Long ago – during the first semester – my GT 3rd graders decided that they wanted to do their Genius Hour project on volcanoes. (My 3rd grade class is only 3 students this year, so they are doing their project together.) To narrow things down, we decided to learn more about shield volcanoes. Specifically, Kilauea.
You can probably see where this is going. After months of research, writing a script for a newscast, dealing with many device issues and lost footage, we finally had everything together.
Then Kilauea erupted.
Actually, of course, Kilauea has been erupting. For years. But in the last few weeks it has been more insistent on being noticed. A neighborhood needed to be evacuated because lava flowed into it, and the toxic fumes aren’t too hospitable either. In addition, more violent eruptions may happen in the near future.
Our video needed to be rewritten and re-filmed. Again. The students, of course, wanted to keep all of their “humorous” sections. I wanted to make sure it didn’t look like we were making light of a serious situation that has caused Hawaii’s governor to declare a State of Emergency.
My gifted and talented first graders study geography and choose different countries to research. @storymamas recently tweeted about a book called, This is How We Do It, by Matt Lamothe, and I thought it would be a good resource to use with this class. Children like to see the differences and similarities of places around the world. A few years ago, I sent out a Twitter plea for people from other countries to add pictures of their playgrounds to this slide show, and my students enjoy comparing the sites to our own and finding the locations on a map.
Lamothe went much further than collecting images on a slideshow for his book. You can read about his writing process for This is How We Do Ithere. He created all of the illustrations in his book based on photographs shared with him by families in seven different countries. My students were fascinated with everything from how the featured children got to school to how they slept. They were surprised by uncanny resemblances to our own culture (they have a Smarboard in their classroom, too!) as well as unimaginable contrasts (an entire family sleeping in one bed!)
You can download a free activity kit to accompany the book here.
The iCivics website is an incredible free resource that I have blogged about in the past. Recently, the site added a downloadable, printable resource called, “My County Works,” for elementary students that gives an overview of the way county governments work here in the United States. There are other links to lesson plans and activities for middle and high school on the “Teach Local” page of iCivics. My 3rd graders, who have been studying Systems Thinking, enjoyed playing the “Counties Work” app, which allows the user to be in charge of a fictional county and make decisions about the appropriate ways to spend the budget. The students had to learn which departments would be assigned particular projects, how spending money and charging taxes would affect their popularity (since they were in an elected office), and the importance of keeping a balanced budget. Although the game is, of course, a bit simplistic, it does give students an idea of many factors that need to be taken into consideration by officials before approving citizen requests.
One of the sessions I attended at TCEA 2018 was presented by a group from Richardson ISD. #4CoresonFire focused on some cross-curricular activities using tools that I’ve used before. However, I got some great integration ideas I hadn’t thought of – which makes the session a success in my book.
One of the teachers described how she had used StoryCorps and Newsela to start a unit about the Civil War. (Here are my previous posts on StoryCorps and Newsela.) I starred my notes wildly as she spoke; this is my secret code for, “USE THIS AS SOON AS YOU GET BACK TO SCHOOL!” My 5th graders were about to read the chapter in The Giver that describes Jonas’ first introduction to the concept of war, and I knew these would be great connections.
In the lesson described at TCEA, the teachers posed the question, “When do the costs of war outweigh the benefits?” Their students discussed this, and then watched, “The Nature of War” on StoryCorps. After a post-video discussion, the students read an article about the Civil War in Newsela (you do need to register for free to read the articles). Then they launched into a study of the Civil War in their history class.
I tweaked the lesson to use with The Giver. I used Pear Deck to give an interactive, student-paced lesson. Here is the link. If you want to use the presentation as intended, you will need to register for Pear Deck. You can find out more about Pear Deck, as well as a link to get a premium code that lasts the rest of this school year, here. Also, the StoryCorps video link is embedded. Do to our district filters, students had to log in to YouTube on a separate tab before they were able to watch the video on their own devices.
I chose to use an article from Newsela about, “Just War Theory.” Student responses at the end of the presentation varied widely from their initial ideas about whether or not war is ever justified. Many of them agreed with the quote I posted at the end about war being banished from the earth – until I brought up The Giver. There is no war anymore in this dystopian world, but there is also no freedom.
Is it possible to banish war without giving up most of our freedom?
That was a discussion that definitely engaged the class!
Leslie Fisher (@LeslieFisher) tweeted out this link to Weekly Map yesterday. The concept is similar to the “What’s Going on in this Graph?” feature that appears in the New York Times the second Tuesday of every month – except, of course, that this a weekly challenge. Each Monday brings a new map, and a hint is given each weekday including Friday. A link is also provided on Friday to the answer.
So far, the site has archived 65 Weekly Maps, and they are labeled with difficulty ratings. This is a great way for students to practice deductive reasoning and geography skills, as well as vocabulary. (I had no idea what a choropleth map was until I looked at this site.) The “Lessons” part of the site is under construction, so maybe if we give them lots of love that will happen faster!
The Global Digital Citizen Foundation has a page of resources on its website that includes the free Critical Thinking Cheatsheet. The downloadable PDF has excellent question stems that students can use when trying to analyze a topic more effectively. You can see a sampling of the Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How questions stems in the image below.
You will need to register on the site before you can receive your download. However, there are several other free resources that you can also access once you login, so it is well worth taking 30 seconds to sign up.
I plan to give this sheet to all of my students so they can use it to understand current events better. A great site this could be “smashed” with is Newsela.