Friday, January 30, 2015

Skip a Pizza...Feed the World?

While driving this morning, I heard "news" that Pizza Hut expects to have 60,000 drivers on tap Sunday for an expected 2 Million orders.  I said, "Wow. And, that's only a piece of the pie!"  

Pizza Hut is only one American pizza vendor. There's Papa Johns, Dominos, and Little Caesars--to say nothing of the local pizza joints serving up splendid treats.   If we conservatively assume 4 major vendors, each serving 2 million pies, Americans will easily consume over 8 million pizzas this Superbowl Sunday.  That's in addition to the 1.23 Billion Chicken Wings (that's billion with a "B"...) TBC (to be consumed) as reported by USA today.    

Let's look at this through our SS lenses which want us to compel kids to "civic action."  Here's a quick outline for a relevant SS - Civic Action lesson:  Present students with the facts and ask them what they think.  

  • Use this USA Today article as a "seed text." (Or, find a more recent one if you can.) This text comes in at a Fleisch Kincade HS level appropriate for 11th-12th grade. 
  • Hold an "evidence-based discussion" and see what their reaction is.  Do they see this as a national economic shot in the arm?  Do they see this event as a social holiday or dietary travesty?  Your EQ could be:  How does the Superbowl Affect America and Americans? 
  • After the discussion, ask them what other questions they have.  Aggregate the questions and ask them all to choose 2 or 3  to investigate.  Each investigation becomes their own "inquiry path."  
  • Proceed to your library for a short-term research project to look up additional facts, research, and to dig deeper into the affect of the Superbowl upon Americans.  - Make no bones about it: This is a major economic event. Calculate the expenditures for your locality alone.  
  • As a learning concierge, guide the question brainstorming to include other geographic areas that are suffering from famine.  (Have pictures queued-up?)
  • Final knowledge product suggestions: Infographic to inform and advocate in the form of an Evidence-based Claim?  Evidence-based discussion and debate.  Local advocacy: "Skip a pizza - Feed the Poor?"  
  • Let students extrapolate the impact of [4] million homes replacing the cost of one pizza with a donation.  How many hungry people could we feed with that sum? 
I just did it.  I don't need the 300 calories in 1 slice.  I have my Rotel and Velveeta I can munch.  Enjoy the game and... your wings! 

Here are three good links, in case you're convicted.  

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Is P the new "Scarlet Letter" ??


If you are looking for ideas to combat Plagiarism...look at re-designing your own assignment. At a recent discussion group around Plagiarism, it was acknowledged that most of the plagiarized assignments could benefit from student-centered repackaging. All too often a teacher pre-designs what the students need to investigate and thereby the assignment reflects the teacher, not the student.  This type of assignment is most frequently plagiarized.

Ask the Shadow Scholar:  

His story is unbelievable -- Only we do believe it, because we know it's widespread.  We've seen it. We even empathize with a poorly assigned paper that requires very little synthesis and conclusions.  Here are five first steps or simple suggestions, to help combat Plagiarism:  
You may know this, but perhaps some teachers do not.  Or, in our busy-over-burdened educational paradigm, we have not left enough time for coaching, progress monitoring, and guidance so that we can insure that students are actually doing their work and not copy-pasting.  Embedding an element of choice transfers ownership to the student.  If a teacher has "pre-defined" what the topic is (without an element of choice), it is the teacher's assignment and not the student's work.  We are teaching a self-centered generation that wants to "own" their work and doesn't always like to be told what to do.  I trust this is not a news-flash....

eProducts such as Noodletools and Easybib certainly help a student learn how to paraphrase correctly and provide great opportunities for instruction.  However, we know that there is a huge digital divide in some schools.  Whether in a techy or non-techy environment, our goals should be the same: Originality. Thinking. Synthesis.  Original conclusions.  Deep understanding. 

So, is P the new scarlet "S"?  - No.  This generation doesn't care.  There's no shame in Plagiarism....or so they think.  We know better, and need to model why.  

Friday, January 23, 2015

Wall of Shame? Or, Wall of Fame?

On our collegial listserv, operating as an informal PLC, someone asked for ideas on a 
R-E-S-P-E-C-T  or Dignity character education lesson.  I thought I'd share my response as an example of "repackaging" a lesson into an Inquiry-based Learning adventure.  This is something that might fit our new moniker "Mininiquiry" or a short research project that can be done in a lesson or two -- as compared to a "more sustained" research project.  

The CCSS calls for research to build and present knowledge to be an "anchor standard."  Have your teachers dropped anchor in your domain lately?  Here's one idea for them! 


Original email request:

"A 6th grade teacher just came to me. She is doing a project on "respect"
and "dignity" with her class and I am trying to help her come up with a
way for her kids to research this. (She originally just wanted the
computer lab where she was going to let her kids loose on the Internet -
until I stepped in and said, "Let me teach the class").

She doesn't even know yet what the final project will be - a paper? a
PSA? a trifold board? So I don't have a lot to go on...."

Here are some possible thoughts to digest: 

* Begin with the end in mind —  You are correct that your teacher needs to
determine the final "knowledge product” (I.e. How will they show they have
learned the material - What do you want your students to KNOW or BE ABLE
* Final knowledge products should be linked back to the "big idea" - in  this case respect and dignity.
* She needs an essential question to hook the students into the relevance.
* So with all that in mind here¹s just 1 simple idea:

EQ:  If you were to build a "Wall of Fame"  and a "Wall of Shame" for
respect and dignity, who would be on it and why?   —  Build an EBC.

With an EQ like that, they are beginning with the end in mind.
  • This is student-centered. - They are in control of their search
  • They will think like “historians" - cause and effect  - historical heroes, etc. (You could align this with a historical “era" to hit a SS standard,etc.)
  • This is Inquiry based as they have choice and a voice.
  • It might help for the class to brainstorm together (Wonder) the characteristics of “respectful” or “dignified" people.  You could even activate thinking by having copies of newspapers or TIME magazines and ask them to find people currently who would qualify for either side.  Ask why?  That will incubate the thoughts of characteristics for either side.
  • These characteristics may become some of the keywords for searching.*   This also gives you an opportunity to use either a biography database, a newspaper database, or other resources and teach narrowing your search.
  • It also allows them to build an EBC (evidence-based claim) to support their answers. This correlates to ELA standards. 
  • This allows an easy way to layer technology via many different apps such as 
  • This is also not technology-dependent, if your school lacks it. 
  • The new C3-SS Standards encourage kids to get to “civic action.”  This is a perfect lesson to incubate that response.
  • Include a slogan for the school? - Create a slogan for “dignity.”  (Have them visit to create one…if it’s not blocked in your school.  Choose the English version not the German.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Does Your Ancient Greece Need a ...FACELIFT?

I just responded to an email regarding "repackaging" their Ancient Greece unit.  Since this subject matter is so universal, I thought I'd share my response to others may consider a facelift for Ancient Greece.   
  • With new C3 (College Career and Civic life) Social Studies Standards, we are encouraged to find "authentic connections" and find "real world problems" to relate content to.  
  • With the CCSS, we are encouraged to embrace "research to build and present knowledge" as an Anchor Standard."  - Therefore, we are encouraged to package content via a research learning adventure. 
  • Research can be viewed as a large or small "evidence-based claim." 
With that in mind, what if we repackage our Ancient Greece unit into an EBC with an
Essential Question:      
How has the Ancient Greece survived, even though it has died? 

Examine the Ancient Culture under the SS lenses: 
  • Government - Democracy 
  • Culture, 
  • Values (education, arts, etc..) 
  • Beliefs - (myths) 
If you guide kids by giving them those SS "lenses"  (now called SS 'practices' ) they should examine the past to understand it and hopefully discover that a Ancient Greece had lasting influence on our current culture. 

They could-should - build and EBC (evidence-based claim) to support their findings.  This research could be coupled with a more student-centered knowledge sharing expo such as creating a "living museum" of Ancient Greek influence.   This could include Nike Pegasus Sneakers, Midas Muffler adds, a democracy model, Outdoor Market, statues, etc... etc.    
This example "synthesizes"  the content and is real-life.  

Examine your local learning objectives and insure that your graphic organizer may cover all the "lenses" through which you want students to examine Ancient Greece.  

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Hooking the Somebodies...Via a Pronoun

We live in a day and age of somebodies.  Everyone wants to be extraordinary, famous, or extreme--and no one wants to be a nobody.  Nobody.  Nada.  And,  we're not talking about Theodore Geisel's dopey siblings that had to shovel the snow while Mom when shopping downtown. We are not talking "somebody has to, somebody you see.  So, she picked two somebodies:  Sally and Me."  They were the supply. But--we all love a good story, so we read on.

If we are teaching the somebody-wanna-be's, then they have to be in the center of our instruction.  Remember that next time you craft your assignments.  Feed their disease by placing a pronoun into your essential questions:  "If you were in charge of the United Nations, which countries would you recommend to take a look at our Bill of Rights in order to improve the quality of life for their citizens?"   Now that's synthesis with the self-centered  (7th grade) Millennial in mind.

Examine these EQ's for "short term research assignments" and see how critical the pronoun placement is to shifting the ownership of the endeavor to the student:
  • Is your insect a "friend or foe?" (See Think Tank Library for this lesson plan!) 
  • If you were to build a "Wall of fame for local history,"  who would you include? And why... ?
  • If you were living during the 1700's in Europe, would you have chosen to immigrate to America?  Choose a European Country and examine your conditions and options.  Write me a letter (EBC- evidence-based claim) as to why you are emigrating or staying from a first-person point of view.   How will/won't you prepare?  We will hold an auction for boat tickets. 
  • How big is your carbon footprint? 
Some may say we are feeding a self-centered disease, but it works.  This generation wants to see the "relevance" of the assignment.  A pronoun in your assignment EQ will help to transfer the ownership from a "teacher-centered" assignment to a student-centered learning adventure. It's only one small step in teaching the millennial that we should have in our "bag of tricks."

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Think Tank Library - AASL Webinar follow-up

Thanks to all of you who attended our AASL webinar:  Get Thinking!  
(We realize that many got closed out as the virtual room was "full."  The archive will be posted soon.)

EQ:  How will you get your students thinking today?  

It was great to share ideas for elevating thought during library time, research, and collaborative learning adventures!  As promised, here is the 20% off ordering code to be used when ordering a copy of our Think Tank Library: Q31420. 
Available @ ABC Clio  

The K-5 level book was released in December, and the 6-12 level book will be released imminently.  Please email us at with any questions for "repackaging" your lessons to include higher level thought and real world issues.  We'd love to dialogue and brainstorm with you. 

After the webinar, I realized I never advanced the slides to the credits and wanted to include this slide below to insure that librarians Sara Kelly John, Sue Kowalski, and Rebecca Burkett get credit for some of their great photos!  (I'm not sure whether the recorded archive will pick up the last 2 slides that were there but not advanced.) 

Thanks to all and I look forward to our continuing conversation! 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


“Memorizing facts and faces has failed us.  It’s time to concentrate on thinking and deep understanding.” 
 --S.G. Grant – C3 Contributor, SCDN meeting, 
Albany, NY  Sept 2014. 

Hooray for the C3 Social Studies Standards which concentrate on thinking almost as much as they do on history. They have 65 references to thinking and these are the adjectives they use : 

5 Ways to Foster THINKING in your research assignments:
  • Inspire Curiosity – Compelling minds want to know, understand and use this knowledge
  • Identify the “gold” in your content and get STUDENTS to uncover and discover… (rather than you ‘covering’)
  • Ask questions which cannot be answered by mere facts – Get to the WHY, so what, what if, how….
  • Use the LENSES of understanding: Geography, economics, civics, and historical lenses
  • Require a project to assess understanding... How can students demonstrate this understanding?  
While planning an assignment on “local history” I suggested a teacher package the final product as the creation of a Landmark or Historical Marker to denote the significance of a person, event, or place.  (Build an argument or evident-based claim for a marker) Students could even advocate for a real sign, which gets the students to Civic Action.   

What’s funny is that within the C3 actually note there is “dichotomous” thinking that is required in civics.  That’s what fuels politics, as we know all too well.   So, here’s the dichotomous thinking for Landmarks – Could we fold this into our curriculum?  What a hoot. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mudslingers, Muckrakers and Research?

Get Your Students Thinking with this fun lesson: 

It's that time of year for mudslinging, dinners interrupted by political robo-calls,  and repulsive TV Commercials...  Welcome to the November Elections! Why not Carpe Diem…and turn this time into an Inquiry Based Learning adventure for your secondary students?

Using this site as "Primary Media Source Documents" we can ask students to critically evaluate media, messages, and do close examination of candidates to compare, contrast, investigate, synthesize, and draw conclusions.  This is real life in reverse.  In order to answer your essential question, students will have to do some close reading of material during their investigation.  They will likely learn the vocabulary of the discipline and speak intelligently as they present their conclusions.  
(This site provides a historical aggregation of Presidential candidates 
and their commercials back to 1952.) 

With Inquiry-based Learning hitting the Social Studies communities like wildfire, it seems more SS teachers are open to new ideas.  Here's a short lesson suggestion which is student-centered, real-world, Inquiry-based, fun, and sadly…relevant.  

We librarians know there are many "steps" to Inquiry, some methods stating 6, others stating 7 or 8, while our WISE (Wonder, Investigate, Synthesize, Express) model has only 4.  (It's a non-threatening introductory approach user-friendly for new "Inquiry" teachers.)  
When repackaging research, there are a many details to embrace, but let's point out a few imperatives: The first is to agree you want the research to be Inquiry-based.  What question can we ask to compel the students to uncover and discover new knowledge?  What question can we ask that aligns with the standards and the real-world? This lesson is not a "long sustained" Inquiry project, but rather would fit the CCSS thought of "short" research projects.  This helps foster the information-literate paradigm for college and career ready students.
After you've agreed on INQUIRY as a framework, you'll have to insure you have a good EQ to inspire kids to uncover and discover meaning.   For our LIVINGROOM CANDIDATE lesson, let's present an EQ such as one of the following:  

  • How do[did] primary source media products reflect cultural issues? 
  • How has "running for office" changed over the last Century? 
  • If you were running for office, why would you run? What would your platform stand for? Create a slogan for your platform? 

Guiding Questions for direction as they investigate:
  • Why did candidates choose these issues to spotlight?
  • Were these issues solved or addressed during the "reign" in office? 
  • Did the elected official live up to their "living room message?" 
  • What was going on in the world that compelled the "party" to have this message? 
  • What messages are you hearing today? 
  • What's the cause and effect? 
  • Can we view these messages via our Social Studies "lenses" to make sense of the information? (i.e. synthesize)
  • Would you have voted for either of these candidates?  
  • What other primary source documents can you find, discover that reflect cultural issues of the time?
Ideas and Notes: 
  • This lesson embeds technology for the "transliterate"  or "metaliterate" learner. This site provides a great opportunity for "flipped learning."
  • Vocabulary of the discipline "graffiti walls" could be built by the students, as they uncover and discover relevant words within their close reading.  Bulletin board paper provides the perfect tool for students to aggregate vocabulary words critical to understanding political issues, voting, campaigning, and more. 
  • Don't forget about the Inquiry… Knowledge Presentation. Knowledge is meant to be shared.  How will you have the students present their knowledge?  Can we have a discussion or debate over successful advertising or successful campaigns followed by successful Presidential terms? Can we place into perspective the campaign, world history issues and more? These activities support "Evidence Based Claim" arguments that are required in CCSS delivery changes. Create a new political party that embodies what you stand for(?)  
  • Can we follow-up this activity with a "what if" section: If there was "media" available for Presidential Candidates during the 1800's, what would they commercials have contained? This assignment would hit the top of Bloom's taxonomy and require synthesis of history timelines, cultural issues, campaign spotlights, economics, and more.  This requires the students to "create" something.
  • To help students synthesize the information they uncover, or investigate different aspects of the topic, new SS standards want your students to view material through "lenses."  You may want to consider creating a graphic organizer such as this to help them search:

Aligned with new C3 SS “themes” ... Consider using something like this for SS “facts” to  help students synthesize.





Cause & Effect

Global Connections

Have some fun and turn this season of mudslinging into a lesson about Fearmongers, Muckrakers, Freedom of the Press and more!