Weird Enough Productions

Tony Weaver Jr. is a hero. I don’t use that term lightly. In fact, I hesitate to use it at all. But when I started doing research on a Tweet from @ProjectFoundEd about this man, I discovered more and more reasons to admire him. In this 2020 world of self-serving politicians and celebrities, Tony Weaver Jr. is the humble, talented, and empathetic champion we need.

Every week, I write an anti-racist post, but Tony Weaver Jr. is one of the many Blacks in our country who dedicates his life to anti-racism. Though his activism stemmed from personal experiences, he explains in this TEDx talk, “Why the World Needs Superheroes Who Look Different,” how other young people were his true motivation. In the CNN video that first led me to seek out more information about him, Weaver expresses such honest emotion about his passion for his work that you know his dedication will never waver.

Weaver is the young entrepreneur who started a company called Weird Enough Productions. “We tell stories that inspire people to embrace their quirks, and get hype about being themselves,” it states on the “About” page. Weird Enough Productions is responsible for a project called, “Get Media L.I.T.” which provides a platform for teachers and students (age 12 an up) where they can use comics and lesson plans to learn about social-emotional topics, media literacy, and digital citizenships. The comics feature a group of young people called “The Uncommons,” who are a diverse cast of characters designed to be representative of the many faces in our population. When you sign up for Media L.I.T. as a teacher, you will have a dashboard to which you can add classes, make playlists of the comics, and push out assignments. Each lesson is either categorized as, “Learn, Inquire, or Transform.” This tutorial for getting started is very helpful.

Get Media L.I.T. is exactly the type of material that will appeal to young people – relevant and visually intriguing. It is a great way to teach students about topics that are not generally covered in the curriculum, and to expose them to fictional heroes who look like them. In addition, the “Transform” lessons offer ideas for how the students can apply what they have learned to make the world a better place.

I will be adding this post to my list of Anti-Racism posts on Wakelet. Please consider sharing it with others, especially those who have the power to make a difference in the classroom. You can learn more about Tony Weaver, Jr. here.

screenshot of Tony Weaver Jr. from “Why the World Needs Superheroes Who Look Different”

The Good Project

I hesitated about doing this post. I know that educators are struggling right now. You are trying to do what has to be done, and you don’t need anything extra. Getting through what is already required by your district and/or school is stressful enough.

But, The Good Project is really… well… good! It is meaningful, full of free resources, and incredibly relevant. And you, the teacher, can differentiate for yourself by choosing the level of classroom integration you want. Whether you decide to select some of the materials to embed in a curriculum you already have, or go deep with the 170 page lesson plan The Good Project provides, I am pretty certain you can find something that will benefit your students.

I learned about The Good Project when the video, “Beyond the Science Club: A Good Project Dilemma” was tweeted. When I jumped down the rabbit hole, I realized some of my favorite old friends were down there – Harvard Graduate School of Education and Project Zero (also responsible for Visible Thinking Routines). In fact, they were the rabbits who created this fantastic hole I stumbled into.

In their words, “The Good Project promotes excellence, engagement, and ethics in education, preparing people to become good workers and good citizens who contribute to the overall well-being of society.” I don’t know about you, but I think we desperately need some conversations about those 3 E’s – excellence, engagement, and ethics. The Good Project gives you all the tools you need to do this with your students.

Though The Good Project’s resources are primarily created for secondary students, I could definitely see doing some of the activities and lessons with upper elementary and middle school – particularly gifted students. For example, I think the Value Sort activity would go well with the unit my 5th graders did on Character. If you are looking for specific ideas to use with your students, you can use the Activities Database. You can weave in ethical dilemmas into your social studies or science activities. (There are even a couple of interactive ones students can do online.)

To go deeper, I would suggest the Good Collaboration Toolkit or the Lesson Plans.

The Good Project does not tell students what to think, or what is right and wrong. It gives them space to do their own thinking about their values and what is important to them. With class discussions, it can help them to see different perspectives, and learn about the complexities of the decisions they make. The Good Project poses questions about very real-life decisions that we are likely to encounter so that students can take time to analyze the potential effects of different choices.

image from The Good Project Overview

SEL and Community Building With Slides

In yesterday’s post about Virtual Breakout rooms, I mentioned that students who don’t like this virtual version of small group work feel awkward, especially if they have not built connections with the teacher and their peers before being thrown into small groups.  Today’s post offers you some resources to help your students with some of the social-emotional aspects of being in school in order to begin building those bridges.

SEL

If you have the version of PearDeck that allows for “Draggable” responses, you can have your students show their current emotional status using a Google Slide like this one created by Stephanie Rothstein (@Steph_EdTech) and her student teacher, inspired by her LEAD Pathway Co-Chair, Rachel Peters (@lghspeters ).  (You can also make your own hack for draggable responses by: making this your background or creating a master slide with it, creating your own dot, copying and pasting it numerous times until you have enough for the class to drag when you share the presentation.)

stress check

If you don’t have the full version of PearDeck, you can make your own hack for draggable responses by: making this your background or creating a master slide with it, creating your own dot, copying and pasting it numerous times until you have enough for the class to drag when you share the presentation.  You can also find some more SEL templates from PearDeck that are free to download here.

Copy of Social Emotional Learning Templates

For a Google Slides Choiceboard on SEL, try this one from Pathways 2 Success.

Do you want a virtual calming room?  Lindsey Denbo (@denbo_lindsey) shared the template for this amazing Slides presentation:

copy-of-calming-room
Calming Room Slides with Links from Lindsey Denbo

Community Building

Ester Park (@MrsParkShine), who I also added to my Interactive Slides post because of her bank of templates that can be easily adapted for many uses, has this fun sign-off questions template.

Sign Off Question

You can also find various Check-In templates on Mrs. Park’s site, as well as interactive games.

Speaking of games, check out this clever Quarantine Lucky Charms game from John Meehan (@MeehanEdu).  You can find more templates with games here.

Did you create a Bitmoji Classroom?  Many teachers are allowing their students to create Bitmoji Lockers.  Due to age and access issues, some teachers are giving students banks of Bitmojis to choose from.  Adding some personal flair to their own projects, and sharing them can give the teacher and their classmates insight into individual personalities so they can discover commonalities and unique attributes in each other.

PearDeck also has free Community Building Templates, which you can access here.

If you have any other SEL or Community Building ideas for virtual learning, please share them in the Comments Section!

30 Things I Believe

My 5th graders spend the last semester examining their own beliefs, developing manifestos, and researching a Dream Team of people who exemplify what they stand for.  We use some of the “This I Believe” curriculum to help them identify their values.  Yesterday, my students and I listened to one of the short radio essays archived on the website for the podcast.  It is called, “30 Things I Believe.”  In this particular episode, a first grader, Tarak McLain, reflects on his Kindergarten 100th Day Project.  While most students bring collections of 100 objects, Tarak brought in 100 things he believes.  For the podcast, Tarak shares 30 of those beliefs.  My students and I enjoyed listening to his earnestly read list, and talked about what they agreed/disagreed with.  We also discussed which of Tarak’s beliefs might change as he grows up.

Tarak would be about 16 years old now.  I wonder what his thoughts are on the manifesto created by his 7-year-old self.

believe-in-yourself-2636203_960_720.jpg

Our Magnificent Manifestos

As my 5th grade students wind up the school year, I begin to worry that they will go to middle school next year and forget everything they learned in our GT classroom.  Some of them have been with me for 6 years, so I’m hopeful that a few things will “stick.”  Nevertheless, a visual reminder can be helpful.  Rather than make them all stick pictures of me on their walls at home, I started this project with last year’s 5th graders.  It seemed to make an impact so I decided to repeat it this year.

You can read a little more about the process I used to jump start this year’s manifestos here.  Once the students did quite a bit of brainstorming, I let them jump on to Canva to design their manifestos.  Things were going merrily along until I noticed that many of them were using famous Pinterest quotes on their documents instead of their own words.  There was a bit of groaning when I insisted the manifestos needed to be in their own voice – not someone else’s.  I’m still not sure if that was the right thing to do, but I just felt like it would be more meaningful.  One of my students was quite satisfied with one her rewrites, “Life’s a llama with a neck full of opportunities.”

Another mistake I made was to let them design to the edges.  Last year, the students downloaded their manifestos as images, and we printed them on t-shirts.  The quality was not very predictable, though.  This year, I went to the dollar store and bought each of my 11 students a frame.  When we tried to put some of the manifestos into the frames, though, words got cut off.  (That’s why you won’t see 11 in the picture below; I’m still re-printing some.)

For an investment of $11, I got more than my money’s worth when the students framed their manifestos.  The students were proud of their work and I got the impression that at least some of them might display those manifestos in a place of honor when it goes home.  I also really like having them in the classroom for all of my students to see. (We can’t hang them up because I am in a borrowed room at the moment.)

The next part of the project is for the students to design their “Dream Teams.”  They are using the “Find My Role Model” tool from The Academy of Achievement to find 5 people they admire who embody the statements on their manifestos.  You can see some ideas for how to publish your Dream Team here,

Photo Apr 24, 12 59 09 PM

Montague Workshop

You may recognize Brad Montague (@thebradmontague) as the creator of the outstanding Kid President videos.  But his creativity and compassionate work with kids does not stop there.  He and his wife have begun a “Joyful Rebellion” with the Montague Workshop.  What began as a series of videos has evolved into 8 resources for teachers that include the Montague Workshop videos, lesson plans, and activities written by teachers.  As the website declares, “Our aim is to be the Alfred to your Batman.”

I don’t know about you, but I feel like a Joyful Rebellion is exactly what we need right now!

joy