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Helping Students to Remember What We've Read

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Am I the only one that finds that kids don’t remember what they’ve read through the year?Also… who out there is a Supernatural fan?Warning: When I thought of this idea, I had been watching a whole lot of Supernatural. And I had become pretty absorbed in all things Supernatural. Like… it bordered on obsession. At the beginning of every show, there is a text card that says “The Road So Far” as a way to recap the show. I decided to use my love of Supernatural as a way to recap what we had read in the classroom. So I made a poster (actually it was a few sheets of letter paper) and I posted it at the back of my class. Every time we read something, I posted the first sheet of our reading next to the poster. It was a running list of the things we read in class that year. Whenever I mentioned a piece and the kids looked at me like I had grown two heads, I would point to the back of the room and then be pleasantly surprised by the collective “oh, yeah. I remember that!”When I taught SF…

4 TED Talks to Use While Teaching Things Fall Apart

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Here we go again...

1.  “What makes a good life?  Lessons from the longest study on happiness” by Robert Waldinger


Okonkwo is obviously an unhappy man.  Turns out the key to happiness is the relationships we build.  I guess someone should tell Okonkwo that...

2.  “How movies teach manhood” by Colin Stokes


I love the ideas presented in this talk.  I think the messages that we're sending to our kids through film aren't always inspiring.  Don't get me wrong, I don't believe in censorship.  However, when society has a test to determine how female inclusive a film is and most films fail it, there's a problem.
3.  “The Five Major World Religions” by John Bellaimey

Many of my students don't know anything about religion outside of their own.  This video was, for many of them, an introduction to other religions.  I connected it to the book through the theme of imperialism.
4.  “How Africa can use its traditional knowledge to make progress” by Chika Ezeanya- Esiobu

I thi…

3 Videos to Use During the Holidays in the ELA Class

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Yes, I know it’s March.  But I just found my PowerPoint and so I’m sharing now.



1. History vs. Christopher Columbus by Alex Gendler
Why do we still celebrate this holiday?  This animated TED ED talk goes into what’s not taught in elementary school about Columbus.  Cliff Notes: he was a bad dude.

2.Can Art Amend History? By Titus Kaphar
So I teach a lesson about the first Thanksgiving.  Days 1-3 delve into the English version of the holiday and what most people believe about Thanksgiving.  Days 4 and 5 discuss the Native American perspective, which isn’t discussed enough.  This TED asks the question: Can we learn about the unpleasantness of our history through art?  Is it more palatable to digest that way?  Super entertaining talk.

3.Black Friday: An Accident of History by Hank Green
Not technically a TED Talk, but it’s good.  Hank Green talks about Black Friday and its origins.  We all get a little preachy about the meaning of Christmas (vs. the commercial ideal that’s taken hold) and…

5 TED Talks to Use with the Theme of Fear and Mystery

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I can’t believe I’m about to talk about fear and mystery right after Valentine’s Day, but here goes.



1.What Fear Can Teach Us by Karen Thompson
Really great TED Talk about how instead of shying away from our fear, we should embrace them, turn them into stories, and then act upon them.

2.Vampires- Folklore, fantasy, and fact  by Michael Molina
An animated vampire talks about the mythology behind vampires.  It’s kind of corny, but it’s interesting to see the origin and various country interpretations.

3.Zombie Roaches and Other Parasite Tales
Ed Yong describes a parasite that attaches itself to its host and takes over their body.  He also talks about the tapeworm and other such gross things.  The talk is entertaining and actually changed the way that I think about the creepy crawlies that I’m afraid of.  Especially the ones that might take over my body.

4.Where Do Superstitions Come From? By Stuart Vyse
In this TED talk, several popular superstitions are dissected.  There’s not much els…

Using Mulan to Teach Gender Stereotypes

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I love Disney.Honestly, at this point, it’s probably a bit irrational.My husband doesn’t understand it.My kids don’t understand it.But Disney movies in the 90s were the companion to an only child, i.e. me.So anytime I can go back to my happy place I will.Therefore, I use a lot of Disney in my teaching.
When I do my big unit on gender stereotypes, I reference Mulan a lot.One year, I had almost an entire student group tell me that they hadn’t seen the movie.I dreamed that night about all the lessons I could plan around the movie.Besides viewing it as literature, I had the students identify any point in the movie that supported the idea that gender norms/ stereotypes can be beneficial, and any point in the movie that supported the idea that gender norms/ stereotypes are not beneficial.I had them transfer those into a graphic organizer that also had a bubble outline for a persuasive essay.They then had to choose a side and write a draft using the movie as evidence.Pretty easy.
If you’d l…

Audience: Teaching Persuasion

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There is a certain time of the year where I feel like I eat, breath, and dream ethos, pathos, and logos.State of Texas, can I please teach mythology? Or archetypes? Or WHOLE NOVELS?I’ll even take Julius Cesar at this point.
But alas, it’s always coming up persuasion.
Anyway, audience is always a tricky subject.Either the kids get it, or they don’t.Either I have time to teach it fully, or I don’t.Depending on the group of students and depending on the year I’m either dedicating a few days to the concept or barely making it a topic of discussion.
I guess my point is to say here is a worksheet that I use to evaluate if the kids get it.If they do, I move on.If they don’t… well, then I use more in-depth measures.

Advertisement Project: Teaching Persuasion

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I know that everyone who has to teach persuasion has done this at least one time in their teaching career.So I’m not proposing anything new.I’m just putting mine out into the ether.


Hands down, the best way to get teenagers to understand persuasion is to appeal to their hungry little consumer on the inside.  It seems like, for about of month out of the year, I become an expert in commercials.  And once the kids begin to break it down, see how advertisements work, see how marketers use formulaic methods to get people to buy their stuff even without realizing their being marketed to, the kids want to try their hands at it. 
The Advertisement Assignment is pretty simple: the kids work in pairs to create a print ad or a commercial for an assigned product.  They get a blurb of what the product is about, and they have to create a name, a logo, and a tagline with a clear message, all while using persuasive elements that they’ve learned from over the course of the unit.  Other than those in…