Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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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

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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!

Image copyright: iqoncept / 123RF Stock Photo

Latino Books Month: Celebrate Great Authors With Students

TML_GracielaLimon

Bobbi Ciriza Houtchens uses a cultural studies approach to help students understand Graciela Limón’s novel Erased Faces about the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico (from The Expanding Canon).

Celebrate the perspectives and writing of great Latino authors with your students during the month of May using the following resources:

Americo Paredes collected “corridos,” songs that narrate the struggles of Mexican heroes against Anglo oppression, and wrote the novel, George Washington Gomez, about a Chicano growing up in the borderlands.  Gloria Anzaldúa’s stories challenge traditional racial, cultural, and gender boundaries.  Both writers are featured in American Passages, unit 2, “Exploring Borderlands.”

Julia Alvarez’s essay “I Want to Be Miss America,” from Something to Declare, describes her Dominican family’s reaction to the pageant and the cultural and racial issues the pageant raised for them. See Teaching Multicultural Literature: A Workshop for Middle Grades, workshop 1, “Engagement and Dialogue.”  In the video, watch teacher Carol O’Donnell’s students discuss the work, then share their own writing about a family cultural practice. See summary #7.

Students read and discuss Graciela Limón’s novel Erased Faces about the Zapatista uprising in Mexico. See this cultural studies approach to interpreting a text in The Expanding Canon, session 5, “Cultural Studies: Ishmael Reed and Graciela Limón.”

More resources for Latino Books Month

Invitation to World Literature, program 11, “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel García Márquez

American Passages, unit 12, “Migrant Struggle,” includes authors Rudolfo A. Anaya, Alberto Ríos, Tomas Rivera, and Helena María Viramontes.

American Passages, unit 16, “Search for Identity,” includes authors Sandra Cisneros and Judith Ortiz Cofer.

Teaching Multicultural Literature: A Workshop for Middle Grades, workshop 7, “Social Justice and Action,” includes authors Alma Flor Ada and Pam Muñoz Ryan.

The Expanding Canon: Teaching Multicultural Literature in High School, session 1, “Reader Response,” My Own True Name by Pat Mora and session 3, “Inquiry,” Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

Anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Death (April 15, 1865)

Lincoln_EmancipationIllustrationOver one hundred and fifty years ago, actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth shot President Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC. Lincoln was officially pronounced dead the next morning. On this anniversary of his death, we remember his legacy.

The website for the high school course American Passages offers a biographical sketch of President Lincoln as an author. Search the archive to find photos and portraits of President Lincoln, as well as other Lincoln-related artifacts.

Who freed the slaves? This question is considered in Primary Sources: Workshops in American History (for high school teachers), workshop 4, “Concerning Emancipation.” Much of the focus is on Lincoln, who played a major role, as well as other factors including enslaved people themselves. Read “Before You Watch” for links to several of Lincoln’s speeches and letters.

The Evaluating Evidence interactive on the website for America’s History in the Making features Lincoln’s first and second inaugural addresses, the Gettysburg Address, the “House Divided” speech, and Lincoln’s open letter to Horace Greely, as well as other artifacts from the era.

Civil War Began (April 12, 1861)

1871_H copyWhat were the events that led up the U.S. Civil War? “The Coming of the Civil War,” of A Biography of America, outlines the incidents leading up to the war between the North and the South. An animated map shows how the legal status of slavery changed across the U.S. between the Revolution and the Civil War.

Learn how to analyze the authenticity of historical photos by examining Alexander Gardner’s “Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter” taken in 1863. See the activity in program 11, “The Civil War.”

America’s History in the Making, unit 9, “A Nation Divided,” provides both soldiers’ and civilians’ perspectives of the Civil War.

During the 19th century, authors used slave autobiographies and abolitionist fiction to engage readers’ emotions in order to promote social change. American Passages, unit 7, “Slavery and Freedom,” features influential writers Frederick Douglass, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harriet Jacobs, and more.

National Poetry Month: Grab Your Quills and Start Writing

POETRY123rfIt’s Poetry Month! Grab your quills (or laptops) and start writing. When the Academy of American Poets started National Poetry Month in 1996, one of their goals was to assist teachers in bringing poetry to their classrooms. Find activities and resources on the Poets.org site.

Start laying the foundation for young writers by encouraging them to keep a writer’s notebook. Students learn to record their thoughts about their experiences and choose the formats (including poems) to deliver those thoughts. See Inside Writing Communities, Grades 3-5, workshop 2, “Reasons for Writing.”

Teach students to distinguish between poetry and prose. One way to do this is to have students write in layers of drafts until a poem starts to emerge. Find this 5th-grade lesson plan in Write in the Middle, workshop 3, “Teaching Poetry.”

Use poetry to help students connect personal experiences and feelings to themes they are reading about. In a technique called “copy-change,” students follow the form of a published poem, and insert their own words, ideas, and emotions. View the lesson in this classroom video for Teaching ‘The Children of Willesden Lane.’

In program 12, “A Sense of Place: Setting and Character in Poetry,” of Literary Visions, hear readings and discussions of Matthew Arnold’s Dover Beach, and listen to Maxine Kumin discuss capturing New England landscapes in her poetry.

Emily Dickinson used her science training to write poetic observations of nature. Her life and work are discussed in Voices & Visions.

Students can compare how poets use images of a city to describe the human condition. See question 5 in American Passages, Context Activities for unit 10, “Rhythms in Poetry:” How do Eliot’s London, Sandburg’s Chicago, and Hughes’s Harlem all represent particular interpretations of the city and the modern condition?

For additional poetry resources:

The Expanding Canon: Teaching Multicultural Literature in High School, session 1, “Reader Response: Pat Mora and James Welch

Engaging With Literature: A Video Library, Grades 3-5, program 3, “Starting Out

Image Copyright: pixelsaway / 123RF Stock Photo

Using Poetry to Facilitate Discussions

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Poet Nikki Grimes talks with students. Click on this picture to watch the classroom video in Teaching Multicultural Literature.

If you present poetry as if it were castor oil, no one will be interested. Instead, teachers can approach it as something fun, and also explore poetry that connects to the students and their lives (as opposed to choosing poetry that they feel “should” be studied).” – Nikki Grimes, in Teaching Multicultural Literature

Poetry is a type of genre with which many students have a hard time engaging. In fact, it’s also a genre that many teachers struggle to teach, as a result of its complexity and form. I, for one, am one of those teachers. Helping students to decipher lines, tropes, and the meaning of poems, while at the same time keeping the lesson engaging was a struggle for me. Consequently, I was a little worried before the start of a poetry unit that my students would be disengaged from the lesson. As a result, I decided to ask students to bring songs, lyrics, or poems that they enjoyed and that conveyed a special message or meaning to them.

To my great surprise, while many students opted to bring song lyrics, a large number of them shared poems that they liked and that resonated with them. One particular student shared Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman.” As she read it, she started tearing up making for a very emotional read.

I asked her about what made her tear up. She answered me with the following, and I will never forget it:

“We’re always put down by society, men, and sometimes those who love us. It’s why I have this on my mirror, it gives me strength every day to walk into the world as a black woman.”

Maya Angelou’s poem resonated with my student and many students who heard it that day, because it touched on what it means to be a woman of colour in society. The poem challenges traditional notions of beauty constructed by society and elevates the beauty of a woman to which we can all relate.

For this lesson I learned three things.

  1. Never underestimate the interest of students in a certain subject area. It might not be a popular subject or theme or unit, but what students might share may allow us to get to know them and understand them.
  2. Poetry, just like literature, has the power to start an open conversation about issues that students care about and that directly touch students’ lives.
  3. By giving students a choice to bring their own examples, I opened room for discussions about topics that are relevant to them. Our particular conversation taught my students about what feminism means and that everyone, not just women, shares a responsibility in advocating for women’s rights.

Facilitating a conversation by teaching poetry began with sharing selections and samples. To help my students start the conversations, I asked them: Why did you choose the piece? What was so special about it? What resonated with you? From there on it’s crucial to build on that conversation through more questioning, inquiry, analysis, and reflections.

In Teaching Multicultural Literature, workshop 2, “Engagement and Dialogue,” read an interview with writer Nikki Grimes about teaching poetry to students. Also explore methods of teaching poetry to help students engage in the work. Find strategies for helping students to connect with the texts they read, and instructions for how to host an open mic event with students.

The most important thing to remember is to enjoy the experience of teaching poetry and learning with and from students.

Frederick Law Olmsted: Urban Planning as Art

Frederick Law Olmsted / engraved by T. Johnson ; from a photograph by James Notman. LC-USZ62-36895

Frederick Law Olmsted / engraved by T. Johnson ; from a photograph by James Notman. LC-USZ62-36895

In 1857, Frederick Law Olmsted (b.4.26.1822) and Calvert Vaux designed Central Park in New York City as a work of art, a space distinct from the urban life. Learn how this park was deliberately designed and constructed with a sensitivity to nature in Art Through Time, program 10, “The Natural World.”

See the “Lagoon Bird’s-Eye View” photo of Olmsted’s design of the Chicago World’s Fair site in Activity 2: Campaign for World’s Fair 2010 of Primary Sources, workshop 5, “Cans, Coal, and Corporations.” Consider how this city design and the design of Central Park have inspired future urban landscape plans.

Frederick Law Olmsted was also a writer. He wrote about the differences between Northern and Southern societies during the 1850s, and critiqued the slave labor practices of the South vs. the paid labor of the North. Watch the video for A Biography of America, program 9, “Slavery.”

Bring Humor to Your Classroom

Day of the Dead artwork in Mexico, from Art Through Time, "Death"

Day of the Dead artwork in Mexico, from Art Through Time, “Death”

Knock knock… You know how everything feels a little better after a good laugh? Humorist Larry Wilde founded National Humor Month in 1976 “to heighten public awareness on how the joy and therapeutic value of laughter can improve health, boost morale, increase communication skills and enrich the quality of one’s life.” The following Learner resources will help you bring humor to your classrooms:

Watch interviews with some of America’s wittiest journalists including Dave Barry and Andy Rooney in News Writing, program 12, “Column Writing and Editorial Writing.”

Experts discuss the humor associated with public art related to The Day of the Dead holiday in Mexico in Art Through Time: A Global View, program 6, “Death.” (Watch the first part of the video.) Also view artwork by José Guadalupe Posada.

Analyze the use of humor in political cartoons about the Stamp Act crisis of 1765 with the Image as History interactive in A Biography of America, program 4, “The Coming of Independence.”

Romantic comedies have been a part of American culture since the 1930s. American Cinema, program 5, looks at how this film genre uses humor to explore themes of gender and sexuality.

And don’t miss the Cinema interactive, which compares the actual script of a scene from Nora Ephron’s comedy, “When Harry Met Sally,” with those of aspiring screen writers.

Share how you bring humor to your classrooms in the comments section.