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Posts from the ‘poetry’ Category

Top Ten Posts of 2016 #4: Blackout Poetry

I’m sure most of you are doing the same thing I’m doing right now. Spending time with family and friends, watching football, catching up on that book you’ve been dying to read, eating too much, and enjoying the occasional nap.

But if you need a break from all of the holiday cheer, we’ve got you covered. Between now and the first week in January, you’ll get a chance to re-read the top ten History Tech posts of 2016. Enjoy the reruns. See you in a couple of weeks!


Okay. I know that movies about teachers rarely tell the whole story. You know the ones I’m talking about – movies like:

black-out-poetry logo

  • Stand and Deliver
  • Freedom Writers
  • Dangerous Minds
  • Mr. Holland’s Opus
  • Lean On Me

They rarely show the hours of grading, the phone calls from parents, IEP meetings, kids throwing up on your shoes, music program practice, endless committees, extra duties, coaching – though there does always seem to be some sort of happy ending.

But ya know . . . I still enjoy ’em. My favorite? Read more

Twitter haiku: 17 syllables and 140 characters through US history

You gotta love the Twitter. Seriously. Even you choose to not use it at a personal level, there’s just too much stuff you and students can do with it.

Historical re-creations. Tweets as historical characters. Exit card activities. Assign homework. Virtual study rooms. Question and answer sessions with students. Connect with parents. With other teachers. With other classrooms. Provide study tips. Ask questions. Share ideas. Real time chats. Follow breaking news and current events.

And now?

History as haiku. Read more

Tip of the Week: Blackout Poetry

Okay. I know that movies about teachers rarely tell the whole story. You know the ones I’m talking about – movies like:

  • Stand and Deliver
  • Freedom Writers
  • Dangerous Minds
  • Mr. Holland’s Opus
  • Lean On Me

They rarely show the hours of grading, the phone calls from parents, IEP meetings, kids throwing up on your shoes, music program practice, endless committees, extra duties, coaching – though there does always seem to be some sort of happy ending.

But ya know . . . I still enjoy ’em. My favorite? Dead Poets Society. Maybe because the ending is not quite as sugar-coated as the others. But what really sells it is Robin Williams’ poetry speech. You remember. Apple recently came out with a sweet commercial that uses the speech to see iPads.

I’ve been pushing the use of poetry as a high-quality instructional tool for a while now. Poetry incorporates much of what we know encourages high levels of learning – emotion, stories, word pictures, connection to content. And it hits tons of the Common Core literacy standards for History/Government. So Williams’ Dead Poets speech resonates.

One idea that I’ve been sharing with teachers but never really written about before is the concept of Blackout Poetry. But a recent post by Larry Ferlazzo describing The New York Times new online version of the strategy was a sign.

So. Here we are. Read more

Fiction, poetry, and teaching history

I watch the wagon
until I see nothing on the open plain.
For the first time ever,
I am alone.

May B

I am a huge believer in having kids read and write as much as possible while in history class. And one of the best ways to engage kids is to have them read fiction, especially poetry and verse.

One of the best examples of historical fiction in a poetry format is Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse. Out of the Dust is an incredible story that sucks in middle school readers as it describes the life of 14-year -old Billie Jo in Dust Bowl Oklahoma.

If you’re a bit unsure about how to incorporate this poetry book into your class, use supporting materials such as Literature Guide: Out of the Dust or A Guide for Using Out of the Dust in the Classroom. Another great way to integrate Out of the Dust is to have kids compare and contrast the historical fiction content with a non-fiction book such as Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp.

But Out of the Dust is not alone anymore.

A recent book by Caroline Starr Rose titled May B also does an excellent job of capturing the emotions of history students. While Out of the Dust spends its time in the 1930s, May B focuses on the late 1800s Kansas prairie and helps provide a rich context to the Western movement.

May is helping out on a neighbor’s homestead—just until Christmas, her pa promises. But a terrible turn of events leaves her all alone and she must try to find food and fuel—and courage—to make it through the approaching winter.

It seemed like a great book for any class studying regions, Kansas History, and US History. But I needed an expert. So I asked my wife, an experienced elementary/middle level teacher, for her opinion.

I loved May B. The writing is vivid and beautiful. It captures the severe and sometimes terrible beauty of the Kansas prairies but also beautifully portrays a girl struggling to embrace who she is. This middle level book shares what life was like during this period in Kansas history and is captivating to the end. It would be perfect for reading aloud in class, perfect for grades 4-8, and perfect for a family to enjoy together.

The author has created a handy teacher’s guide helpful for integrating the book and its content into your class.

I’m curious. What other poetry and verse historical fiction are we missing? What do you use?

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10 Great Ways to Make Your Kids Smarter

I’ve always been a Newsweek fan. And in the last year or so, I’ve gotten really hooked on their digital offering, The Daily Beast. A recent Beast article caught my attention that I think we as teachers need to look at.

Written by Sharon Begley, Buff Your Brain: 31 Ways to Get Smarter in 2012 says

If the information isn’t in there, no amount of brain training will tell you how the Federal Reserve system functions, why the Confederacy lost the Civil War, the significance of Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon, or why Word just crashed.

Yet that’s what we all want—to know more, to understand more deeply, to make greater creative leaps, to retain what we read, to see connections invisible to others—not merely to make the most of what we have between our ears now, but to be, in a word, smarter.

The title is fairly self-explanatory. We can make ourselves smarter. And not just by a little bit but what Begley describes as raising our IQ by a “staggering” 21 points. It got me thinking.

If it’s our job as teachers to make our kids smarter, are there any takeaways from the article?

You can read the piece yourself but I think the answer is yes. Here’s what I got out of it.

Get News from Al Jazeera

This may be my favorite. The basic concept here is is simple – don’t shut yourself out from new ideas. A 2009 study found that viewers of Al Jazeera English were more open-minded than people who got their news from CNN International and BBC World. (I’m going out on a limb here and suggest the same would go for for Fox News viewers.) A huge part of thinking historically is being able to see and understand different perspectives. So it doesn’t have to be Al Jazeera but you need to require that kids read, view, and listen to a variety of sources.

Toss Your Smartphone
I’m a big believer in using technology and mobile devices as part of what we do. But the research is pretty clear – constantly checking email, interrupting thinking to text or to go on Facebook disrupts focus and saps productivity. Learning in the 21st century requires the use of a wide variety of tools. Design your instruction to encourage deep thinking.

Go to a Literary Festival / See a Shakespeare Play
I combined a couple here. Reading the Bard has been shown to engage the brain more actively than most contemporary texts and watching is even better. The point here is that we need to use more fiction and non-fiction stuff in our lessons. Great poetry, prose and novels can engage kids and provide very cool historical context

Follow These People on Twitter

There are some very smart people out there. Not all of them are on Twitter but here’s a list I put together a while back that’s still pretty good. Use Twitter to connect your kids with experts and others outside your classroom.

Hydrate
Every doctor will tell you that dehydration forces the brain to work harder and dampens its ability to work well. It’s sounds silly but passing out bottles of water to your kids is not a bad idea. Water breaks during block schedule? Another possibility. Encourage students to pack in refillable bottles in book bags? Yup.

Check Out iTunes U
iTunes U has awesome free stuff. Podcasts, audio clips, documents. There are university and K-12 channels that provide you and your kids access to some of the best thinkers in the country. Did I mention it’s free?

Visit MoMa

You probably won’t be heading the Museum of Modern Art anytime soon (Though MOMA and other great museums have iTunes U content and handy apps.) but viewing art, photographs and images has been shown to increase retention of content. You can make your kids smarter by incorporating images into your instruction.

The Pomodoro Technique
This time-management strategy aims to make you productive using nothing more than a kitchen timer. Use it to break your presentation or your student’s work into 20-minute blocks, taking a short break for reflection and maybe a water break; the frequent rests aid mental agility.

Zone Out
A string of studies suggests that zoning out and letting the mind wander – especially when you don’t consciously realize you’re doing it – allows the brain to work on important “big picture” thinking. “Sleeping on it” is not an old’s wife tale. It provides time for your brain to make connections and see relationships. Purposefully plan for discussions and brainstorming to happen over more than one class period. Then be sure to go back to review and reflect. This could be written, small group or large group. (maybe even all three!)

Write Reviews Online
Anyone can be a critic on the Internet – and your kids should too. Typing out their opinions will help them to better understand their own thinking. This could be book reviews on Amazon, guided prompts on your own Edmodo site, on news sites or in Blackboard CourseSites blogs.

You can make your kids smarter. Pick one or two of these. Maybe five. And start using them in your class. The good news? You’ll get smarter too.

 

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NCSS 2010 Session Two – Teaching History with the Arts

(This is basically a live blog of the the morning’s second session, so please excuse grammar and spelling!)

Several weeks ago, I shared some info about the Picturing America site. Some great stuff for integrating the humanities into social studies instruction.

In the second session of the conference, Stephen LaMorte and Robbin Dehollander from Rochester, NY spent their time talking about how they use the Picturing America site with middle schools kids. They suggest that using the arts in social studies:

  • helps engage kids intellectually and emotionally
  • allows students to express themselves in a variety of ways
  • is project based
  • is a natural fit for Differeniated Instruction
  • is literacy based

They started their example by sharing the essential question:

How did the struggle for civil rights shape the culture of the time?

They used the Romare Bearden painting The Dove while playing some of Bearden’s music.

They used the very effective technique of breaking the image up in four parts while asking kids to “see” details in the image. (I’ve detailed this before.) Then show the entire image and ask the kids:

How does this image connect to your family, friends, pets, community, neighborhood?

Kids then read the poem:

Your World

Your world is as big as you make it.
I know, for I used to abide
In the narrowest nest in a corner,
My wings pressing clsoe to my side.

But I sighted the distant horizon
Where the skyline encircled the sea
AndI throbbed with a burning desire
To travel this immensity.

I battered the cordons around me
And cradled my wings on the breeze,
Then soared to the uttermost reaches
With rapture, with power, with ease!

Georgia Douglas Johnson (1880-1966)

Then kids are asked to look at another photo using the same “quartering” technique:

This image of the Selma Civil RIghts marchers is also on the Picturing America site. It’s also followed with a poem.

Tableau

Locked arm in arm they cross the way
The black boy and the white,
The golden splendor of the day
The sable pride of night.

From lowered blinds the dark folk stare
And here the fair folk talk,
Indignant that these two should dare
In unison to walk.

Oblivious to look and word
They pass, and see no wonder
That lightning brilliant as a sword
Should blaze the path of thunder.

Countee Cullen (1903 – 1946)

In groups, kids then discuss how are the two images are alike and different. And finally,  kids write their own poetry. They didn’t mention it but  I would use the I Am poem strategy.

Overall, a nice way of using some pretty powerful stuff to help kids think about the civil rights movement. Find more lesson plans and goodies on the EDSITEment site.

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