Friday, March 31, 2017

Using TED Talks to Introduce a Novel

I often use TED Talks to introduce new units in my Social Studies and English courses. I wanted to find a good one to introduce our next novel, 1984. I found two powerful talks about North Korea that I shared with my English students last week. Both talks elicited a lot of questions and discussion among my students. Many concepts and themes we will be encountering in the novel were dealt with in the talks including dehumanization, isolation, repression, and abuse of power. Many of my students were eager to learn more about North Korea and read the novel after viewing and discussing these talks in class.

These are the  TED Talks I shared with my students:

I created a more formal lesson for the second talk. I used this lesson with my 6th period English 400 students last week.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Problem-Based Learning in Social Studies

This month my Social Studies students are undertaking perhaps their biggest challenge to-date. I posed a "Big Question" to them last week. The question was, "What do you think are the biggest problems facing humanity today and what can be done to solve those problems?"

We brainstormed lists. Each student had to come up with a minimum of five problems. None of my students had any problem coming up with five examples. Many recalled examples we discussed in their World Studies class as freshmen. (Proud teacher moment.)

Here is a sampling of what they came up with:
hate, poverty, hunger, disease, violence, war, genocide, terrorism, refugee crisis, sexism, racism, homophobia, intolerance, ignorance, unequal access/lack of access to health care, gender-based violence, homelessness, greed, slavery, sex trafficking, slavery, pollution, climate change, apathy, fear, unequal access to education, substance abuse, sustainable energy

We also discussed solutions. We discussed documentaries we've watched and books we've read about people working to make a difference. Many of my students recalled the film and book "Half the Sky" from their freshmen year. Many remembered TED Talks we've watched together in World Studies, United States History, and English courses including "Billions in Change" and 60 Minute segments about Darfur and child hunger. Some of my students who've taken Civil Rights History with me shared ideas they learned in class with regard to the work done by abolitionists and civil rights activists.

To inspire more ideas, we watched one of my favorite TED Talks, Sugata Mitra's, Build a School in a Cloud. We spent two days watching and discussing the talk. In addition, I created a lesson based on the talk. We visited his School in the Cloud page and reviewed some of the "Big Questions" students have posted there.

My lesson:

I'm excited to get back to school and continue with the unit. (We are currently on Spring Break). When we return, we plan to spend some more time exploring how others are working on solving the world's most challenging problem's facing humanity. We will spend some time in the library and some time exploring online. By the end of next week I hope to start the next phase of the unit- the essay writing phase. I am going to set up pre-writing stations to help facilitate the process. Each student is going to narrow their focus to one problem and write an essay describing the problem and what steps they think should be taken to alleviate that problem.

I'm excited to see what my students come up with!

Friday, March 10, 2017

LGBTQ Awareness Bulletin Board

I am an advisor to my high school's GSA. We've stepped it up a notch this month with our school/community education and awareness campaign. Members are planning an assembly for next year, organizing movie/discussion nights, inviting guest speakers to present to classes and the GSA and most importantly, researching the issues so we can be better informed ourselves! One idea we came up with at a recent meeting was a LGBT Awareness bulletin board inspired by several bulletin boards we found on Pinterest. We wanted our bulletin board to be informative and empowering. We also wanted it to be visually appealing. We wanted people to notice it and engage with it! This is what we came up with.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Black-out Poetry

Today my English classes had a lot of fun creating black-out poems inspired by the book, Room by Emma Donoghue. I was really impressed with their poems. Some of my students enjoyed the activity so much they created several poems!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Legos for High Schoolers

Wisconsin weather is back this week and my students (and I) are really struggling to stay motivated (and positive). Today I am using a modified lesson I used with my students a week ago. Last week we had a blast working our way through an outdoor obstacle course in our 6th period English class. Since temps have dropped below 30 again, we're back indoors all day. So, I created a short indoor course for my 7th period Social Studies class. My favorite station is the "Lego Station." I can't wait to see what my students create!