Don’t forget that you can find more anti-racist resources, like this “Teaching Living Poets” website and the real information about what Critical Race Theory is/is not in my Anti-Racism Wakelet, updated weekly.

Gifts for the Gifted Teacher — Creative Acts for Curious People

I’ve been doing my “Gifts for the Gifted” series for almost 9 years. Though I freely admit that the title is a bit of a misnomer because my recommendations are not just for students who have been identified as gifted, I am about to launch another series that may also be misunderstood. At least no one can accuse me of inconsistency. With that in mind, here is the inaugural post of “Gifts for the Gifted Teacher.” While I got a lot of joy out of the books, games, and toys I’ve bought for my students over the years, there are some things that I just think are great for teachers, themselves (which will indirectly benefit their students, so win/win). And during these times when teachers are, quite frankly, getting the shaft, I would like to make some explicit recommendations for anyone who wants to show their appreciation to an educator with a thoughtful gift.

Definition of Gifted Teacher: An educator who loves to learn and to challenge, engage, and empower her/his/their students with relevant and meaningful curriculum. p. 1 of the Engage Their Minds Dictionary, 2021

My first entry for “Gifts for the Gifted Teacher” (oops, that almost became “Gifs for the Gifted Teacher” which I am now officially copyrighting for my next series…) is a book called, Creative Acts for Curious People by Sarah Stein Greenberg. The foreword is written by David M. Kelley, (not to be confused with David E. Kelley, famous writer/producer of a billion television dramas) the founder of IDEO and a professor at Stanford. David M. Kelley is someone I’ve admired ever since I’ve done my deep dive into design thinking, and Stanford’s d.school is the dream school that I would have totally applied to if it existed thirty something years ago.

The book is thick, which is always a huge plus for me. It is full of activities curated by Sarah Stein Greenberg from great design thinkers at the d.school and beyond, and includes some challenges to try out. Though I see teachers finding it to be an awesome resource, I feel like anyone who has had a problem to solve or may have one to solve in the future could use Creative Acts for Curious People. It’s not just about brainstorming new ideas, but looking at things through different lenses, team building, and working to develop empathy. Altogether, there are 81 Creative Acts in this book, and many could be used with any age group.

I took this book on a trip, and devoured it quickly. My one regret was that I forgot to bring a highlighter, so I’m now re-reading the book and highlighting suggestions that give me ideas. In other words, I am basically coloring every page. I was going to wait until I finished this task to write this review but I got so pumped while I was doing it that I stopped to type this post instead.

I am going to restrain myself from gushing about each and every activity, and just give you a couple of samples. A simple one that you could easily use with students in elementary and up is “Expert Eyes”, where you assign them a place to walk around and make observations on their own by drawing them. Then you have them walk with someone else (for school this could be a buddy from another grade level, parent, teacher, volunteer, etc…) and do the same walk and draw what the companion describes out loud. Depending on the age, do this one or two more times with different people. Then compare the drawings from each time and discuss the new insights you might have gained from looking at the same area through someone else’s eyes. Simple but powerful.

Another example I got really excited about is “The Monsoon Challenge” which would probably be better for older students. The assignment was given in a course called, Design for Extreme Affordability, and the students had to design something to collect as much “rain” as possible. The rain was a sprinkler on a ladder. With less than a week and $20 for each team, the students needed to ideate, build and (hopefully) test prototypes that could be adjusted and ready for the class day of the demonstration. I won’t give away one of the truly genius solutions one group designed, but it’s worth reading the book to find out!

If you know a teacher or leader of problem-solvers who is innovative and loves to guide others through the design process, this book would be the perfect gift for them. I know I will be incorporating a lot of the ideas in my workshops and would have enjoyed using them with my students when I was in the classroom. You can get Creative Acts for Curious People where I purchased it, Nowhere Bookshop, or your favorite independent bookstore. I’ll also be adding this recommendation to my collection of “Books for Maker Ed/Design Thinking.”

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!

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.

Photo by Aleksandar Pasaric on Pexels.com

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 by Polina Zimmerman on Pexels.com
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