Young Mensan Magazine is a digital magazine for students that is free and available online. Though the target audience is children who are part of Mensa, a non-profit organization open to people who score in the 98th %ile or above on certain IQ tests, the magazine is not restricted to members, and should appeal to students with a variety of interests. It has jokes (the latest edition includes a Mad-Lib type of activity), puzzles, and human interest stores that are contributed by children who are members of Mensa around the world. There are also contests, such as the “Create a Cryptid Contest” (deadline September 30), as well as poems and well-written articles.
Though Young Mensan is a quarterly magazine, you can also access the archive online — dozens of previous issues that go all of the way back to 2009 when the magazine was originally titled, Fred. Some of the themes you’ll find are: “Numbers Game,” “Time Tales,” “2E,” and, “Zombies.”
Whether you assign an article or poem to be read, offer this as an option for “first finishers,” or recommend it to parents of children who are always hungry for new things to read, definitely keep the Young Mensan Magazine in mind as a great option for students searching for engaging and relevant reading material.
Weirdly, it was a collection of Joseph Fasano (@Joseph_Fasano_) quotes — compiled and presented to him by his students — not his poetry, that first brought him to my attention on Twitter. They compiled a notebook of the “craziest things” he said in class throughout one semester and gifted him the 152 page book at the end. Below is one example, which I think most teachers have either said or wanted to say at numerous points in their careers:
You can read the rest of his pinned thread of hilarious quotes here.
It turns out Fasano is not just a teacher with a sense of humor, but also a gifted poet. He began his academic career studying mathematics and astrophysics at Harvard, switched to philosophy, and then did his graduate studies on poetry at Columbia University. He has published several books and won numerous awards. Find out more about his biography and publications on his website.
Daily Poetry Themes on Twitter
Each day, Fasano suggests a new poetry theme on Twitter and offers an example. Responses pour in as readers share their favorite poems that center around that theme. For example, today’s theme was, “Wildness,” and he included this poem by Ada Limon to illustrate the topic:
The Poem That Made Me Cry
While I enjoy reading Fasano’s threads each day, and I am often moved by the beautiful pieces offered by people around the world, I wasn’t prepared to read the following Tweet, which includes a poem written by a woman with dementia based on one of his prompts:
A flood of people responded to this poignant Tweet, and Fasano was kind enough to Tweet the prompt so more people could try it out. You can read the thread to see examples from poets of all ages submitted in the thread.
Fasano Tweeted recently that he is working on a book of poetry prompts that teachers can use, and hopes to have it available soon. In the meantime, here is the prompt for the above poem. Other prompts and the creative responses to them can be found in his Twitter stream.
While it’s almost the end of National Poetry Month in the United States, I think that we all know that our lives deserve to be enriched by beautiful writing and moving verses year round. Consider doing the above exercise with your students as the year comes to a close, or maybe to open next school year. You can find more poetry lesson ideas here.
In a recent appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Clint Smith told the host that, “Poetry is the act of paying attention.” The author of the award-winning book, How the Word is Passed and Counting Descent, has just released a new collection of his poetry called, Above Ground. In the 7 minute interview, Smith and Colbert discuss the relationship between love and paying attention as well as the human experience of often feeling conflicting emotions simultaneously. Smith reads one of his poems from his new book, “All at Once,” and I think everyone can identify with what a struggle it can be to bear the knowledge of joy and tragedy concurrently.
April is National Poetry Month in the United States, so I’ll be adding this to my other poetry resources. But I’ll also be bookmarking in my Pinterest collection of Inspirational Videos for Teachers because Smith talks about one of the first poems he remembers writing in school and the encouragement from his teacher that he will never forget.
You can view Colbert’s interview with Smith below, or at this link. If you’d like to listen to a 37 minute interview Smith did recently with Terry Gross on Fresh Air, you can access it here.
Since I’ve been doing a few Hexagonal Thinking workshops lately and April is National Poetry month here in the United States, I thought that I would see if any teachers have suggestions for how Hexagonal Thinking could be used to analyze and write poetry. I found this post on Teach Living Poets where the author describes how her students used Hexagonal Thinking to make connections between 15 poems that they had been assigned to read.
Though this idea is not specifically about poetry, I like this TikTok from Emily Pool (@toopoolforschool), where she explains how each student grabs a hexagon as they enter the classroom and puts it on the whiteboard at the front of the room, explaining any connections that they make. This is not only incentive to get to class early if you are an introvert, but also a fun retrieval practice idea. Place words on the hexagons from a poem you’ve been reading or titles of several poems to see what relationships the students perceive.
How could we use Hexagonal Thinking to write poetry? Of course, Hexagonal Thinking can be used for brainstorming. You could give small groups of students a set of 8-10 blank hexagons, and have them brainstorm a word for each one on a theme, such as “things that grow” or “things you do in Spring”. Download my free Spring S.C.A.M.P.E.R. packet for more Spring Brainstorming ideas. Then ask the group to connect the hexagons discussing commonalities they share besides the original theme. You can either challenge them to write a group poem then, or assign them to choose three words that were connected to write their own individual poems. If the students need a bit of help, they can try this AI powered poetry creator from Google, Verse by Verse.
Another idea might be to “find” some words in a piece of literature you have been reading to add to the hexagons, and then create a poem from the connected “found words,” similar to the idea in this post.
Perhaps you provide them with the connections, and students are challenged to write poetry that hops from hexagon to one that adjoins it, going in any direction they choose but with a specified minimum of “hops.” In the image below, for example, the student would be given the triangle with words, and choose four that are connected to consider metaphorically. They can brainstorm in the spaces underneath, then write their poem.
Or, students create an actual poem within the hexagons. There are so many ways to use Hexagonal Thinking. Do you have any suggestions?
Interested in learning more about Hexagonal Thinking? I provide workshops in several formats. Work at your own pace with my online course, or invite me to present virtually or face to face to your district or group!
Gen-Z Media (GZM) creates podcasts designed for all ages, and they’ve just published a website, GZM Classroom, with educational resources for grades 3-8 that can be used with their programs. Those of you who have used Hyperdocs will be pleased to know that the resources have been designed by the two co-creators of Hyperdocs, Sarah Landis and Lisa Highfill, and are just as engaging and innovative as we’ve seen in the past.
Before you dismiss podcasts as a waste of time in your classroom, ask yourself how many times you’ve had to repeat something to a student who “wasn’t listening.” It’s pretty clear that listening skills are vital, and cultivating them shouldn’t be considered irrelevant to learning. In addition, podcasts can teach comprehension and they are pre-recorded so students can listen to them several times if needed to develop better understanding. Each podcast on the GZM site also has a list of standards that are addressed, many of them including reading, listening, speaking, and writing skills in the student materials. For more on “Why You Should Bring Podcasts into the Classroom,” check out this Cult of Pedagogy article.
You’ll find a good overview of each podcast series, genres, themes, average episode length, summaries, and more on the Classroom Resources page. Once you choose a series, the “Get Started button” under the summary will take you the series page, where you will find all of the resources as well as links to the series episodes. Each series has a listening guide (both digital and printable versions available), a choice board, and an explore board as well as explanations for how to use the materials with your students.
I’ve heard a lot of great things about The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel – and the fact that there are three seasons of this show plus that it’s won several awards should be indications of its power to keep students listening.
Another series that probably all of us should listen to is The Big Fib, also an award winner. It’s a game show in which each episode features a kid who questions two “experts” on a specific topic and must try to get to the bottom of who is telling the truth and who is, well, the Big Fibber.
Almost two years ago I wrote an article called, “Podcast Pedagogy” for NEO, and it amazes me to read it now and think of all of the new resources that I could add. Whether you want to use podcasts in centers or whole group, or for developing listening and comprehension or inspiring creative writing, there are plenty of options, and GZM Classroom has just given you access to an incredible number of free quality materials to help you do it.
Update 4/19/2023: UPDATE 4/19/2023: I’ve written about a few other AI tools specifically designed for teachers such as Conker and Would You Rather Generator. I’ve also written about how I’ve used Curipod. To find these articles and a plethora of links to sites that will help you teach your students about Artificial Intelligence, you can visit my Wakelet collection here.
With all of the recent debates among educators regarding the AI tool, ChatGPT, it was no wonder that we would find sessions about it during this week’s TCEA Convention in San Antonio. I’ve been playing a lot with it since I first wrote about it in this post a few weeks ago. Because I was going to be presenting on Digital Differentiation with my colleague, Amy Chandler, I decided to test the limits of ChatGPT when it came to offering differentiation ideas — something that can really be time-consuming for teachers. I’d already seen demonstrations of it doing lesson plans and IEP’s, so coming up with Choice Boards or Learning Menus seemed like an obvious extension.
I won’t go through all of the iterations that I tried before landing on some substantial suggestions from the AI tool, but suffice it to say that if your first attempt yields gibberish, you may need to refine your wording. It did not escape me that I was trying to generate activities for the novel, The Giver, in which the fictional dystopian community places such a high value on precision of language as I kept correcting and adding details to my initial prompt. In the end, though, this is what I was able to coax out of ChatGPT:
In my estimation, this was not bad, perhaps needing a few tweaks here and there, but certainly far better than I could have come up with in an hour, much less the 5 minutes it had taken me and the tool to arrive at this point.
From there, I wanted to make the menu a bit more “palatable” for student consumption, so I turned to Canva where I found a free menu template, copied and pasted my activities from ChatGPT, replaced a couple of images to go with the theme, and was done in less than 15 minutes total from start to finish. (Want a free, editable Canva template of the menu below? Be sure you’ve subscribed to my newsletter!)
Andi McNair (follow her in Instagram @a_meaningful_mess!), one of my Genius Hour heroes, was in the audience, and decided to play around with it, too. She had the tool generate a Choice Board, which she posted on Instagram as you can see below.
Today I decided to push my boundaries a bit more, thinking it would be nice to have the choices on my Learning Menu somewhat correspond to ability levels. Here is what I got for Tuck Everlasting:
Again, not perfect, but I can definitely see differences in difficulty levels for the tasks. As Andi pointed out when we were discussing ChatGPT over lunch, it is basically gleaning information from all over the internet, so we are going to find that much of the wording is familiar to things we’ve seen in the past. ChatGPT is like a hyperfocused internet search that filters out all of the things you don’t need to give you as close to what you specify as it can find.
Now, keep in mind that this tool is not going to stay free. And, yes, there are plenty of ways it can be abused. It’s not perfect, and we still need humans, of course. But when we can get machines to do the time-consuming tasks that will then allow us to to do what we do best — guide, teach, and empower our students — why not take advantage of those tools? We can be thoughtful and critical thinkers and manage the resources available to us at the same time.