Category Archives: Language Arts

Write. Right. Rite.

Last week, I mentioned the book Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and Youby Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi.  Reynolds is currently the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, and he has joined with the Library of Congress to make a series of short videos challenging children to authentically express themselves about different topics.  The Write.Right.Rite. series currently has over 20 prompts, and each one is a personal invitation from Jason Reynolds to think creatively.  From asking you to design an award for yourself  to writing a song for the shower, this list of ideas would be fun for any writing classroom – and I really wish I could see some of the responses!

If you haven’t ever picked up a book by Jason Reynolds, you can get a quick idea of his unique voice by reading one of the wonderful, “Grab the Mic” newsletters he has authored.  Also, the Library of Congress has curated an impressive list of resources that give more information about this incredible author.

For more innovative writing ideas for your classroom, check out this post about 826 Digital, a project for young writers by another wonderful author, Dave Eggers.

Child Writing
Image by free stock photos from www.picjumbo.com from Pixabay

Texts for Talking About Race

As I continue to educate myself on anti-racism, I have vowed to devote a weekly post to this cause.  I have been curating resources for this at a rate that is impossible to sustain, and it has been a bit overwhelming.  I don’t want to dump a lot of links on you because you can basically get any list that you want from social media.  Following the tradition of this blog, I will attempt to share no more than a few quality resources with each post.

Today’s very useful resource is brought to you by CommonLit.  I’ve written about CommonLit a couple of times on this blog, and it is heartening to see that this website has continued to improve.  Provided by a non-profit, CommonLit also has remained free for teachers.  As you know, (and I mentioned in yesterday’s post), quality ed tech tools are difficult to find, and sometimes don’t last very long.

CommonLit has compiled 59 texts for talking about race.  It appears that the grade range is from 4th-12th.  Here is an example of a poem called, “The Child,” by J. Patrick Lewis, that is suitable for 4th grade and up.  As you can see on the right-hand side, activities are provided to go along with the text, including questions and discussion suggestions.  Students who are logged in on a computer (not a mobile device at this time) can also annotate the text.  They can have the computer read it out loud, or translate to another language.

At the top of the page, you will see tabs for paired texts, related media, and parent/teacher guides to go along with the specific text.  You must be logged in for some of these resources – but remember it is free to register!

If school is already out in your neck of the woods, be sure to bookmark this resource for next school year.  Parents, you don’t need to wait, since there are guides for you to use if you want to start the discussion now.

Stop Racism
Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

The Young Editors Project

Dave Eggers, award-winning author, founder of McSweeney’s, and co-founder of 826 National, recently invited students in grades K-5 to participate in The Young Editors Project.  This is a great example of how students can get involved with authentic learning.  Teachers can e-mail the person noted in Eggers’ article to be paired up with a real manuscript that is in progress and matched to their age group.  Students can then give comments and suggestions for improvement.  Once the manuscripts go to final print, the children who gave feedback will have their names mentioned in the book.  This is an opportunity for students to learn about revision, the value of soliciting different perspectives about your work, and what a book looks like before it gets placed on the shelves.  Making the editing process relevant and real-world will have a huge impact on your students.  Click on the above link to learn more about this unique project!

book-4090799_1920
Image by VIVIANE MONCONDUIT from Pixabay

The Creativity Project

The Creativity Project is a book edited by Colby Sharp, a 5th grade teacher in Michigan who is one of the co-founders of “The Nerdy Book Club Blog.”  For this book, Sharp reached out to forty-four authors and illustrators of children’s books to ask them to send him two creative prompts.  After receiving these, he mixed them up and mailed two of the prompts to each contributor, who could then select one to which they would respond. The chosen prompts and results are collected in this book, along with the forty-four unused prompts.

As you read the book, you will be astounded by the imaginative collection of short stories, comics, poems, and illustrations that the creators chose for inspiration, as well as the responses they whimsically crafted.  You may feel like you are immersed in an exposition of improvisation that appears on the pages instead of the screen.

I wanted to list some of the authors and illustrators who participated, but then I felt like I would be granting those names more importance than the ones omitted.  For the full list, you can look at this page on Sharp’s website.

If you know someone who struggles with choosing writing topics, this book is a great gift to give or share!

book-863418_1920
Image by Mystic Art Design from Pixabay

Smash Boom Best

Smash Boom Best is a debate podcast for kids.  Season 3 will be airing this summer, 2020, but you can still access past episodes from Seasons 1 and 2, and even vote for your choices here.  For example, I listened to “Invisibility vs. Flying” before writing this blog post.  The episodes are an excellent way to introduce debate to students in upper elementary and middle school with their kid-friendly topics and efforts to include their young listeners by inviting them to submit debate ideas.  The “Micro” and “Sneak Attack” rounds add to the fun.

Once your students have listened to a debate or two (the episodes are about 35 minutes long), you can use the curriculum provided by Smash Boom Best to help them create their own exciting debates.  On that same page you will also find downloads for scorecards that can be used during the debates and some other debate resources.

Smash Boom Best is part of a family of podcasts that also includes Brains On.  This is an award-winning show where the host investigates those burning questions we have about science, like, “Can you dig to the center of the earth?”  More episodes can be found here.  For educator resources and some transcripts of select shows, you can go to this page.

 

Peel the Fruit

“Peel the Fruit” is a Visible Thinking Routine from Project Zero.  I have mentioned some of the other thinking routines on this blog in the past (CSI, 3-2-1 Bridge) that have been very effective in my classroom for encouraging students to think deeper.  More recently, I wrote about how the Smithsonian Learning Lab uses Thinking Routines to examine art.  I have never used “Peel the Fruit” before, but it seems like it would be particularly useful for older students to use for examining news stories right now or for younger students to think more deeply about a picture book they are reading.

In the “Peel the Fruit” routine, students start by making observations about the “surface” of their subject, and go through six more steps to discover the implications beneath what appears to be obvious.  You can see an example of this being used with a text on this page created by Alice Vigors. (There is also a template that you can download.)

Ron Ritchart, who has a book coming out in May 2020, and is one of Harvard’s Project Zero researchers, has included a different graphic by Paviter Singh that might be more appropriate for older students on his blog.  Ron also offers a link to this document created by Carol Geneix and Jaime Chao-Mignano at Washington International School, that suggests online tools that can be used with each of the Project Zero Thinking Routines.

“Peel the Fruit” would be an excellent way to encourage curiosity and critical thinking about an image, Tweet, news article, headline, or literary work.  If students have never done the routine before, it would be helpful to model the process before asking them to complete it independently.

food-1239233_1920
Image by Shutterbug75 from Pixabay