Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

Search
MENU

Black History Month 2012: We Celebrate Women Writers

During Black History Month,  we pause and reflect on the contributions of great African Americans. This year the theme is “Black Women in American Culture and History.” In this space, we provide resources to help you teach about women who have made significant contributions to African-American literature. American Passages features several writers who have contributed to and commented on American culture and history.

Read the remarkable stories of educated enslaved woman such as Phillis Wheatley and Harriet Jacobs.  Phillis Wheatley became a published poet writing about Christianity and liberty. Unit 4, “Spirit of Nationalism,” tells how Wheatley’s mistress recognized her intelligence and oversaw her education. Harriet Jacobs, another enslaved woman who was taught to read, escaped from the plantation and eventually fled to the North. She wrote about her own experiences of exploitation and escape in order to bring awareness to the mistreatment of enslaved women. Read about her in unit 7, “Slavery and Freedom.”

Provide your students with different perspectives of the black experience in America by introducing them to writer Zora Neale Hurston. Much to the dismay of her peers such as Langston Hughes and Richard Wright, who wrote about the oppression and degradation of black people, Hurston wrote to promote a vision of “racial health – a sense of black people as complete, complex, undiminished human beings.” See unit 13, “Southern Renaissance.”

Develop your students’ critical thinking skills using the Author Questions for Gwendolyn Brooks. You can find questions such as “What do Brooks’s poems suggest about the special challenges of being an African-American poet in a time when many other genres and media compete for attention?” and additional activities for this author in American Passages, unit 14, “Becoming Visible.”

Alice Walker meaningfully uses images of quilts in several of her works, including “The Color Purple” and “Everyday Use.” After examining the literary purposes of this household object in Walker’s work, guide students in their own search for identity using activities that discuss family heirlooms. For information on Walker, read American Passages, unit 16, “Search for Identity.” Click on Author Activities to find activities for teaching about Walker and her story “Everyday Use.”
Hear a reading and discussion of her poem “Revolutionary Petunias” in Conversations in Literature, workshop 6, Objectifying the Text” (35:08 minutes in).

In 1993, Toni Morrison became the first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize. Read about Morrison’s work in American Passages, unit 16, “Search for Identity.” Use activities and discussion questions provided to teach her short story, Recitatif, which challenges the human urge to categorize people.

The program In Search of the Novel, “Ten Novelists,” provides links to biographical information about Morrison.

Happy Groundhog’s Day!

Journey North gardeners are excited about predicting spring using science and technology. Are they smarter than a groundhog? Visit the Journey North site to see these citizen scientists at work. Also, learn how you and your students can get involved in research that helps us understand connections between climate and plant growth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ferris Wheel Day (February 14, 1859)

Minnesota Historical Society

George Washington Gale Ferris, an American engineer and inventor, invented the Ferris wheel for the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893. The first Ferris wheel, built specifically for the fair, was 250 feet in diameter and could carry 40 passengers in 36 coaches.

See a picture of the first Ferris wheel and related questions in Primary Sources, “World’s Fair Photograph.”

In America’s History in the Making, unit 16, “A Growing Global Power,” David Cope, former social studies teacher and adviser for World’s Fair documentaries, says the Columbian Exposition in Chicago provided America the opportunity to show the world its industrial might.

Students practice trigonometry by developing functions to describe the height of a Ferris wheel rider. Watch this lesson unfold in Teaching Math: A Video Library, 9-12, program 7, “Ferris Wheel.”

Primary Elections Begin

The news is buzzing with information and opinions about GOP candidates as they compete in primary elections across the United States. How do presidential candidates focus their campaigns during primary elections? How can citizens influence a primary election to follow their positions and interests?

The video for Democracy in America, unit 13, “Elections: The Maintenance of Democracy,” answers these questions by examining two cases: Senator John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign and the Neighbors for a Better Montgomery County (MD) grassroots movement.

This video, used as professional development or as a classroom tool, illustrates the importance of primary elections and the role of public involvement.

Directing Student Learning

As teachers, we sometimes have moments when we are confident the students are leaving the classroom prepared to tackle the homework, yet the work they bring back is inadequate. Where did our lesson go wrong or does the trouble lie within the students?

An explanation may be in the way we think about how students learn. Neural networks, which go hand-in-hand with learning new concepts, are built not in a linear fashion, but more like Russian nesting dolls. Children make connections with simpler skills and concepts and build outward to learn more complex skills and concepts.

Regression, often thought of as a negative step, is a natural stage in this skill-building process. Children must master the simpler skills first, and sometimes that requires them to go backwards and practice more.

Teachers help students build new connections when they scaffold instruction, providing children different levels of support until they are able to direct their own learning.  But often students regress at different stages as the scaffolding is taken away.

To further explore these ideas, visit unit 5, “Building New Neural Networks,” of Neuroscience and the Classroom. For example, in the section 6 video, Scaffolding: Johanna and Her Mother with Commentary, hear Professor Kurt Fischer explain how scaffolding occurs between mother and baby, and how scaffolding benefits students in the classroom.