Recent news articles are highlighting a request to ban access by Florida elementary students to Amanda Gorman’s poem A Hill We Climb. The reason for the request? “it is not educational and have indirectly hate messages.”
The specific passage that “have indirectly hate messages”?
“We’ve braved the belly of the beast.
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace,
And the norms and notions of what ‘just is’
Isn’t always justice.
And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it.
Somehow, we do it.
Somehow, we’ve weathered and witnessed
A nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.”
The ban request also lists the author / publisher as Oprah Winfrey and claims that the function of the poem is to “cause confusion.”
I’ve always been a fan of using a variety of resources to teach social studies, including non-fiction, literature, and poetry. And this poem by Gorman has a particularly powerful potential for encouraging and supporting historical thinking. So . . . to support the use of poetry as part of your instruction and specifically The Hill We Climb, today is Wayback Wednesday with a post from January 2021.
We had a good run. Over eleven years.
And I’m trying to keep my chin up but . . . you know, it’s hard. Accepting the fact that we’ll never be together again can be rough.
You know what I’m talking about. The day you finally realize that awesome pair of jeans is just isn’t as awesome anymore. Maybe it’s that sweet hoodie you got at the merch table during a concert weekend back in college. Or maybe it’s your favorite, most comfortable tee shirt.
That’s me this morning. Back in the day, I got in the habit of grabbing a tee shirt from each of the campus visits my kids would make during their college searches. This particular shirt has been a favorite since I traveled with my first kid to Seattle 11 years ago. It fit perfectly. It was comfortable. Over the years, it slowly broke into perfection. It’s been the go-to shirt for years. But at this point, even I have to admit perhaps it’s just a little too broken in.
Eventually our favorite stuff wears out and we have to move on. It’s hard but we do it cause, well . . . cause the stuff just doesn’t work anymore.
And if you’ve gotten this for, you’ve got to be asking yourself.
Seattle Pacific tee shirt? Seriously?
Here’s the point.
I know I’m not the only one who’s waiting to find out the ending to Season Two, Only Murders in the Building. A True Crime show about a True Crime podcast? With Steve Martin? What could be better?
Even if you’re not an #OMITB fan, I’m guessing that you’re probably following at least one or two actual podcasts. Perfect for anywhere, anytime learning and listening, podcasts can also be great additions to your social studies classroom.
After the last few years, there’s not much that surprises me anymore. It’s been such a weird two and a half years of school. (And for classroom teachers, an incredibly challenging and difficult time.)
But I’m always just a little bit shocked when I hear about districts that crank up during the first week in August. As in . . . next week. Seriously? I’m just now starting to figure out the Delaware beach system and you’re going back to school?
But maybe you’re in that same boat, shoving off with kids already in seven days. If you are, this post may be a little too late. But I’m hoping that for most of you, you’ve got at least one or two more weekends before your first student contact day.
To help energize your first awesome week with kids, here are seven great ways to kick off the school year. Use what you can. Adapt what you can’t. Ignore the rest.
What not to do
But before we get too far along with what we know works, it’s probably a good idea to think about what doesn’t. I’ve mentioned Fourteen Things You Should Never Do on the First Day of School before but it’s still a great reminder of what it looks like when we’re doing it wrong. Mark Barnes suggest that your goal should be a very simple one during the first few days of school:
You have many days to assess students’ strengths and weaknesses. You have months to discuss high stakes testing and standards. You’ll spend weeks probing the textbook.
The first few days of school should be dedicated to rapport-building and to joy.
Your goal should be that students go home that night and tell their parents: “I’m going to love history class because my teacher is awesome!”
So what should we be doing the first week?
Who doesn’t love sticky notes? Different colors. Different sizes. Plus . . . you know, they’re sticky. But they’re easy to underestimate. I mean, they’re literally a single use, throw away, forget about because their job is done, sort of thing.
But I was reminded recently by a friend of mine that sticky notes can be used in a lot more ways than just as a simple reminder stuck the corner of your computer monitor. There are lots of cool ways that we can use them to support historical thinking and the collecting / organizing of foundational content.
The simpliest way?
We all use exit tickets. But I like the simplicity of having a kid write down a few quick things on a sticky note and just whacking it on the door or bulletin board on their way out of class. The prompts might be: something new, rate its importance 1-10, how it connects to something else I know. Or try one of these sentence starters:
- One thing I knew already was
- I’m confused about
- I learned . . . and now I’m thinking
- One idea that challenged my thinking is
- I agree or disagree with
- One thing I got done today was
Maybe even have kids color code their ticket. Green for something that made sense to them. Red for a question.
So . . . how else can you use a sticky?
One of the advantages of doing what I do is the chance to meet and talk with lots of great social studies teachers. Whether it’s traveling around doing on-site trainings or leading workshops in ESSDACK’s own facility, the opportunities to brainstorm ideas and learn new things are abundant.
Several months ago, I spent the day working with a small group of middle school teachers. The conversation shifted to literacy strategies and what works best to help students read and write in the social studies. Andrew Trent, teacher from Clay Center and colleague on the state assessment writing team, shared a strategy that I had never seen before.
Titled Tic Tac Tell, the strategy is very simple to implement but it has a lot of potential for adapting to different grade levels, content, and complexity. The original focus of Tic Tac Tell was to provide a quick and easy way for kids to interact with vocabulary words. We know that to learn new vocabulary words and phrases, kids need to experience those words or phrases multiple times in a variety of contexts. Tic Tac Tell works great for that, especially with elementary kids.
But I think you could also use this to introduce, review, and assess a wide variety of concepts, ideas, people, places, or events.
So. How to use it?