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!
The Kids Philosophy Slam folks released the topic for the 2018 contest, which has a deadline of March 9, 2018. The question is, “Truth or Deceit: Which has a Greater Impact on Society?” Definitely relevant!
Students from K-12 can participate in the contest, and younger students can submit their entries in a variety of forms (essay, art-work, etc…). If you have participated in the past, please note that there are some new guidelines for entries.
Although individual students can receive rewards, the contest is also looking for “The Most Philosophical School in America,” which will receive a $200 cash prize. See the above link for more information.
Note: As I was looking up resources for this post, I realized that yesterday, the day that I introduced Guernica to my current 4th graders, was the 80th anniversary of its bombing. I’m sure I probably knew that somewhere in my subconscious, but it still sent a chill down my spine when I saw the date.
Every year my 4th grade gifted students study masterpieces of all types – literary, mathematical, and artistic. “Guernica,” by Picasso is one of the artistic masterpieces that we examine as we discuss the empathy that the visual arts often reflect on the part of the artist. It is a difficult piece to confront, particularly once you know the history behind it, but I think that it is important to study for many reasons. Picasso’s internal struggle as a man who disdained using art for political reasons but also a man who felt compelled to convey his emotions with every brushstroke make this painting into an engaging topic of conversation with my students.
Gavin Than recently created another one of his fabulous Zen Pencils comics dedicated to Picasso’s “Guernica,” illustrating a famous quote from Picasso about the piece. It would be a great way to start a debate in your classroom about whether or not the students agree with Picasso’s stance. Another philosophical discussion that stems from the painting is the love/hate relationship we have with technology, as symbolized by the light bulb in the center of the painting. The same technology that allows many people from all over the world travel to see this work of art by air also doomed the Spanish town to being blanket-bombed by the Germans.
One of the reasons I keep a blog is because I have a horrible memory. It’s nice to go back in time every once in awhile and look at the posts I wrote so I can rediscover some great resources. Luke Neff’s Writing Prompts site is one of those tools. I originally mentioned the site in 2011. Neff takes interesting images or quotes, and creates unusual, thought-provoking prompts for older students. I revisited the site yesterday, and found a prompt that really resonated. I want so much for my students to question and to use critical thinking skills. This prompt may activate some lively discussion in my class – which is what I am aiming for!
For my list of my favorite online writing tools in 2011 (before Google Docs existed!), click here.
As our school year begins to wind down, my 5th grade gifted students are attempting to synthesize all that they have learned by determining what they “know for sure.” While browsing the examples on Laura Moore’s TCEA Hyperdoc website (click here for my original post about her Hyperdoc presentation), I found this “Manifesto Project.” When I showed it to my students, they were excited about designing their own manifestos. We did a lot of brainstorming and discussion before the students started working on Canva. The examples I am showing you are just rough drafts (including mine), but I think they are off to a great start! Knowing the personalities of these students, I am very impressed by how the students were careful to choose words and designs that really reflect their values and beliefs.
I remarked that it might be fun to make each manifesto into a t-shirt, and the students got super excited about the idea. So, if anyone has done something like that before, please give me suggestions in the comments below!
If you are interested in more ideas for using Canva in the classroom, here is a link to their lesson suggestions.
After jumping into a rabbit hole in the form of this article about a recent study showing positive effects related to teaching philosophy to children, I found a website that I wish I’d discovered at least 6 months ago. Your Logical Fallacy Is… details the erroneous but persuasive arguments that many propagandists use, from politicians to advertisers. The site makes it quite easy to “call someone out” by offering the tools to identify and share specific logical fallacies through social networks. Just click on the icon for a particular logical fallacy on the home page, and it will take you to a page describing the fallacy along with an example. Teachers might also be interested in the free, downloadable poster, which gives short summaries of each of the twenty-four fallacies defined on the site.
In this era of “false news” and an overabundance of information to sift through, teaching our students to think critically is vital. It’s nice to see studies that suggest that teaching philosophy might improve student performance in areas such as reading and math, but neither of those skills are of much use to students who don’t know how to determine what is valid and what is a smokescreen.
(For more resources on using philosophy in the classroom, you can also read this post and this one.
Is the pen mightier than the sword? I think you may guess where I side when it comes to that question – but it’s how our students feel that matters to the folks at the Kids Philosophy Slam. Students from K-12 are invited to submit their responses to the prompt by March 10, 2017. You can read about the rules for each category here.
If you are looking for resources on philosophy to use with your students, “Teaching Children Philosophy” may be a great place to start. For this particular topic, you might want to try the “Ethics” page.