Category Archives: Language Arts

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!

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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

UPDATE 9/29/2020: Here is a link to a post with a Google Slides Template for online learning using this routine.  The post also includes a link to a post by Dr. Catlin Tucker with 5 other Thinking Routine Templates.

“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.

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Image by Shutterbug75 from Pixabay

We Are All Ears

When my daughter was younger, she would often plop on the floor next to our golden retriever, Mia, and read to her.  I would have suspected that Mia was just being a good sport, but her additional voluntary presence during our nightly bedtime stories seemed to suggest that she actually enjoyed read alouds.  Each evening, my husband or I would set ourselves up in the beanbag chair on the floor by our daughter’s bed, and Mia and our bulldog, Clancy, would lie down on either side of us, muzzles in their paws and eyes wide open, as we made our way through Anne of Green Gables, Harry Potter, and the Chronicles of Narnia. (It should be noted that, at the time, Clancy’s greatest joy was devouring books in a very literal way, so it was quite the feat to get him to calm down and actually listen to one being read.)

Pet Partners, an organization that helps to train therapy animals and match volunteers with organizations, recognizes the magic of reading to your pet.  In response to the pandemic, which may have placed more responsibility on parents to encourage their children to read at home, Pet Partners has begun a new program called, “We Are All Ears.”  With a reading log, printable bookmarks, and a bingo card students who may find reading to be a chore can make it more fun by involving their pet snake, hamster, bird, dog, cat, etc…  The program is free, but you can also purchase a t-shirt if you like.

I’ve seen lots of pictures on social media of people thankful for their pets during the quarantine.  Now you can give back to your pets while practicing literacy at the same time.

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Storytelling School with the Moth

The Moth is a program that promotes storytelling.  You can listen to stories that have been curated from The Moth’s live shows on “The Moth Radio Hour”, and there are also a few books of story compilations that have been published.

Like many entities during this time of widespread distance learning, The Moth has decided to offer some activities that can be done at home.  The stories and activities, offered bi-weekly on Tuesdays and Fridays, have been chosen specifically for school-age children, and include videos of the original storytellers.

The first “Storytelling School” assignment is “The Bad Haircut” by Alfonso Lacayo.  This tale is probably quite relevant right now as many of us are questioning the best course of action for maintaining hair styles with most salons being closed.

In the second installment from “Storytelling School,” Aleeza Kazmi narrates her experience creating a self-portrait in first grade, and her eventual realizations about herself and others that came from that event.

“The Care Package” is the third assignment, and a welcome, feel-good story that demonstrates that distance can never truly separate those who love each other.

The most recent “Storytelling School” assignment is “Mushroom Turned Bear,” and it’s one that anyone can relate to if they have tried to follow a YouTube tutorial and it spectacularly failed.  There are other accessible themes in the story that make it universally appealing as well.

So far, there are only the four assignments (the latest one was from today, 4/10/2020), but you can keep up with news of more by going to this link.  Also, if you are a teacher, be sure to check out the education link on the top menu for other ways that you can bring The Moth into your classroom.  For anyone who needs a laugh right now, which I suspect may be many of us, here is a link to their recent “Laugh Break” playlist. (Note: I haven’t listened to this yet, so definitely screen these before you share them with students.)

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Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

 

Chronicles of COVID-19, Part 6

In an effort to encourage people from other countries to also contribute to our COVID-19 Diary from Kids Around the World, I have added a Google Translate button to this site.  In addition, I have added Spanish instructions to the slide show.  Since I used Google Translate to interpret my instructions, I hope that someone who knows Spanish will let me know if I made any goofs!  Please go to the link above to find out more about this collaborative project.  If you have any other suggestions for helping this slide show to become more global, please add them to the comments below.

In the meantime, here is another recent entry from the diary.  I love that Estefany gave a book recommendation (and it happens to be one I haven’t read!), and it would be fun to see more of those!

Worldwide Online COVID Diary for students