Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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athyumbqt_j410wsirlegk9b13neuqn1yz-50ygfnuqgofjoeaah__dq94qmepxpzxsgnqs190Annenberg Learner is pleased to partner with StoryCorps and to announce The Great Thanksgiving Listen. 


On Thanksgiving weekend 2016, the acclaimed oral history project StoryCorps will work with U.S. history teachers across America to ask their students to record an interview with a grandparent or another elder using the free StoryCorps app. With permission from the participants, each of these interviews will be uploaded to the StoryCorps archive at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Also, download the free The Great Thanksgiving Listen Teacher Toolkit to find program details, including guidelines and recommendations that can easily be made into lessons that address state standards for social studies or history curricula.

The Great Thanksgiving Listen will use near-universally accessible smartphone technology to foster meaningful connections within families, communities, and the classroom while also creating a singular and priceless archive of American history and wisdom. This 2016 event is expected to result in the single largest collection of human voices ever gathered.

The Great Thanksgiving Listen 2016 follows StoryCorps’ highly successful inaugural effort in 2015. More than 100,000 participants took part in the drive to preserve the stories and voices of an entire generation over the Thanksgiving weekend. In a 2016 TED Talk, StoryCorps founder and president Dave Isay addressed a global audience to talk about the 2015 pilot, sharing some of the stories it generated and the lessons it taught.

Watch David Isay, the founder and president of StoryCorps, talk about The Great Thanksgiving Listen!


Watch Steve Inskeep, host of NPR’s Morning Edition, provide useful tips for students who are conducting interviews.


Founded in 2003, the nonprofit organization StoryCorps has given more than 100,000 Americans the chance to record interviews about their lives, pass wisdom from one generation to the next, and leave a legacy for the future. StoryCorps shares edited excerpts of these recordings with millions each week through popular weekly NPR broadcasts, animated shorts, digital platforms, and best-selling books. StoryCorps helps us recognize that every life and every story matters.2015_05_01_StoryCorps_012

Dave Isay, founder and president of StoryCorps, is the recipient of the 2015 TED Prize, awarded to an individual with a creative, bold vision to spark global change. With the proceeds of the TED Prize, StoryCorps released an app that walks users seamlessly through the StoryCorps interview experience, from recording to archiving to sharing their story with the world. The StoryCorps app, and its companion social media platform at StoryCorps.me, make a large-scale and historic undertaking like the Great Thanksgiving Listen possible for the first time ever.


Read about the impact that storytelling has on students and teachers in “How telling stories can transform a classroom” by Amy S. Choi on TED Blog.

New! Arabic Classrooms for Teaching Foreign Languages Resource

ML8A0240 copysmAnnenberg Learner and Qatar Foundation International (QFI) have partnered to bring a robust professional development Open Education Resource (OER) to U.S. Arabic language educators. The project, Teaching Arabic, is produced by WGBH Boston with guidance from leading advisors on the teaching of Arabic and world languages. Teaching Arabic includes seven videos of public school Arabic classrooms where student-centered teaching and authentic language is emphasized. In addition, teachers will have online text resources to assist them when using the videos for professional development purposes.

The classroom videos feature three high school, one middle school, and three elementary school classes ranging from New England to California. An additional overview video is provided to explain best teaching practices when blending novice and intermediate-level students with those who come from Arabic-speaking homes in order to create an effective learning community. The videos also exhibit Arabic teachers skillfully incorporating different dialects of Arabic with the more formal modern standard Arabic.  The videos and resources are available as part of the Teaching Foreign Languages Library and also through QFI’s OER platform, Al-Masdar, in fall 2016. Annenberg Learner and QFI debuted the resources at ACTFL’s Annual Convention in November 2016.

Watch the overview video posted on our Youtube channel:

Stay up-to-date on all new releases by subscribing to the Annenberg Learner newsletter.

Six Ways Learner Can Support You This School Year


Teachers learning together at the 2016 Annenberg-Newseum Summer Teacher Institute.

Welcome back for the 2016-17 school year. Time to start working on those new ideas that have been brewing all summer. While we hope that many of you have spent part of your summer relaxing, we also know you participated in professional development workshops (like the Annenberg-Newseum Summer Teacher Institute) and developed new strategies and curricula for your students. In the Learner office, we have a big year ahead of us. We are excited for a year of partnerships and community-building, all to support your hard work in the classroom. Below is a reminder of resources we provide to charge your teaching batteries throughout the year.

1. Monthly Update E-Newsletter

Do you receive our monthly newsletter? If not, you can subscribe here. We look forward to connecting you to our free online ad-free resources and letting you know when new resources and PD opportunities are developed. Stay tuned each month for more from Annenberg Learner.

2. Resources for Lessons

Complement your textbooks with streamed videos in social studies, science, math, language arts, world languages, and the arts. Click on “View Programs” on the homepage to see a list of all our resources.

3. Interactives and Lesson Plan Search Functions

When brainstorming for lesson ideas, search the interactives database for online activities to enhance and improve students’ skills in a variety of curricular areas.  Search the lesson plans database for plans in all subject areas and grade levels.

4. Learner Express

Learner Express provides short video clips in math for Common Core and science for STEM curriculum.

5. Blog and Social Media

The Learner Log blog highlights specific teaching strategies and subject area resources from Learner.org and other educational organizations. It also provides a forum to discuss them with your peers. Tell us what topics you would like to see in the blog at blog@learner.org.

Our social media links provide instant connections to resources related to topics in the news, current events, and historical dates. Check us out on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and Youtube.

6. Graduate Credit and CEU Opportunities
Advance your career, sharpen your teaching skills, and update content knowledge in the subjects you teach with the following graduate credit and CEU opportunities for Annenberg Learner courses from PBS TeacherLine, Colorado State, and The University of San Diego.

PBS TeacherLine provides certificates of completion and partners with many colleges to offer graduate credit for five Annenberg Learner professional development courses. Search Annenberg Learner to see what is available.  For general information, including pricing, see the main PBS TeacherLine site.

Colorado State University (CSU) offers graduate credit for Annenberg Learner professional development and content courses, as well as continuing education units (CEUs) for a selection of reading, education, math, and science courses. Register for either graduate credit or non-credit continuing education units on Colorado State’s Online Plus website.

K-12 educators (and some courses are applicable toward community college level instructors) looking to earn credit for time spent on planning for the successful implementation of a new idea to enhance student learning and/or school improvement can take courses online through The University of San Diego.  View information about the Annenberg Learner Implementation Planning Series here.

Turning Toward the New in Physics

Meissner Effect8412_small

The Meissner effect, from Physics for the 21st Century

A lot has happened in the physics world since the time of Isaac Newton. Sure, the laws of thermodynamics are still in play, but we now know much more about the operating system of the universe. And there’s still a lot more to find out.

In 1985, the Annenberg/CPB Project premiered a physics course on classical mechanics for undergraduate non-majors called The Mechanical Universe…and Beyond. The videos opened with a lecture segment by Professor David Goodstein of CalTech recounting tales of physics missteps and discoveries throughout history, interspersed with table-top demos of common electromagnetic phenomena. In the lecture theatre were eager students, ready to soak up several millennia of science history.

The Mechanical Universe (or MU) has been a mainstay of high school and college science teaching since that time. But much to the disappointment of many physics instructors, the series was retired in June of this year. Finding the original rights holders to the illustrative footage (e.g., the Memorex audiotape commercial with Ella Fitzgerald) proved to be as elusive as finding the Higgs Boson.

As we bid MU a fond farewell, let’s take a look at the exciting and current discoveries in new physics, starting with the course Physics for the 21st Century. Course designer Dr. Chris Stubbs of Harvard explains the fascination with new physics, “Powerful precision instruments – such as the most powerful particle accelerators …, finely-tuned atomic freezers, or galactic surveys providing terabytes of data about the universe – have opened the landscape of physics, allowing us to answer age-old questions about what makes up the universe, and how it works.” The gadgetry is something to behold, as are the curious minds probing the mysteries of the sub-atomic and cosmological realms. Standing on the shoulders of Newton, Rutherford, and Einstein, a diverse range of up-and-coming scientists explain their work. Many of them are women, who other than Marie Curie, were traditionally not encouraged to study physics and not promoted when they did. Nergis Mavalvala, Lene Hau, and Deborah Jin explore gravitational waves, photons, and subatomic particles at extreme low temperatures.

The course showcases and explains expansive ideas from string theory to slowing photons to bicycle speed. You can also try your virtual hand at freezing and capturing atoms with lasers and plotting neutrino oscillation.

Of course, the historic discoveries and theories are a useful reference to remind us that many of the new ideas are based on an understanding of the fundamental forces and particles. To wit, only with the power of supercomputers and highly sensitive instruments were scientists able to detect gravitational waves from space which Albert Einstein hypothesized nearly a century ago.

If you don’t have highly sensitive instruments in your classroom, you can use the internet to find resources and simulations from research labs and other institutions of science.

Teachers of classical and new physics, please share resources and websites you and your students use in the comments below the post.

Share How You Are Teaching About Refugees and Immigration


How are you teaching about the topics of refugees, displacement, and immigration? Are your students discussing current events? Are they undertaking research to understand and debate causes and solutions? Are they thinking about how these issues affect their local and larger communities, and what it means to be a global citizen?

It isn’t always easy to discuss current events with students. There are many different feelings and approaches to bringing potentially controversial topics to the classroom. We are interested in hearing about this from you, and sharing your insights and ideas with other teachers. Submit your writing to blog@learner.org for consideration, and check back often to read, support, and comment on posts by other teachers.

What Can I Write About?

Here are some ideas for topics for your blog posts, but you are not limited to these topics. We recommend the posts stay between 250 and 600 words.

  1. Describe a lesson plan or activity that you implemented in your classroom about refugees or immigration that went well.
  2. What is an activity you tried that resulted in unexpected or rich student conversations or personal insights?
  3. How do you address community concerns (whether from parents, students, or administrators) and support multiple points of view?
  4. How do you talk about current events, such as a refugee crisis, with elementary students?
  5. How have you taught students about the differences between migrants and refugees?

Some additional requests and notes:

  • Don’t forget to proofread your submissions, and include links to resources if any are mentioned.
  • It is helpful but not necessary to submit a photo to go along with your post. If you submit a photo of students from your classroom, please confirm that you have asked and received permission from their parents/guardians to post the photo on the Learner.org blog site. (We will not post their names or the name of their school.)
  • We reserve the right to edit posts for clarity and length.
  • We will let you know if your post is selected for publication on our blog via email.
  • Please include the following information with your materials:
  1. Your name
  2. Title for your post
  3. Subject/Class
  4. Grade level
  5. School location (city or state)

We look forward to hearing from you!

Image copyright: iqoncept / 123RF Stock Photo

In Memory of Gary Braasch: Inspiring Advocate for Nature and Humankind

Photo credit: Lynne Cherry

Photo credit: Lynne Cherry

Written by Catherine Stimac, Executive Producer, Educational Production of Oregon Public Broadcasting 

Award-winning photojournalist and ecosystem advocate, Gary Braasch offered the world a vast collection of photographs that expose the beauty and complexity of the natural world and transmit a passion for and delight in nature. Gary worked tirelessly to document and preserve what he saw through this view finder.

Gary’s work and philosophy are featured in Essential Lens: Analyzing Photographs across the Curriculum, produced by Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) for Annenberg Learner.

The production team at OPB and staff at Annenberg Learner were stunned and saddened by the recent news of Gary’s death. He died in March 2016 doing what was most important to him — photographing the effects a warming climate was having in precious ecosystems around the world. He had been snorkeling and documenting coral bleaching at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia for the Australian Museum and its Lizard Island Research Station. “He was a great man, and he died doing what he loved to do,” his son, Cedar Braasch said of his father.

Gary was a consultant to, subject of, and photographic contributor to Essential Lens. His work appears in the photo collection Earth, Climate, and Change: Observing Human Impact. Essential Lens provides rights-cleared photos and lesson plans, and guides teachers on using photographs to help students sharpen their observation and analytical skills while learning about important issues in our global community.

Photo credit: Lynne Cherry

Photo credit: Lynne Cherry

Gary recorded landscapes and species at risk due to receding glaciers, rising sea levels, eroding coastlines, and other effects of global warming. Gary’s work appeared in the New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, and Life, among many other publications and productions, including the Al Gore film “An Inconvenient Truth.”

Producer Beth Harrington profiled Gary’s work in the online video Evidence (begin at 12:24 min.). “Gary was a lovely, amiable man but he also imparted a great sense of mission when he spoke of photography. I’m in awe of the dedication it took for him to return, again and again, to places all over the world to do his repeat photo work,” said Harrington. “But, of course, that was just one aspect of his extremely high caliber work. He gave us a view of our world that few others could have provided. We’ve lost a great agent for understanding and change.”

Gary also spent a great deal of time educating the public, teachers, students, and especially policymakers using his photographs as the undeniable evidence. To broaden the impact of this work Gary was a founding Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers. Gary explained the contribution of photography to the campaign against climate change in the video Evidence: “This idea of having a long term view of the landscape, and being able to tie it to what the scientists are saying… I’m trying to connect people to the process…so they can see the changes that are happening and have some sense of the time scale.”

Photo credit: Lynne Cherry

Photo credit: Lynne Cherry

In addition to his photography, Gary’s work includes publications on global warming: Earth Under Fire, How Global Warming is Changing the World; a website World View of Global Warming; and a book for young audiences co-authored with his friend and colleague the writer/ illustrator Lynne Cherry, How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Planet: Scientists and Kids Explore Global Warming, which won 15 awards including the American Association for the Advancement of Science Best Middle-School Science Book of the Year.

Cherry and Braasch founded Young Voices on Climate Change to champion youth solutions to the climate crisis through the “Young Voices for the Planet” film series, aired on public television stations via American Public Television.

With Gary Braasch’s passing, the world has lost one of its greatest advocates for nature and for humankind. We encourage you to read more about Gary via the links above and to watch his interview in the Essential Lens video Evidence. Most importantly, take the time to look and learn from his photographs and share the story that they tell with your colleagues and your students.

Nancy Finkelstein, A Teacher Who Empowered Teachers

NancyFinkelsteinOne often hears about teachers who were an inspiration to their students, who were beloved for their kindness and understanding, or even their toughness. Those stories are touching and true. This story is about a person who was all of that and more to thousands of teachers who never even knew her.

Nancy Finkelstein, our friend and colleague, passed away on Leap Year Day 2016 after a short, intense bout with leukemia. Before retiring in 2009, she was project manager for the Science Media Group (SMG) at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA. Before that, she was the president of Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA). But at her core, Nancy was a teacher, having taught for Malden, MA public schools. And her mission was to empower teachers.

In its condolence message to its members, MTA leaders shared this memory of Nancy: “Nancy said to the 1988 Annual Meeting, ‘When people have asked me what I do, I never respond that I am a union president. I tell them that I am a teacher. I am proud to be a teacher. I am proud to be the president of teachers. And I am very proud of all of you.’”

Dr. Matt Schneps, Nancy’s colleague at the SMG and its founding director, remembered Nancy’s forthright attitude. “Nancy, always the pragmatist, was the person I relied on when I needed a reality check, to rein in my head-in-the-clouds ideas. She had a remarkable understanding of people. And she had a clear — and often colorful way of conveying her thoughts. ‘If you think that’s gonna work, I’ll eat this stapler,’ she’d say, holding the metal desktop gizmo up against her clenched teeth. She was right, of course. When Nancy spoke, people listened, and without her sage tell-it-like-is council, we would not have been able to accomplish even a small fraction of what we did.”

Nancy built a team that ran the Annenberg Channel, a 24/7 satellite-delivered source of professional development video programming for teachers. She also was the host/moderator of the very first workshop series “The Private Universe Project in Science.” The early workshops focused on math and science and later expanded into all discipline areas. Nancy shaped and whipped into shape many of the series that are hallmarks of teacher professional development: Looking at Learning…Again, Science in Focus workshops, and Essential Science for Teachers courses, among many other titles.

Under Nancy’s watch the Annenberg Channel went from a few hours after school to a few dozen sites delivered by the Massachusetts Corporation for Educational Technology (MCET), to a national range reaching more than 99,000 schools. As part of that effort, Nancy’s team oversaw the use of the workshops by teacher study groups and set up a system for teachers to earn graduate credit through Colorado State University or a certificate of participation. Nancy understood that teachers also needed to keep up with training and certification to move up the pay scale. And those teachers who wanted to improve their practice, were the ones who would be most effective in the classroom.

“What I remember about Nancy above all other things was her deep sense of compassion and resolute integrity. She was a person who strongly believed that all people (teachers, students, parents, workers,…) needed to be treated with respect,” said Dr. Schneps, “a philosophy we learned from and tried to emulate as best we could.”

Nancy Finkelstein imbued Annenberg programming with that respect. Generations of teachers and their students have felt it. Even if they didn’t know her.

We thank you, Nancy, for what you have done for all of us. We shall miss you dearly.


Valentine’s Day in Language Arts and Math Classes

ValentinesDayelementaryTurn the excitement of Valentine’s Day into learning opportunities.

Language Arts/Literature

Develop reading-related activities around Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year. Kindergarten teacher Cindy Wilson features the holidays to build students’ oral language, especially useful for second language learners. See “Building Oral Language” in Teaching Reading K-2 Library.

Examine the question “How does love overcome hatred and fear?” as you read Arundhati Roy’s novel, The God of Small Things, about twin children growing up in a small town in India. Watch the Invitation to World Literature program about the title to hear from readers who are passionate about the story and from Roy herself.

Revisit the love story between Pip and Estella in Charles Dickens’ novel Great Expectations with your students. Find a lesson plan for teaching this work in the series In Search of the Novel.


Our Teachers’ Lab activity, How Many Valentines? offers a fun way to connect the Valentine’s Day holiday with elementary mathematics.

Teaching Math, Grades 3-5 also presents an interactive version of the How Many Valentines? activity, which illustrates principles of reasoning and proof.

Watch a lesson in which young students in a bilingual 4th-grade class work on patterns and reasoning in program 42, “Valentine Exchange,” in Teaching Math: A Video Library, K-4. Note how the teacher guides the students in their mathematical thinking, letting them explore and arrive at their own conclusions.


How to Share Ideas From Your Classroom

sharing ideasWe know you create amazing lesson plans and activities using Learner.org resources. Share them with other teachers on the Ideas From Your Classrooms section of our blog.

Submit your lesson plans and activities to blog@learner.org for consideration. We will post a new activity or lesson plan every Tuesday. Check back often to learn about fresh ideas from your peers.

Also, in the Ideas From Your Classrooms section of the blog, we encourage you to comment under lesson plan and activities posts, respond to questions about your classrooms, and support each other with knowledge and advice from your teaching experience.


How to Submit a Lesson Plan or Activity

Your plans and activities should state a clear objective, be well-organized, require minimal to no edits, and incorporate a Learner.org resource. (You may also refer to additional resources if desired.) The Learner.org resource you refer to can be a whole series, or part of a series such as an online textbook chapter or video program, an online interactive, or any other resources accessed free on our website. Series titles and urls must be included.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Please include the following information with your materials:

  1. Your name and email address
  2. Title of the activity or lesson plan
  3. Subject/ Class name
  4. Grade level
  5. School name or location (not required)

Also, please share this post! Thank you. Don’t forget to subscribe to LearnerLog.org so you don’t miss new postings.