Monday, March 16, 2015

Limericks, Lear and the Library!

We could interrupt instruction daily to celebrate some holiday, and today is no exception. The trick is to find some way to weave the holidays into your important learning objectives -- without confusing the two.  So, here's a creative example: 

This week holds St. Patrick's Day.  Now teachers often can't be bothered with this holiday, but in library time we may be able to rise to the occasion and teach LIMERICKS.   I used to do this with my elementary students and they got it.  It was a simple ELA integration that classrooms didn't have time for, and yet the kids could have fun.  

The pattern is simple: AABBA (See the wikipedia explanation, if you need the history.)  
I would read a couple of Lear's Limericks and then we would model writing one together.  The rest of the time, they would attempt to create one, and it worked.  They rose to the occasion.  (In addition, they learned that literary books were in the 800's....) 

To make this more educational, you could choose to have them create Limericks about some subject matter they are studying in their classroom such as: Patriots, Colonists, Explorers, the Digestive System, Chemical Elements etc.  Why not?  Creation is the key! 

There's a noble gas named radon
Which is 100 times heavier than Hydrogen
I don't understand why 
But I so desperately try
That's why I'm not working in Chem

There once was a Colonist name Benedict
He was a hero, heretic, and derelict 
He loved his money
and sold his soul with his honey
So he escaped before George could convict  

This doesn't get to the "deep understanding" that new standards such as the CCSS call for, but it's a fun activity that your students may remember!  

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Eavesdropping Barbie a Smash Hit for Instruction!

Wow.  When I read in the Washington Post  about Mattel's new "eavesdropping Barbie," my adrenaline started to flow with the thought of instructional possibilities: Close Reading discussion and debate, seed text for research, CyberSafety, Patriot Act, Right to privacy, Bill of Rights, and more.  Just think about this Essential Question which would spark curiosity setting the stage for focused reading: 

EQ: Has technology evolved beyond its' own good?  

Guiding Questions for discussion or Text-dependent Questions: 
  • How do toys reflect the culture? 
  • Is there a potential for criminal activity? 
  • Would the Bill of Rights have anything to do with this? 
  • Would the Patriot Act have anything to do with this? 
  • Has Mattel toy company exceeded "childish" things with this new Hello Barbie
  • How does talking Barbie compare to talking Elmo? Why is it okay for Elmo to talk, but not this case? (This is an example of a TDQ which gets the kids to examine the text to see that it's not the talking that's the issue--but rather the listening.) 
This sample close reading piece measures a 10.5 on the Fleisch-Kincaid reading measure making it so appropriate for a great HS discussion piece.  It even has ample of great Tier 2  (SAT words) vocabulary words such as: Advocacy, advocates, affinity, subtle, vulnerable, confide, and more. If an ELA class was reading Brave New World, 1984, or some other dystopian novel, this could be paired with it to bring the material into the real world.  

(If you don't know how to measure readability statistics, read this blog posting: Click here )

Now we know that not everyone will be able to use this gem from the Washington Post. It is not a primary source document from the Library of Congress.  However, This is an example of using a short Close Reading piece to instigate a discussion --> which leads kids to conclude they don't know enough--> which leads to research to find the answers.  

For those people who need reading material of greater "substance" - consider pairing this with an excerpt from Chief Justice Louis Brandeis' dissenting opinion on the landmark "right to privacy" case of 1928.  Read this paragraph and see how appropriate his words were almost 100 years ago: 
  • MR. JUSTICE BRANDEIS, dissenting. . . . By objections seasonably made and persistently renewed, the defendants objected to the admission of the evidence obtained by wire-tapping, on the ground that the Government’s wire-tapping constituted an unreasonable search and seizure, in violation of the Fourth Amendment; and that the use as evidence of the conversations overheard compelled the defendants to be witnesses against themselves, in violation of the Fifth Amendment.   ...."Moreover, “in the application of a constitution, our contemplation cannot be only of what has been but of what may be.” The progress of science in furnishing the Government with means of espionage is not likely to stop with wire-tapping. Ways may someday be developed by which the Government, without removing papers from secret drawers, can reproduce them in court, and by which it will be enabled to expose to a jury the most intimate occurrences of the home. Advances in the psychic and related sciences may bring means of exploring unexpressed beliefs, thoughts and emotions. “That places the liberty of every man in the hands of every petty officer” was said by James Otis of much lesser intrusions than these. To Lord Camden, a far slighter intrusion seemed “subversive of all the comforts of society.” Can it be that the Constitution affords no protection against such invasions of individual security? . . .  
After this close reading, discussion and debate, a teacher and librarian would again ask the students the Essential Question:  Has technology evolved beyond it's own good?  
Or, is technology a help or a hindrance? 
Ask your students: What else do you want to know about this?  

This is real life research. This is a life-long learning skill. This is relevant to their lives.  This fosters engagement. This is how we slowly make the paradigm shift to student-centered instruction.  Share this with a teacher who is wondering how to foster the "short term" research assignments that the CCSS says should be an "anchor standard." 

Friday, February 27, 2015

6 Ideas for Women's History Research!

As we embark on Women's History Month, why not hunt down a classroom partner to meet the Common Core Anchor Standard:  Research to build and present knowledge.   Here are five essential questions to help spawn a great project.   Just layer technology or another way to "present knowledge," and you will have a student-centered research activity aligned with the new SS C3 standards, ISTE standards, AASL standards, and CCSS Standards!  

EQ: If you were to award a Nobel Prize for Women's Influence, to whom would it be given? Why?  [Build an EBC - Evidence Based Claim- and support your nominee with reasons and real impacts.] Be ready to plead for your nominee at our "Circle of Influence." {With this choice, influence is the focus, not necessarily fame.  This gives the students opportunity to be creative and choose lesser-known people such as Marjorie Merriweather Post, Admiral Grace Hopper, or Anne Hutchinson}

EQ: How could we build a timeline for Woman Change Agents?  Please note when, where and why they were of influence.   For each women on your change-agents timeline, write a paragraph in the first person voice of this person addressing our modern-day culture.   We will be building a wall of fame.   {With this choice are examining change over time...}

EQ: If you could testify at a mock-19th Amendment hearing, what would you say?  We will be voting on whether to pass the 19th amendment. Who will you choose to be and what argument will you bring to the table? We need all voice represented.  You must speak with authority and credibility, based upon your thorough deep research.  {We need many voices: Lesser, Garnett, Minor, Stanton, Anthony, and others you discover.}

EQ: Who do you believe impacted women's role in our culture or history the most?  Research and build an EBC to support your choice.  Be ready to share your knowledge.  {With this choice we are taking a persuasive-evidence angle...}

EQ:  How have women "come a long way baby?" Examine "women's roles" in culture during three centuries of your choice.  Build a storyboard with primary source photos, legislative changes, avatars (or others) and document the women's story of suffrage. 

EQ:  So what would you include in a Women's Evolution Journal? - Use the Social Studies "lenses," build a portrait of women's evolution--ending with the 19th Amendment passage in 1920: Culture, politics, economics, geographical, time (era), and {With this choice we are using the SS lenses as a focus} 

Weave together a few of the choices above and brainstorm a good new end-product such as either a real-life "wall of fame," virtual wall of fame, discussion and debate, or trial for the 19th Amendment Legislative vote.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Lead Out Loud!

Tired of saying, "Shhhh"? 
Well, then this Amazon listing is for you! Click Here 

It's now time to throw away the decibel monitor, and buy a bullhorn.  Take it from these librarians below (captured by Sara Kelly Johns) who have turned the page on noise.  

In our new standards paradigm, we are being asked to allow students to collaborate, communicate and create!  How can they do that in silence?  Paul Simon may have been a fan of the Sound of Silence, but librarians need to take up the horn and allow discussion.   

If students are to collaborate and communicate, the library should be a space where creative minds are allowed to discuss.  

(Librarians: Katie St. Laurent; Sue Kowalski; Rebecca Buerkett; Rita Foran) Leading the way...Leading out loud at our NYS Conference! 

Challenge of the week:  Examine your research projects to see where they fall on a scale of 1 to 5: Give yourself a point for each below: 

  1. Have you embraced a "social" element within your research? i.e. - Are you allowing your students to discuss the issue, share their knowledge, or brainstorm together? 
  2. Have you crowd-sourced at the beginning of the "connect" or "hook"  or "focus" stage of the inquiry research project? 
  3. Do you have an electronic bulletin board (blog, discussion space, eThread, etc.) for discussion? 
  4. Do you have a discussion section of your library where the students can share ideas, collaborate, etc? 
  5. Do you and your teachers require an element of "creation" within the research project?  eTools, Webtools, paper posters, tactile art, creation, etc? - Something that can be displayed and discussed publicly (either in eForm or paper)? 
If you scored a 5, then perhaps you should order this: click here 


Here are some sample standards that encourage collaborative discussion: 

CCSS: ('Just a sampling here...)

Comprehension and Collaboration:

Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of
conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
Evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.
Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.


C3 - Social Studies Standards:      (one small example) 

Dimension 4 (Communicating Conclusions and Taking Informed Action) demonstrate, those means include a range of venues and a variety of forms (e.g., discussions, de- bates, policy analyses, video productions, and portfo- lios). Moreover, the manner in which students work to create their solutions can differ. Students need oppor- tunities to work individually, with partners, in small groups, and within whole class settings.



2. Communication and collaboration
Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.
  1. Interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of digital environments and media
  2. Communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats
  3. Develop cultural understanding and global awareness by engaging with learners of other cultures
  4. Contribute to project teams to produce original works or solve problems 

AASL:  ('Just a sample) 

3.1.1  Conclude an inquiry- based research process by sharing new understandings and reflecting on the learning.
3.1.2  Participate and collaborate as members of a social and intellectual network of learners. 

Share knowledge and
participate ethically and productively as members of our democratic society.
3.1.3 Use writing and speaking skills to
communicate new understandings effectively.
3.1.4 Use technology and other information
tools to organize and display knowledge and understanding in ways that others can view, use, and assess.
3.1.5 Connect learning to community issues.
3.1.6 Use information and technology ethically
and responsibly.
3.2 Dispositions in Action
3.2.1 Demonstrate leadership and
confidence by presenting ideas
to others in both formal and informal situations.

3.2.2 Show social responsibility by
participating actively with others in learning situations and by contributing questions and ideas during group discussions.
3.2.3 Demonstrate teamwork by working
productively with others.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Research Bulletin Board Ideas

Since Bulletin Board ideas are some of the top hits on this blog... here are 6 more for you!

PLEASE, PLEASE  remember - Interactive bulletin boards are more engaging for students.  90% of the bulletin boards I see are "teacher delivery" of facts.   Your question should be:  How can I create a bulletin board where student's contribute to the content?  So these ideas reflect this premise.  These are ideas where the kids contribute content...thereby transferring ownership and fostering engagement. 

1 - Wonder Wall - What are you wondering about today?  - Light bulbs templates where kids can post questions that are either related to a deeper content investigation.... or just something random such as, "Why do insects have more legs than humans?"   You could launch this bulletin board by showing them a wonder from "Wonderopolis" - asking what they think on the wonder...and then show them the short video clip answer from Wonderopolis.

2 - Question Stems -- In order to incubate the ability to question, place a major topic-problem-picture-or fact in the center of the bulletin board.   Ask the students to come up with the ?'s about the picture-problem-fact etc.   That way the kids see how one question...leads to many more.  This incubates their questioning ability.  Change the central question weekly.  When students have free time, ask them to brainstorm questions for the central idea.  If you have time, investigate the big idea on Friday for closure and place a new question-picture-problem-or-fact  up for Monday.

3 - Fascinating Facts I Found -  Pre-cut fact "F's" out and have them handy for kids to jot down something new they learned in a book, on a database, or during research.  Contribute those to the FF bulletin board.

4 - Spring Board!  - Dress the empty bulletin board for Spring and then teach a database asking kids to find a great Spring fact for contribution.  Here's an essential Question for the middle:  EQ - Why is Spring important?  Ask them to use the "vocabulary of the discipline" if they can (i.e. vernal, equinox, rotation, etc....)

5 - Seasoning Reasoning - EQ: Which season is the most important?  Find me a fact to support your claim! - Once again, asking kids to contribute to the board builds knowledge.  When their peers post something, they'll be reading other's claims.

6 - Research Beyond Road Signs  - Catch attention at the secondary level by asking them to find more than the "obvious."  This is like research.  We must move beyond the obvious to the why, how, what if, does... Place that statement in the middle of the board! Ask students in your library with nothing to find you these obvious duh signs as below!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Valentine's Day Infographic?

This generation likes to party…or use an excuse to celebrate life.  And, why not?  Anticipating Valentine’s Day, here is an idea to capitalize on a holiday and fold in your library curriculum.  Use this fun activity to teach: Keyword searching; digging for data; speaking with evidence, how to support an idea with “data” or “evidence”; real-life applications of math; writing in the first person; writing to persuade; researching to build an argument; and more. 

Here are sample over-arching Essential Questions to frame the project.  Please note that these EQ’s are wide enough to cover many topics:

EQ:  How does your passion use data or math? 
EQ:  How do we use math in real-life applications?
EQ:  How can we use data to strengthen an argument?
EQ:  How can we represent data visually? 

The expectation for mathematical application should scaffold by grade level, but this Inquiry-based assignment lends students the freedom of choice and voice to delve deeply and go in many directions.  

Suggestions to strengthen the assignment:

  1. Enlist the help of a math teacher to be a covert collaborator—giving students helpful hints, brainstorming mathematical connections and more. 
  2. Get a local business to offer a prize

Remember:  These infographics are now so prolific on the Internet that you'd better insure their assignment wasn't copied and pasted like this soccer one above! 

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.