The Smithsonian and USA Today have joined forces to produce a free, 40-page packet of activities, “Summer Road Trip.” To read more about what is included, and to download the free PDF, visit this article by Darren Milligan for the Smithsonian Learning Lab. The Learning Lab is one of my favorite places to find quality educational materials, including lesson plans, videos, and professional development. Click here to see some other posts that I’ve done on this blog about specific Smithsonian Learning Lab resources.
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.
My second monthly article for NEO has been published. The title is, How Distance Learning Fosters Global Collaboration, and it may have some helpful resources for you. (Last month’s article was, How to Use Design Thinking in the Classroom.) For additional resources on global collaboration, you might also want to refer to this post.
As always, I would love to hear any comments or recommendations for topics of future posts. I am currently working on the rough draft for next month, which is about integrating S.T.E.A.M. into distance learning, and I welcome any ideas you think should be included!
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” 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.
I have been a fan of iCivics, the site founded by Justice O’Connor in 2009, since 2011. Since then, the site has continued to add fun, quality activities designed to help students learn about being responsible citizens. As a response to our current educational environment, iCivics has introduced a free, quest-based resource called, “iCivics Game Odyssey,” that will encourage students to, according to the site, #shelterinplay.
To begin, students will download the Odyssey map, which will be on a Google Slide that they will copy so they can edit it. As they complete each quest, they will be able to add the badges they have earned to the map. The quests, which are also each accompanied by interactive Google Slides activities, are connected to iCivics games. New quests are scheduled to be added each Monday. If used as an assignment, teachers can have students turn in their completed Google Slides copies at the end of each quest, and the map once all badges have been earned.
There is a link on the Odyssey page to weekly planners for middle school and high school teachers who would like to use the lessons for class. (To access these, you will need to register for a free iCivics account.) Although 6-12 seem to be the targeted grade levels, I think that upper elementary students would also enjoy these activities. There is no requirement for this resource to be used by schools, so parents can feel free to provide this as an enrichment activity for their children and even play along with them.