Archives For Education

Wow! I feel like an explorer who has just rounded a corner and unexpectedly stumbled into paradise. I have just discovered an almost perfect blend of technological innovation and pedagogical motivation. It’s a path that leads us past the outdated bubble-filling regurgitation of memorized facts and catapults us into the future of testing kids on the higher-order thinking skills that the 21st century demands.

Welcome to the beta testing pilot of  SimCityEdu:Pollution Challenge!

If you are like me, you may remember the SimCity games from the days when PC’s were the size of a desk and CD-rom games seemed too complicated for the average adult user to figure out.  I remember sharing this cutting edge technology with my middle school students in the early ’90’s. But I never dreamed that someone, namely a multidisciplinary team known as Glasslab, would turn this game on it’s head and create a sustainability game that helps teachers and students track how well they think.

This game has taken my mission right out of my mouth and served it up as meaningful play. (Maybe Erick Erickson is also clapping from the sidelines). But right now I can’t imagine a better tool to help our future leaders create the emphatic problem solving skills than a device that notices every mouse hover and analyzes your understanding of cause and effect.

SimCityEdu:Pollution Challenge seems like the perfect way to help students learn how to balance their individual needs versus a community’s needs versus the need to protect the earth now and for the future.

I can’t wait to use this thought provoking tool with my own daughter and all the other future global leaders.

So check out this ground-breaking advent of Blooms Taxonomy meets Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs meets standardized testing meets engaging play all of which adds up to a world of more thoughtful citizens.

Not a bad start don’t you think?

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Some people pray for ordinary things and get extraordinary results.

Malala Yousafzai is one such girl!

The sixteen-year-old prayed to be two or three inches taller than her five feet. “But,” she told the crowd in Boston as she received a bronze bust of John F Kennedy, “I can now reach the sky because reaching you with my cause is the greatest height.”

I can’t imagine anyone standing taller in the name of women’s rights than this courageous global heroine. Malala has had strong women behind her, like her mother encouraging her to tell the truth, to speak up and raise her voice. She’s had brave women beside her, like all the other girls in her village who despite the Taliban’s disapproval, still go to school. Yet, it is Malala’s own mix of wit, humility, and way with words that has made her a towering international symbol for peace and the right to education.

Even though last October, the Taliban tried to assassinate Malala because of her efforts to gain access to education for women, she wants to return to her homeland of Pakistan. The passion with which she spoke about education broadening your world views was palpable. So it was easy for the audience to imagine her following her dream of becoming a politician. To serve her nation and to get education for every child.

Malala Yousafazai and her father Ziauddin in Boston last Saturday.

Malala Yousafazai and her father Ziauddin in Boston last Saturday.

At one point Malala said “I heard your voice through my heart.”And while she may not have won the noble peace prize, listening to her was powerful, peace inducing poetry for my soul. As a mother of a daughter and a library teacher, how could I argue with her adamant declaration that “It is the right of every person whether a girl or a boy to get education. It’s a responsibility and a duty that you must have knowledge. You must not be limited to your house .You must know about the whole world. You must know about other cultures, other traditions other societies, and learn from them.”

So let’s make sure we listen to each other’s stories, read them, tell them, and share them. I know that celebrating International Girl Day by listening to Malala and her inspirational story has reinvigorated me and left me a richer person.And maybe one day we can all stand as tall as Malala Yousafzai!

To hear clip of Malala’s speech,click here.

Here’s a link to the Washington Post’s review of her book, I am Malala: The girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban which was released on Tuesday.

After expanding their cross cultural knowledge base, my students were almost ready to face the paparazzi. (See this post for how they got there)

In other words, they were nearly ready to play the “Get to know a Hispanic Hero/Heroine bingo game” that I created for them. But first they needed to do a little more work to be an expert.

  • They re-read their mini-biographies and reviewed why their person was famous. They had already highlighted keywords in the paragraph to determine that as the main idea of the paragraph. ( In case you forgot, I found their age appropriate biographies at Scholastic’s site for Discovery History Makers.)
  • They then identified at least one fact about their Hispanic Hero/Heroine that they thought their classmates should know. I had already told them they were going to be “interviewed” by the paparazzi (their classmates).
  • Students then received “Get to know a Hispanic Hero/Heroine bingo game”. Click here for a downloadable version.

hispanicherobingo

  • Once they had found a teacher, or astronaut, etc., they asked the student the name of the Hispanic Hero/heroine that he or she was portraying and recorded it in the appropriate square.
  • They then interviewed the Hispanic Hero/Heroine and recorded the “interview”.
  • The goal was to get a bingo and be able to boast about how much they knew about as many Hispanic Heroes/Heroines as possible.

This week, students will take their paparazzi questions and turn them into “WHO WAS/IS clues” to scatter around the school. Each clue will say ask a third grader for the answer.

This way each child can take pride in the beginnings of their journey as they expand their cross-cultural knowledge and understanding of Hispanic Heroes/Heroines.

Obviously, this unit on learning about Latinos/as can be adapted to any group of individuals. I particularly like thinking about windows and mirrors and groups that aren’t often addressed in the mainstream curriculum. So feel free to adapt this idea for differently abled people, or Cambodian contributors, or whatever under-represented group that you feel passionate to share with the world.

Let me know how it goes.

To help students broaden their cross-cultural knowledge base, I created a Hispanic Hero/Heroine game. I used it with a third grade library class but feel free to adapt it for different ages or for family use.

The unit had a number of objectives. Some were just to review. Some involved practice or mastery of common-core or information-literacy skills. And, of course, exposure to windows and mirrors content.

I wanted students to:

  • Understand a biography is a true account about a person’s life.
  • Read for the main idea
  • Identify keywords in the text
  • Use keywords to extrapolate the main idea
  • Learn how to turn facts into questions
  • Explore interviewing skills
  • Gain information about a particular person in a particular cultural experience.

Here’s an overview of the second lesson in the unit. ( See the first lesson in this post – list all people you know personally or otherwise who are of Hispanic descent).

  1. I gave each student their own mini biography  (a paragraph long) that I printed from Scholastic’s site for Discovery History Makers.
  2. I removed the name, and the job description for each person and created a fill in the blank. My name is…. I am a famous…. or I am famous for being a……. To download my template click here.
  3. Students read the biography and identified the person about whom they were reading.
  4. Students then highlighted keywords that were repeated over and over or had variations mentioned in the text.
  5. The looked at the keywords and determined the main idea or why this person was famous.

Roberto Clemente: the first Puerto Rican to be voted Most Valuable Player in baseball

For example if a student read about Roberto Clemente, he or she may have underlined Major League Baseball, great fielder, great hitter, Most Valuable Player, Baseball Hall of Fame. Then he or she would have said Roberto Clemente is a famous baseball player.

The mini biographies ranged in complexity so I gave the more abstract professions to those who were ready for the challenge and thus allowed for success for a range of students.

Stay tuned for how kids prepared themselves to face the questions the classmate paparazzi prepared for each other.

Today I asked my third graders if they could name anyone of Hispanic descent. They could list a someone they knew personally, a person from history, or a figure from pop culture.

Their lists weren’t long. In fact. Most were blank.

I wasn’t surprised given the community in which I teach. There aren’t a lot of opportunities for first hand encounters. And so my work begins. Unless I or other adults explicitly have conversations about the rich Hispanic heritage, history, and accomplishment, their lists will remain short.

It was time to lead the children to find stories. My third graders are fairly good at knowing how to solve information problems. So they eagerly rose to the challenge of using the library catalog to find biographies.

I recommend keywords – in this case, search terms like Latino/Latina, Hispanic, Puerto Rican, Costa Rican, Dominican, Mexican-American, Chilean, etc. I remind students of the definitions of Hispanic and Latino/Latina. I also provide them with a few examples. This helps the class brainstorm more names to use in their searches.

One of the biographies that provided my readers with a window

The children know how to identify the call number of a book in their computer search. Then they use that to locate the book on the shelf. So they fly to the next step. Reading the book which offers them a window into new experiences, and a peek into an unfamiliar culture. I remind them that this is just one person’s particular story of being Hispanic and that like any group of people there are similarities and differences within that group as well as in comparison to another group.

Next week they will craft jeopardy type questions to post around the school to educate others within our community one story at a time.

Just a few weeks ago, you may have taken a moment to reflect on the great civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the legacy of his “I have a dream speech.” But have you stopped to honor the work of a Mexican American civil rights leader, who almost 50 years ago this week, also changed the face of history?

On September 16th 1965, Cesar Chavez’s union joined with Filipino workers in the Delano Grape Strike and put in to motion the first agricultural strike to be successful in U.S. history. Chavez went on to be an iconic champion for Latino rights. He lead a peaceful 340-mile march, fasted for 25 days, organized boycotts, and served jail time, all of which eventually helped improve the life of thousands of migrant workers -a group with the longest working hours, lowest pay, and shortest life spans.

Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez,  written by Kathleen Krulll  and  Yuyi Morales.

is a gorgeous picture book, both in its narration and its illustrations. This account of his life is worthy of multiple readings since it rich with themes of courage, perseverance, social justice, family, power dynamics and the hope that we all can create change.

For more wonderful ideas how to use this book click here, Yuyi Morales and

have created a fabulous guide.

May you enjoy it as much as I do.

The air is abuzz with “first day of school ” stories.

Sometimes the stories come riddled with tears and fears. (And this can be as true for the new teachers as for new students). Sometimes stories tumble over each other in a long stream of “and then, and then, and…..” Sometimes moments are retold that make your heart melt.

No matter the emotion, or the circumstance, stories abound for a reason.

My virtual mentor, Angela Maiers, educator author and speaker, a guru who I want to be like when I grow up.

Stories entertain us. Stories connect us. Stories help us make sense of experiences. So as the teachers, parents and other adults, who are shaping future generations, we should encourage all story telling.

What better way to empower a child and to confirm that he or she matters than to listen to what he or she has to say. To acknowledge that each one of us has something to offer the world and that every person has skills, talents, and visions worth celebrating. (For a fabulous blog about How people know they matter read this post from Angela Maiers.)

Listening to the stories is crucial but it is equally important to think about what stories you are sharing. When sharing your own personal stories – and what better gift can you offer the young  but stories of your own perspective –  help the child understand that it is but one story from one point of view.  Even in the same class at school, or in the same family, everyone will have a different account of the same moment.

Understanding that multiple perspectives exist, can be a world-rocking concept! To realize that you might perceive a situation entirely differently from someone else is one way to walk in other people’s shoes.

Stories are a great way to get to temporarily try on other people’s shoes. Especially when combined with an explicit discussion of windows and mirrors. ( I will talk more about how to use windows and mirrors and first day of school books next post). It is our job to make sure we are providing as many multiple perspectives and windows and mirrors in the stories we tell, the stories we buy, and the stories that line our shelves. It’s the only way we can give everyone a fair shot at understanding and celebrating our rich diverse world.

Feel free to share your first day of school stories. I would love to hear other perspectives on this exciting age-old ritual.

Are you looking for books to help a child understand and or celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year? Keep reading.

Celebrate Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur

by Deborah Heiligman

This book describes how these Jewish Holy days are celebrated around the world. The photographs are National Geographic captivating while the text balances the historic with the contemporary cultural importance of the holidays.

 

 

New Year at the Pier: A Rosh Hashanah Story

by April Halprin Wayland

This charming picture book uses humor to describe the joyous ritual of wiping the slate clean for the new year by apologizing for mistakes in the old. The universality of emotions makes this book accessible to those not familiar with the particular tradition.

 

 

Apples and pomegranates : a family seder for Rosh Hashanah

by Rahel Musleah

This guidebook describes the eight traditional food and their blessings and the sequence in which they eaten. It gives a history or the fruit, recipes and folktales for family discussion.

 

 

 

Happy Birthday, World: A Rosh Hashanah Celebration

by Latifa Berry Kropf

This book is ideal for the nursery school age and having a board book about Jewish traditions for young children is a rarity. It compares common birthday activities with the rituals for the Jewish new year celebrations.

L’Shana Tova

A mentor, who’s taught me much about multiple perspectives, has often told me, “unmentionable becomes unmanageable.” So when faced with an awkward conversation about race, I try to forge ahead despite my fear. I do worry that I may say the wrong thing but I’d rather start a dialogue than miss an opportunity.

According to Pro Bronson (see this post) ,many white parents and educators don’t find these race conversations easy. I am no different. But if I’m not willing to engage, then I’m responsible for making the unmentionable unmanageable.

12danceprincessA library class with lots of five year olds clamoring for books was one such occasion when I felt out of my depth but obligated to speak. A girl requested a “princess book”. I handed her Rachel Isadora’s stunning version of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. When she replied, “no, I want a pretty one,” I had two choices.

I could find another book.  Or I could find out why a classic fairytale set in Africa was not acceptable. Obviously, she couldn’t  articulate that she had been indoctrinated by Disney’s values of beauty, princesses and fairytales.

I had five minutes left of class and was at a loss for words.

As my mentor said, “just start the conversation. You don’t have to finish it.” So I told my student, that Isadora’s version was beautiful. However, it sounded like she was looking for a specific type of book that was of a different style. I showed her a Disney style fairytale she left happy.

I may not have said the right thing.

She may not remember the conversation.

I may not have shifted her thinking.

But.

I feel better for trying, in my awkward, off-guarded attempt, to interrupt her unconscious, internalized racism. I, at least, acknowledged the unmentionable to myself.

I hope she heard, so  that one day it won’t be unmanageable for her.

Here are 10 books to use as spring boards for discussions about skin color. They range from picture books to young adult titles. Hope they help.

PICTURE BOOKS

1.

The Skin You Live In_LargeThe Skin You Live In    By Michael Tyler, David Lee Csicsko, (Illustrator) Chicago Children Museum, 2005

This picture book uses rhyme to celebrate the range of skin color and the fact that children are simultaneously unique and similar.

2.

skinagainSkin Again   By bell hooks, Chris Raschka (Illustrator) Jump at the Sun, 2004

Another good title to discuss differences in skin color but honor that what’s inside is what counts.

3.

shadesofpeopleShades of people   By Shelley Rotner, Sheila M.Kelly Holiday House, 2010

Echoing the above titles in theme, this title uses photographs to show that skin is a covering that comes in all different shades, even within a family. Yet we have more in common when we move past these external differences.

 

4.

daisyDaisy and the Doll   By Michael Medearis, Angela Shelf Medearis, Larry Johnson (Illustrator) University Press of New England, 2005

While this story is 100 year old Daisy Turner’s memory that she recounted about her experience growing up in Grafton Vermont in the 1890’s, the emotions and issues of what it feels like to be different and face racial prejudice are no different today. Click here to find fascinating information about Daisy’s experience on the Vermont Folklore Center’s website.

NON-FICTION

5.

all the colorsAll the Colors we are: the story of how we get our skin color   By Katie Kissinger, Wernher Krutein (Photographer) Redleaf Press, 2002

A useful resource to teach children the environmental and hereditary aspects of melanin, or skin color.

6.

skininracismThe Skin I’m In  By Pat Thomas, Lesley Harker (Illustrator) Barron’s Educational Series, 2003

This nonfiction title provides young children with examples of racist acts while encouraging children to embrace differences.

7.

racism-pete-sanders-hardcover-cover-artRacism (Let’s Talk About) By Bruce Sanders Creative Co, 2005

As the title indicates, the book explains how skin color can be cause for unfair treatment. It also suggests that we can combat racism if we work together.

YOUNG ADULT / ADULT

8.

skinaminflakeThe Skin I’m In   By Sharon Flake Hyperion Books, 2007

This awarding YA title is great for older audiences. The thirteen-year-old heroine, Maleeka, doesn’t like being dark skinned because everyone at school makes it a problem. Befriending a bully doesn’t help. She has to learn to love herself and the skin she’s in.  Click here to see what one school has done with this profound text.

9.

face relationsFace Relations: 11 Stories about seeing beyond Color Marilyn Singer (Editor) Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2004

This YA collection explores issues of diversity, racism and ways to move beyond with well known authors such as M.E Kerr and Joseph Bruchac.

10.

blacklikemeBlack Like Me   By John Howard Griffin Wings Press, 2011

Though it is 50 years old, this adult or young adult title is not to be missed. It explores the issue of racial injustice after a white writer darkens his skin and spends time in the American South. Click here for Smithsonian’s view of how the book has stood the test of time.