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!
I’ve been a huge fan of Russel Tarr’s ClassTools site for a long time. I particularly like to use the different graphic organizers he offers and the hexagon generator. (Click here to see how the latter can be used.) I also follow Russel on Twitter (@RusselTarr). This weekend, I noticed a neat activity he tweeted about called, “Wheel of Life,” which is an excellent way to analyze characters (both fiction and non-fiction). When I asked Russel where I could find details, he directed me to Tarr’s Toolbox, a treasure that I am embarrassed to say I hadn’t seen yet.
Tarr’s Toolbox is Russel’s blog, and gives wonderful ideas for how to engage students in history class – though you can certainly use most of them in other subject areas. At the top of the home page, there is this nice breakdown of different categories under which you can find key posts.
Reading the posts makes me want to be in Russel’s class (why didn’t I ever have a history teacher like him?). Failing that, I at least want to aspire to be as creative and engaging as he must be for his students.
I haven’t read it yet, but Russel just published a book called, A History Teaching Toolbox, which I imagine is probably another dynamic resource that teachers in any department would find useful.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is coming up in the States next week. Sadly, so much has been in the news lately about civil rights violations all over the world that it’s difficult to comprehend that anything has improved since King’s legacy survives. As a teacher, I want to be sure that my students learn empathy and respect for others. But it’s hard to find lessons that hit the right chord with every grade level I teach.
For integration with current events, middle and high school teachers should definitely check out the multitude of lesson plans for civil rights on the New York Times’ Learning Network.
Do you teach Kindergarten? You can teach a lesson about civil rights, too! Check out this adorable idea from Joelle Trayers, where she assigned her students to imagine what rights snow people would demand!
Morfo is an app that was probably designed purely for entertainment, but some creative teachers have found a way to make it educational. Because it can be both, I decided to use it for this week’s Fun Friday post.
Morfo is a free app on iTunes that allows you to basically animate a still picture of a face. After you give the app some direction, the eyes on the face will move around, and you can add a recording that will play as the mouth moves. You can even change facial expressions.
I was trying to make an example for you, but gave up after I goofed up five recordings. Fortunately for me, the internet was right at my fingertips. I found this delightful video that not only explains how to use the Morfo app but, by applying it to a picture of Henry the VIII, gives it the educational tweak that I was trying to achieve. In addition, the narrator has a lovely accent that sounds much better than any recording I could ever make! Here is the link in case the video does not play: http://youtu.be/N4geZwqZ-Lg
The History for Music Lovers channel on YouTube has a lot of videos of historical figures and moments set to popular songs. The one I use with my students is “Gutenberg“, the lyrics of which are sung to the tune of “Sunday Girl” by Blondie. For those students who don’t really care to read history from a book and are musically inclined, this is a great way to get their attention. (As usual, before presenting videos to students, please preview them to make sure they are appropriate for that age group!) This is also a great idea for students who are interested in finding another way to present their own research. It beats a PowerPoint presentation!
Give your students a virtual field trip to the First Thanksgiving by visiting this in-depth resource from Scholastic. Students can read letters from pilgrims, view videos with “Miles Standish” and other pilgrims, and take a field trip to Plimouth. There are lots of resources and free printables for teachers as well. This is a great way for the students to immerse themselves in history instead of relying on social studies textbooks.