Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Lessons for Independence Day

Chemistry_fireworksAs you are enjoying your holiday picnics, parades, and fireworks, reflect on the history and science behind Independence Day.

Revolutionary Perspectives,” of America’s History in the Making, reveals the political wrangling that led up to the Declaration of Independence and other state constitutions.

Watch A Biography of America, “The Coming of Independence,” to see how English-loving colonists were transformed into freedom-loving American rebels. Program 5, “A New System of Government,” presents the outsized personalities that came together to hash out new systems of government for the American people.

Do you know the lyrics for the Star Spangled Banner beyond the first stanza? If not, find the words and an audio clip in the American Passages Archives.

What causes the different colors of light in fireworks that make us ooh and aah? Find out in Chemistry: Challenges and Solutions, unit 3, “Atoms and Light.”  Click on the video link and start at 12:05 to see a colorful demonstration of various metals throwing off different colors of light when burned in The Flame Test segment.

What’s On Your Summer Reading List?

Bookstackbylake123rfYou deserve to relax a little. What better way to relax and escape than by reading about what interests you? It is hard to find time to pick up books just for fun during the school year. Kick back with that book that has been calling your name all year, or choose one from the programs below.

Escape into exotic worlds of fiction by reading books like The Tale of Genji and One Hundred Years of Solitude. Watch Invitation to World Literature to hear how artists, dancers, and others connect with their favorite reads. Go to the Connections section to find modern popular interpretations of these stories.

Take emotional journeys and visit landscapes of the mind with some of America’s greatest poets in Voices & Visions. Elizabeth Bishop lived both in Brazil and Maine, and captured the spirit of these places and their people in her poems. Feel the pulse of land and water in “The Map” and the murmurings of old people in “The Moose,” in program 1.

Langston Hughes evokes the rhythm of the people and the landscape of the African continent in “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” in program 6. Stream the video or play the audio while closing your eyes and seeing the words paint the images.

Brush up on American history and culture while reading works by great authors. Visit American Passages to find an extensive list of writers and to explore writers and their works by themes such as “The Spirit of Nationalism” and “The Search for Identity”.

If math and science are more your speed, peruse the bibliographies from Mathematics Illuminated and Physics for the 21st Century. For example, in Mathematics Illuminated, “Geometries Beyond Euclid,” the bibliography list includes Brian Greene’s The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory and Lederman and Hill’s Symmetry and the Beautiful Universe. Also, find book suggestions in the “Further Reading” sections of each unit in Physics for the 21st Century.

Read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and learn about her contributions to the environment on our blog.

What books will you read this summer?

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It’s Over Already/Finally? Reflecting on the School Year

93rd st school classsmsqSummer is the perfect time to pause and look back at the school year. How did it go? What challenges did you face? What improvements can you make for next year? Is there anything new you would like to try with your students next year and how can you prepare this summer? The following resources offer guidance with your reflections.

What is your teacher metaphor? As a teacher, are you more of a conductor or an air traffic controller? Have you ever tried to define your teaching? The Metaphorically Speaking interactive in The Next Move workshop spurs you to think of a metaphor to describe your teaching to others, and also to help you develop a focus. Read what other teachers have used as metaphors for their own teaching. Share your own metaphor and how this metaphor influences or guides your teaching in the comments section!

Did you struggle with keeping your students’ attention or motivating them? Neuroscience & the Classroom  shows how brain research can inform instructional practices. Learn to effectively manage a variety of learning styles and attention spans. Use the course’s search function to find the topics you want to explore.

Connecting With the Arts, program 8, “Reflecting on Our Practice,” provides strategies for solo and group reflection to improve curriculum and refine lesson plans.

How can you encourage literacy in the home? How can you better support your English language learners? How can you work on comprehension skillsTeaching Reading Workshop, K-2, offers reflection worksheets for each session. Glean ideas from these reflection sheets, and adapt them to other subject areas and grade levels.

Consider creating informal professional learning communities over the summer or build your case to develop them during the next school year. Critical Issues in School Reform, videos on innovation in professional collaboration, outline group reflection activities (like the Tuning Protocol and the Consultancy) that examine student work and classroom instruction.

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Teach Inquiry Strategies to Improve Students’ Writing

SeattleClassMy favourite part of teaching English has always been the freedom that comes with teaching it. As an educator, I never feel like I am bound to specific rules or instructional strategies when it comes to teaching writing to students. As explained in Reading & Writing in the Disciplines, writing is a process that students work on to improve over time. My goal as an educator has always been to empower students to believe that their writing voice is important, and that they have something to say. This epiphany didn’t come to me easily though. My students, many of them are struggling writers and a lot of them are English Language Learners, have a hard time engaging critically with works of literature: short stories, novels, etc. When students can easily engage with the text by reading, they have a much easier time writing about that same text.

One day during a writing workshop, as I was helping one student decide what topic to write about, I found that I was asking him a lot of questions. My questions were scaffolded, and they moved from description to analytical questions. As the student answered each question, he was able to discover his focus. The success of using inquiry to strengthen students’ writing is also what led me to create The Writing Project.

Here are some examples of questions to ask students to help them to understand and interpret text:

  • What was the main idea of the story?
    • How did you see this main idea throughout the story? Give examples.
    • Which one of the main ideas seems more interesting to you?
      • Why did you find this one interesting?
  • Who were the main characters in the story?
    • Who did you find to be an interesting character?
      • Why did you think they were special?
  • What are some of the interesting elements you encountered in the story? List them.
    • Choose a couple of elements to discuss. (narrow down)
      • Why did you choose these specific elements? What was so important about them?
  • How does the main idea/theme relate to the character/s?
    • In what way did the story stand out to you?
      • Why did you find this interesting?

The process of inquiry has the potential to unlock students’ hidden interests. They can discover something interesting and that stands out to them in the text before they even know they’re interested in the text at all. What does that mean? My students often come with the mindset that the story is not going to be enjoyable. However, with a little bit of support and encouragement and the act of asking and answering questions, they can discover a lot of hidden gems in the story that they actually appreciate!

As a result of using inquiry in the classroom, students often start to see that writing is a process of answering questions on a larger scale, like an essay or a research paper. It becomes a manageable task for them, less daunting and even fun as they learn to string together their responses to questions to support a common thread (their thesis statement).

Also, teaching students to use inquiry to write allows them to build and strengthen their critical thinking and analytical skills. Students are no longer passive readers and writers. They are actively and critically engaged with the text to produce strong pieces of their own ideas.

If you’re interested in checking out some additional ideas about writing workshops and the writing process, Developing Writers is a great resource. The online workshop runs through important components of writing activities in the classroom.

Making Meaning in Literature“Asking Questions,” is a very helpful resource that provides videos and lesson plans about inquiry-based pedagogy, and facilitating discussions around works of literature.

Learn how to apply inquiry strategy to enhance teaching of multicultural literature in The Expanding Canon, session 3.

Share your experiences using inquiry strategies with your English/language arts students in the comments.

What Immigration Stories Teach Us

LOH_PAPER SON_lowI love immigration stories. I love reading them. I love teaching them. And, I love writing them.

When I was teaching fourth grade at a school in Southern California, I wanted to teach about Angel Island. Chinese immigrants played an important part of our nation’s history, especially California’s history. Yet, there was a dearth of children’s stories about Chinese-Americans being detained at Angel Island. My fourth graders had no idea that Chinese immigrants were unfairly victimized by the Chinese Exclusion Act; they didn’t know that Chinese laborers suffered from overt racism and discrimination. They also didn’t know that Chinese immigrants built cities, railroads, and industries. As such, I was inspired to co-write Paper Son: Lee’s Journey to AmericaI’m proud to mention that it has been nominated for a California Young Reader Medal Award. It’s an immigration story about a boy who has to endure the interrogations and long detentions at Angel Island.

Considering the upcoming U.S. presidential election and the refugee crisis, immigration issues seem to be at the forefront. We have not always treated immigrants well. Immigration stories and teaching about immigration allow teachers and students to view immigrants and refugees from a more humanistic viewpoint. (Read “Novel Finding: Reading Literary Fiction Improves Empathy” in Scientific American to learn how reading fiction improves our ability to understand others.) In April 2016, I attended the National EdTPA Conference in Savannah, Georgia. I had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Pedro Noguera speak. He noted that immigrant kids keep our communities functioning. He said, “We always gain from immigration. History shows immigration has always been good for America.”

To help students understand the complexities and nuances of immigration, teachers need to recognize that immigrant stories are rich and powerful. Immigrant stories need to be analyzed and studied, not just read. In The Expanding Canon, session 4, learn how to apply inquiry-based instruction, which can be employed with immigrant stories to help students dig deeper. For example, find lesson plans featuring Tomas Rivera’s And The Earth Did Not Devour Him and Esmeralda Santiago’s When I Was Puerto Rican. In the plan, students were asked to interview Mexican immigrants, conduct research, engage in dramatic readings, and write their own memoirs. One of the questions that students were asked to think about is: How did the U.S. government feel about immigrants? This question forces students to consider historical, social, and political contexts of immigration.

In Teaching Multicultural Literature, workshop 7, “Social Justice and Action,” students are asked to examine Alma Flor Ada’s My Name is Maria Isabel, Pam Muñoz Ryan’s Esperanza Rising, and Paul Yee’s Tales from Gold Mountain. Students are positioned to be agents of change and are charged with writing persuasive letters to raise public awareness.

Look for additional works to support Paper Son in Teaching Multicultural Literature, which features several Asian-American immigration stories and explores historical and contemporary immigration issues. The workshop has students reading An Na’s A Step From Heaven about a Korean immigrant, Laurence Yep’s Dragon’s Gate about a Chinese immigrant, Pegi Deitz Shea’s Tangled Threads: A Hmong Girl’s Story about a Hmong immigrant, and more.

So, why are immigration stories important? Because we all benefit from immigration, we’re all affected by immigration, and we can all learn from immigration.

New York Stock Exchange Established May 17, 1792

stockexchangeOn May 17, 1792, the New York Stock Exchange began when 24 stockbrokers signed The Buttonwood Agreement to establish the rules for buying and selling bonds and shares of companies. See how economics mingles with art in these Learner resources.

Think global, act local. Understand how local and foreign markets are connected, how exchange rates fluctuate, and how import and export costs are affected in Economics U$A: 21st Century Edition, unit 28, “Exchange Rates.”

Our economic system can be volatile. On October 4, 1929, the stock market crashed sending the country into panic and starting the Great Depression. In A Biography of America, program 21, “FDR and the Depression,” learn how President Franklin Delano Roosevelt implemented programs to help Americans through this economic crisis. The iconic Dorothea Lange photograph “Migrant Mother” was the result of a New Deal program.

Look at the context activity “Cultural Change, Cultural Exchange: The Jazz Age, the Depression, and Transatlantic Modernism” in American Passages, unit 11, “Modernist Portraits.” Students are asked to consider how the economic climate in the U.S. can affect cultural climates around the globe. Also, in the archives, find a picture of The Trading Floor the day the Stock Exchange crashed.

Teaching Multicultural Literature: Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month 

AmPassMaxineHongKingstonDuring Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, explore Annenberg Learner resources to discover the rich history, cultures, and personal stories of Americans of Asian and Pacific Island heritage.

Students come to understand the plight of Japanese-Americans in World War II as they read poetry by Lawson Fusao Inada in the The Expanding Canon: Teaching Multicultural Literature in High School, “Critical Pedagogy: Abiodun Oyewole and Lawson Fusao Inada.”

New York City students explore “dual identity” by reading the literary works of authors Gish Jen, Tina Yun Lee, and Lensey Namioka. As students discuss the works, you’ll see effective teaching strategies, including peer facilitation circles, in action. See “Engagement and Dialogue” of Teaching Multicultural Literature: A Workshop for the Middle Grades.

Maxine Hong Kingston, the daughter of Chinese immigrants, writes stories that explore balancing cultural values with the expectations of American society. Read about her life and works in American Passages, “Search for Identity.”

Share additional resources in the comments.

Develop Your Students’ Love For Reading

ELL BOSTON4May is Get Caught Reading Month.  Looking for inspiration for readers young and older? The following Annenberg Learner resources will get you started.

Observe 5th-grade teacher Bileni Teklu teach her students to make connections between what they read and their own experiences. The young readers then discuss what they enjoy about reading. Build a strong community of engaged readers using the classroom examples and ideas in Engaging With Literature, A Video Library, Grades 3-5.

Why do you read? Conversations in Literature, for middle school and high school teachers, will inspire you to revisit your passion for literature. Inspire the same love in your students by helping them identify their own effective reading habits. For example, readers “step in” to a text by sizing up the characters and the atmosphere the same way they would in a social situation. See program 3, “Stepping In.”

Glimpse the appeal and power of great literature as celebrities, academics, and people who just love to read talk about their fascination with The Epic of GilgameshPopol VuhOne Hundred Years of Solitude, and more in Invitation to World Literature.

Watch authors Katherine Paterson, Leslie Marmon Silko, and J.K. Rowling discuss literary works that inspired their own writing in the Author Notes, Part III of In Search of the Novel. Scroll to the bottom of this page and click on the VoD.

More resources for Get Caught Reading Month:

Making Meaning in Literature, Grades 6-8 Library

Teaching Multicultural Literature: A Workshop for the Middle Grades

The Expanding Canon: Teaching Multicultural Literature in High School

American Passages: A Literary Survey

Literary Visions

Teaching Students to Analyze Sources of Information

RWD_62

Students analyze primary and secondary sources, from Reading & Writing in the Disciplines.

As a result of the civil war in Syria, more than 4 million people have fled Syria since the conflict started. This situation, along with war and injustice in other countries such as Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, Sudan and many more, has resulted in a global refugee crisis. As refugees seek to move to safer places, countries struggle with managing the flow of people and the issues that arise when new communities are introduced to existing ones.

With trending hashtags such as #RefugeeCrisis #SyrianRefugees and #RefugeesWelcome and a U.S. presidential election on the horizon, there is no doubt that students encounter such devastating stories on social media and the news, and multiple views about how countries should (or shouldn’t) help refugees. I decided that I have a duty to help my students understand and critically engage on such topics, as they do impact our lives.

However, I am also wary that I need to help my students learn how to identify biases and different perspectives when reading, researching, and engaging with such topics. The media and news contain a lot of information that needs to be questioned and analyzed before helping students to form their own opinions about the issues at hand.

Here are some steps I used to guide students through a research project:

  1. First, I asked my students to form groups of 3-4 people.
  2. Next, students were required to select a topic of focus related to refugees and immigration. Here are some of the suggested topics: area/region study, country study, causes, aid missions, personal stories, response to crisis, etc.
  3. Once they had chosen their topics and done a bit of research, they needed to select a few websites to assess the information, biases, and perspectives that are presented.

Some questions to consider when analyzing the resources

  • What is the overall goal/mission of the article or resource? Who is presenting and sponsoring the information?
  • What is the information presented trying to convince you of?
  • How is the information being presented to you (data, opinion, facts), and where did the information come from? Are you able to easily verify the source of the information?
  •  Are there commercials/advertisements on the website? How do these additions help to drive the website’s main mission or show a possible bias?
  • Are there any organizations/companies that are linked to this site? What stakes do they have in presenting this information?
  • Does any of the information presented on the site contain discriminatory/stereotypical messages? If so, what language or images are used as evidence of discrimination and stereotyping?

4. Students were asked to present their findings to the rest of the class in order to learn from each other’s analysis and perspectives on assessing research material.

This activity not only teaches students to research and analyze sources on their own, but it also teaches them to assess the information that is given to them. In a world where much information is manipulated and/or changing, students begin to see the importance of engaging critically with informational texts.

To see students learning how to analyze primary and secondary sources, watch Reading & Writing in the Disciplines, “Identifying Evidence From Multiple Sources.” Watch another lesson that guides students on how to write about a complex cause and/or issue in “Making Writing Explicit in Social Studies.”

Share how you are teaching students to analyze web sources in the comments below.

Share How You Are Teaching About Refugees and Immigration

Refugeewords123rf

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!

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